View Mobile Site

State mandate forces first SSJID hike in 22 years

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED June 13, 2012 2:25 a.m.

Rates are going up for the first time in 22 years for 3,800 farm customers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon that obtain water from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

It’s not because the district needs the money for day-to -day operations. Instead it is due to a state mandate requiring all irrigation districts to charge by volume and to ultimately move to meters to conserve water.

It means a typical farm customer will pay $9 more a year based on an average farm using three acre feet of water annually. The volumetric rate per acre to help cover the stare mandate is $3.

That will raise about $342,000 the initial year the fee is collected in 2013.

All of that money will go toward a program to retrofit the entire system with meters at a cost pegged at between $20 million and $30 million.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted that the $3 per acre foot charge will not cover all of the cost of installing meters. The difference will be made up from net receipts from SSJID’s share of Tri-Dam Project revenue that is expected to reach $18 million a year based on an independent analysis of the operation and power markets.

Shields said the district will have ample funds from Tri-Dam to lower power rates by 15 percent should they gain approval this summer to take over the PG&E system as well as pay for the meters.

The state’s one-size-fits-all requirement doesn’t take into account that the SSJID has already started moving to state-of-the-art closed systems using drip technology. That is an even more effective way to conserve water than simply by using meters. The new system in Division 9 south of Manteca and west of Ripon had meters designed into it. Eventually the district may covert other areas to drip delivery systems.

Farmers will receive their first bill at the end of the year but it will essentially be a dry run designed to show customers how the charge will work. The volumetric charge won’t actually be collected until 2013 with the quarterly billing for irrigation water.

Tuesday’s board decision also includes attaching annual changes in the Consumer Price Index to water rates.

“They did that just in case,” Shields said. “When it comes up every year the board will review costs and the district’s finances and may decide to forgo the inflation increase.”

Shields noted such a move avoids costly annual Proposition 218 hearings. Rates indexed to inflation are allowed to be adopted in such a manner.

“The increase is entirely attributable to the volumetric charge which is mandated by SBX7-7, and only partly covers the costs imposed by it,” said Shields. “The Board (adopted) a pricing structure that, in terms of dollar amount, will still be amongst the lowest in the state. We didn’t choose to do this, it is required of all irrigation districts. The costs of complying with the law will be millions of dollars… (the board decision is) a modest increase that will only help defray the costs of implementing the bill’s requirements.”

Customers participating in the District’s new Division 9 Irrigation Enhancement Project will pay the same rates as all other irrigators, along with a pressurization fee which is already in place, in addition to the water charge. This represents no change from current practice for Division 9 IEP customers.

The SSJID water distribution system encompasses a headwork of storage reservoirs, a supply and distribution network and a drainage network. Within the district, a network of 38 miles of concrete-lined canals and 312 miles of pipelines distribute the water to individual parcels of land. The piped and ditched drainage network collect excess water and transports it ultimately to the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers. SSJID is also a co-owner of the Tri-Dam Project, a system of hydroelectric generation facilities based on the Stanislaus River.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...