Tag Archives: Cal Water

City of Chico discusses filing for ‘Party’ status in Cal Water rate increase case; let’s encourage them to go all the way and file for ‘Intervenor’ status

25 Nov

The agenda for next week’s city council meeting (Dec. 1) includes a proposal for the city to file for “Party Status” in the rate increase case filed by Cal Water last July.  Here is an excerpt from the report:

California Water Service Company (Application No. 15-07-015) California Water Service Company (“Cal Water”) filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission to increase rates and consolidate the Chico district into a proposed “Northern Region.” This memorandum seeks City Council authority to become a party in the pending application.

Cal Water provides water service to the City and its residents. Cal Water is requesting water rate increases for years 2017, 2018 and 2019. The proposed increases are 19.1%, 1.6%, and 2.8% respectively.

The proposed rate increases would impose a significant burden on the City, as a customer of Cal Water. The rate increases would also impose an undue hardship on City residents. As a Cal Water customer and on behalf of its residents residing in the Chico district, the City has an interest in minimizing the proposed rate increases.

In addition, Cal Water is seeking to consolidate its Chico, Oroville, Marysville and Willows districts as the proposed “Northern Region.” The proposed consolidation affects City and its residents because the City is one of the districts to be consolidated. If consolidation is granted, Cal Water requests rate increases of 20.3%, 1.7% and 2.4% for years 2017,2018 and 2019 respectively, for the combined Chico and Oroville districts within the Northern Region. lf consolidation is granted, the City, as well as Oroville residents, will shoulder an even higher burden than that which is requested in Cal Water’s general rate increase.

Although Butte County has joined as a party, the City’s specific interests are not adequately represented. The City’s participation will be relevant and beneficial to the proceeding.

CONCLUSION / RECOMMENDATION It is recommended the City Council direct staff to file a Motion of City of Chico to Become a Party

“Party Status,” unfortunately, just means the city, along with the county, are on the notice list of events in the eventual raising of our rates. In order to make a formal protest, they must file as “Intervenors,” but I can’t seem to convince them of that.

Please write to council and the supervisors and ask them to take that further step. Be nice – you get more flies with honey than vinegar. 

Chico City council can be reached by way of the clerk’s website – 


Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk was the first one to respond to my request, she went through a really onerous and ridiculous filing system to get on the Party List right away. Then she asked the board to do so.  She even went to a Chico city council meeting and sat there waiting through a long agenda to make a case for the city to do something.  I sat at home in my snuggies that night, yelling “Go Maureen! Yeeeee-haw!” into my computer screen.  

The CPUC rep that contacted Supervisor Kirk even admitted it would be good to have a lawyer’s assistance in filing the paperwork. I don’t even know if an individual can file for Intervenor status, that’s really a job for the entire board of supervisors. 

Reach them here: 


How far will people be pushed in this drought?

29 Jun

ER letter writer Daniel Courtice of Chico complained recently that even though his household had used less than their budgeted water amount, they got no “credit” in their “water bank.” He reports, “We put buckets in our shower, tubs in our sink, flush our toilets much less, take navy showers and our lawn is half dead” but received no kudos in their subsequent bill.

“I contacted Cal Water to discuss this discrepancy and was told that during the first month no one was getting credits for the water bank.” 

He asks “We all need to do our part in this drought crisis but how is this right that Cal Water is not living up to the agreement that was promised at the community water meeting?”

I had seen in my notice, they wouldn’t be giving that credit up until the July bill. My husband called it – use all you can until the end of May, or they’ll cut you off that much more next year. He was right.

I wonder if Courtice knows about WRAM – the “water rate adjustment mechanism” by which water companies manipulate the price of water each month to cover costs. If we use too little water, they are allowed to charge more to cover their salaries, pensions and benefits – “fixed costs”.  They explained exactly how much they needed to fund their salaries and pensions – hundreds of thousands of dollars a year –  in the first notice  I received, I think, three years ago?

  I can’t fault Courtice, Cal Water sends so many of these GD notices, who in their right mind is able to keep up with all the twists and turns. 

