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The Drought Is Over, but the Water Costs More

California authorities are saying the drought is over. What will that mean for your water rates, that seem to keep rising?

People are grousing more than ever about their water bills here in our town.

We’re not alone. People all over Southern California are confused as to why they are using less water and paying more.

“We’re paying too much for water!”

“Our rates are too high!”

Well, yes, we are, and yes, they are ... but there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it—there’s not a whole lot our water agencies, in our case , can do about it either.

Here's the quick course on where our water comes from:

Ninety percent of the water that comes out of our taps comes from the Colorado River and the State Water Project. Amounts vary each day, depending on the weather conditions the previous winter in Northern California.

Since we don’t own either source, and those aren’t OUR canals and pipelines, we have to buy it from the people who DO own those canals and pipelines.

We buy our water from the San Diego County Water Authority, which buys it from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC), which apparently buys it directly from God.

Do the bigger agencies pass their costs along to us at the bottom of the waterfall?

Does the sun come up in the East?

All of this means agencies like have to walk the thin, and not always apparent, line between two extremes—trying to keep its customers happy, while paying what the bigger entities need and demand.

Padre Dam General Manager Allen Carlisle sums up the way the juggling game goes:

“Water use is down 23 percent, because of the 60 percent rate increases from MWDSC over the past three years, economic recession, mandatory conservation, and this year, wet and cool weather,” said Carlisle.

So, let’s say you’re an average, single family home here in Santee.

Your water bill, in all likelihood, is going to be around $78 a month, or a little more, depending on how much water you actually use. Some of that is a fixed rate, and the rest goes up and down.

In the past few years, we have all been heeding the call to conserve, as Carlisle noted above.

Now that the drought is over (Jerry Brown and Metropolitan say it is, so it MUST be true, right?) let’s NOT jump to the hose and start soaking down the lawn and garden you’ve sorta been letting go brown lately, OK?

Carlisle says the end of the drought, if it IS in fact over, isn’t going to mean your water bills are going down—the opposite is more likely the case.

“We may see an uptick in water use from those customers who reduced their water use when we went to mandatory conservation, but those customers impacted by the recession and the higher cost of water are, unfortunately, not going to see much relief. We will be able to increase everyone’s daily water allocation, but wholesale water rates are not going down.”

It’s a simple equation: The less you use, the less you’ll pay.

We here in Santee have managed to get our daily per capita usage down to 121 gallons—that’s the amount each person uses in a day—on average.

I guess the city's teenagers have stopped taking showers—ha, that'll be the day!

I’ll be writing more on water issues. LOTS more.

Pardon me—I gotta go get my grandson out of the shower. He’s been in there since I started writing this.

