The City of Santa Rosa provides water service to customers within the City of Santa Rosa, to customers within the County of Sonoma’s South Park County Sanitation District, and to some customers outside the City but within the City’s urban boundary. The City provides wastewater collection services to customers within the City of Santa Rosa and to some customers outside the City but within the City’s urban boundary.
The recommendations of staff and the Board of Public Utilities to the City Council during the annual budget process and when planning for the future take into consideration many alternatives with the goal of finding the most cost-effective and efficient ways of providing services and complying with increasing regulations and costs to the utility. The operating and maintenance budget that was approved as part of the 2011/12 budget process is less than what is necessary to pursue all of the services recommended and to maintain the City’s water and wastewater infrastructure faster than it is wearing out. The approved Utilities budget for 2011/12 was down from the prior fiscal year (2008/09) in all areas:
The approved budgets are a compromise that attempts to keep far enough ahead in maintenance and construction to avoid deferring maintenance cost burdens to future generations.
Rates and Fees
Rates are established to pay for ongoing operations and maintenance of the system. Connection fee revenue pays for growth related expansion and are charged to all new users of the system. The Board and the Council approved increased connection fees that were effective July 1, 2007. Connection fees have an annual escalator tied to the construction cost index. The fees are designed to ensure that development pays for the costs associated with expansion and capacity related to growth as called for by the City’s General Plan.
The City purchases most of the water distributed to its customers from the Sonoma County Water Agency. A small portion of the City’s water is produced by wells within the City limits. Water is distributed to the City’s customers through 620 miles of distribution mains to over 50,000 individual residences, businesses, and irrigation users delivering approximately 7 billion gallons of water per year. The Utilities Department maintains over 6,600 fire hydrants and 22 water storage tanks. Costs involved in operating the system include the purchase of water and the daily operation and maintenance of the water mains, fire hydrants, valves, meters, pumps and other components of the system.
City staff is available 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies to the public water system. The City has an active and comprehensive water conservation program and well-trained construction crews, engineers and inspectors who maintain and safeguard the public water supply.
Expenses include costs for the purchase/acquisition of water; bringing utilities’ vehicles, pump stations and generators into compliance with new air quality regulations; providing training for employees to meet new safety regulations; cost of living and cost of construction increases; and projected debt service payments.
The City of Santa Rosa runs a local collection system consisting of 580 miles of sewer mains serving about 45,000 customers. Wastewater travels by gravity through the mains under the street until ‘lifted’ by one of the City’s 19 wastewater lift stations so it can continue its gravity propelled journey to the Subregional Treatment Plant. The Utilities Department maintains the portion of the sewer that is within the public right-of-way.
Approximately 7.9% of the sewer mains in the City are clay pipe mains with 5.2% installed before 1960. These mains are subject to cracking due to ground movement and root intrusion. The City has replaced over 20.68 miles of clay main since 2002, but still has many miles left to replace. Replacing these mains reduces the amount of groundwater that enters the mains and reaches the treatment plant for processing. The flows coming in to the Subregional Treatment Plant increase from an average amount during the dry, summer months of about 14.5 million gallons per day to nearly 80 million gallons per day during peak storm events. Efforts to reduce storm water that enters the plant will save money over the long run because upgrades to the plant can be delayed. The proposed rates will fund an infrastructure replacement program to speed up the replacement of the old clay mains.
Subregional Water Reuse System
The City of Santa Rosa is the owner and managing partner of the Santa Rosa Subregional Water Reuse System and the City’s customers pay for approximately 75% of the plant’s annual operating costs based on flow percentage to the plant. The remaining costs are allocated to the City’s subregional partners, the Cities of Rohnert Park, Cotati, Sebastopol and the South Park County Sanitation District. The Santa Rosa Subregional Water Reuse System operates the Laguna wastewater treatment plant and oversees industrial pretreatment systems and distribution of recycled water for more than 225,000 residents and 6,500 businesses in Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, the South Park Sanitation District and portions of unincorporated Sonoma County.
Increased costs for the operation of the Subregional Water Reuse System include new procedures to comply with the most recent NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit imposed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board that increased plant testing and reporting requirements, which require a number of expensive new and additional processes at the Laguna Environmental Laboratory. The Board of Public Utilities and the Subregional Technical Advisory Committee have approved master plans for power upgrades and plant upgrades to ensure the continued functioning of the plant at required operating levels into the future.
Over 2,000 people tour the Laguna Treatment Plant each year with various school, service and community groups. The Plant offers tours to the general public on the first Wednesday of the month at 4:00 p.m. and the first Saturday of the month at 9:00 a.m. A maximum of 30 people can be accommodated on each tour. Please call subregional staff at (707) 543-3350 to register for the tours.