I am on pins and needles waiting for my next water bill. It better be good, is all I’m saying. We already led a pretty water wise existence, but we’ve cut back further. For one thing, we filled our Intex pool every June, and now that’s gone. We’ll see if that even makes a blip on the radar. 

It’s always frustrating to see how far people will be pushed before they get mad about something that’s not right. Cal Water posted big profits this year.


According to Yahoo Finance in the April 29, 2015 article, “California Water Service Group Holding (CWT) on Wednesday reported first-quarter net income of $1.6 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.”

Furthermore, “The San Jose, California-based company said it had profit of 3 cents per share.  The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 2 cents per share.”

How can they post a profit and still collect a WRAM charge every month? How can we let a for-profit corporation control our water?


Water rates on the rise – James Hunter, fighting the good fight in San Jose; energetic groups in Marysville, Lucerne keeping the issue on the surface

9 Apr

I got a nice e-mail from a man in the San Jose area, James Hunter, about his efforts to fight undue water rate increases. He has kept a journal of his adventures with CPUC and San Jose Water Company in his blog, here:


Wow, look at the work it takes to deal with these people.  Mr. Hunter has the kind of perseverance and intelligence it takes to hold a candle to the water company. I do not have the patience or expertise to go through the bureaucratic runaround, it’s just maddening. Hunter does not get discouraged. His blog is a good read for anybody who wants to take on the flak catchers. 

And you might want to check in with the Marysville folks, they are a motivated group:


And here’s a group from the Clear Lake town of Lucerne



Lou Binninger: CPUC and utility companies “sleep together” – “there is no protection for the consumer”

7 Jan

I enjoy reading the Territorial Dispatch out of Marysville, a very good local weekly with a local staff. Writer Lou Binninger is always worth a read. Here he takes on the California Public Utilities Commission over inappropriate favoritism toward Cal Water and other for-profit water companies.

You can also catch Lou on 1410 am, KMYC, Saturday mornings from 9am to noon:


by Lou Binninger, for the Territorial Dispatch

Obamacare shaman Jonathan Gruber said he purposely disguised the intent and impact of the national health insurance scam to ‘deceive stupid voters.’ He was right and wrong. Citizens trusted the word of an institution they once considered trustworthy, but now defrauds them. Since Gruber knew he was a liar he despised his victims as weak. Their stupidity was in trusting those who rule over them.

Gruber’s technique was neither novel nor original. In 2014, Marysville resident Connie Walczak found this out the hard way.

She filed a ratepayer complaint against California Water Service with the CPUC (California Public Utility Commission). Cal Water had raised rates 121% in 10 years. The last increase in 2011 was 55.3% and now they were requesting the CPUC grant another 47% hike.

Prior to resorting to a formal complaint, in 2013 Walczak called and wrote the CPUC multiple times with no response. It was clear that the state commission created a complaint process that would forbid most citizens to survive its legal gauntlet. Complaints could not be submitted on line but had to be handwritten. The procedures were akin to filing a 1040 long form in a foreign language. It gets worse.

Cal Water attorney Natalie Wales violated legal procedures by serving notices and documents to listed Marysville complainants late or not at all. The judge excused the attorney’s miscues by email but would not return Walczak’s emails protesting his double standard.

The CPUC mission statement says it “serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.” Walczak found this statement absurd and the utility-oversight system a mirage.

Recently, PG and E emails surfaced between the company and former CPUC President Michael Peevey’s office revealing CPUC’s collusion with PG and E to obstruct the investigation / lawsuit involving the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion. The disaster killed 8, injured 58 and destroyed 38 homes. Federal investigators found fault with PG&E for the incident but blamed the CPUC for not holding the utility accountable to replace gas lines that they requested rate increases to fund. Investigators said the CPUC “placed blind trust in operators.”

PG&E fired Vice President Brian Cherry, his boss Tom Bottorff and another vice president after e-mails showed Cherry had lobbied Peevey’s chief of staff Carol Brown to help appoint a preferred administrative law judge to a rate case. Cherry’s choice was eventually given the $1.3 billion case, but it was reassigned after PG&E released the judge-shopping emails.


CPUC’s Carol Brown, who told PG&E’s Cherry she would try to help him, resigned. Federal prosecutors are investigating the e-mails.


