Los Osos group fights high water bills

April 30, 2014

golden state 2In the past 14 years. Los Osos residents getting their water from the Golden State Water Company (GSEC) has seen an increase in cost of almost 100 percent and now a group of residents are seeking to oust the for-profit water company through eminent domain proceedings.

Approximately half the residents of Los Osos get their water from the Los Osos Services District while the other half are served by GSWC. Rates run about 60 percent higher through the privately owned company.

Members of a group working to oust GSWC are asking members of the community to attend the Golden State Water meeting on Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. May 6 at the South Bay Community Center in Los Osos.

“Bring neighbors, friends, ask business owners and condo association board members to attend,” the group says on its website. “This is a fight we have to win! Be heard.”

In April 2011, an organization called Ojai FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water) started a local campaign to purchase GSWC’s Ojai water system. The city council then implemented a public water district with a goal of selling bonds to pay for an eminent domain proceeding against GSWC.

In 2013, the voters of Ojai approved a bond measure to supporting the eminent domain purchase by a two-thirds majority.
Shortly afterwards, GSWC sued contending the bond measure was not valid. However, in March 2014 the court ruled against GSWC, paving the way for Ojai’s eminent domain action.

Currently, four communities in California are working to oust GSWC with plans to replace the for-profit company with a public water system, which is prohibited from making a profit.

GSWC contends its costs are higher, because unlike public agency, the for-profit company revenues come all are generate through billing while public water companies receive monies through billing, grants and property taxes.

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Gee,wheres Ms tacker and mb activist,this is in their own town and they aren’t giving their valued opinion.

I had Golden State for years before I moved across Los Osos and now am with the LOCSD. My water bill with GS was $129 before I used a drop of water, then went up from there. I had several $400+ bills in the summer even though I let my lawn die. My bills are around $100 now with no change in usage (I might even be using a bit more). Always seemed like a rip off because it comes from the same aquifer.

I think this article has the meeting date incorrect (Feb. 4 at 6:00 p.m.)

It should read “Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. May 6 at the South Bay Community Center”.

How did it come to be that GSWC became the purveyor of water for Los Osos?

Good grief…all I did was ask a legitimate question.

GSWC bought out Cal Cities Water about 10 years ago. Cal Cities bought (not sure of the name “Sunnyside Water”???) in the early 1970’s. Private water companies were easy to start when development began in the 1950’s here in Los Osos. S&T Mutual is the last of them, drawing approximately 4% of the basin’s use.

The real question is how did the County get the Baywood Water Company, established by Richard Otto in the 1920’s?

Also realize there were numerous private wells all over the town before the systems were built. The groundwater was easy to find and the soft sand easy to dig in. Test wells were drilled in the bay and out on the sandspit way back when, fresh was found literally IN the bay.

It’s funny that water is such a source for heartburn, it used to be a source of tourism. People would come to Baywood Park to fill up their jugs of delicious Baywood Water. There was a spigot there at Maya’s Mexican restaurant on 2nd Street for anyone to fill up their bottles. Those were the days.

In the middle of a major drought and now you hope to find water else where. Good luck Los

Osos. How many times has your water bill been increased before you thought to look at a change in the supplier?

You need to have been insight to what is coming down the pike, your community seems to wait to the last minute and then scream the sky is falling like chicken little.

Maybe it is time to move to the part of LO that does not pay for public water, or maybe this will be like the sewer and the battle will go on for many years to come.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the source and distribution channels for LOCSD and GSWC the same? If that’s true, then the only difference is a private company charging a heavy premium for the same product.

The source for both companies is groundwater. The distribution systems are separate. There is an inter-tie proposed for the very near future so the systems can be used in concert so pumping regimes can be better utilized.

One (GSWC) is a private company, they have the right to a 7% profit margin as approved by the Public Utilities Commission. The public (LOCSD) water company is an enterprise fund and can only charge enough to cover costs of supply, operation and reserves designated for improvements and replacement.

Together, both companies have identified $67 Million in projects to try to balance the basin that is in overdraft and continues to suffer from seawater intrusion — losing storage capacity in the aquifer is irreversible. Water rate increases in both districts is imminent. LOCSD water rates are currently too low to be sustainable.

The responsibility for the state of the basin lies squarely with the County of SLO, Knowing seawater was intruding the basin, they still issued building permits to build as many homes as they have without instituting conservation programs. The design of the wastewater project once included groundwater recharge plans now doesn’t pushing the cost to that to the purveyors.

I will attend the meeting, I will be interested in what is said.

In Santa Margarita the County is after a new assessement for the delivery system. The property owners own their water. They may publicly talk Santa Margarita water but it is only the delivery system the district is allowed to charge for. Santa Margarita has so much water that County Public Works unilateraly let go of the 200 acre-feet of Salinas Reservior Water that the Board of Supervisors applied for and a permitted was granted for Santa Margarita residents.

Yes! Santa Margarita is deep in water or atleast had no need for the lake water recharge? Could there be a let go and charge more later strategy? As for Los Osos, be careful because a better deal today can certainly change later. Visit Santa Margarita and have a glass of water from the land of plenty.

QUOTING ARTICLE: “GSWC contends its costs are higher, because unlike public agency, the for-profit company revenues come all are generate through billing while public water companies receive monies through billing, grants and property taxes.”

GSWC is correct. What GSWC bills its customers reflects the true costs of GSWC delivering the water.

Whether or not it would be cheaper to form a public utility is unclear. In most communities, that may be true.

However, in the Los Osos community, which has real problems agreeing on important and expensive issues, a public water agency may be a bottomless money-pit.

Mary said: However, in the Los Osos community, which has real problems agreeing on important and expensive issues, a public water agency may be a bottomless money-pit”

Boy did you nail that one, Mary. This is likely to become “better cheaper (faster)” all over again. Los Osos is so easily duped, at least in the past. Don’t go for this one.

Just pay GSWC as spare us the debacle.

Really, Mary? GSWC is a for-PROFIT company. You don’t think the profit factor adds to the cost? Really? And how much are the GSWC execs paid compared to the public employees? And GSWC guarantees investors a return…Who’s paying that? Got some statistics to show that the public agency is subsidized 50-75 percent? Gimme a break, these guys are thieves! Is there something you don’t understand about “for-profit’?

Historically LOCSD HAS been subsidized, not nearly the percentages suggested here, but it has been receiving property tax revenue from all of Los Osos. IMO, this is wrong. It was set up this way by the County decades ago and needs to be changed. Those funds should go to the fire department where ALL taxpayers benefit.

LOCSD is eligible for grants, while GSWC is not. .LOCSD has recently received a $500,000 grant to install a nitrogen removal system to be able to use the upper aquifer that is high in nitrate. The intent is to process 100AFY from this unit, it will cost about $900 per AF to operate and maintain. The byproduct disposal of brine will be trucked (at market rate) to South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation where they charge $0.11 a gallon (approx. 15,000 gl.per week) to dump it out their outfall. Current LOCSD rates do not cover the cost of its operation. Rates will be going up to staff, power and equip the device.

The need for this treatment is to be able to drink from this upper aquifer and rely less on the lower that is suffering from seawater intrusion. GSWC is putting in similar treatment systems, both companies have agreed to reduce pumping of the lower aquifer and use the more expensive (needing treatment) upper aquifer.

No one is happy about the profit in GSWC or their meter charge and base rate; that is where the real difference in bills is apparent.