After months of discussion and consideration, the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Board of Directors voted to change the rate structure and prices for irrigation water effective January 1, 2013.
The change comes following a TID Board of Directors’ vote on Tuesday morning, in which the Board acted to charge customers based upon a volumetric pricing structure. Director Rob Santos, however, was the only board member to vote in opposition to the change.
Also reflected in the rates of this new structure is an increase that aims to narrow an annual $1 to $2 million gap that exists between water revenues and the costs associated with delivering water to customers. Staff reported at Tuesday’s meeting that in 2011 delivery expenses came in at approximately $5 million, while the irrigation revenue came in at $4 million.
The change to volumetric pricing comes in response to current California water conservation legislation, leaving TID’s current rates and structure no longer complying with the new laws.
As an agricultural water provider, TID is required to have pricing that, in part, charges by the quantity of water delivered, also known as volumetric pricing. This legislation was formed in effort to maximize water use statewide.
Starting in 2013, irrigators will be charged based upon either a normal year rate schedule or a dry year rate schedule that will be selected by the Board each year. The dry year schedule is needed to offset the increase in groundwater pumping costs to TID that occurs in dry years.
Starting in 2013, water customers will only pay for the water that they receive. Under TID’s existing pricing structure – a set allotment for all customers with water typically available over the allotment in normal water years – many growers pay for water they can’t use and don’t need. Seventy-three percent of the time the allotment has been set at greater than 36 inches, while 50 percent of acres irrigated by TID use less than or equal to 33 inches, therefore making the current structure a flat-rate price, rather than the newly required volumetric pricing structure.
This change to TID’s irrigation water pricing structure comes on the heels of five public workshops held throughout TID’s service area in April and series of public presentations made on the topic at Board meetings in March and April of this year.
Although there have been 21 formal protests made to TID from landowners affected by the change, other landowners who were present at the Board meeting on Tuesday expressed understanding that the new structure was a state mandate, and therefore not truly in the hands of the Board.
“I appreciate the staffs effort,” stated one landowner present at the meeting during the public comment period. “I wish the state and feds would leave us alone and lets us keep doing what we’re doing, but I do appreciate your guys’ efforts.”
The landowner also expressed that although the farmers might have originally been against the new mandate, they would also be flexible to the new structure.
“If volumetric pricing has to be implemented, farmers are adaptable,” he stated. “They may put up a good fight, but they are adaptable.”
Director and Vice President Ron Macedo shared the same sentiments, expressing reluctance to complying with the new law. He also stated that he has not given up in the fight in standing up for the District.
“The fights not over by a long shot,” stated Macedo.