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August 10, 2017

Without water, there is no life

The City’s water system is run very similar to the way a private business is run – except, the City’s water system isn’t set up to make a profit. The costs of operating the water system include things like paying for electricity to run the City’s water wells, replacing or repairing parts of the system when they break or get too old to work correctly, and paying employees to operate and maintain the system. All of the costs to run the water system are paid for by residents of the City when they pay their water bills. The money received from water bill payments is only used to pay for water system costs; it can’t be used for anything else.

In 2014, the City contracted with an independent consulting firm (Raftelis Financial Consultants) to prepare a comprehensive water rate study and financial plan for its water system, including the calculation of rates. During the study, Raftelis determined that the City’s water system was operating in an environment where the costs of running the system were not being covered by the money coming in from water bill payments. Operational costs were continuing to increase. Drought conditions throughout the State of California were threatening the water supply and creating groundwater overdraft concerns. The review also confirmed the need to reinvest in the physical components of the system to address existing deficiencies.

The City of Madera relies entirely on City-owned ground wells for its water supply. A reliable source of water is important for all the things that people use water for – drinking, washing clothes, watering lawns. In addition your water system insures the Fire Department has enough water available to put out a fire, especially during times of peak water demand. Dependable water service is not something that residents should have to think twice about. It just needs to be there when you need it. The City is taking the steps necessary to ensure that our water division can continue to provide you with the level of service you have come to expect, now and for many years to come. The drought and conservation mandates from the State of California (28% for Madera) mean the City has to begin investigating the feasibility of capturing surface water in the future as an alternative water source.

We have a duty to be transparent about what we need to do and why we need to do it.  Nobody likes to see rate increases – that includes the City Council and members of the City staff.  We live here, too.  The reality is the more we choose to defer rate increases the more likely older parts of the water system may begin to fail, leaving you without safe, drinkable water; our ability to attract new business to Madera and create new jobs for our children and grandchildren is limited or lost; and we set the stage for the City to die.  Without water, there is no life.

The rate hearing held in 2015 approved rate increases of 30%, 30%, 20%, 10% and 3% over a five year period. It is expected that these rate increases along with increased water conservation enforcement efforts will help to decrease water waste, help the City meet the State’s mandates, and ensure that our water division will have the resources necessary in order to continue providing your home with safe drinkable water. The third in the series of five annual increases became effective on July 1, 2017 for residential, commercial and industrial customers. Residents will begin seeing this 20% increase reflected on their August bills.

For more information about the water rate increases, please see our common water rate questions page.

David Tooley
Madera City Administrator