Alameda County Water District

California

In 2011, the Alameda County Water District (District) engaged RFC to conduct a water conservation rate study. They had recently seen a significant reduction in demand, which caused a decrease in revenue. The District was interested in developing a conservation rate structure that would assist them in meeting the regulatory requirements of SBx7-7, promote efficiency, and create revenue stability. The District’s existing rate structure consisted of a fixed service charge and uniform commodity rates for all customer classes. RFC examined and evaluated inclining tiered rate structures and water budget-based rate structures. Each potential rate structure had numerous variations associated with them. Factors examined included: historical vs. real-time weather factors for designing the tier widths for budget-based rates and inclining tiered rates; different methodologies for determining residential landscape areas which were used to determine outdoor water budgets; indoor and outdoor drought factors; and gallons per capita per day for each residential household member.

In early 2012, the District commissioned RFC to develop a 25-year Financial Plan Model (Model) to assess risks of water supply variance and capital spending plans, and evaluate the associated potential financial impacts. RFC presented the Model to the District Board to show the District’s financial health under various scenarios related to water supply, water sales, and expenditures. In the same year, the District retained RFC to conduct the financial impact analysis of the outcomes of the union negotiation. RFC worked closely with District staff to develop the Union Negotiation Module which was used to demonstrate the financial impacts of the negotiated labor and benefits contracts on the District.

Since 2012, the District has retained RFC annually for support on updating the Financial Plan and other financial and rate analyses. In 2014, the District engaged RFC to conduct a drought rate study to evaluate the financial impacts of the severe and ongoing drought and to develop a drought rate schedule to help mitigate the financial impacts. The Drought Study Report, which summarized the methodology and results of the Study, was submitted to the District and adopted by the District Board in April 2014.

In late 2014, the District once again retained RFC to conduct a long-term financial plan and cost of service analysis to develop rates that: would maintain financial sufficiency; are consistent with the District’s policies; comply with general cost of service principles; and are in compliance with Proposition 218 requirements. During the course of the Study, the financial plan model (FPM) considered numerous drought scenarios and different financial outcomes. The scenarios covered included normal no-drought conditions, a mild drought ending in one year (2015 drought only), a medium drought ending after two years (medium), and a severe drought spanning three years (extended dry period). In addition, as part of the Study, RFC evaluated and presented two bi-monthly fixed service charge options to the Board of Directors during the December 2014 Public Workshop. One of the goals when developing a fixed charge is to better align fixed charge revenues with fixed cost and to align commodity revenues with variable costs. The drought surcharge, which was developed in the drought rate study and adopted in July of 2014, will continue to mitigate the effects of reduced demand until the provisions of the Drought Surcharge Sunset criterion are met. As part of the Study, RFC developed the 2015 Water Rate Study Report (Report) to be used as an administrative record. The Report highlighted the major issues and decisions made during the course of the Study, provided an overview of operations, CIP, and the financial plan, and discussed and explained the cost of service analysis and methodology used to develop the final rates. The explanation of the methodology found within the Report demonstrates that the rates are equitable, reflect the District’s policies and values, and are driven by the District’s revenue requirements. The Final Report was submitted to the District in March 2015 for the Public Hearing in April 2015. Rates are expected to be adopted on May 1, 2015.