What is at stake in the Modesto Irrigation District water rate discussion?
1. Modesto Irrigation District irrigator revenue does not cover the cost of bringing water to their fields. We are not talking about the market rate of water, which is enormously higher, but the cost to bring the water through the system to the farmer, from gate to gate.
2. This shortfall is not a surprise. MID has been talking about this for years and has even made verbal promises to address it.
3. The shortfall is covered by charging the costs to MID's electric ratepayers.
4. This year, according to MID, the shortfall is $3.77 million. Additionally, a "falling water credit" is attributed as revenue to the water side of the house. But this isn't real money. This year, it is $8.78 million. This "revenue" also comes from MID's power customers.
In one year alone, the water side of the house is upside down by almost $13 million.
5. MID power customers are charged fully for their power usage. In addition, most of these customers also pay the city of Modesto for their residential water services (they do not pay MID for this). Those urban residents, the vast majority of our district customers, have their power bills inflated so that the MID irrigators do not have to pay for the cost of service. It is estimated to amount to at least 3 percent of their power bill.
6. It is important to note that even if MID irrigators did pay the full cost of service for their water, the cost of water would still be among the least expensive in California.
7. MID recognizes that irrigation infrastructure improvements are necessary. Who is to pay for those costs? If irrigators are to pay them, that must be added to the cost of service obligation.
8. Let's look at cost of service. MID staff in 2012 estimated that the cost per acre foot of water for our irrigators was $71 but irrigators were only charged $9.83 per acre-foot. Even a 10 percent increase in the current rate will not begin to put us on the road to having water pay the cost of water. In fact, we should be considering a phased in process which makes significant progress each year toward reaching cost of service. The Modesto Bee recently published an analysis of the water subsidy, which showed it has cost county ratepayers more than $100 million over the last 17 years.
9. MID received a legal opinion last year that says our existing cost of water practice is likely unconstitutional. And it is clearly wrong to have those who have the least subsidizing those who have the most.
10. Last year, there were many who appeared before the MID board of directors and argued that irrigators should pay more and that they could afford it, that is was only right that they do so. But when the rate issue came up, there was silence in these chambers.
11. Some now express doubt that MID figures for cost of service are valid. This is a false issue. We know what the irrigators pay for the water. We also know what the staff and system costs are to get the water to the farm. The difference in those figures tells us the shortfall.
12. We are in a treacherous time. Outsiders want to take the water for nothing. We have others, even some on this board, who want us to consider selling the water to nondistrict users. I am not opposed to this, but I am opposed to committing water to nondistrict uses if district residents are forced to subsidize it.
13. MID power customers shouldn't pay the costs of MID's irrigators.
Let's solve this problem in a way that protects both sides of MID, while avoiding a solution forced on us by others.
Wild represents District 2, central Modesto, on the MID board. His four-year term ends this year and he has said he will not run again.
On Tuesday, Modesto Irrigation District board will hear a progress report from the Water Advisory Committee. The appointed group, meeting since November, was asked to study the irrigation water delivery system and make recommendations by the end of May. Read more about the report online at www.modbee.com.
The MID board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the district office at 1231 11th St.