Tag Archives: Cal Water Service Company

Still time to fight the water rate increase – DRA recommends cutting proposed hike in half

11 Nov

I have not been following the Cal Water rate increase lately – frankly, from my stats, I get the sickening feeling that nobody else in Chico is paying attention either.  Neither of the papers are covering this, nor has the city council discussed it. Let’s face it – a rate hike is good for the city of Chico, because it will mean increased Utility Tax revenues, and both newspapers seems to be nothing but propaganda rags for the city of Chico these days, so don’t expect them to make any waves.

Just in case you’re still asleep, wrap those warm feet around this – Cal Water wants to raise your bill by almost 40 percent. That’s alot, especially if you’re still in the habit of watering anything besides your shower and toilet.

 And here’s the real sticker – they try to tell us it’s for infrastructure, but I have the legal notice received in my billing – over half the increase will go to employee pensions and benefits. Furthermore, what they apparently didn’t mention in those notices was, the stockholders were going to get a nice little slice too.  

This should feel familiar to you – remember the time that big kid came out from behind that tree on the way to school, punched you real hard in the guts and said, “Gimmee your lunch money!” Well, this is more of the same.

Disgusted ratepayers in Marysville formed a group – “Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates” – check out the latest news on their Facebook page:


They made a formal complaint to the California Public Utilities Commission, which was more than I could get out of the lobsters around here. This resulted in a hearing with the Department of Ratepayer Assistance, which suggested their requested hike be cut in half.  Cal Water came back with a proposal to increase the discount for their Low Income Rate Assistance program, but those who don’t qualify for LIRA will pay more to make up for that increase.  

Something that keeps making me madder and madder is why they say they need the increase – because we’ve been using less water. We’re not only conserving already, but we’ve reacted to the increases they’ve already shoved up our asses. I’ve watched my bill at  this house increase from an $8 service charge to $14. I’ve watched the price of a ccf go from about 50 cents to a dollar. In Marysville and Oroville they’re paying over a dollar for tier one.  This has nothing to do with the “cost” of providing water. It has everything to do with enriching management and shareholders. While you let your lawn die, some guy in Arizona is receiving a check made up of your money. 

The issue still needs to go before a panel at the CPUC, sometime in “early 2014.” Below I’ve pasted a news release from Cal Water – don’t slip in the bullshit, and you can get the information you need. Cal Water is not telling us below how much of the increase is going into employee benefits and pension, but they do suggest “the establishment of a health care balancing account that will track changes in employee health care costs and provide for the sharing of these cost changes between customers and shareholders during the rate case cycle. The parties believe the health care balancing account provides protection to the company and its customers due to the uncertainties arising from continuing changes in medical costs and insurance nationally, while providing an incentive to actively manage these costs downward.”  They’re offering to show us what they spend, so we can bitch about it and “incentivize” them to cut costs? How? By chasing after the Cal Water trucks, barking like a dog? “Hey, you been gaining too much weight lately! And you need to quit smoking, I saw that cigarette!” 

No, we don’t want to pay for that stuff, stop it. And it’s not really for the meter readers or the trench diggers, it’s for the soft-handed management types, like Mike Pembroke.  We need to contact the CPUC, now.  Familiarize yourselves with this page on the CPUC website:


There is a lot of information here and contact information. Be sure to identify yourself and where you live. Tell them how the rate hike will affect you, and that your answer is going to be, USE LESS WATER.


Settlement Agreement Reached in California Water Service Company’s General Rate Case

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwired – Oct 30, 2013) – California Water Service Company (Cal Water), the largest subsidiary of California Water Service Group (NYSE: CWT), announced today that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA) and other parties to its 2012 General Rate Case. The Commission may or may not adopt the settlement agreement as proposed by the parties.

If the settlement agreement is approved as proposed, Cal Water would be authorized to invest $447 million in districts throughout California over the three-year period (2013 – 2015) in order to provide a safe and reliable water supply to its customers. Included in the $447 million in water system infrastructure improvements is $126 million that would be recovered through the Commission’s advice letter procedure upon completion of qualified projects. Under the terms of the settlement, the Company would be authorized to increase gross revenue by approximately $45 million in 2014, $10 million in 2015, $10 million in 2016, and up to $19 million upon completion and approval of the company’s advice letter projects.

