- When did the rates increase?
In December of 2018 the Madera City Council adopted utility rate changes to fund essential repairs and upgrades to Madera’s water system. The last installment of the new rates went into effect on Jan. 26, 2020. The rate adjustment will be reflected on your March utility bill. For more information, or to view a detailed rate schedule, please visit madera.gov/rates or contact the Finance Department at (559) 661-5459.
- Why are water rates going up if the drought requires us to use less water?
The new rates take into consideration water conservation previously mandated by the State. It is anticipated that conservation will initially cause a 20%-28% reduction in consumption. Some of the costs of operating the water system go down when we use less water, such as the electrical costs of running the pumps. However, most of the costs do not depend on how much water is used, such as the cost of the distribution system, water quality monitoring, and debt payments on previous water bonds. There are also extra expenses for keeping wells operating adequately due to the drought, such as the loss of one well and repairs that are necessary to address lowered water tables in three other wells. In the next few years, installation costs of additional above ground water storage will offset the system’s declining rate of water production. This additional storage is necessary so that sufficient water will be available during peak flows and to ensure adequate reserves for fire suppression. Water rates need to be set at a level where the costs of operating the water system can be covered regardless of how much water is used.
- How were the rates determined?
The City Council directed that a study be completed by a consultant specializing in the analysis of public utility service costs. The consultant reviewed current and projected costs in the sewer and water systems and determined whether adjustments to the rates were necessary to ensure that the systems could be safely operated and maintained. The analysis determined that increases were necessary to ensure that all costs could be covered. The rates need to cover routine operations and maintenance, major repair and replacement, and new capital projects required to sustain the sewer and water systems. The rates must also cover debt payments for bonds that were previously sold to make improvements to the utility systems.
- What can I do to reduce my water bill?
Reducing the amount of outside irrigation is the most significant way to reduce the charges from your metered use. On average, 60% of the water used by a residence is used outdoors for irrigation, and watering your lawn is likely your single largest water use. Making sure you have efficient fixtures in your home, including shower heads, toilets, and washing machines will also help you conserve water and lower your bill. In order to conserve water, consider installing aerators on bathroom faucets (saves 1.2 gallons/day per person), washing only full loads of laundry (saves 15 – 45 gallons/load), turning off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving (saves 10 gallons/day per person), reducing shower time (could save 10 – 20 gallons/shower), fixing leaky toilets (saves 30 – 50 gallons/day per toilet), installing efficient watersense-labeled shower heads (saves 1.2 gallons/minute), and/or installing efficient watersense-labeled toilets (saves 19 gallons/day). The City has a host of rebates available to financially assist you in these efforts.
- Is funding available to assist residents with water conservation?
The City provides the water conservation rebates listed here. The State of California also has a turf replacement rebate program which can be combined with the City’s rebate program for turf replacement. If you are interested in receiving information about either State or local rebate programs, contact the Water Conservation Unit in Public Works at (559) 661-5466.
- Why do water rates vary from city to city?
No two cities are the same. There are many factors that impact the cost of providing municipal water such as the age of the system and the availability of surface water. Rates can only be set to reflect each system’s costs of providing the water and related services. Unlike a private water company, there are no profits generated in a municipally owned system. Revenue from the rates collected by the City cannot be used for unrelated expenses such as costs of police, fire, or parks. The individual fees that are charged must be representative of the services received. This means one category of customers cannot pay for higher costs associated with a different set of customers. That is why there are tiers for consumption, so that higher consuming users can pay for system enhancements needed to provide the capacity for their increased usage.
- Is financial assistance available for people who are on low or fixed income?
The City is prohibited by law from discounting water rates for any category of users. However, there are other programs that provide assistance to families or individuals who are struggling with their utility bills. A list of financial assistance programs can be found here. The City’s Utility Billing Division does offers special payment plans to qualified customers that may be having financial difficulties. Those customers have to communicate with Utility Billing before their water is shut off to qualify for a special payment plans and to avoid further fees and penalties. Utility Billing will work with and assist customers in any way they can. It is very important to communicate with Utility Billing when assistance is needed and to stick to any special payment arrangements that are agreed upon.
- Who do I call if I have a question about my utility bill?
The Utility Billing Division can be reached at (559) 661-5459. They can assist you with your account balances. If you suspect a bad meter reading or other problems with your meter, contact the Public Works Department at (559) 661-5466.
- What are the penalties for watering violations?
- The 1st violation is a $75 fine
- The 2nd violation within a year is a $200 fine
- The 3rd violation within a year is a $500 fine
- Does the City use surface water or well water?
Currently all the City’s water comes from groundwater wells. There is no immediate opportunity to use surface water. However, the City is always watching for economic opportunities to diversify its water sources.
- How pure is the City's water supply?
The City’s water quality is very good. The water is tested weekly and an annual report that details all the tests and results on the City's water supply is available here.
- Are there any programs/resources available that offer financial assistance with utility bills?
Yes! Please see financial assistance resources listed below:
Help With Your Utility Bills: California –HUD
Madera County assistance programs – Need Help Paying Bills
Madera CA – Energy Assistance Programs
California Assistance Programs – Need Help Paying Bills
Help Paying Utility Bills –CA CSD
Financial Assistance In Madera, CA / Suntopia.org
Relief for Energy Assistance through Community Help
Help To Pay Utility Bills / FreeFedGrantMoney.com
Receive Free Government Grants for Help To Pay Utility Bills.
Migrant Farm Workers: Central Valley Opportunity Center (CVOC)
Madera Satellite Training Center, 1930 Howard Rd, Suite 125, Madera, CA 93637 (559)662-0100