Ann Santilli, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s CFO, had some good news and some bad news about water bills at this month’s LADWP – neighborhood councils meeting.
First, the good news: your basic water bill is going down a bit in January. But the bad news is that if you use a lot of water, well over your “basic” allotment, your water bill is going up.
The handy secret decoder chart below shows part of how DWP charges for water. And lordy, is it complicated. But unless you have a big leak or an irrigation system, you probably don’t care about the details. The bottom line is that a customer with no lawn might see a slight decrease, while a customer with a big lawn, who already has a $500 bill every two months, might see it rise by about $70 (Buzz’s estimate). Ms. Santilli said the increases would help fund an expansion of LADWP’s recycled water system.
Water is billed per Hundred Cubic Feet, or HCF (equal to 11.9 hogsheads, 17.8 barrels, 748 gallons, or 2831 liters, whichever is more intuitive for you). As you use more water, the additional water gets more expensive. Water in the first tier (up to 16 HCF per two months) costs about $7 per HCF. Water in the second tier costs about $8/HCF. And so on. According to local LADWP watchdog Jack Humphreville, price per HCF is going up about 14% in Tier 3 and 39% in Tier 4. (See Ms. Santilli’s slides for details.)
But it’s not all stick; there are carrots, too. To help you save water and keep your bills down, LADWP offers rebates to replace turf with California Native plants, as well as on more efficient irrigation controllers, sprinkler heads, clothes washers, and toilets. See ladwp.com/landscaping for details.
One final note on water bills: homes on big lots actually get a bit of a break, as you can see from the table above. Check your bill to see if the tiers match what you would expect from the above table for your lot size. If they have your lot size wrong for some reason, you may be paying more than you should.
Speaking of carrots: the meeting also featured an update on utility debt relief. During the pandemic, the amount customers owed LADWP for back bills more than tripled. State funding has now arrived to help drive that amount back below pre-pandemic levels. To make it easy for customers to get help, the application process for bill relief is being simplified. The new program is already up and running, so if you know someone who needs help, point them to ladwp.com/lowincome.
Other LADWP News
Saturday’s meeting also featured financial news of a different sort. Dr. Fred Pickel, the City of LA’s Ratepayer Advocate, has completed an updated analysis of how LADWP’s pay package stacks up against other utilities. Highlights include a bit of a fix for the less-than-stellar retirement package for new employees, and news that LADWP is falling behind other utilities in how much it pays senior management — leading to the danger of losing experienced leadership.
Finally, a bit of technology news for the energy geeks out there. Ashkan Nassiri, who headed LADWP’s LA100 renewable energy study, gave a quick update on LADWP’s energy storage plans. One highlight is a new 25MW, 10 hour liquid-air-based energy storage system. This is significant because it’s long-duration storage (unlike batteries, which usually top out at four hours), which means it can help provide clean power at night. LADWP is seeking federal funding for this pilot project, which could come online by the end of 2023.
Video and slides from past meetings, as well as the date of the next meeting and a link to the videoconference, are available at www.ladwpnews.com/dwp-nc-mou-and-advocacy-committee-meetings. This month’s video should be available at the same link in the next few days.