Tag Archives: Cal Water rate hike

Cal Water being generous with ratepayers’ money

29 Nov

From today’s Enterprise Record:

Water provider brings blessings to families

On behalf of the families who are living and changing their lives at our Esplanade House Program, the Community Action Agency would like to express its appreciation to California Water Service for its generous donation of $3,000. Because of their commitment to community, our families get the opportunity to receive holiday food baskets.

Many of our families have been separated from their extended families during the holiday season. The joy brought by simply providing a holiday meal is immense. Our families are amazing as they work to overcome poverty, addiction and mental health issues while increasing their self- sufficiency and bonding with their children.

Thanks again to Cal Water for blessing our families over the holidays.

— Thomas Tenorio, Chico

Tom Tenorio is with Esplanade House. As much as I feel we need Esplanade House, I have not liked the management for a long time. I think they squander money on salaries that could get more families in, but that’s difficult to assess since they don’t post their salaries and they get very defensive when you ask.

I’ve seen Tenorio at meetings. At the Local Governments Committee meeting he made a little speech that didn’t say anything, just made the meeting longer, about what a great community we live in.

Does he have any idea what he’s talking about? Does he realize, that $3,000 came out of our bills? Does he pay his own water bill? Does he have any idea what the Esplanade House pays for water?  Does he think for 30 seconds what water rates are doing to families right now? The utility companies are impoverishing whole communities to pay pensions for people who make salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Having met Tenorio on various occasions, I’d say, he’s carrying a bowl of jello between his ears.  He’s another one of those snout-nosed trough dwellers who gets a salary for “caring” about the poor, but doesn’t have any concern for the people who pay for all this generosity until they end up on the street. 

Getting ready to finish my letter to the CPUC – have you written yours yet?

11 Oct

I’ve been working on my protest letter to the CPUC. I always start by gathering information, below is my notes mess.  I think I’ve got enough peanut butter and jelly, time to mash it all into a sandwich.

I was talking to an old friend, a guy who’s owned a popular business in town for years, and who bought an old apartment house for his home.  Sure he’s got a water bill. But he had no idea, expressed real shock – Cal Water pays dividends to their investors. In fact, their shares became so valuable back in about 2011 that they did what is known as a “stock split” – they divided their shares all in half, not only because they wanted to have more shares to sell, and therefore raise the price through demand, but because the individual share price was “ either too high or are beyond the price levels of similar companies in their sector.”  See below.

I was just looking over the list of Cal Water salaries – their “low” salaries are over $70,000/year. And, so far as I can tell – go ahead and chime in if I am wrong Jenny – Cal Water employees pay little or nothing toward their pensions or benefits. 

So, if Cal Water really needs money for infrastructure improvement, as they say, I would say it’s in the best interest of the investors and the employees if they both come together to find the money between themselves before they turn on the ratepayers again. They are about to kill their Golden Goose. Cities all over the state are talking about eminent domaining their water companies, including Marysville.


I’ll be working the notes below into a letter to the CPUC when I can  get to it. I’ll post it here when it’s done.

  • public advisor’s office
  • name and contact info, 
  • proceeding info,
  • grounds for protest
  • effect of application on protestants – higher rates for water lead to degradation landscaping, lowering of property values, onerous costs for removal of dead trees,  and higher energy bills
  1. despite lowering our consumption, our bills have doubled, even tripled. 
  2. degradation of landscaping and property values
  3. degradation of rental value 
  4. dying trees cause a safety hazard and will cost thousands of dollars to remove safely
  5. loss of protection from sun means higher energy bills for ourselves and our tenants
  • reasons why application may not be justified – employee costs and investor dividends are too high to justify increasing rates
  1. Employee costs.  Notice from 2013:  “Based on water usage patterns in your area that have decreased significantly since Cal Water’s last filing, if the CPUC approves Cal Water’s proposed application, rates would increase the typical residential customer’s monthly bill by $9.37, or 29.4%, in 2014; followed by additional increases of $1.76, or 4.3% in 2015; and $1.83, or 4.3%, in 2016. Most costs of operating the water system are fixed, regardless of the level of usage. With lower water usage in your area, rates then have to be increased to cover the fixed costs.”Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:
    • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
    • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
    • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
    • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
    • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016

    “Approval of the proposed rates would allow Cal Water to continue to maintain the system of water supply sources, pipes , tanks, fire hydrants, and equipment needed to provide safe and reliable water service.”

