DWP Ratepayers Under Assault

LA WATCHDOG--Over the past two years, our DWP bills have soared beyond anyone’s expectations, significantly higher than was projected in the 2016 rate case. 

This sticker shock has resulted in numerous complaints from both homeowners and renters, from Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights to the far West Side, from deep in the Valley all the way to South LA and San Pedro. 

Over this two-year period, our water rates have increased by over 30%.  

But this does not reflect the impact of two new tiers of water rates that were introduced in the spring of 2016.  As a result, water rates for some homeowners have increase by more than 50% since the introduction of these new ties. 

In response to complaints, DWP has said that customers should look at their bills and not the rates because Ratepayers should conserve by using less water both inside and outside of the house or apartment.  While the overall volume of DWP water sales has decreased, the expenses incurred by homeowners, renters, and landlords to make their homes “water wise” have not been factored into the equation. 

Over the past two years, our power rates are up “only” 20%.  This does not include the new access fee that be as high as $37 for each two-month billing period.  Nor does it take into consideration energy efficiency efforts by Ratepayers or the associated expenses. 

Unfortunately for Ratepayers, this is just the beginning of the rate increases in our water and power bills. 

In September, the State passed SB 100 which requires the generation of electricity to be fossil free by 2045.  While the Department and its consultants have indicated that this will be a “heavy lift,” they have not been willing to estimate the impact on our power rates.  But this will require a massive and very expensive reconfiguration of the DWP’s generating, transmission, and distribution assets.  Adding to this expense is the need for huge amounts of very costly energy storage (batteries, compressed air, pumped storage) since renewable solar energy is not generated at night.  

The City also has ambitious goals to reduce its reliance on the outside water from Northern California and the Metropolitan Water District (“MWD”). 

This will require us to reduce our consumption by at least 20% in the short term and even more over the long term.  In other words, say good bye to our lawns. 

In addition to conservation, the Department is developing an ambitious plan to use recycled water.  This includes the capture of stormwater (urban runoff) and the energy intensive treatment of waste water (“toilet to tap”).  But this will also be very expensive as demonstrated by the Silver Lake Reservoir Stormwater Project where the cost of water will exceed an estimated $4,000 per acre foot, or five times the current price of MWD treated water from Northern California. 

When the Department discusses these projects, it stresses reliability, the environment, and the impact on Ratepayers.  While the engineering mentality of the Department will focus on reliability (they will keep the lights on and the clean water flowing) and the green lobby will focus on the environment and lobbying City Hall, the likelihood of Mayor Garcetti, the Herb Wesson led City Council, or the politically appointed Board of Commissioners protecting our wallets is unlikely unless we raise holy hell.  

Is it time to get out our pitch forks and storm the Bastille? 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)