By Phil Matier

LAFAYETTE (CBS SF) — Some East Bay MUD customers are upset over the news that their water rates will likely be going up despite conservation efforts during the California drought.

Like many in the state, East Bay residents did their best to cut down on water use over the past few years.

Water use dropped by a third from 195 million gallons in 2007 to only 125 million gallons last year.

But that reduced water use equaled less water sales. And less water sales means less money to run the EBMUD system that also needs repairs.

The cost of running that system has gone up by over $100 million in the past 10 years.

The district’s annual operating costs have risen from $243 million in 2008 to a projected $348 million in 2018.

“Our distribution extends from the Sierra to the Bay,” said East Bay MUD General Manager Alexander Coate.

When asked the 300 new workers the utility district has hired in the past two years, Coate replied. “We need to continue to maintain this system to ensure that it provides water that is safe.”

EBMUD also has to pay the bill from buying water from other districts to help out in the drought.

“That water when you are buying water in a drought is much more expensive,” explained Coate.

Put those factors together and the district is looking at a rate hike of 18 percent over the next two years with more likely to follow.

“Whether you consume 10 gallons or 30 or 150, it still cost the same amount to put that water though the pipes,” said East Bay MUD Director Marguerite Young.

Young is one of the EBMUD directors ready to vote yes on the hike.

“We have 4,200 miles of pipe in the ground that are on the average 75 years old,” said Young.

Director John Coleman plans to vote “no” on the rate hike.

“When we have asked them to conserve they did. And now they are paying the price,” said Coleman.

Young disagreed.

“I’ve heard from customers on both sides of the hill on this rate increase,” said Young. “They don’t understand it. And once I explain why we have to do it, I get a thank you.”

The people KPIX 5 talked to weren’t too happy about the proposed rate hike.

“I don’t like it,” said Shari Deju.

“Not good, but what can we do about it?” asked Dorothy Edwards.

East Bay MUD will hold public hearings on the rate increase next month.


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