Dan McMillan April 20, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Customers of Padre Dam have a vailid reason to be upset about their ever increasing water bill. 40% of the you bill is labor costs at the local level and another 10% is from CWA an MET. By bring the wage scale of Padre Dam (and the City) in line with the private sector we could lower the water bill by 18% at the local level and if CWA and MET were to participate our bills would be 22-23% lower.. Agencies refuese to conduct a true salary survey.. instead they do an "Agency Comparison" which forces all wages up... 30-40% above competitive needs. The excellent health benefits that the Directors pay themselves (actullay we pay) are also enjoyed by the employees. Presently Padre faces a unfunded liability of over $14M for retiree medical -- it was $16M and they are paying $1.5M of your rates to provide retirees with a $17,500 annual health care policy plus MEDICARE..
Frank April 20, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Yes Dan, all the benefits you took advantage of during your tenure as a Padre Dam Board member, and all the current policies in place that you supported until being unseated last Nov. Once again your math is all flawed on labor costs/benefits cuts resulting in 22-23% savings. Changes will be made going forward but the bigger picture are pass throughs on infrastructure improvements (which you voted for on CWA) which are needed since we are at the end of the pipeline and live in a high desert. Water agencies need to find a way to retain qualified employees to protect the mission of safe relaible drinking water and balance budgets with only passing increases that are necessary. Most peoples cable bills and cell phone bills are more than their actual water bills; can't live without safe and reliable drinking water. When I look up hypocrite in the dictionary I see your picture there Dan.
DansAFraud April 20, 2011 at 06:57 PM
And here is Dan McMillan - once again against it after he was for it! It seems like Padre Dam is making great strides in dealing with many issues -- now that you are gone. Dan the People's Man can't handle his own finances yet he has all the answers on how to handle money -- other people's money that is. You voted FOR everything you are AGAINST. Wow! Such a U-Turn now that the voters of your own district turned you out of office. You did NONE of the items you now want done. I guess an election loss can do that to you. And if you want any credibility, PLEASE LEARN TO CHECK YOUR WORD USAGE AND YOUR SPELLING. MBA indeed. Cost much, did it?
jvanegmond April 21, 2011 at 12:06 PM
jvanegmond We need to start living more as community. Water is valuable. Cheap bills devalue water, where water is scarce. But if we pay nearly $5 per gallon for gasoline, $5 to $10 per gallon for bottled water, $10 to $1000 per gallon for wine, then, surely our tap water is cheap. Let us develop integrated surface, storm, groundwater, recreational water, cleaning water, agricultural water, process water, cooling water, fire water systems and thinking - that way we will perhaps understand water's value to us and better use it. John VanEgmond P. Eng President at Egmond Associates Ltd.
Dan McMillan April 21, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Frank ? You need to check the voting record. I voter for zero rate increaes twice to cut spending etc. and pushed thru a cut of 6% of managements salary,,, the new Board has dropped the ball on this one. The saving you mention are vs budget, not actual dollars.. I would like to work with you on a true salary survey. Please note that some staff make more than the Head of DWR... this is a little much.. The point is not that employees are capable or not, but whom is looking out for the ratepayers. When you can hire someone for $75,000 to over see operations vs $155,000 then why not. Local agencies pay about 20-30% more than state and Feds... The Feds did away with defined pension plan in 1984 and switched to defined contribution. The people that are going to fund these large retirements and health costs are the newer employees, since so0ner or later the people will note that paying out $150,000 - $180,000 pensions plus SS is robbing from the many to pay a privileged few. Yes I do commend you for choosing to work for a local enterprizer agency, if you were in the construction field you would make much less.
Dan McMillan April 21, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Unnamed. Thanks for the input. Making strides??? You make strides by hiring the good people at a fair salary, not a political appointee. The five year plan was OK, but was a PLAN not something cast in concrete.... the fact that once these ideas are released, it is difficult to change directions... that does not sound like good management. I voted against one rate hike, and against the tabling of the last hike.. to enable the public input to the process; others did not want public input.. ref: HWD mt April 20... The only method to stop the spending is to put some limits on rates... tax based orgainizaions are facing this dilemma now, but FEE based orgs. just raise rates. Hopefully you will want to support the Robin Hood Iitiative.. We would welcome your input on a fair method to correct the "past penion sins".. see artcile by McMillan and Jensen.
