San Jose Water Bill Increases Likely To Experience Some of the Largest Spikes

San Jose Water Bill Increases Likely To Experience Some of the Largest SpikesSource: Unsplash / Marcus Woodbridge
Tony Ng
Published on June 02, 2023

As water levels seem to have improved with storms and snowpack melt replenishing California's reservoirs, San Jose residents, and those in the wider Bay Area, are left to wonder why their water bills are set to increase dramatically in the coming months, with the San Jose Municipal Water System (SJMWS) facing a potential 14% surge in prices according to a recent Mercury News article

San Jose's water bill hike, which could affect over a tenth of its population, mainly stems from the costs of maintaining and enhancing aging infrastructure, as well as drought-related impacts on supply and usage, as put forth in a memo drafted for a council meeting earlier this month.

While the city's water and sewer rate increases might seem counterintuitive, it's important to note that water agencies across the Bay Area, including major suppliers like the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), plan to raise their rates starting this summer, according to an SF Chronicle report.

These planned rate hikes have been attributed to the high costs of maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure, with water suppliers taking necessary steps to invest in capital improvements, including pipeline replacements and treatment plant enhancements, in addition to exploring new technologies like rain gardens and desalination, per Hoodline.

Another factor contributing to rising water bills is that climate change poses additional challenges for water suppliers, who now have to deal with more extreme weather patterns, necessitating increased investment in storage capacity and flood protection infrastructure, as reported in the SF Chronicle.

However, despite the disappointing news of rising water bills amidst a time of seemingly abundant water flow, there have been some positive developments within the Bay Area, including the Marin Municipal Water District's approval of a significant rate increase aimed at funding wildfire risk reduction efforts on watershed lands, as shared by another SF Chronicle article.

Still, while the recent storms have provided some measure of temporary respite to California's water troubles, experts warn that the long-lasting impacts of persistent drought conditions should not be disregarded, with areas across the state continuing to face severe hydrological and ecological drought indicators, according to a Mercury News article.

Residents of the Bay Area have shown a willingness to conserve water in recent times, with San Jose Water (SJW) customers achieving a 19.8% reduction in water usage in November of last year compared to 2020 levels, as reported in the same Mercury News article. However, SJW customers are still looking at a projected 10% bill increase subject to the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, while Great Oaks Water Company, serving a small segment of 20,000 residents in the region, is expecting a 10.5% bump, as noted in the aforementioned Mercury News piece.

Outside of San Jose, other areas are also bracing for water bill increases, including Santa Clara (9% jump), Mountain View (8%), San Francisco and Palo Alto (7%), and Menlo Park and Foster City (5%), as reported by the Environmental Services Department and cited in the Mercury News.

All these upcoming water bill hikes seem to point to the need for a long-term commitment to water conservation and responsible management of the state's resources, as residents and water suppliers alike must continue to work together to ensure a more sustainable and secure water future for California, even in the face of uncertain and fluctuating drought conditions.