Marin water bill hike leaves residents confused, annoyed

MARIN – With water bills seeing an increase in the near future, many Marin residents have been left with unanswered questions.

Every day, you’ll find Lisa Joss out on the back porch in her Mill Valley backyard.

“It’s peaceful, it’s nature,” she said.

Sometimes, she knits out there. Other times, she takes care of business out there, like paying the bills. There’s one bill in particular that’s about to get more expensive that she is having a hard time stomaching.

“It feels completely backwards. You’d think that if we’re using less water and installing a water-wise garden that we’d see some savings,” she said.

A few years ago, she and her family ripped out the grass and fruit trees in their backyard and put in drought-tolerant plants, in an effort to conserve both water and cash. Like many people, she says she used less water during the drought.

“You’d think that there would be a response, but that it would be a positive one like, you all did so great, we’re going to lower your rates,” she said.

But starting July 1st, her water bill is going to get more expensive. The Marin Water Board of Directors recently approved a four-year rate hike. The typical customer will see a 23% increase on their bill in the first year, and smaller increases in the subsequent three years, says Marin Water spokesperson Adriane Mertens.

“Unfortunately, we do need to increase our costs. The district is losing about a million dollars a month right now due to inflationary pressures and reduced revenues due to the drought and lower consumption that we’re continuing to still see,” Mertens said. “We’re hoping that as a result of this, that in future rate proposal years, increases will be less impactful.”

The rate hikes will allow the district to invest in water supply alternatives, upgrade aging infrastructure, increase fire-fuel reduction work on the Mount Tam watershed, and replenish depleted financial reserves, according to Marin Water.

“We actually have 20% of the revenues generated from this increase, per each of the four years of the rate schedule, going into these water supply projects,” Mertens said. “Our lowest water users are going to see less of an increase than those on the other end of the spectrum, our highest water users.”

During the meeting where the Board of Directors approved the rate hikes, while there were residents who showed up to oppose the plan, there were other residents showed up to voice support for the plan – arguing it’s important for Marin Water to make necessary improvements to the outdated infrastructure.

“There’s no way that my water usage has gone down and doubled in cost and they haven’t increased their revenues,” Joss said.

While there isn’t much she can do now, Joss feels like the timing of the rate hike sends a backwards message.

“It makes people feel so futile. Like, wait a minute – you’re saying I can do all these great things for the environment, and you’re going to charge me more for it? It just doesn’t – it defies logic,” she said.

Nonetheless, she says conservation will remain top of mind, even though the price for the precious resource will be at a premium.

“We’re still really glad it’s good for the environment,” she said.

Marin Water customers can get a closer look at what their bi-monthly water bills will look like under the new rates by following this link:

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