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The Necessary Cost of Clean Water
July 2008 | by Dave Druker


Everyone wants clean water to drink and wants the water that drains into our ocean and lagoons to be clean. In the past, Del Mar has done a good job of ensuring the water that goes into our oceans and lagoons is clean. But over the past seven years, the state has mandated a number of changes that have increased the expense for monitoring and ensuring the cleanliness of the water that is discharged into our oceans and lagoons. The questions now are how to pay for these changes and how to comply with the requirements of Proposition 218.

Proposition 218 requires that any consumption-based rates such as water and sewer rates are subject to a protest vote. Furthermore, fees such as the Clean Water Fee must be affirmatively approved by property owners. In early 2007, the City Council took the necessary steps to comply with Proposition 218 requirements by holding two separate public hearings to receive written protests on a previously adopted five-year rate schedule. At that time, the City did not receive a majority of written protests and the City Council ratified the previously approved rate schedule, including the City's Clean Water Fee.

Clean Water Vote:  Remember to watch for your Clean Water Fee mail-in Ballot that should arrive in mid-July.

A month ago, the City sent out notices to property owners and ratepayers notifying them of a proposed increase in the Clean Water Fee. On July 7, the City Council will conduct a public hearing and may again receive written protests based on the notices that were sent out at the end of May. If a majority of the affected property owners/ratepayers submits a written protest prior to the close of the public hearing on July 7, the City cannot impose the proposed Clean Water Fee. If there is no majority protest, the proposed fees are subject to a second step of voter approval through a ballot process that asks the property owner to vote on the fees. The results of the mail ballot process which is expected to begin in mid-July will determine whether or not the Council can 1) ratify the Clean Water Fee for the period Fiscal Years 2005 through 2009, and 2) adopt a new Clean Water Fee for Fiscal Year 2010 and beyond, increased by the San Diego Consumer Price Index.

Failure to implement this rate increase will impact General Fund services including: operating programs; capital projects; and/or sustainable reserves. The City will continue to reduce the costs mandated by this Program by implementing efficient mechanisms, as it has in the past, but the costs are still substantial.


Dave Druker is Mayor of the City of Del Mar.



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