  2. salaries – http://www.salarylist.com/company/California-Water-Service-Salary.htm

California Water Service Salary

California Water Service average salary is $90,849, median salary is $88,004 with a salary range from $77,340 to $115,848.
California Water Service salaries are collected from government agencies and companies. Each salary is associated with a real job position. California Water Service salary statistics is not exclusive and is for reference only. They are presented “as is” and updated regularly.
3.    Dividends paid to investors. 

Lou Binninger: private water providers like Cal Water charge up to 80 percent more than municipal providers

8 Oct

Marysville Can’t Afford Cal Water By Lou Binninger

Territorial Dispatch, Oct. 7 2015


 Marysville households are in shock over their water bills. Olivehurst, Linda and Yuba City residents can use much more water, add their sewer fee and still pay far less than Marysville people spend just for water. And, many of those water bills are larger than what people owe for PG and E. 

Why? Marysville is controlled by California Water Service (CWS), a for-profit corporation. CWS is known for high water rates, big profits and generous dividends. The other water systems are municipal, owned by the people and have low rates.

CWS bills are steep enough to cause customers to move. Cheaper options are 5 minutes away, just outside Marysville city limits.

Most Marysville lawns and landscaping were brown prior to drought restrictions. People could not afford the price of water in 2012. The city looks like no one gives a damn. Properties look abandoned.

However, other cities found a solution. Create a public water company and purchase the infrastructure (pipes, wells, tanks etc.). The citizens of Marysville already own the water. CWS is paid to deliver that water to them.

Food & Water Watch (FWW), a nonprofit advocate for safe and affordable drinking water, helps communities move to public control. In 2009, FWW studied nearly 5,000 water utilities and 1,900 sewer utilities and concluded that private entities charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services.

CWS rates are much higher, 3-4 times higher.

In the current CWS rate case submitted to the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) more than half of the requested 25% increase goes to improving CWS operations in San Jose. Less than one mile of the more than 54 miles of Marysville water line is listed to be replaced. In the last rate case CWS wanted 47% (2013) more and before that they were awarded a 55.5% (2011) spike in rates.

In November 2002, CalAm (Cal-American Water Co), the City of Felton’s (pop 4057-yr 2010) water provider, proposed a 74% rate increase over three years. Felton residents formed Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW), and with legal help from Santa Cruz County, fought the rate increase. CPUC reduced it to 44%.

However, fearing future escalating costs, FLOW began working on a plan to buy the water system and turn it over to nearby San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD), a public utility. By 2005, FLOW enlisted the help of FWW and worked on a ballot initiative to raise the funds to buy the system.

They were successful. The ballot initiative won with nearly 75 percent of the vote. SLVWD then proposed to buy the system for $7.6 million. CalAm/RWE refused to sell. SLVWD pursued eminent domain to force a buyout. Just before the case was to go to jury trial, Cal-Am agreed to terms.

Today, with Felton now served by a public utility, the average resident’s bill has dropped by at least 50%. FLOW has calculated that even with using a property tax increase to pay off Cal-Am, most residents are already saving as much as $400 per year.

Citizens of Ojai (pop 7581-yr 2013), east of Santa Barbara, have been working on buying-out Golden State Water (GSW) and joining adjacent Casitas Municipal Water District. Casitas delivers water at one-third the price. In 2008, GSW hiked its water rates by 34.9%. In January 2011 they bumped rates again 26.2%.

On August 13, 2013, Measure V was put on the ballot to approve joining Casitas, issue bonds to buy GSW and make capital improvements. It passed with 87.4% of the vote.

Ojai customers expect 10-15% rate decreases the first year after purchase and for rates to remain stable. The typical customer would experience an annual savings of $141.00. They project that savings will increase to $1500.00 per year by 2025.

Though the court has ruled for Ojai FLOW / Casitas Water District to purchase Golden State, the legal wrangling continues. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in July 2015.

Marysville residents have been slapped with similar or greater rate increases as either Felton or Ojai. No wonder Appeal Democrat writer Harold Kruger believes Marysville leaders are soft on the issue. Maybe it’s time the residents take charge.

Are Cal Water’s rates affordable for Butte County?

