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Water expected to begin rising

May 24, 2005

Andrew Edwards

An increase in wholesale water prices will likely trickle down to

Costa Mesa residents, a board member for the Mesa Consolidated Water

District said.

"There definitely will be an increase," water district board

member Trudy Ohlig-Hall said. "How much? That, we're going to work

on."

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Ohlig-Hall and the rest of the water district's board are

scheduled to begin discussions on next year's budget tonight. Budget

talks will likely continue through June.

The Mesa Consolidated Water District buys water supplies from the

Orange County Water District, the agency in charge of the county's

groundwater. In April, that agency raised the price they charge the

Mesa Consolidated Water District and other agencies.

The Orange County Water District raised wholesale prices 19%,

hiking the cost for local water suppliers to $205 per acre-foot of

water. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, which water officials say is

the amount of water used by one to two households per year.

The 2004 California budget claimed property tax funds that had

gone to local governments in the past. Orange County Water District

spokesman Ron Wildermuth reiterated his agency's position that rate

hikes were needed to make up for $7.5 million lost to Sacramento.

"We had to pass it through because we had no other choice,"

Wildermuth said. Population growth, aging infrastructure and

tightened water quality rules also prop prices up, he said.

Mesa Consolidated's proposed budget for next year is a 5% increase

over their last budget. Vikki Beatley, the district's financial

services manager, said. She and water district administrative

services manager Coleen Monteleone said staffers proposed to leave

two district jobs vacant in an effort to keep the budget under

control.

Mesa Consolidated raised water rates last June. Current drinking

water rates for households using a three-quarter-inch meter are $9

per month and $1.77 per 748 gallons.

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