Officials say the fee hike is designed to hit the customers who use the most water the hardest.
The first step of the three-tiered rate increase took effect Feb. 15. The next two increases will be Dec. 15 of this year and Dec. 15, 2011.
“It’s better to raise things a little at a time with inflation, rather than shock everybody’s system,” said Chris Perri, the board president.
For most of 2010, an estimated 69 percent of Scotts Valley residents will see no change in their water bills, while the highest-volume water users — 6 percent of customers — will be hit with a 10 percent to 12 percent water bill increase during the months when they use the most water.
After the next increase, in December, 51 percent of customers will see no change in their water bills, and 5 percent of customers will see the biggest changes — a rate increase between 5 percent and 8 percent during the months when they use the most water.
That increase will be roughly the same as the one to follow in December 2011.
The proposed increase allows an exception for commercial and industrial customers who have implemented water-conservation measures, such as low-flow toilets and energy-conserving washing machines.
Eleven complaints about the fee increase were sent to the district, Perri said. But there would’ve had to be 18,000 — or complaints from 50 percent of water customers — to stay the fee increase.
“This is basically to keep up from falling into deficits that would be financially unhealthy for the district,” Perri said. “Expenses go up every year.”