Addressing affordability, the settlement agreement provides for an increase in the discount provided to qualified low-income customers as part of its Low Income Rate Assistance program throughout Cal Water’s service areas in California, and an increase in the Rate Support Fund assistance to customers who reside in high-cost service areas.

Another provision of the settlement is the establishment of a health care balancing account that will track changes in employee health care costs and provide for the sharing of these cost changes between customers and shareholders during the rate case cycle. The parties believe the health care balancing account provides protection to the company and its customers due to the uncertainties arising from continuing changes in medical costs and insurance nationally, while providing an incentive to actively manage these costs downward.

The Commission is expected to issue a final decision on the case in early 2014. Additional information about the settlement agreement may be found on the Commission’s web site at www.cpuc.ca.gov.

California Water Service Group is the parent company of California Water Service Company, Washington Water Service Company, New Mexico Water Service Company, Hawaii Water Service Company, Inc., CWS Utility Services, and HWS Utility Services. Together these companies provide regulated and non-regulated water service to nearly 2 million people in California, Washington, New Mexico, and Hawaii. California Water Service Group’s common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “CWT.” Additional information is available on our website at www.calwatergroup.com.

This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“Act”). The forward-looking statements are intended to qualify under provisions of the federal securities laws for “safe harbor” treatment established by the Act. Forward-looking statements are based on currently available information, expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections, and management’s judgment about the Company, the water utility industry and general economic conditions. Such words as would, expects, intends, plans, believes, estimates, assumes, anticipates, projects, predicts, forecasts or variations of such words or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. They are subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may vary materially from what is contained in a forward-looking statement. Factors that may cause a result different than expected or anticipated include, but are not limited to: governmental and regulatory commissions’ decisions; changes in regulatory commissions’ policies and procedures; the timeliness of regulatory commissions’ actions concerning rate relief; new legislation; electric power interruptions; increases in suppliers’ prices and the availability of supplies including water and power; fluctuations in interest rates; changes in environmental compliance and water quality requirements; acquisitions and our ability to successfully integrate acquired companies; the ability to successfully implement business plans; changes in customer water use patterns; the impact of weather on water sales and operating results; access to sufficient capital on satisfactory terms; civil disturbances or terrorist threats or acts, or apprehension about the possible future occurrences of acts of this type; the involvement of the United States in war or other hostilities; restrictive covenants in or changes to the credit ratings on our current or future debt that could increase our financing costs or affect our ability to borrow, make payments on debt or pay dividends; and, other risks and unforeseen events. When considering forward-looking statements, you should keep in mind the cautionary statements included in this paragraph, as well as the annual 10-K, Quarterly 10-Q, and other reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company assumes no obligation to provide public updates of forward-looking statements.

1720 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95112-4598

Tom Smegal
(408) 367-8200

Shannon Dean
(310) 257-1435

NEWSFLASH! Juanita Sumner ready to support a bond!

7 Oct

I will admit I had almost lost hope of stopping the proposed Cal Water rate increases when I heard the good news a couple of weeks ago that the state Ratepayers Advocate (DRA) had stepped in. They suggest the increase be cut in half. 

This all due to people in Oroville, Marysville, and Yuba City,  who kicked up a fuss, made a formal complaint, wrote letters, put signs on their lawns, etc.  If you go to the Oroville Mercury Register, or the Marysville Appeal Democrat, you will  find lively chatter regarding such topics as municipally owned water companies, eminent domaining a utility company, etc.

That’s right – in Oroville they’re actually  talking about eminent domaining Cal Water. One council member says this will require a bond to pay for the purchase, but he thinks the time is right to go to the voters . Look at what people are paying, just for household water. In Oroville people are already paying $200 or more to keep their lawns and landscaping alive.

I’ll say it – I’m ready to pay a reasonable bond with limits and a sunset date if it means we could own our own water, instead of a for-profit corporation that enriches itself not only off our rates but government hand-outs as well. We can ask that the bond money be used exclusively for the purchase of the water company holdings. We can pass an ordinance that requires a publicly elected board of directors and manager, and public input regarding employee contracts. I realize, it’s a big conversation – let’s have it!

 Read about Oroville and Marysville’s efforts here:





Who really owns our resources?

