Poll results: Water rates unpopular


Our December online poll didn’t have many respondents – perhaps there were distractions on the family and social fronts over the holidays. But the overwhelming number of those who did weigh in on our question – “Are Sonoma’s water rates fair?” – had a pretty firm opinion: No.

Granted, the choices included the complaint, “No, they’re the highest in the county,” a statement that got click approval from over two-thirds of respondents, 68 percent. Almost evenly split were the more neutral, “Yes, they seem fair” and “I’ll wait for the new Water Study to decide” choices, which received 17 percent and 15 percent respectively.

For those playing catch-up, the question was prompted by the Sonoma City Council’s decision to hire a pair of consultants to look at the costs of delivering and improving water service inside city limits, while taking into consideration a troubling state court opinion that prevents water districts from charging more for higher usage on a tier basis.

Tiered billing systems were widely implemented to reward conservation-minded users with lower rates, but the courts found that by law utilities can only charge for services and products delivered, and cannot incentivize customer behavior.

Not coincidentally, the Valley of the Moon Water District is also grappling with revised rates, announcing in December a new rate schedule that pares down the tiers from four to just two – basing their tiers not on incentives, but the calculated cost of delivering either Sonoma Valley groundwater from local wells, or the more expensive delivery of Russian River water from the county’s aqueduct system.

Of course the really interesting input comes from reader comments, as they always do. Herewith a few:

“Why do we pay more than nearly all California?? Something is clearly wrong.”

“To me the pricing system seems to have a double billing system built into it… Is this legal?”

“The water rates are very reasonable. Over 15 years my 2 bed 1 bath house in the City has never had a water bill higher than $42, averaging $31 per month. The 20 unit apartments that I manage average under $15 per month per unit. The apartments include a commercial size in ground swimming pool and a laundry…”

“It seems like they are very high already. I'd like to have it explained why they need to be higher. Most of us are conserving as much as we can.”

“…I moved here from Southern California and the rates there were much lower.”

“Don't know if they are the highest, but when you receive a 500.00 water bill for a residential home that two people share, that is unreasonable!”

“Charge the wineries for their fair share - also the tasting rooms thanks.”

“Additional fees too, sometimes more than the cost of the water.”

To see our latest poll question – and log your response – please visit