HAYWARD -- For water consumers in Hayward, it's time to pay the piper.

The piper in this case is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which brings water to the Bay Area from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the lower Sierra Nevada.

The water system is in serious need of repair and retrofit, to the tune of $4.3 billion, and costs are being passed along to those who use the water.

That includes the single largest customer outside San Francisco -- the city of Hayward, where all residents and businesses use Hetch Hetchy water.

"You could look at it, that in the past, SFPUC was not taking enough care of the system and that's why there's now a huge effort to try and get the work done, particularly retrofitting for earthquakes," said Bob Bauman, Hayward's director of public works.

He said water rates were raised by 38.4 percent as of July 1, and an additional 3.4 percent hike is expected Jan. 1. He added that coming years will bring more increases and estimated about 10 percent next year, then 14 percent annually for the following three years.

On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to approve raising water rates by about 20 percent in October, and another 20 percent a year later.

The average single-family residential water consumer uses about 220 gallons a day, and the bimonthly bill at current rates is about $66.

With the fee hikes, that will climb to more than $79 in October and a year later reach $95.


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It's on a sliding scale that encourages conservation by charging more for gallons used above and beyond the norm. Commercial and industrial users will see similar increases.

While the Hetch Hetchy pipeline work is the reason for the lion's share of cost increases, successful conservation efforts also have resulted in a reduced demand for water. Because there's no matching drop in the cost to operate the system, the supplier must charge more per unit.

"We all want to conserve, and water is a precious resource and it takes a lot of energy to move it," Bauman said. "(Conservation) is a good thing. Unfortunately, since revenue is based on water sold, if we buy less water from SFPUC, the same amount of cost needs to be spread on less gallons of water."

Hayward water fees are slightly higher than those charged by the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and lower than the Alameda County Water District.

That district, which serves Fremont, Union City and Newark, uses Hetch Hetchy water for about 20 percent of its stock, but because it can get more from other sources, officials did not expect to see major fee hikes.

Bauman said going to a different supplier is not an option for Hayward, not only because of a contract with SFPUC, but because EBMUD could not handle Hayward's needs.

"That may be something we could look at further down the road," Bauman said.

The hearing will be held during a meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the City Council Chambers, 777 B St.

Contact Eric Kurhi at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi. Read his blog at IBAbuzz.com/hayword.

IF YOU GO
WHAT: Hayward City Council public hearing on increasing water rates
WHEN: Meeting begins 7 p.m. Tuesday. Hearing follows a council work session.
WHERE: City Council chambers, 777 B St., Hayward