13 Sep

I wrote a letter to the Marysville Appeal Democrat to thank the Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates group for going to so much trouble making their formal complaint to the CPUC. 

I was glad to hear Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates is protesting Cal Water’s proposed rate increase. I was surprised more people aren’t protesting, until I spoke to some friends of mine recently who had never read the rate increase notices contained in their water bills.

A couple of years ago, Cal Water sent a notice in our water bill that they were raising rates to get us to conserve water. Last summer, they announced we conserved too much, that they “could not meet operational costs,” and would have to raise rates again. That notice said, “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 …” $423,000 for “healthcare, pensions and retiree health benefits for district personnel,” $415,000 “for General Office operation expenses,” $395,000 to “retain quality employees in the district.” Last, and least, only $163,000 for “infrastructure improvements between 2013 and 2016.”

These rate hikes aren’t about improving service, but about paying for overly generous salaries, benefits and pension packages. That is not justifiable in an area where the average family lives on less than $40,000, but the Cal Water management employees whose pensions we’re paying enjoy salaries between $78,000 and $100,000 a year.

I hope more people will ask Cal Water for the balance sheet — but you might also want to read those little notices they send in your bills.

Juanita Sumner


It is very depressing to me that I can’t get people in Chico to mount some sort of effort to turn this rate hike back. As I wrote above, it’s all about paying the pensions, mostly management. Do you make $80,000 a year?  Will you get a pension when you are too old to work, paid for by the public? The statistics say no, most people around here live on less than $40,000/year and have little or no retirement savings. Their homes are upside down or worth little more than they paid, and their kids are being turned away from college either because Chico schools did not prepare them adequately or because their parents don’t have the money to put them through the sausage factory of the CSU system. 

I was surprised to get a pretty good conversation out of my letter  – here are the responses I got:

  • Bill Simmons · California State University, Chico

    Mr. Binninger hit the nail right on the head. Its about a 121.80 % rate increases on Marysville’s ratepayers in the last 10 years. it’s about the run-a-away escalation of water rates. I submit to you (the readers) that in the private sector the costs incurred for continuing ed. are often born by the employee and not by the ratepayers as is the case with Cal Water who asking for a rate increase to foot the bill. For those of you who are truly interested in Cal-Waters’ proposal and the Department of Ratepayer Advocacy analysis for Cal Waters’ proposal, log on to: http://www.dra.ca.gov/Cal_Water_GRC_DRA_Testimony_page.aspx.
    It makes for a eye opening reading. Furthermore, I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life to suggest that the size of a town is a pre-qualifier to reasonable and affordable water rates. At least the rate payer would have a voice in the rates if it were a mutual water agency and not a state regulated private for profit water co.
    Reply · 4 ·  · September 9 at 3:49pm
  • Bill Simmons · California State University, Chico

    Great job Water Warrior Juanita Sumner. Keep up the good fight for the ratepayers of Chico. Know that you are not alone in this battle for reasonable and affordable water rates. This movement is getting up steam throughout California. Who Rah!
    Reply · 4 ·  · September 9 at 4:01pm
  • Mike Healy ·  Top Commenter · Penn Valley, California

    While I understand your frustration retaining trained licensed water and wastewater operating employees is a challenge for each and every utility district in the state of Ca. continuing education in order to maintain licensure in these professional fields is a must as is being competitive in each and every category of employment benefit packages. The fact is that gaining license requires extensive study in areas such as chemistry and mathematics and systems operations, maintenance and repair and a long term commitment to practical experience, AKA “On the Job” experience in one category prior to being certified and licensed. One final fact for you to consider for each 5 operators who retire only 3 applicants pass the licensure tests so the employment field is hardly what I would consider sustainable and it is for this reason that the costs you detailed in my humble view are costs of doing business and not fluff, look at just about any utility, private or public and you will see the same manpower costs and minimal CIP expenditures. Tell your kids to study chemistry, math and learn mechanical theory and they might have a job that may be forever in demand.
    Reply · 1 ·  · September 9 at 6:04am
    • Lou Binninger ·  Top Commenter · Marysville, California