Frank April 21, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Excellent points John. We need more people like you that really understand the issues to speak up and help make informed decisions.
Dan McMillan April 21, 2011 at 06:01 PM
John Water delivered to your house is "cheap" when compared to many other commodities. The Point is "That we can cut the costs and do and even better and more efficient job" Its the transfer of wealth from many to a few via generous ("albeit -agency comparable") benefits, wages and large legecy costs that I am refering too. Dan McMillan
Frank April 21, 2011 at 06:10 PM
BS Dan, and you know it. Anyone who is interested can do a public request on your voting record, and go back 10 years. YOU were trying to increase your own Board benefits right up until last year. (Hypocrite). All employees operate under Board policy, which you and the other members set. As far as what I make it is in line for the risk I oversee and my experaince (34 years) and credentials. We are not just in the construction business; people can die from consuming our product without proper oversight. When was the last time that has happend in East County? Exactly. I know what my peers make in the private sector for the same risk and degrees, and I am in line with them. Jealousy will get you nowhere. The fact that you chose to govern from what was happening in your personal life on the Board showed poor leadership and was disgraceful. And you are wrong about the employees not looking out for the rate payers. My department saved 1.8 million alone last year and the M-Team also, and you rewaded us by cutting our pay for a sound bite; not for cutting rates; truly pathetic. Self serving politics got you unseated. Rumor has it, you applied for unemployment at the ratepayers expense for CWA as an elected official? Tell the ratepayers it isn't so????
Dan McMillan April 21, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Frank Given that your salary of $155,000 per year works out to $161.46/hr I writing after 3:30pm to same ratepayers and myself an expense. I understand and appreciate you reference to resposibilities and job requirements (old argument--not relevant) but you and many others are missing the point. As a young Maine Officer we were told the same thing, but were paid a lot less. My point is the Director of Water Resources for the Great State of California only makes $149,500 per year and you make about $155,000.. He has more responsibilites. The DWR's assistant in charge of 3,0000 state employees claims she makes $112,000/year. All of Padre , Helix etc. management team employees make considerably more plus have a better benefit package. The legacy costs you are leaving behind ( $14M retiree medical etc) and the increasing contibution to PERS will only incease labor costs and water costs... 40% of our bill at Padre is for labor and benefits. We must get these costs under control!!! When you check my voting record you will see that I voted against rate increase at both Padre and CWA----trying to correct the sins of the past. You have some interesting points, maybe we should meet at VFW or the AMVET hall and discusss these items further. Respectively Dan McMillan --- ratepayer--- Member of East County Tax Hawks
Frank April 22, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Actually Dan, I make $73.00 per hour and I know you are including benefits. As far as DWR you pick one "like" job out of hundreds to compare me to. I can find like jobs in the private sector that pay $225, ooo per year before benefits; and that is even in this economy. You are famous for finding the lowest figure, but enough about me. Remember I am an exempt employee and get paid the same whether I work one hour or 20 in a day, and you don't know my lunch schedule as I work and flex my day, but you know my other employees lunch schedule as you insult them daily in public by calling them the "rich guys, " NICE. A lot of class there. I will respond as needed to educate the public as a Director day or night; that is part of my job in service to the ratepayers who own the system. Labor costs are part of the equation, but even if you cut all salaries in half, water rates will still rise in the future with the other costs you refuse to acknowlege in my prevoius posts, and safety/service would suffer. And you DO NOT understand the responsibilities of what me and my staff do at Padre in all the time you were there or you would not be formulating ridiculous math statements. You never truly knew since it was all about YOU.
Graham April 22, 2011 at 06:24 PM
The compensation of public employees exceeding that of private sector employees has less to do with the cross-agency surveys Dan mentions and more to do with the degree to which the compensation in the private market has dropped due to the struggling economy. At one time the pay of the private sector far exceeded anything a public employer could compensation and public agencies had difficulty getting applicants to even consider employment with them. Fast forward to the current market, there are large numbers of potential applicants ready and able to accept a job at almost any rate of pay. Private employers don't have to offer much, and they don't because they can pick and choose at will, hiring talent for pennies compared to pre-recession rates of pay. Dan comes from the Rahm Emmanuel school of management where they believe a crisis is too good a thing to waste. However, Dan goes one further...if there's no crisis looming, he's not beyone creating one for his own political benefit! He looked high and low when he was a member of Padre's board, wanting desperately something he could turn into political gold during his campaign. Padre Dam is too well a run municipality, they do their homework, they do it right. They see themselves as caretakers of the ratepayers' interests, and their daily efforts support the customers' interests. As a ratepayer I know I can count on getting the straight information from Padre, whether or not I, as a senior citizen like it.
