“Santa Cruz – Overlooked by local newspapers and area media outlets, USA TODAY last month published a unique study of residential water rates over the past 12 years for water agencies nationwide with immediate implications for Santa Cruz .
The investigative report found that monthly costs at least doubled for nearly a third of the one hundred localities, including Santa Cruz where rates haven not yet peaked, largely because of the current estimated $300M cost to build a proposed regional desal plant and its infrastructure. In 2005, the City estimated the likely cost of the project at $30-$40M.
Among the ten California water agencies surveyed, Santa Cruz ranked third (113%) in increases, behind only the metropolitan San Francisco (211%) and San Diego (141%) water districts. Overall, average residential water rates nationally have risen 33% since 2000. The extensive USA TODAY survey was conducted by Raftelis Financial, the water management consulting arm of Black & Veatch.
During this same period, water consumption in Santa Cruz declined sharply by 30% amid conservation efforts coupled with reduced demand from a declining manufacturing sector. Paradoxically, the City has raised water rates four times and the trend toward higher bills continues — driven primarily by the City’s decision to pursue seawater desalination, which is strongly supported by the business and political establishment.
The City has encountered severe financial difficulties since 2006, requiring ongoing layoffs and furloughs in order to shave millions from the budget. Yet in 2008, Water Department head Bill Kocher received a 19% salary raise to $192,912. Kocher is a vocal advocate for building an expandable 2.5-4.5 million gallons per day desalination plant on the City’s west side near the growing UCSC campus.”
Read more: Indybay