Cal Water announces usage down by more than 44% – how much do you think that amounts to in WRAM charges?

9 Sep

I’m assuming everybody has got their latest rate increase notice from Cal Water. 

Did you get that Marc? Oh yeah, you don’t live in Chico…

Well, I got another notice this month – “July’s water-use numbers are in: Usage is down more than 44%!”

But you know what that means – WRAM!  Think they’d put their WRAM figure on the bill for all of us to see? Should I call Pete Bonacich and ask him how much Cal Water Chico charged in WRAM this past month while their customers killed lawns and trees to save 44% of usage? 

And my family’s allowance for next month is roughly half of what they allowed us this past month – I’ll have to check my last year’s bills to make sure they’re on the up-and-up there. I save my bills. Do you save your bills Marc?  That’s the only way we can really know what they’ve done to our rates, because even with my formidable intellect, I have a hard time keeping track of these rate increases without a paper trail. Like a lot of people have said at the rate hearings I’ve attended as well as in letters to the papers – these rates just go up and up without any real accountability.

Remember, the latest proposal includes “special requests” that were not disclosed in the notice we received, including a request to dump the 10% cap on WRAM. Like Connie over in Marysville has said, how can it be legal not to disclose the entire proposal to the ratepayers? 

There’s often a vast difference between what is legal and what is ethical, that’s for sure. The CPUC is stacked with ex-employees of utility companies, appointed by governors who received money from the utility companies. Here’s a recent article that details the e-mail trail that shows how chummy our regulators are with the utility managers they’re supposed to be supervising – get ready to get mad, it’s reminiscent of the Enron scandal:

Read this next article from last fall detailing The Moonbeam’s cozy relationship with PG&E – in 2010 he hired his Cabinet Secretary, Dana Williamson, directly from PG&E. Furthermore, “PG&E Corp. gave more than $50,000 to Brown’s campaign for governor in 2010 and contributed $25,000 to his initiative to raise taxes in 2012.”

Read more here:

He gave some of PG&E’s contributions back when the scandal broke, as if that would wash his hands. I’ve heard rumblings of a recall of Brown, we’ll have to see how far it gets. We’ll also have to see, over many years to come, if the new regulations winding their way through the legislature will turn the CPUC around. 

In the meantime, write those protest letters to the addresses in your Cal Water notice. You might also write letters to Third District supervisor Maureen Kirk, or your own supervisor, and ask how you can help the county achieve Intervenor status and formally protest this Cal Water rate increase. You might also drop a line to Chico Mayor Mark Sorensen, ask him what the city is doing to protest this rate increase. I’ve written another letter to the Enterprise Record, we’ll see if they print it.

Chico Cal Water customers received a notice in their latest bills regarding an application made July 9, proposing not only a rate increase but consolidation with Oroville, Willows, and Marysville districts. 

While many people are already frustrated with repeated rate increases,  consolidation with these other districts should also raise concerns. Marysville, for example, has been told they need extensive infrastructure improvements over miles of long-neglected water lines. Cal Water’s last rate increase proposal for Marysville was rejected as onerous by the CPUC, so Cal Water is trying to spread those costs over a larger constituency. 

Not all of Cal Water’s proposal has been disclosed to the ratepayers.  Office of the Ratepayer Advocate has filed a formal protest, citing “Requests not included in the proposed application,” including a special request “eliminating 10% cap on WRAM amortization…” 

“Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism”  – when you don’t use enough water to cover Cal Water’s “fixed operating costs” ( salaries, benefits and pensions), they are allowed to tack the difference on to your bill anyway. If this charge on your bill already outrages you, wait until they dump the cap. 

Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk has asked the county of Butte to become an “Intervenor” and lodge a formal protest of this latest action.  Chico Taxpayers Association has asked Mayor Mark Sorensen to do same. Please contact Supervisor Kirk at and Mayor Sorensen at and ask them how you can help with this protest. 

7 Responses to “Cal Water announces usage down by more than 44% – how much do you think that amounts to in WRAM charges?”

  1. James September 21, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    I have read that with so many PGE and other power company ratepayers going to solar to reduce their bills, the power companies are/will be faced with revenue shortfalls. Granted, there are legitimate costs for upkeep, repairs, replacement, upgrading etc, as well as salaries/benefits. They do seem to need some income

    Will we start seeing an ERAM on our power bills? (Electrical Rate Adjustment Mechanism)

    • Juanita Sumner September 21, 2015 at 10:48 am #

      Thanks James,

      If you see PG&E or Cal Water doing any actual upkeep, repairs, replacement, upgrading, etc, in Chico, please send me a picture.

      And good question, we’ll have to watch out for ERAM!

      • Cristina C October 23, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

        They are building a huge water tank by my neighborhood- behind Winco. This must be a large project for Cal Water.

      • Juanita Sumner October 24, 2015 at 5:51 am #

        Thanks Cristina – it’s nice to have somebody paying attention! I just saw that yesterday – I’m guessing you’re right. I wonder if it’s on the projects list I got in my notice.

        I still want the total on their pensions. I’m pretty sure our water would be a lot cheaper if we weren’t paying so much toward their pensions. They’ve given us dollar figures for this infrastructure improvement, but we don’t have a figure for their pension liability.

        The notice I got in 2013 detailed roughly $1.85 million to go toward salaries, pensions and health care packages, with only $168,000 toward infrastructure projects. Since then, the notices haven’t been as detailed, very vague. I don’t even remember any specific projects (with addresses, details) in that notice. I’ll have to dig it out and look.

  2. Cristina C October 24, 2015 at 8:09 am #


    I wonder if those numbers got flipped? I remember receiving a notice this year and the infrastructure $ was closer to ten million.

    There is an interesting article out about LA DWP having to raise rates to cover for falling revenues. It appears all municipal water utilities must raise rates or face a credit downgrade, therby limiting their access to borrowing.

    This is kind of a perfect storm with falling revenues and aged infrastructure. No wonder water prices are rising much faster than inflation. I suppose grass yards will soon become a luxury item!!

    My parents had a pension from retirement in public service so its hard for me to want to take those away but I also would to see something reasonable. Do you know what percentage we pay to Cal Water for pension benefits?


    • Juanita Sumner October 24, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

      No, I think those numbers were accurate. Over 2012-13, agencies were asked to make big payments – a “side fund” payment – to CalPERS because of the looming pension deficit. CARD, for example, paid an additional $400,000 to CalPERS that year, along with their regular payments.

      I’m pretty sure we pay the entire amount for Cal Water pensions, including the “employee share” – that’s called, “the employer-paid member contribution.”

      Also because of the pension deficit at CalPERS, new legislation demands that “new hires” – that’s employees who have never been enrolled in the public pension system anywhere in the US – will pay 50 percent of their own pension. Employees who already made it into the system before that legislation will continue to pay 0 – 12 percent of their own pension – senior CARD employees, for example, pay 0 percent, while senir Chico PD employees just made a new deal to pay 12 percent. It ranges. And, like I said above, “employee share” does not always mean the employee pays it, that depends on the contract.

      Pensions have been promised that were and are not sustainable. CalPERS said they could get the money from stock market investments, that the taxpayers would only have to pick up 10 percent. That slowly grew to now over 30 percent, and they want the taxpayers to pay 50 percent, like new hires.

      this is an onerous and unfair burden for we privately employed taxpayers and it’s just not sustainable.

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