DansAFraud April 23, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Dan, first of all I have to ask: You were an officer in the state of Maine or on the Maine? Can't you see that is hard to take anything you write as being true when you don't even take the time to look at what you type? You write like you talk: incomplete sentences, unrelated thoughts and most of all, confusion and false comparisons. The sins of the past are those of your twelve year legacy of shame. You voted against ONLY when you realized you were going to lose in the 2010 Election. It was a desperate and shameful ploy that the voters of your District saw through. Good people--honest people--are working hard to correct what you did. They will succeed but no thanks to you. You tried to get appointed to the Grossmont Health Care Board, you have now tried to apply for unemployment while claiming to be a "successful real estate" mogul: you continue to seek to reward yourself at the public's expense. Have you no shame? Oops, we already no the answer to that one don't we? At least when people hear you speak or try to read your disjointed writings, they can make their own judgement. You are, well, a fraud! Dan you can't handle you own finances! You will NEVER again handle any of mine!
DansAFraud April 23, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Once again Dan: you were all for it, before you were against it. People can see through you. You can't have it both ways. You are trying: did they turn down your unemployment request yet? Have you thought of suing the voters of your District for not electing you? That's another way to get back in their pocketbooks.
DansAFraud April 23, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Which political appointee are you referring to Dan, Dan the People's Man? You mix and never match. You pick and choose when you make comparisons. You failed to accomplish anything while on the Board except to vote for all the raises except one and that was clearly a desperate attempt to try to get yourself re-elected. You were beaten--yes beaten--by someone who had never run for office before! That says quite a lot about how you were viewed by your constituents. In fact, you tried to get three people elected or re-elected to the Board in 2010. How did that turn-out for you?
Frank April 23, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Dan, once again you are wrong; the DWR position is a political appointee? Not really like my qualifications or background; political like you. This will be my last post to you since it has been like having a dialog with "Rain Man." To Doug Curlee: Thanks for the great article on Padre Dam MWD and the drought. It is good to see that there is still some fair/informational journalism left in East County. I was giving up hope going into the future media wise. I hope you will attend more Board meetings in the future to get the truth out to the public. We will always give you all the information you desire.
Dan McMillan April 24, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Frank and Oops I will go into greater effort to make it clearer for oops. Frank, you compensation figures and mine are about the same when bene's and time off are included. 14 days vacation plus 24 days vacation. Pleae refer to some of the comments in the Helix Patch about rates and MOUs.. Our discussion should be on "How to lower of slow down the escalating costs of water". We can agree that labor costs are 40% of our local bill and 50% of total bill-- so this cost has to be looked at. You refer to my voting record, but fail to note that over the 16 year period I served there were changing economic conditions and I changed my votes as the economic conditions dictated. Padre management does not recognize the present economic conditions or act on them. Many fields in additon to construction are struggling. Jim Maletic and I pushed thru a 5% reduction in comp for the management team last year, so it can be done. To Oops, Yes I did loose the last election to Peasley, and I certainly accept the results. Peasley received 135 more votes than I did out of 5891votes cast and spent directly $3.24/vote vs my $1.33/vote.. He had a good mailer paid for by the Viejas Tribe since he public agreed with them that the secondary connection "was flawed from the start", I disagree with this premise and hopefully the directors will come to a resonable settlement and save Padre's investment of over $12,000,000. Dan McMillan, ratepayer
Dans An Illerate April 24, 2011 at 03:14 AM