Emails also showed CPUC’s Peevey soliciting contributions from PG&E. Peevey leaned on PG&E to contribute at least $1 million to oppose a ballot measure that would put a hold on a California law limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Peevey asked PG&E to contribute $100,000 to help fund a Centennial Anniversary celebration for the CPUC, and Peevey appeared to link the request to a PG&E rate-setting case before the commission.


Consumer-oriented Loretta Lynch, whom Gov. Gray Davis replaced with Peevey as President in 2002, says that the state regulators no longer regulate. The real business of resolving rates unofficially takes place on cruises, on junkets to Hong Kong, over cocktails and at industry sponsored seminars. Lynch claims utilities regularly ‘doctor’ their documents to support rate increases. Testimony under oath about costs etc. is a thing of the past according to Ms. Lynch.


Walczak’s rate complaint was rejected, but she was right about the CPUC and the Cal Waters of the world. They sleep together. Walczak now refers to the state agency as the California Utility Commission (CUC). It exists to benefit monopolies. There is no consumer protection.

Right now we actually have a chance to get our legislators to listen to us about water rate increase, WRAM – please write an e-mail to Assemblyman Rendon

30 Jan

I have joined efforts with Marysville and Oroville for Reasonable Water Rates, along with people from other nearby towns that are being hit with water rate increases, to get the word out to other folks up and down the state – we don’t have to take this TAKING laying down. Cal Water and other private providers will tell you they need the money to serve us!  Take one of these right now!

My mom gave me these.

My mom gave me these. She had a built-in Bullshit Detector, but figured I might need a supplement.

Here, Cal Water is requesting a 38 percent rate increase to cover their “operating costs”. My notice said:

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

Another problem with our water billing is WRAM – the Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism. This allows Cal Water and other private water companies to manipulate our rates monthly without hearings or CPUC approval.  Municipal water companies do not have WRAM. Look at your bills, it’s there.

So, I have been trying to write to papers around the state, telling people what we’re doing – write to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon at Assemblymember.Rendon@asm.ca.gov  

This is not a lost effort.  Mr. Rendon’s staff has responded to other writers that there will be a hearing regarding water rates and how they affect the ratepayers at the state capital on February 3, 3pm, Room 437. I know that’s short notice, but you can still e-mail Rendon and tell you him you’re concerned about how water rates will affect your life.  At least you know it’s something they’re discussing, your comments will have a better chance of having some effect. Be short and to the point, hopefully he will have a lot of e-mails on this subject.

I always feel weird writing to papers in other towns, but what the heck – it’s one of the only ways to network with the more general public. Sure you could look for other groups – that’s called, “preaching to the choir,” Hon. I prefer to launch myself out there, God(dess) save me, and see what I can find. Sometimes I find a closed door, and a long dark walk home. Other times I find somebody – like the other day at the garbage meeting – who says, “Wow, I have been trying to find out how to get in touch with you!”  Or, “Hey, that pisses me off too!” Zowie! That really turns my wheels.

I was reading through an online paper in the little town of Downey California, the Downey Patriot. I came across this letter, posted January 23.

Dear Editor:
On early morning walks it’s interesting to observe how we irrigate our property.
Sometimes sprinkler heads are broken and water gushes up like Old Faithful and then cascades into the gutter, or sprinkler heads are directing water onto sidewalks and streets. We, including this writer, waste our precious supply of fresh water big time. We think it’s an infinite supply, that it never will be depleted, that it will always be there for us. Not true. We constantly strive for a beautiful lawn in our semiarid, desert-like environment.
Some scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography predict a 50 percent probability that Lake Mead will be completely dry by 2021 because of climate change, unsustainable overuse of the Colorado River and population increase. Lake Mead, a huge reservoir of Colorado River water supplying Arizona, Nevada, California and Northern Mexico is dropping to a level not seen since it was first being filled in the 1930s.
We have been in an 11-year ongoing drought. Many of our large water reservoirs are down 50 percent or more. Look at hills that haven’t burned and notice how brown they are. That is how Southern California would look in its natural state without large amounts of imported water.
We continue sticking our heads in the sand by not immediately taking steps to radically save our diminishing water supply. This writer and his family have spent many happy days on Lake Powell, Mead, Mohave and Lake Havasu boating, swimming, fishing, skiing and camping. It’s amazing to watch the mighty Colorado flow by and know how vital it is for those of us who live in the Western U.S.
It is amazing to see all the water behind these giant dams and now some experts believe that in the future, lack of water may make it necessary to close either Boulder Dam or Glen Canyon Dam.
Byron Dillon

Zowie! I had to answer Mr. Dillon.

