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Wednesday, Apr 16 2014 06:00 AM

Water board may increase ag rates

The Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District will be considering a nearly 18 percent increase in water rates for its ag customers this week.

Directors of TCCWD are expected to vote on whether to up rates at a board meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16.

The increase was proposed at a board meeting on February 19. It would match agriculture rates for those of municipal and industrial customers.

Specifically, prices would go up $54 per acre foot for customers in Cummings Valley, $68 in the Tehachapi and Brite Basins, and $101 in Oak Creek. The district doesn't have any agriculture customers in Oak Creek.

TCCWD has had to take a number of unusual measures for meeting water demands this year as a result of a record drought and a zero percent allocation from the State Water Project.

In a report submitted to the board, General Manager John Martin wrote "Because the additional costs that will be incurred by the district are almost entirely attributed to its effort to supply agriculture customers in a critically dry year, management and the [ad-hoc Water Rate] Committee believe it is appropriate that those customers should bear the burden of covering those additional costs."

If approved, the increase would go into effect May 1. The fiscal impact, according to Martin, would be $238,000 in additional revenue annually.

According to Martin, the change in rates would stay in effect for years to come as the district recovers the extraordinary costs incurred this year. Historically, agriculture rates have been lower than M&I rates because the amount return flows from ag water is significantly higher than those of M&I uses, Martin said.

The district is currently working with farmers to ensure demands are met and has even placed farmers on pumping schedules to maximize pressure for irrigation.

The board will also consider a lowering of normal M&I water rates, which are different from term M&I rates, from $1,486 per acre foot to $1,385 per acre foot.

The hearing will take place at the district's headquarters, 22901 Banducci Road.

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