By Shanita Miles & Miguel Gonzalez
High Desert Daily
(Apple Valley)–Recently, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized an overall rate increase that will translate average bills for typical residential customers to increase by $5.82 per month (billed bimonthly). According to officials at the water company, the rate adjustment is unwanted, though not popular, but necessary to guarantee the quality of water, rate payers of AVRW consume.
“We strive every to deliver excellent water and low prices even with the increase, an average residential customer will continue to pay less than a penny per gallon for quality water,” said AVRW General Manager Scott Weldy.
Weldy explained that the main factors for the adjustment of rates included; ongoing infrastructure investments, such as: pipeline repairs and replacement, delivery systems improvements; operations and maintenance expenses, such as: water treatment, energy, and increased regulatory costs; and reductions in fixed cost recovery due to declining sales. Since January 2012, AVRW has invested approximately $3.45 million dollars in repairing and replacing pipeline, wells, and needed water infrastructure in Apple Valley.
“Apple Valley residents have done a good job conserving water,” explained Weldy.” He went on to say, “It allows us to move ahead with the challenge of replacing aging pipes, which will help with more reliable service in providing everything from drinking water to water for fire protection.”
Apple Valley Assistant Town Manager Dennis Cron said the rate increase was not unexpected. “We had hoped it would have factored in the difficult economic conditions facing our residents. Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company is a private utility with two goals – providing a reliable source of safe water and making a profit for their investors and the local ratepayer has very little voice in the rate case process, which is managed by the California Public Utilities Commission. As a customer of Apple Valley Ranchos, the Town will also feel the impacts of the rate increase,” said Cron. The Town of Apple Valley was an active intervener in the AVR rate case, enlisting their legal counsel to participate in the rate making process with the CPUC.
Since 1947, Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company (AVRW) has been a part of the High Desert, and growing along with it. From the time the doors opened up to the present, AVRW has grown from a handful of employees to forty-six skilled and highly trained individuals determined to deliver an affordable and wholesome product. These skilled employees are proud members of our community and give back in many ways; as consumers supporting businesses, as homeowners adding to the tax base, and as volunteers assisting various charities.
“Nobody likes rate increases,” said independent economist Randall Finn “But it is a fact of life that we have to live with and we are seeing that rate increases are necessary not only among water companies, but also other utilities such as electricity and gas,” Finn explained.
Pipe corrosion, soil conditions, age, and ground movement can cause a water main break; creating unexpected problems for homeowners, motorists, and others residents. Pipes that have undetected leaks can cause water loss and increased costs. AVRW currently operates approximately 450 miles of pipeline in Apple Valley, of which approximately 145 miles is aging pipeline that was originally installed during the 1940s and 1950s and is approaching the end of its useful life. AVRW plans to replace a majority of the pipeline with larger, more modern materials that meet new regulations and meet the community needs for increased capacity.
Weldy explained that without water there can be no growth; or life, for that matter and while it is never pleasant to talk about higher costs of anything; rising fuel and energy prices affect us all and, along with compliance with government oversight, add to the cost of doing business. “Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company water system has grown so that our community can grow and sustain for the future by providing safe and reliable drinking water” stated Greg Miles, P.E. of AVRW.
Apple Valley small business owner Stephen Jonas said that while he never likes to hear about rates going up, he understands the business side of providing quality. “It is far harder to do the right thing than to deliver an under achieving product'” he said. “Water is a resource that we need in its highest quality and that is why I am OK with paying a little more for this product,” Jonas added.
Weldy explained that the increase of rates would allow the water company to strive to deliver the best quality of water with an advanced infrastructure system.
With that being said, it is critical for us, the customers; to realize and, more importantly, understand how large of a consumer we are as a utility. Growth, at times does bring about growing pains, nonetheless, more productivity tends to follow close behind.
The detailed timeline below charts what AVRW invested in main replacements and/or repairs over time:
1995 – AVRW invested $573,853 in main replacements and repaired 3,198 water main leaks.” There wereas 333.15 miles of main in the ground and 17 active wells. AVRW spent $829,302 for fuel and/or power costs for pumping water out of the ground to deliver to the customers.” The number of active service connections at that time was 12,263.
2000 – AVRW invested $1,497,355 in main replacements and repaired 1,866 water main leaks.” There were as 389.87 miles of main in the ground and 21 active wells. AVRW spent $885,730 for fuel and/or power costs for pumping water out of the ground to deliver to the customers.” The number of active service connections at that time was 14,434. Leased water costs of $198,235.
2005 – AVRW invested $1,035,706 in main replacements and repaired 1,052 water main leaks. “ There were as 426.94 miles of main in the ground and 22 active wells. AVRW spent $1,062,897 for fuel and/or power costs for pumping water out of the ground to deliver to the customers.” The number of active service connections at that time was 17,923. Leased water costs of $730,805.
2011 – AVRW invested $1,647,819 in main replacements and repaired 616 water main leaks.”There were as 451.53 miles of main in the ground and 22 active wells. AVRW spent $1,075,702 for fuel and/or power costs for pumping water out of the ground to deliver to the customers.” The number of active service connections at that time was 19,016. Leased water costs of $1,688,110.
Main Replacement $ Versus Leak Count Per Year
Main Replacement $ Versus Leak Count Per Year
|Year||Dollars invested in main replacements||Quantity of Leaks||Miles ofMain||Fuel/Power purchases for pumping||Number of Active Service Connections||Active Wells|