Rancho Santa Fe Association forms committee on water rates


The Rancho Santa Fe Association is forming an ad-hoc committee on rising water rates. During the Association’s budgeting process, water rates are a big issue and it’s in everyone’s interest for them to address the issue, said RSF Association Treasurer Janet Danola.

Greg Gruzdowich, who served on the Santa Fe Irrigation District for four years until his term ended in December 2016, will chair the committee. (When his term ended in December 2016, Gruzdowich decided not to run for an additional four-year term.)

In May 2016, the Santa Fe Irrigation District approved a three-year rate plan that called for higher customer rates, designed to increase district revenue by 9 percent per year for each of the three years. The first of the three increases took effect in June 2016.

The second rate hike took effect on Jan. 1 this year, while the third increase is slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, unless the district’s board of directors votes to reject or modify it.

In supporting the three-year rate plan, district staff said the rate increases were needed due to increased costs for buying and treating water, maintaining the district’s pipes and pumping stations, building its reserves and developing alternative water sources.

The impact of the new rate plan on individual customers varies by the size of their water meter and the amount of water they use.

Chuck Badger, a longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident and farmer, said for some larger homeowners in the Covenant it’s as much as a 23-percent increase. He said in one Rancho Santa Fe homeowner’s case, their bill went from $2,500 to over $4,000 in September 2016.

“Meanwhile, a large block of Solana Beach saw decreases,” Badger said.

Gruzdowich has said that the math used to calculate the rate structure is flawed because it lumps together the larger water users in Rancho Santa Fe with those who use less water on the west side of the district. Larger water users are subsidizing the costs of those who use less water and paying more than their fair share.

“We’re bearing a much larger share of the burden than other communities served by the Santa Fe Irrigation,” RSF Association President Fred Wasserman said.

In order to block the rate plan last year, 3,253 of 6,504 SFID customers would have had to file written proceeds. The district received 1,324 and while it was an unprecedented response, it fell short of the threshold required.

Badger said that the district will listen if residents make their voices heard. He said follow orchard owners in Rancho Santa Fe successfully lobbied for an agriculture rate.

“There is a movement building to find out what the Santa Fe Irrigation District is doing and to make it more fair for all members of the district,” Badger said, noting that the ad hoc committee can address fixed costs and the inequity of rate increases. “I’m really excited that the Association is on board in helping us get realistic water rates…Covenant members need to oppose the next round of rate increases, they really aren’t equal.”