23 Sep



Kern County Board of Supervisors has stood up for their constituents and mounted a formal protest against Cal Water’s latest rate hike. One of the reasons listed in their argument ‘against’ is “affordability”. They claim that Cal Water rates are already not affordable for many residents of Kern County, including Bakersfield, where the census bureau lists the median income at around $56,000/year and a poverty rate of about 20 percent. 

“The EPA’s recommended affordability threshold for water and wastewater costs combined is 2.5% of income, and the California Department of Public Health sets affordability at 1.5% of income,” Supervisor Couch said. “Cal Water’s current rates in the Kern River Valley already far surpass the affordable level and would climb even higher under the current rate proposal. “

Something else Chico has in common with Bakersfield is the little “!” next to the listings “persons in poverty” and “persons without health insurance”.  Chico has a poverty rating – that’s people living below the poverty level (for a family of 4 it’s about $25,000/year) – of 23%. The state level is only about 16%, and for Butte County it’s 20.4%. 

The median income in Chico, even with all these public salaries, is only $43,752. Those dirt daubers in Bakersfield are making a median  income of $56,204.  I would guess that might be because Bakersfield is also the seat of Kern County, so there are a lot of public salaries there too. 

This rate increase is unreasonable, an obvious grab for money to pay down their pension liability. 

From Census Bureau Quick Facts   http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/INC110213/00,0613014


Thanks Maureen Kirk for taking action on the Cal Water rate hike – time to put some heat to Mayor Sorensen’s seat

2 Sep

Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk has filed paperwork with the CPUC to become a “party” to the recent rate increase application made by Cal Water.  She’s been keeping me informed of the process. Here is a notice about the first hearing on the matter. Of course it will take place in San Francisco.


9:00 a.m.

ALJ McKinney
Comr Sandoval

A.15-07-015 (PHC) – In the Matter of the Application of CALIFORNIA WATER SERVICE COMPANY (U60W), a California corporation, for an order (1) authorizing it to increase rates for water service by $94,838,100 or 16.5% in test year 2017, (2) authorizing it to increase rates by $22,959,600 or 3.4% on January 1, 2018, and $22,588,200 or 3.3% on January 1, 2019, in accordance with the Rate Case Plan, and (3) adopting other related rulings and relief necessary to implement the Commission’s ratemaking policies,
Commission Courtroom, San Francisco

The pre-hearing conference is the first open forum in the general proceeding. Its purpose is to determine the potentially affected parties, specific issues, and to develop a preliminary filing and hearing schedule. After the conference, the Administrative Law Judge issues a scoping memo that lists the issues raised during the pre-hearing conference and a schedule for addressing these issues in the general proceeding.

Section (a) of Rule 1.4 of the CPUC’s Rules of Practice and Procedure provides the ways in which an interested person/organization can become a party to a proceeding. 

(a) A person may become a party to a proceeding by:

(1) filing an application (other than an application for rehearing pursuant to Rule 16.1), petition, or complaint; (the term “application is not referring to a form, it is a formal document that the party creates and submits to the CPUC)

(2) filing (i) a protest or response to an application (other than an application for rehearing pursuant to Rule 16.1) or petition, or (ii) comments in response to a rulemaking;

(3) making an oral motion to become a party at a prehearing conference or hearing; or

(4) filing a motion to become a party.

As such, this 9/21 Prehearing Conference is one forum at which Butte County (or any other affected entity) can request to participate as a Party.

I think this is a job for the Mayor, or the Vice Mayor, the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, or some other paid representative of the city. I will send this notice to Mayor Sorensen and City Manager Orme. For one thing, I was just reading over the rules for their travel expenses, and they can afford a lot better hotel than me. For another thing, as elected officials and staffers, they will get a lot better reception from the CPUC people than I would.

I was very disappointed with Sorensen’s limp-wristed motion at last night’s council meeting – a presentation from Cal Water? You mean, an opportunity for Cal Water to pitch the rate hike? 

I informed Mayor Sorensen about the application for this rate hike back in early July, days after it was filed. I sent him the case information and contact information.

Since I informed Supervisor Kirk she’s filed the paperwork to become a “party” and she’s needling the county to apply for “Intervenor” status and formally oppose this rate hike.  

