District Exploring Water Rates Adjustment
In the spring of 2023, Marin Water will be considering a rate increase to keep up with the rising costs of providing safe and reliable water service. District staff will provide updates at upcoming Board of Directors meetings, written notifications will be sent to customers, and a public hearing will be conducted. It is anticipated that new rates will take effect in July 2023.
The District is committed to transparency and to ensuring our customers are kept informed through every step of the rate-setting process. This webpage will be updated often with upcoming meeting information, past meeting recordings and presentations, dates of planned customer workshops, answers to frequently asked questions, and the proposed rates once available.
Information on Board Meetings, Customer Workshops and the planned Public Hearing related to the rate setting process will be updated here as meetings are scheduled
Understand Your Current Water Bill – Quick Link Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is a rate adjustment needed?
Since Marin Water last updated its rate structure in 2019, historic challenges have dramatically impacted the District’s financial outlook. Much like the rest of the country and world, Marin Water has been impacted by the effects of inflation and supply chain disruptions.
As a result, costs for many of the materials to repair or replace critical water infrastructure have seen double-digit increases in the past couple of years. Those rising costs come amid prolonged drought conditions, prompting water use cutbacks and decreased local revenue.
A 20% drop in customer water use during the past two years helped the District manage through the two-year drought; however, it also sapped Marin Water’s largest revenue stream and required the use of reserves to sustain critical operations. Updated financial projections show that under the current revenue structure, the District is facing significant operating shortfalls that, if not addressed, will continue to grow over the next four years.
With 191,000 customers depending on Marin Water to provide clean, reliable water every day, and 95% of District operational costs remaining fixed, regardless of local water usage, a rate adjustment may be required to maintain the District’s longstanding commitment to sustainably serve its customers.
When would the Board of Directors make a decision on any proposed changes to the rates?
The Marin Water Board of Directors will conduct a Public Hearing to consider the proposed rate structure in May 2023 and rate changes would take effect in July. Prior to the Public Hearing, written notice of the proposed changes will be sent to each customer.
Staff will also be providing updates to the Board of Directors and at customer workshops. The Board of Directors will set the date for the Public Hearing at a Board meeting by early spring.
What water bill discount programs are available to customers?
Marin Water currently offers multiple discount and waiver programs for eligible customers. These discounts include income-based waivers, medical disability discounts, Capital Maintenance Fee adjustments, and the Super Saver program for low water users. For eligibility information, or to download an application form, go to marinwater.org/discounts.
I’ve been using less water to help out with the drought, so why would my rates go up?
Residents in central and southern Marin County have demonstrated a strong commitment to reducing water waste, at times outperforming the entire state when it comes to conservation. But that lowered water use does not necessarily correspond to lowered operational costs for Marin Water.
In fact, over 95% of District expenses are fixed and do not go down when residents conserve. Marin Water staff still work every day to monitor seven reservoirs, treat and test water, respond to emergency leaks, and provide customer support services. In the business model of a municipal water utility, when customers use less water and operational costs stay flat, the cost for each unit of water actually goes up.
Haven’t we been investing in our infrastructure continuously over the years? Why is an increase needed now?
Capital investments have been a top priority for the district in recent years. As the first municipal water district in California, our 110-year-old district must continually invest in the massive water system comprising seven reservoirs, three treatment plants, 97 pump stations, 130 storage tanks and more than 900 miles of pipeline.
The overall level of infrastructure needed to maintain our watershed, treatment plants and distribution network is generally higher than other utility districts on a per capita basis. This is primarily due our service area’s unique topography, which requires more lift stations and storage tanks, and a low population density, which results in a smaller base of customers to distribute the costs.
While our current investment totals over $20 million each year, it is enough to address only basic repair needs and meet minimum replacement schedules. Although staff is actively pursuing grants and other outside funding sources to reduce the costs for customers, greater levels of infrastructure investments are needed to ensure Marin Water able to consistently and reliably deliver for its customers.
What is the District doing to manage costs?
Marin Water is committed to the responsible stewardship of ratepayer and taxpayer dollars, striving to leverage that support to make sound investments while maintaining a disciplined financial philosophy.
The District has 20 fewer employees than it did in 2012, representing an 8% drop in staffing in the past decade. With rising costs, and dwindling revenues in the past couple of years, Marin Water has delayed hiring certain positions and postponed some capital maintenance projects, saving a combined $9 million through the end of the current fiscal year.
Marin Water is also considering a number of revenue enhancements outside of the rate setting process, including increased fees for telecommunications sites on District Watershed lands, modifying leak adjustment billing practices and continuing to leverage certain grant and loan programs.
How can customers be assured that the District’s financial management is sound?
The District has established a comprehensive internal control framework in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Each year Marin Water’s financial statements are audited by an external auditor and financial statements are made available to the public on the District’s website.
In 2022, Marin Water was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year ending 2021. This is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting financial reporting. View the District’s financial reports.
Where does my water come from?
The majority of water flowing into Marin Water customers’ taps is locally sourced from the Mount Tamalpais Watershed and the hills of west Marin County. The remainder comes from the Russian River Watershed via contracts with Sonoma Water. Stewardship of the 22,000-acre Mt. Tam Watershed and surrounding reservoir lands requires intensive, purposeful work to ensure ecological health, water quality and system resilience.
Through detailed planning, comprehensive training and robust vegetation management and forest restoration efforts, Marin Water works year-round to minimize the impacts of potential wildfires and maximize ecological health on our watershed lands – all of which help to protect water quality and our water delivery infrastructure. Severe conditions brought on by the drought during the past several years have intensified the District’s focus on strengthening the reliability of its water supply.
Marin Water is currently conducting a Strategic Water Supply Assessment intended to evaluate the District’s water supply in the context of climate-change-driven drought and to evaluate the impact of potential future water management alternatives that could improve the District’s long term water supply resiliency. Find out more at marinwater.org/WaterSupplyResiliency.
How can I stay up to date on what’s happening with the rate-setting process?
Stay up to date with the latest information, including details about upcoming meetings at this webpage (marinwater.org/2023RateSetting). You may also sign up to receive the District’s monthly eNews to receive a monthly update on past and upcoming rate-setting meetings. delivered to your email inbox, at marinwater.org/eNews.