People who live in San Luis Obispo will see their water and sewer rates increase by 3.5% starting on July 1, 2021, and again on the same date in 2022.
Water and sewer bills comprise drinking water, wastewater, anything that goes down the drain, irrigation, water conservation, and more.
Officials say they need the money to support the city's aging infrastructure and to maintain a resilient water supply in the face of disasters like drought, wildfires, and power outages.
"For us to responsibly continue to replace pipes that are in the ground and are wearing out, as well as make sure we are maintaining our multiple supplies of water for the community," explained Aaron Floyd, City of San Luis Obispo Utilities Director.
City officials say the increase isn't as high as it could have been -- 5.5% for water and 6.5% for sewer usage. Floyd says the city received grants from the State of California that helped offset their costs and allowed officials to reduce the price hike.
Paying water bills was difficult for many Californians during the pandemic. So much so, that Governor Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on agencies shutting off water for households.
The City of San Luis Obispo created a plan to help people catch up, and the plan is still in place.
"We started with the payment program because folks were struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic," Floyd said. "As we're seeing right now as the community is coming out of the pandemic, we are continuing with our customer assistance program for those who continue to need assistance."
The COVID-19 Relief Payment Plan and the Customers Assistance Plan (CAP) are two different programs.
The first allows residents to work with the city and set up a plan to pay back their balance in installments.
The latter provides a 15% discount on water and sewer utilities for people who qualify. Those qualifications include:
- Living in an individually-metered home
- The water and sewer bill must be in the participating individual's name
- They must demonstrate meeting the household requirements, which includes providing proof of enrollment in a specific program
- Those programs consist of CalWORKS, Cal Fresh, Supplemental Social Security Income, the Veteran Survivor Pension Benefits, or a declaration that the participating household income is less than twice the federal poverty rate.
The full qualifications list can be found on the city's website.