Marin Municipal Water District Proposes New Rate Structure, Higher Rates

If you’re a customer of Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), you should have received notice of proposed rates for the upcoming 4-year period (July 2023 through June 2027). California law requires that this notification be sent at least 45 days in advance of a public hearing on the new rates, which will occur on May 16. Under the rate proposal, most residents will see a big jump in water bills in 2023-24, with somewhat smaller increases in the next three years. These increases are needed to cover inflation, the beginning of investments to increase our water supply, rebuild financial reserves that were largely depleted by the prior board over the last two years, and also compensate for the lost revenue that has occurred due to customer conservation over the last two years.

MMWD’s proposal includes a significant shift in the rate structure vs what’s currently in place. We think it is more fair.

The new structure will rely less on big fixed service charges while charging more for actual water consumption. The cost per gallon will rise substantially in each usage tier; the water allowance in tier 1 will be lower; and the extra water allowance in tier 1 during summer months vs winter will be eliminated. Drought surcharges are also proposed, making water usage even more costly when reservoir levels drop.

Over the past four years, CO$T has been critical of MMWD’s over-reliance on fixed fees, which unfairly burden those who conserve.  We have advocated for water bills tied entirely to usage. We legally challenged the 2019-2023 fixed fee metric that wasn’t linked to water usage; this subsequently became a class action suit.

Under the current new proposal, MMWD’s meter-size-based fixed fee for watershed management will be eliminated. For the other two similar fixed charges (basic service fee plus capital maintenance fee), there will be less difference than currently in the amount paid by customers with different meter sizes. This is owing to a new fixed fee metric for 2023- 2027 that better reflects the extent to which larger meter customers use more water.

Donate to support messages like this

What does this mean for you and your bill?

Your water bills will be increasing, but the exact amount (and percentage increase) depends heavily on your water usage and your meter size. To see what your bills will be, MMWD has a calculator on its website (click here , then scroll down to the “Rate Calculator”where you’ll be prompted to download an easy-to-use Excel model.)  A customer with a 5/8 inch meter, using 6 CCF in the winter and 18 CCF in the summer will see a full-year increase of 22% in year one; the bill in year 4 would be 56% higher than now.  A heavier water consumer (10 CCF in winter and 25 CCF in summer) will see a full-year increase of 36% in year one, with year four 78% higher than currently.

Why Does MMWD Need to Raise Rates So Much?

The increase for this rate cycle is necessary to allow MMWD to avert insolvency, restore financial stability, address capital project backlogs, and begin to address our need for larger water supplies.What can you do to control your bill?
The obvious answer is to reduce water usage. In addition, you should check to see if you are eligible for one of MMWD’s discount programs. These programs include:

  • Low/moderate income discount (for those with up to 80% of Marin’s median income.)
  • Capital Maintenance Fee discount (if you have a 1″ or larger meter due to a fire sprinkler system.)
  • Medical Discount program (if you have medical equipment that requires extra water)

Check here to learn more about these discount programs.

How to Object to this Proposal: File a Formal Protest

MMWD’s rates aren’t subject to a popular vote because water is an essential service. But the law provides for a rate proposal to be rejected IF, before the end of the May 16 prop 218 rate hearing, a majority of ratepayers file valid formal complaints. This rarely succeeds because the hurdle is high. To learn how to file a valid protest, click here , then scroll down to “How do I object to the proposed rates” in the Frequently Asked Questions section.What Happens at the Important May 16 Rate Hearing
The May 16 hearing is an opportunity to learn more about the proposed rate structure and rationale. The public may comment in-person or remotely. MMWD will announce the number of formal protests received. The board can consider reducing, but not increasing, the proposed rates. At the close of the evening the board votes on a rate approval motion. Click here for information on how to attend.)The Bottom Line
MMWD proposed rate increase is necessary, though if will painful for many residents.  Changes in the rate structure will give customers who conserve more control over their water bill.  The rating scheme is fairer, as it reduces the excessively high fixed charges for homes with larger meters.  With the cost of water itself rising sharply, consumers should be aware of their own water usage and calculate what cost increases to expect.  And they should check to see if they are eligible for any of MMWD’s discount programs.  If you object to the rate proposal, file a formal protest exactly.  Finally,  customers can attend (or call in) to the May 16 meeting where the public can comment on the proposed rates before the board votes 

Marin Municipal Water District Proposes New Rate Structure, Higher Rates