Long Beach Utilities Commission approves rate increases for water, sewer, gas

The bill for the average single-family household in Long Beach is expected to increase by more than $9 when the increases go into effect Oct. 1.

Long Beach Utilities Commission approves rate increases for water, sewer, gas
The Long Beach Utilities Department headquarters at 1800 E. Wardlow Road. Photo by Jason Ruiz

Long Beach Utilities customers can expect their bills to be more expensive when the new fiscal year begins this October after its governing commission voted Thursday to increase the rates it charges for water, sewer and gas services.

Commissioners had been briefed on potential increases over the past few months and approved increases for all three services Thursday with water (11%) seeing the biggest bump. Department officials say that the new rates will see the average single-family household in the city pay about $9.32 more than last year.

Under California law, utility rate increases are subject to a protest process. The department is required to send notices to each account holder before the rates go into effect and if a majority of them object, the increases could be blocked. But that would require tens of thousands of households to object to increases.

Those protest votes will be counted at a public hearing that’s tentatively scheduled for Aug. 19, according to the department.

“We’re in a tough position,” said Commissioner Gloria Cordero.

Cordero has previously commented on the fact that water conservation in Long Beach continues to improve and how difficult of a sell it is to customers to justify rate increases after years of decreased usage.

Jason Ruiz has been on strike from the Long Beach Post since March 21, yet he’s still covering city hall without pay. Thank him for his reporting.

The increases for the three services were tied to the growing cost of imported water, increased labor costs and also inflation, which is affecting the prices for pipes and other construction materials used by the department.

Brandon Walker, the Utilities Department’s director of finance, said that could worsen as the 2028 Olympics draw closer because there will be a greater demand for construction materials in the region that will only help drive higher prices.

The department is projecting more increases in the coming years as it plans to invest millions of dollars into its network that delivers gas and water services to households in businesses.

Walker said the department is planning $50 million in investments in the coming year for just water services with much of that going toward shoring up the city’s ground wells, where most local water is pumped from.

The department also plans to update the city’s reservoirs, water treatment plant and it’s recycled water system, which the city uses to irrigate parks instead of using potable water. The increasing rates are unavoidable, Walker said, but doing them now could prevent more severe increases in the future.

“When you delay rate increases, the bill comes due sooner rather than later,” Walker told the commission.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rate increases that will now head to the City Council for a final vote in September when it approves the complete city budget.

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