The city of Marysville had a presentation from Cal Water August 18. Directly after that presentation they voted unanimously to apply for “Intervenor” status and formally oppose the rate hike.

Meanwhile Sorensen is only now asking to agendize a presentation?  

It’s time to write those e-mails, tell him we want Intervenor status, we want a formal protest.

Marysville Appeal Democrat: Proposal by Cal Water to consolidate Marysville district with three others (inc. Chico) could slow Marysville rate hikes (by spreading their rates among Chico users!)

19 Jul

Cal Water consolidation could slow Marysville rate hikes

By Eric Vodden/ evodden@appealdemocrat.com | Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 7:38 pm

A proposal by California Water Service to consolidate the company’s Marysville district with three others would reduce water rate increases starting in 2017, Cal Water officials said.

The water rate for a typical metered residential customer in the city would increase $2.53 a month from the current $39.21 a month under a plan to consolidate districts in Marysville, Chico, Willows and Oroville. That would compare to an $8.66 a month rate hike without combining the four company service areas.

“This is a good thing for Marysville if we can accomplish it,” said Lee Seidel, manager for the Cal Water district in Marysville.

Seidel explained that the lower number of rate payers and lack of growth in Marysville limits the ability to spread over a wider base the costs of needed system improvements. Instead, under a consolidated structure those costs would be spread over the four affected Cal Water districts.

“It would not only be a lower rate (increase) immediately, but a spreading of costs across a larger customer base,” Seidel said.

Additionally, the PUC and state Legislature have encouraged water utilities to consolidate water systems regionally to increase efficiency and spread costs, officials said.

The three-year rate proposal to the state Public Utilities Commission for 2017-19 comes just short of a year after the PUC approved a new Cal Water rate structure for 2014-16. State utilities are required every three years to file new proposed rate structures with the PUC, an 18-month process to complete.

Cal Water officials said increases in Marysville are needed to replace more than 5,000 feet of aging water lines, complete the state-required conversion of flat-rate customers to meters and install new computer servers and software. They also would pay for upgrading electrical systems at a pump station and replacing a panel board at another, officials said.

The PUC decision last August came more than two years after Cal Water applied for its 2014-16 rate adjustment. Approved was a 10.16 percent increase for 2014 with inflationary increases of from 1 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The decision followed a public campaign waged by a group of Marysville opponents that included campaign-style front-yard signs and opposition from some public agencies.

Marysville City Councilman Bill Simmons, prior to being appointed to the council in February, was at the forefront of last year’s public opposition to the rate increase. He said Wednesday he does not yet know enough about the particulars of the new rate case to comment.

Cal Water’s proposal to consolidate would result in a 72-cent per month Marysville district increase in 2018 and $1.03 hike in 2019. Without the consolidation, increases in 2018 would be $2.04 in 2018 and 48 cents in 2019.

It will ultimately be up to the PUC to decide whether to accept the consolidated plan that would benefit Marysville ratepayers but not necessarily those in other districts. Chico’s rates are currently the lowest of the four affected Cal Water districts.

The idea is that the consolidated rate structure, planned to be phased in over several years, would result in the four districts paying the same rate. An indexed rate increase would initially be proposed in Marysville.

Though Marysville still has just short of 900 unmetered residential customers, the 2017-19 proposal doesn’t address their flat-rate charges. It is planned that all Cal Water residential customers in the city will be converted to meters by the end of 2016, prior to 2017 rates taking effect, Seidel said.

California Water Service, required by the state to file proposed general rate cases every three years, is seeking increases in Marysville for 2017-19.

One proposal is for rates based on a phased-in consolidation of the company’s Marysville, Chico, Willows and Oroville districts.

The other would be separately for Marysville.

Monthly increases proposed for a typical metered residential customer would be:


Current 2017 2018 2019

$39.21 $41.74 $42.45 $43.49

Not consolidated

Current 2017 2018 2019

$39.21 $47.87 $49.91 $50.38

Good news for Marysville – CPUC judge recommends lower rate hike for them, but still no word for Chico

26 Jul

It really makes me frustrated that the local media isn’t covering the Cal Water rate increase. Here’s a story from the Marysville Appeal Democrat, regarding the Marysville rate case, which is separate from the Chico rate case. I have no news on the Chico rate case. When I asked David Little if he could find out more information on this rate increase he responded, “I don’t know if we’re doing anything on Cal Water?” [sic]  


PUC to consider Cal Water rate hike

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:08 am

By Eric Vodden/evodden@appealdemocrat.com

An administrative law judge issued a proposed decision this week that keeps intact a California Water Service Co. three-year rate increase in Marysville.Judge Robert Mason’s decision reflects a settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates calling for a 10.16 percent rate hike this year.