      The point of the letter was the ridiculous out of line rates, not that you had to attend school to work with water. Yuba City, Linda and Olivehurst comply with the same regulations as Cal Water-controlled cities like Marysville, Oroville and Chico while using the same quality professional operators. The water costs are nearly 50% less in the areas where Cal Water does not provide the service. Oroville people are beginning to rise up about the rates. We were wondering about the Chico residents. Now, we know at least one that is paying attention.
      Reply · 8 ·  · September 9 at 7:48am
    • Eric Royer ·  Top Commenter · Florida State University

      It seems that marysville is too small an operation to have its own affordable water supplier then. The costs need a larger population base to support them.
      Reply · 1 ·  · September 9 at 8:34am
    • Lou Binninger ·  Top Commenter · Marysville, California

      Eric Royer Say What?!
      Reply · 2 ·  ·September 9 at 10:28am

      Mike Healy, above, is saying that if we want water, we can just expect to pay for it. He works for a group called “Global Water Resources,” which has just secured some kind of contract with the city of Grass Valley. What I’m reading, is a guy who looks out for his own ass. My family has wells on a couple of our properties, and it doesn’t cost a fraction of what we pay Cal Water at our other rentals  to keep our wells tasting and TESTING great.  Here at my apartment, we have Cal Water, and it comes out of the tap tasting like PV Pool, complete with pee! We’ve seen the “technician” coming out of our neighborhood well house carrying an empty bottle of Chlorox – seems “technology” hasn’t changed since I was a child Mike – my grandpa used Chlorox to sanitize our well and pump too, and he didn’t have any college education. 

      And every time we get those notices telling us how much CRAP is in our Cal Water, I tell you what, I thank God we have those technicians telling us what kind of poison they’re pumping into our houses! 

      Thanks for chiming in Mike, gave me something to make fun of. You bureaucrats will do anything to protect the trough. 

Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates rally postponed – but there’s good news

9 Sep

I got this notice from Connie Walzchak of Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates, saying that the rally originally scheduled for Sept 21 will be postponed, date to be announced. I will also postpone any plans I was making for the 21st – I want it to be in concert with the Marysville rally.

But this is not bad news – she sent along word that their formal complaint had been served and the wheels of bureaucracy are in motion. I know, they grind slow, but they grind. I hope this will come to something good. You can support this move by writing to the CPUC yourself – here’s one link:




The Formal Complaint that was filed in May to CPUC regarding the California Water Service proposed increases for Marysville has made it’s way through the CPUC Docket Department and Cal Water has been served. See below:

To: Defendant, California Water Service Company (U60W) and to Thomas F. Smegal, Vice President, its representative:

Pursuant to the provisions of Rule 4.3, the Docket Office of the California Public Utilities Commission hereby officially serves the following legal documents on defendant in the referenced proceeding:

E-Filed: Instruction to Answer
PDF (525 KB)
E-Filed: Instruction to Answer
PDF (643 KB)

E-Filed: Complaint
PDF (16667 KB): E-Filed: Complaint: PDF (12484 KB)

III. NOTICE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT (See, Word document on Attachment Line, above.)
All References to Rules are to the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure. The weblink is available at: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/Practitioner/Library.htm

Please call if you have any questions

Martin M. Nakahara
Senior Legal Analyst
‘ 415-703-2291 (Direct)
‘ 415-703-1929 (Office)
* martin.nakahara@cpuc.ca.gov

Cities up and down California and across the U.S. are fighting back against Private “For Profit” Water Companies. This movement is gaining national attention. Our Formal Complaint has grabbed the attention of several State Officials. Their offices waited for our complaint to go thru the process at CPUC and have requested a copy of it directly from CPUC. Something has to be done to protect residents and businesses from the “out of control” spending by the Private Water Companies (like Cal Water).Ratepayers can not continue to fund their disregard for budget control. Ratepayers can not continue to shoulder the burden of rate increases at a whim.

With the mountain of work ahead of us to proceed with this Formal Complaint (meetings etc), it has become necessary to POSTPONE the rally that was scheduled for September 21st. We are humbled by the residents and businesses that have volunteered to help with the rally. Thank you. Thank you to Brenda at Copy City for printing and donating the flyers. Marysville thanks you!! We will be using them in the near future (with a date change).

WE, YOU, OUR CITY needs to continue to show our solidarity!! Please continue to display those signs with pride. You have every right to SPEAK UP and STAND UP!! With the number of hits and views on this site, we know that you are on board Marysville!!

FOR SIGN REQUESTS send an email to: