Some San Jose residents to pay more for water
At least 1,160 customers have unpaid bills in San Jose and could soon see their water turned off. File photo.

    San Jose residents will pay more for water starting next month, with varying costs depending on what part of the city they live in.

    On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved increases to the San Jose Municipal Water System‘s drinkable and recycled water rates for 2021-2022. The increases come as the region faces another extended drought alongside rate hikes from Valley Water, the wholesale water provider for the county.

    Residents in North San Jose and Alviso will soon see, on average, an 8% increase—about $7—in what they pay for water, while Evergreen and Edenvale residents will experience, on average, a 12.7% increase, about $11.

    Rate hikes take effect July 1.

    Residents have braced for higher water rates since March when the city sent out flyers to customers about the potential changes.

    According to Jeff Provenzano, deputy director of the city’s water resources department, some residents will see either higher or lower rates depending on variables such as the size of their water meter, high water use or elevation.

    “Evergreen goes up into the hills,” Provenzano told San José Spotlight after Tuesday’s vote. “The higher up you go, the more costs we incur to pump the water up higher.”

    The San Jose Municipal Water System serves around 12% of the city, or about 130,000 people, in the North San Jose, Alviso, Evergreen, Edenvale and Coyote Valley areas. Provenzano estimated that around 70% of the water system’s operating costs come from purchasing wholesale water.

    “When the wholesale rates go up, we have to pass it on,” Provenzano said.

    Two other water companies, San Jose Water Company and the Great Oaks Water Company, serve the rest of the city at about 80% and 8%, respectively.

    Though Tuesday’s council vote only approved rate hikes for municipal water customers, other San Jose residents could soon pay more for water as well.

    Great Oaks will implement rate hikes July 1 based on increases from Valley Water, and though San Jose Water spokesperson Liann Walborsky couldn’t confirm when its rates would go up, she said it would be based on Valley Water’s increases.

    During the meeting, Councilmember Maya Esparza asked about a proposed assistance program to help low-income and elderly residents pay their water bills—something she brought up in an April meeting.

    “We have over 70 nonprofits in the community that we work with… to be able to get the word out,” Esparza said. “I think that’s something we should leverage.”

    Last December’s federal relief package and the American Rescue Plan approved in March contain funding for a variety of programs that can help with unpaid utility bills. Each is at a different stage of implementation and guidance.

    The rate hikes come a week after the Valley Water board declared a water shortage emergency and set targets to reduce water use countywide by 15% of 2019 levels.

    For now, Valley Water asks that residents limit watering lawns to three days a week and fewer at-home car washes without shutoff-nozzle hoses. Restaurants are advised not give out glasses of water unless customers ask for them, and officials urge against filling or refilling swimming pools.

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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