San Jose Water charging customers for conserving water

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The drought is of course officially over in California, but all of us can certainly remember when it was the cornerstone of then-Governor Brown's administration. A lot of us responded to the Governor and scaled back on our water use.

It was part of a communal effort to build a better Bay Area. But now, San Jose Water wants to charge residents more for conserving water. As you can imagine, residents do not like feeling they are being penalized for following the rules.

"I'm being punished for doing the right thing," said San Jose Water customer Tina Casalino.

Casalino's angry, and she's not alone. Others have been filling the pages of the neighborhood blog Next Door with complaints about their bills.

They're already paying an average of $100 per month, including some service charges authorized by state regulators. Now San Jose Water is seeking permission to tack on a two and a quarter percent surcharge to cover $9 million in losses resulting from lower water sales during the drought.

"If we have to rely on the amount of water that we sell to cover fixed expenses as well, and water sales drop precipitously, then we can't cover our costs," said Jayme Ackemann, corporate communications director for San Jose Water, which serves about 220,000 households or about one million people in most of San Jose plus neighboring communities, including Campbell, Saratoga, Los Gatos and Cupertino.

The 13 individual water companies that serve South Bay customers saw reductions of 20 to 28 percent per year during the drought.

"Conservation is great but it comes with a cost. That's exactly right," said San Jose Water's Ackemann.

Approval of the surcharge is still underway at the California Public Utilities Commission. The public is allowed to submit comments, and Tina Casalino is following the guidelines to protest.

"'If you want to protest, send a copy of the letter you're sending to the CPUC and also send one to us,' so I have done that. I have not heard back from either the water company or the CPUC at this point," she said.

If it's any comfort to San Jose Water customers, an even heftier surcharge of 25-percent was imposed by East Bay MUD during the second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016 to cover the purchase emergency water supplies and drought operations.
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