Residents, visitors and businesses in Sonoma count on the City to deliver high-quality, reliable water for a variety of community needs including indoor use, outside irrigation and fire protection. The water utility is self-funded, meaning its revenues must equal its expenditures. Water rates must cover the cost of service and maintain prudent reserves in case of another drought or an emergency such as an earthquake or wildfire that could damage major infrastructure.
Costs to provide water service are increasing. The cost to purchase surface water from the Sonoma County Water Agency is increasing 6% this year and is expected to increase by about the same amount in each of the next five years. When SCWA’s rates go up, the City’s cost must, too. There are increased costs for required maintenance and improvements of the City’s water system to ensure reliable and safe water supplies and to promote more efficient water use. The City plans to upsize pipes to ensure adequate fire protection in some neighborhoods, upgrade aging water mains, and install new advanced meters that provide immediate information about excessive water use to both the City and customers – to allow leaks to be fixed quickly and save water. Deferring maintenance projects makes it more expensive in the future. As we seek to conserve water as a precious resource, it is critical to have the right tools and information. A rate increase is needed so the water utility is financially and operationally sustainable now and in the future.