Local control is the answer

For over a year, we have heard about Golden State Water Company (GSWC) and the high rates they charge for water in Claremont. 

In 2011, this for-profit water company applied to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a rate increase, seeking 25.54 percent more from Claremont ratepayers, for 2013 and beyond.

In GSWC’s 2011 rate request application, the water company stated that reduced water usage was a primary reason for the rate increase. GSWC has figured out a way to increase our water bill, when we actually use less water. On top of that, we see that the parent company (AWR) posted 2012 third-quarter profits of $15.1 million. 

Not once in this recession have they cut back expenses, posted a loss or shown any sign of an economic slowdown. Indeed, they have increased staff 31 percent, posted record results (increasing operating income by 55 percent in 4 years), all with a 21 percent decrease in the amount of water delivered. They delivered less water and made more money doing it.   

The California PUC has a Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA). The DRA has 137 state employees who are charged with obtaining the “lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels.”

Just last week, the DRA released their 2012 Annual Report touting that they saved the average customer $6 a month over what water companies were proposing to charge ratepayers.

Really, DRA? You pat yourself on the back for saving ratepayers $6 monthly, when the water bills in Claremont have virtually doubled since May 2011 after GSWC went from a 2-month to a 1-month billing cycle.  

In August 2012, we were told that the DRA negotiated a proposed settlement agreement with GSWC, whereby Claremont ratepayers would only—and I use the word “only” to highlight the absurdity—see a 15.1 percent increase in 2013. All we have been looking for in this David vs. Goliath fight is a fair and reasonable price for water. Look at our surrounding cities and you’ll see they are paying half, or even less, for their water. On average, our water rates have increased 11 percent per year for the last 7 years. Who is looking out for the Claremont ratepayer?

The DRA’s Annual Report goes on to explain how they forced one for-profit company to accept a rate of return of 9.99 percent versus 10.02 percent. 

No one in Claremont should be tricked into thinking that a fair settlement was reached with the California PUC—it wasn’t. 

Until we have local control of the water company/provider, we are forced to rely on 137 DRA employees. To date, the DRA has failed ratepayers, earning them a letter grade of “F.” The DRA failures are something that should have been included in their Annual Report. The report can be viewed at www.dra.ca.gov.

Hal Hargrave
Randy Scott
Claremont Against Outrageous Water Rates