 The 93-plus page decision also follows settlement agreement recommendations of inflationary rate increases in Marysville of from 1 percent to 5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

The decision, which addresses proposed rate hikes in water systems operated by Cal Water throughout the state, must still be considered by the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission will take up the proposed increase on Aug. 14.

Cal Water spokesman Justin Skarb said if the PUC adopts the agreement, new water utility rates will become effective a few days later. The company has said it needs the increase to keep up with increased costs and state-mandated capital improvements.

Under the proposed decision, a typical residential customer in Marysville using about 9,724 gallons of water per month will have charges totaling about $43.65, up from $39.36.

The increase, stemming from a company’s 2012 application, was initially expected to be completed in time to be imposed last Jan. 1. Since it wasn’t, customers will see a surcharge on their bills to reflect the “under-collection of revenue” since Jan. 1, Skarb said.

“To lessen the impact on customers, the surcharge will be spread out over a period of 12 months, and is likely to be less than 25 cents per unit of water used by customers,” Skarb said in a statement. “Those figures could change, however, if the commission does not adopt the proposed decision, or otherwise modifies it.”

The settlement agreement between Cal Water and the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates last November effectively ended a public campaign in Marysville by residents opposed to the hike. Yuba County supervisors, the Marysville Joint Unified School District and the Marysville City Council also opposed the increase.

The 10.16 percent increase for 2014 is below the 14.1 percent increase recommended by the Office of Ratepayer Advocates. It was believed the increase would fall somewhere between the 34.8 percent Cal Water was asking and what Ratepayer Advocates was recommending.

The increase also includes funds needed for the $2 million relocation of water mains along portions of Highways 20 and 70 to accommodate Caltrans’ ongoing roadway project.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.

I think Marysville got a good decision because they made a very loud protest, as did Oroville. They were actually named on the documents as a “party,” and they got regular updates on the case from the CPUC. I don’t even know how to register myself as a “party.” When I tried to talk to the folks in Sacramento, they told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously and be heard at all by the commissioners (or even their receptionists),  I’d have to drive to San Francisco to attend meetings, pay out of my own pocket to stay overnight because the meetings went on over days, sometimes over the weekend. Otherwise I could just sit home and wait for the rate increase notice, retroactive to January 2014, in my bill.  I had no posse behind me, no group willing to make phone calls, spend hours searching and networking for information, attend meetings or help to write or sign letters. 

Chico has been pretty limp-wristed here. There was a big hoo-rah in the beginning, back in March 2013, when a packed room of pissed off jerks greeted the CPUC representative who monitored the hearing. Oh yeah, you guys gave little Darwin a real pants-ful. And then you folded up and went home and hung your testicles on the wall next to your Mickey Mouse badge and cap gun.

Just lately I’ve seen a letter about WRAM – well, how do you do? Let’s get together and write a formal, group letter to the CPUC before they make their final decision. I’m willing to book the library room to work on something, let me know if you’re interested. 

If we don’t make some kind of noise, we might actually get the 38 percent increase Cal Water proposed to begin with. Cal Water rep Justin Skarb acts as though Cal Water is being shorted here, that we’re just getting oodles of free water. We have to tell the CPUC about the notice we got – read here – about $1.5 million just for salaries, pensions, and benefits, and another $395,000 for “quality employees“, whatever the hell that means:

Cal Water is proposing this change in rates due to  the following factors:

  • Cal Water is requesting $556,000 to retain the same level of employee health care, pensions, and retiree health care benefits for General Office personnel, the costs of which have increased faster than inflation.
  • Cal Water is requesting $423,000 to retain for district personnel the same level of employee benefits described above
  • Cal Water is requesting $415,000 for the allocation of General Office operation expenses
  • Cal Water is requesting $395,000 to retain quality employees in the district
  • Cal Water is requesting $163,000 for water infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016


Remember, this is a proposal, the CPUC still needs to make a decision.