Customers in the East Bay Municipal Utility District would pay 19 percent higher water rates over the next two years under a proposal unveiled this week for the largest district increase in recent memory.
The proposal -- scheduled for a board vote June 11 -- would add an extra $8.05 a month to the bill of an average customer using 246 gallons of water per day.
Managers of the East Bay's largest water system said they need the higher rates largely to increase pipe and equipment maintenance that has been deferred over several years of dry weather, slumping water sales and difficult economic times.
The water agency also is reducing its debt to preserve its credit rating after rating agencies last year put the water supply agency on a credit watch.
"In much of the East Bay for nearly a century now, it has been easy to take good water for granted," Alexander Coate, the district general manager, said in a written statement. "The pipes and facilities that brought us this great water ... must be improved to guarantee the high quality and reliability the district and its customers are accustomed to."
EBMUD supplies drinking water to some 1.3 million people in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
A public hearing on the increase will be held during the June 11 water board meeting, which starts at 1:15 p.m. at its headquarters in Oakland.
If the board adopts the two-year proposal, water rates would go up 9.75 percent on July 1, adding $3.96 a month onto the average customer's bill. A year later, rates would rise another 9.5 percent, tacking another $4.19 per month onto the average bill.
Under a proposed two-year budget, the district would add 47 jobs -- many of them pipe repairers and installers -- to a workforce of some 1,700 people, said EBMUD spokesman Charles Hardy.
"We want to replace more of our aging pipes so they don't break and cause service interruptions to our customers," Hardy said.
EBMUD also proposes to raise wastewater rates 9 percent this summer and 8.5 percent a year later in its wastewater division in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Oakland, Piedmont and part of Richmond
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.