How much will your San Jose water bill be in 2021?
At least 1,160 customers have unpaid bills in San Jose and could soon see their water turned off. File photo.

    Driven by maintenance costs and supply price increases, higher water bills could be coming to San Jose residents as soon as July—despite pandemic-related hardships and resident pushback.

    Read more to learn about increases from your specific provider by selecting them below.

    Santa Clara Valley Water District | San Jose Water | Great Oaks Water Company | San Jose Municipal Water System

    Santa Clara Valley Water District

    Santa Clara Valley Water District, the wholesale water provider in the county, could raise rates by 9.6%, which translates to about a $4.50 increase per month to customers. The agency’s directors will vote on the proposed increases in May and rate hikes would take effect July 1.

    Darin Taylor, Valley Water’s chief financial officer, said the agency is concerned about raising rates during the pandemic, especially since other water retailers have seen an increase in the number of unpaid bills.

    In 2020, Valley Water did not increase its rates because of the pandemic. But Taylor said dams, pump stations and treatment plants that help bring water to the county are in desperate need of maintenance.

    “We’re heading into a time where Anderson Reservoir is being drained, we’re in a drought, we know we’re going to need to purchase supplemental water and we’ve got these infrastructure investments that need to be made over the next few years that really make it difficult not to raise rates,” Taylor said. “We’re in a position where what needs to happen for the good of the community needs to happen.”

    Since Valley Water provides water to other retailers in the county, those retailers will also raise rates to make up for increased costs.

    San Jose Water

    While Valley Water rate increases often spark hikes down the line, Liann Walborsky, communications director for San Jose Water, said that isn’t the case this time.

    Rather, San Jose Water wants to launch an $87.7 million infrastructure program to update old water lines. It has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) — which regulates privately-owned public utilities — to approve rate increases.

    Customer bills already went up three percent in January to support maintenance. The company sent out a public notice with additional proposed rate increases, which would happen incrementally over the next few years.

    Walborsky said the average bill for a single-family home is about $92.54 per month. If the CPUC approves the plan, residents could pay about $17.33 more per month in 2022. In 2023, their bill would go up another $3.55 and then another $3.84 in 2024.

    Eric Thacker is one of many San Jose residents who told the CPUC to reject the proposed rate increases.

    “Families are struggling with paycheck challenges and health insurance challenges. Businesses are shutting down and employees are struggling to find a footing in this weak economy. While all of this is happening, San Jose Water presents this huge rate increase to their customers? … Please stop this!” Thacker said in a March 8 comment to the CPUC.

    The San Jose City Council will hold a public hearing to discuss San Jose Water rate increases on March 23.

    Great Oaks Water Company

    Great Oaks Water Company customers could see a rate increase as soon as July 1, as its supplier Valley Water is increasing the rate it charges water companies.

    Vice President Tim Guster said the exact increase won’t be known until the Valley Water rates are settled by its directors. If rates go up by 10% as proposed, he expects Great Oaks Water customers will pay about $5 more per month.

    The average customer living in a single-family home currently pays about $57 each month. Even though Great Oaks typically has lower rates than San Jose Water, Guster said the number of customers who can’t pay their water bill has increased during the pandemic.

    Over a 120-day period in January, 877 customers of 21,399 total customers did not pay their water bill, according to Guster.

    “We have certainly seen an increase in the number of our customers who have either not paid their bills in full or at all,” Guster said.

    Last spring, Gov. Gavin Newsom barred utility companies from shutting off services to customers who didn’t pay bills. So even if residents continue to skip bills, they will still have service.

    San Jose Municipal Water System

    Jeffrey Provenzano from the city’s water resource division said he could not estimate how much San Jose Municipal Water System bills will increase until San Jose’s budget is released in April.

    Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

    Editor’s Note: Valley Water CEO Rick Callender serves on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.

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