 I read Bryon Dillon’s letter (Jan 23) and, like him, I am concerned about our water supply. Conservation seems obvious, but private water companies are undermining our conservation efforts with a process in our water bills by which we are essentially penalized for saving water. It’s called WRAM – “Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism” – and you will find it on your private company water bill.

I live in the Northern California town of Chico. I have a group of friends, Chico Taxpayers Association, who have been networking with a growing number of people in Butte, Sutter, Lake and Glenn Counties who are concerned about the way private water companies are billing consumers.   


WRAM comes into your bill when your water usage falls below what your private provider determines is necessary to cover their expenses for that month. Over the past year this has added anywhere from $8 to $20 to my monthly bill, while I’ve been replacing plumbing and killing sections of landscaping.


Here in Chico, Cal Water’s “expenses” included over $1.7 million to provide fully-paid pensions and health benefits, cover “general office operation expenses” and new salaries, but only $163,000 for infrastructural maintenance. WRAM allows them to manipulate rates at will, monthly, without any public hearing or CPUC process.


My friends and I are asking legislators to suspend WRAM for full investigation. You can contact me at https://chicotaxpayers.com/  You can also contact Assemblyman Anthony Rendon,  Assemblymember.Rendon@asm.ca.gov, who sits on the committee that oversees water issues, and ask him to call for the suspension of WRAM.  

I’m hoping the Patriot will run my letter, and that at least some readers will either contact Rendon or come on over to our website and get more information. I work incrementally. Every little contact breeds other little contacts, until an idea gets out there to the general public. I think that’s the way to make a difference, I hope you will join me and give a few minutes of your time to this effort.

Write to your county supervisors about Cal Water rate increase

12 Nov

 To: LWahl@buttecounty.net, MKirk@buttecounty.net; cc: district4@buttecounty.net, DTeeter@buttecounty.net, BConnelly@buttecounty.net

 Hi Larry, Maureen,

I don’t know what you’ve heard about the Cal Water rate increase, but I found out yesterday – a formal protest from a Marysville group has led to a hearing. The Dept of Ratepayer Assistance has recommended the increase be cut roughly in half. They wanted a 38 percent increase and now the DRA is recommending, I think, about 14 percent.

I also found out, water rates are different in various cities – O’ville, for example, pays about twice our Chico “service charge”, and their tier system starts out at over a dollar.

I’ll ask you Larry and Maureen, when was the last time you gave your water bill a good look? Do you know that the cost of a “ccf” in Chico has doubled over the past 5-6 years? And the “service charge” has gone from around $8 to now $14. For water that is pumped right out from under us, and then they add a bottle of chlorox (I’ve seen them do it) for “sanitation”.   We have a couple of wells on our properties, in fact, we just shared with our neighbors in digging a new well at one property, and it didn’t cost a fraction of what they’re trying to  tell us they spend maintaining a well. And, we can drink our well water right out of the tap – Cal Water tastes like PV Pool, complete with kids.

One notice I have lays it out right there – they want over $500,000 for pensions and benefits. Now they’re saying “to deliver quality water” or something like that, but in the original notice, they had to be straight, and it was for pensions, mostly for management personnel.

So, what can you do for us as our supervisors? City councilors, one a vice mayor, have gotten involved in Marysville and Visalia, written letters to the DRA and the CPUC, called Cal Water on the carpet. I’d like to see some support from you two, as well as Supervisors Teeter, Lambert and Connelly. Not only will this affect your constituents, wait til the cities, the county, and other agencies start getting their increased water bills. Chico Area Rec District has already discussed this issue, and they are expecting their bills to be outrageous.

For your convenience, here’s the contact information:  http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/aboutus/Divisions/CSID/Public+Advisor/

– thanks, Juanita Sumner