Orange County water districts are far from alone in raising water rates. As I reported today, a number of communities in the OC are charging residents more for water.
The districts saw their revenues drop because of successful conservation campaigns and the poor economy, as well as a three-year drought.
And the Associated Press reports high unemployment and the poor economy have made rising water rates a national problem. From the AP story:
Water sales for the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport & Wells Water District in southern Maine fell 11 percent last year, to 1995 levels. The No. 1 reason is the sour economy, said superintendent Norm Labbe.
One of the utility’s largest customers, a catalog printer, shut its doors last year, putting 374 people out of work. Tourism also has been down – meaning fewer tourists are taking showers and flushing toilets in the motels in the region’s beachside communities.
“This is happening most everywhere. It’s a regional thing, it’s a national thing,” Labbe said. “Many, many (water utilities) around the country are seeing decreases in revenues. Because if industry goes down, revenues go down.”
A recent study by the Water Research Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit, on the recession’s impact on water utilities found that home foreclosures and business contractions have reduced water demand in many areas.
Cities with high unemployment also have seen reduced water consumption as people move away in search of jobs, said Rob Renner, the foundation’s executive director.
Orange County’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in February, according to the state Employment Development Department’s Labor Market Information Division. That was better than January, when the rate was 10.2 percent, but still above the 7.9 percent from a year ago.
Statewide, unemployment is 12.8 percent and nationally its 10.4 percent.
— TRACY WOOD