By Jack Humphreville.
The Department of Water and Power is proposing to bump our water rates by 27% over the next five years. These new revenues, which will eventually reach $250 million a year, along with a five year capital expenditure plan of $5 billion, will be used to repair and upgrade the Department’s long neglected infrastructure, develop and expand local water supplies, meet new water quality mandates, comply with environmental mandates in the Owens Valley, and improve customer service.
While this rate increase of 5% a year for five years is considerably above the rate of inflation, it does not appear, for the most part, to be an unreasonable request based on the information supplied by DWP’s senior management.
But it is not acceptable for Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council President Herb Wesson, and the rest of the City Council to dump the bill for projects that are the responsibility of the City, no matter how worthwhile, on the DWP and the Ratepayers. And pet projects are definitely not OK.
DWP is an integral part in developing the City’s One Water LA 2040 Plan which will address the long term sustainability of our water supply. This will necessitate working with the Department of Public Works and its Bureau of Sanitation to coordinate efforts involving the remediation and replenishment of our aquifers, the use of recycled water (including toilet to tap), the revitalization of the Los Angeles River, and the diversion of stormwater (urban runoff) from the Santa Monica Bay into our water supply.
While DWP appears to be the lead party involving our aquifers and the distribution of recycled water, it is not responsible for the Mayor Garcetti’s pet project, the LA River. Yet, this has not stopped the City from hitting up DWP and its Ratepayers for millions to fund the River Revitalization Master Plan and other undisclosed projects. There are also questions about DWP’s continuing role with the River, including the diversion of valuable water resources to the River and other related pet projects.
The Bureau of Sanitation, not DWP, is responsible for the urban runoff that eventually flows down the LA River and pollutes the Santa Monica Bay. But this has not stopped Garcetti and Felipe Fuentes, the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, from dumping a significant portion of the financial burden for the Stormwater Capture Master Plan on DWP and the Ratepayers. Over the next five years, DWP has budgeted almost $200 million on stormwater, a big ticket that needs to be justified.
The Department must also come clean on numerous other pet projects, both past and present, including, but not limited to, the Griffith Park South Water Recycling Project, the La Kretz Innovation Center in the Arts District, the Silver Lake Reservoir, the Children’s Museum, the Fiber Optic Network, the Fire Department Stand By and Hydrant Fees, and the many below market leases.
Before this very aggressive 27% rate increase is approved by the DWP Board of Commissioners, the Energy and Environment Committee, the City Council, and the Mayor, we, the Ratepayers, need full and complete disclosure by the DWP management of how our money is being spent.
To divert our hard earned money to City Hall is not OK. And while we do not have a vote on this rate increase, Ratepayers do have a vote on the upcoming proposed tax increases for the City, County, and State.
Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds – www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.