Visalia residents’ water bills might go up following Cal Water’s improvement plan
VISALIA – Improvements to Visalia’s water system will come with a slight increase to the city’s water bills starting in 2023, and officials want to hear from the public about it.
California Water Service (Cal Water), which provides water to residents living in and around the city of Visalia, is required every three years to submit a multi-year Infrastructure Improvement Plan to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). If the plan is approved, residents’ water bills will be raised every year from 2023-2025 to reflect the cost of the improvements that it outlines.
Cal Water and the CPUC will hold a virtual public hearing about the plan on April 20 at 5:30 p.m. The hearing can be accessed at adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc or through the call-in number (800) 857-1917, with the passcode 7218384. A CPUC fact sheet with details on this application is available online at cpuc.ca.gov/PPH.
Some of the improvements outlined in the plan include replacing approximately seven miles of water mains, developing new water supplies and installing new pumps and tanks along with a well station.
“I think the things we’re talking about that are of the most interest to people are developing new water supplies, improving the treatment of existing water supply, the main replacement program and increasing reliability,” said Kevin McCusker, Manager of Community Affairs at Cal Water.
If Cal Water’s request is approved by the CPUC, the average residential water bill in Visalia would increase by approximately $0.30, or 1.1% per month in 2023, $1.58 or 5.8% per month in 2024 and $1.50 or 5.2% per month in 2025. Currently, the average residential water bill in Visalia is $27.11.
In 2020, Cal Water had an operating revenue of $795 million and a net income of $96 million. In Visalia alone, operating revenue was $32.9 million with total operating expenses of $27 million and net operating revenue of $5.88 million.
Cal Water submits plans like this every three years to an independent state agency and separate state watchdog, the California Public Advocates, for review and approval. The plan for 2022–2024 was submitted on July 1, 2021, kicking off a typically 18-month review process. Final approval is expected near the end of 2022, with any associated rate changes not occurring until 2023–2025.
According to Cal Water, main contributors to the rate increase in each area where there is a proposed increase include main replacements, wildfire protection improvements, facility replacements and retrofits, unanticipated repairs to services or equipment, security upgrades, water treatment and other capital-related costs.
“The goal here is to make sure that there is water, that the water in question is safe and that the water is reliably delivered to everybody’s home or business,” McCusker said.
This application has been assigned to a CPUC Administrative Law Judge, who will consider proposals and evidence presented during the formal hearing process. The Administrative Law Judge will issue a proposed decision that may adopt Cal Water’s application, modify it, or deny it. Any CPUC Commissioner may sponsor an alternate decision with a different outcome. The proposed decision, and any alternate decisions, will be discussed and voted upon by the CPUC Commissioners at a public CPUC Voting Meeting.
Parties to the proceeding will review Cal Water’s application, including the Public Advocates Office, which is an independent consumer advocate within the CPUC that represents customers to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels. The CPUC is scheduled to make a decision in October with a final meeting in November.