As it was written before: Dan, Mr. MBA, PLEASE for the love of all, learn to spell! What difference does it make on a "cost per vote" basis? That you are too cheap, you had no supporters, etc.? He won. There is no economic difference that changed the vote. Viejas supported your opponent because you openly lied to them and went back on your word. You couldn't keep a secret--you had to talk to build yourself up. It IS all about YOU after all. It is too difficult to respond to anything you write since, once again, it is filled with lies, distortions, mis-spellings and just plain stupid statements. In looking at the voting record, it wasn't you that proposed anything. That was proposed by others on the Board -- quit two things: one, trying to take credit for that which you didn't do and two, quite trying to feed at the public expense. If you want to respond: then respond to everything (unemployment application, failure to handle your own finances, etc.) or just shut up! And who is Oops? Your nickname?
Dan McMillan April 24, 2011 at 06:15 AM
Unknown and Oops If the proposal to reduce managements comp was pushed by others, it would have been continued.. I have not heard of any comp reductions. Only increases . Please provide references to comp reductions.... I would appricate seeing such action by the board, etc. Viejas discussion is well documented at the two candidate debates.. Oops is an expression one of the unknown writers uses frequently, so its a good name for him. Hopefully we can have an adult discussion in the future. Dan McMillan
dansafraud April 24, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Happy to have an adult discussion -- who will handle your end? I never have a battle of wits with an unarmed person. Why don't you address ALL of the charges leveled against you Dan? Why do you pick and choose? Oh I know. You can't handle anything other than what you can just lie about.
Frank April 24, 2011 at 11:00 PM
Hipocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing. - Edmund Burke
Dennis April 25, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Can we cut all the crap about spelling? Also, the personal attack "handles" being used at the start of a post are really repulsive - I was looking at these posts for info on how to improve the efficiency of the water district, with only reasonable compensation for the job (not outrageous). In this economy, I know I am looking for secondary jobs to do on the side, and am barely making ends meet - I don't see a lot of jobs for $225,000 in the private sector as was noted. I also wanted to see what pressure is being brought on the environmentalist that gave up one source of our water for what little itty bitty fish?
Voice of Reason April 25, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Dennis you are perhaps missing the point: Dan McMillan's "facts" are as reliable as his spelling. He makes things up. Spend some time with him and talk to him and then draw your own conclusions. The hourly rates he mentions are made-up and based on his "take" of real figures. No one is making $225,000 and Dan knows that. He is looking for a way to divert people from the real issues. He lost at the polls and nows wants to re-write history in his favor. Sorry if you were offended; it's just that Dan is not a reliable source for anything.
sluggo April 27, 2011 at 01:44 PM
I'd gladly vote for a 20% pay cut for everyone at Padre making over $100K. That place is out of control. Don't like it, please resign. There will be 100 qualified applicants applying as you walk out the door.
Santee Res April 28, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Sluggo, Lucky for the uninformed like you that Padre's employees don't resign enmasse. Its apparent that you think that anyone can step into the duties at Padre and perform just fine. Fortunately for you, and unfortunately for your premise, that is not true. Most positions require a great deal of hands-on experience as well as education and certification to perform their duties. Not something replaced in a heartbeat or two...there just aren't that many people with all of the skills and the certifications out there!
IG Basker April 28, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Sluggo Santee Res is right...lucky for you that competent people are at the help at Padre Dam. Can you imagine how people would squeal helplessly the first time they turn the tap and nothing comes out? Even worse, can you imagine the impact an incompetent worker would have on the quality of your drinking water...and the thousands of people who could be sickened before anyone is aware??? Get over the selfishness and do your research, then you'll understand why they are compensated as they are. They have the health and safety of your family and thousands of others in their hands. IG Basker
sluggo April 29, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Yawn. I would not deny fair pay for skilled and educated workers who do good work. That's why my comment was directed at those making over $100K . An unchecked agency bloated with overpaid mid-level managers and executive staff making well over 6-figure on the backs of the Santee rate-payer is BAD for the economy. Duh. Now get off the internet and get back to looking busy.
IG Basker April 29, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Sluggo, Make no mistake, I am NOT an employee of Padre Dam. I'm a retired Army vet, Viet Nam era, thank you. I just do my research. I'm thankdul for the service they provide because I've spent time in parts of the world where they are lucky to have safe drinking water.

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