In an effort to send less of Lodi’s wastewater into the Delta, city officials are looking at raising wastewater fees for city residents.
Lodi City Council members will be briefed on the proposed rate hikes at an early morning meeting on Oct. 15. The Lodi Department of Public Works has not released information on how big the rate increase will be, but next week’s meeting is open to the public.
Money from the fee increases — if approved by city residents — will be used to decrease the amount of wastewater released by the city on a yearly basis by making more of it available for agricultural use, said Larry Parlin, deputy director of Public Works.
The goal at this point is for the city to reuse all of its wastewater — a goal Parlin said could be met in the next five years.
The first step in the process is for the city to supply more wastewater from the White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility to the farmers and dairymen that lease agricultural land from Lodi.
Lodi leases 700 acres of the 1,000 acres surrounding the wastewater treatment center for agricultural use. The leases bring an average of $170,000 a year to the city’s coffers, Parlin said.
The problem, Parlin explained to council members Tuesday, is that the bulk of the city’s wastewater comes in the rainy winter months, when farmers don’t need it. They need more water in the dry months of July and August, when the city has far less to give — forcing them to use two agricultural ground water wells owned by the city. Parlin said the plan is to close the agricultural wells — which cost the city money to operate — and build wastewater storage facilities that will allow the city to hold onto the water until it is needed.
In addition to this, Parlin said the city needs to upgrade and modernize its decades-old series of irrigation canals and ditches that deliver water to the fields.
Officials have not put out specific plans and costs for the projects.
City Councilman Larry Hansen said that as state and federal regulations on wastewater disposal become tighter, it makes sense for the city to find ways to use the water instead of releasing it.
“It is so complicated and it is so expensive — and that translates into rates,” Hansen said. “The average person doesn’t make that connection with what the city has to do to deal with the discharge and to deal with providing water.”
Wastewater rates for residences are calculated by the number of bedrooms a home has. Currently, Lodi residents with a one-bedroom home pay $25.83 per month in wastewater fees; those with seven-bedroom homes pay $77.49 per month.
Parlin said raising wastewater fees to pay for the projects is cheaper than issuing bonds to fund the work.
Paying off bonds — which must be approved by voters — over 30 years can double the cost of a project in the long run because of interest payments, and can lead to bigger rate hikes, Parlin said.
In order to increase the wastewater rates over a five-year period, the city must hold a public hearing and send city residents a letter informing them of the rate changes and asking if they approve of the changes. If more than 50 percent of respondents say “no,” the fee increases won’t go into effect. In 2008, city residents approved raising wastewater rates using this process.
Next Tuesday’s meeting is open to the public. The meeting starts at 7 a.m. at the Carnegie Forum at 221 W. Pine St.
Contact reporter Todd Allen Wilson at email@example.com.