The Riverside City Council last week unanimously voted to eliminate the 1.5% water conservation surcharge applied to all Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) water customer accounts instead of continuing the fee for another 10 years as requested by the utility.

“This just needs to go away,” Councilmember Chuck Conder said. “It’s something that has had its zenith, it’s done a great job, and I just think it’s time to give our ratepayers the break.”

According to Carlie Meyers, RPU assistant general manager, when the program was last renewed in 2014, it was with the restriction that funds could only be used for conservation, education and water use efficiency programs and research, development and demonstration programs to advance the science and technology surrounding water conservation.

“Since 2014, we have provided 38,800 water rebates for water savings of 4.2 billion gallons of water,” she said. 

Over the last 20 years, Meyers said the program has received about $15.4 million in surcharge collections, with roughly $12.6 million spent on program costs and $6.3 million spent on administrative costs during the same time period. According to Meyers, the fund is expected to have a balance of more than $3 million at the end of this fiscal year.

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“Let’s end this surcharge,” Councilmember Sean Mill said. “Tonight we have the money currently on the books that will cover this program for the next four years.”

In an effort to save the program while also giving ratepayers a break, Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes made a motion to set the rate to 0% for a period of two years and to have RPU come back to the council for a decision on how the more than $3 million balance would be spent to best serve Riverside residents.

The motion ultimately failed with all but Cervantes and Councilmember Jim Perry, who spoke in favor of the programs funded by the surcharge, voting against.

Ultimately, on a motion by Councilmember Steven Robillard, the council unanimously voted to end the water conservation surcharge as of April 22 when the previous renewal expires.

In other council action: The Riverside City Council approved a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identification and apprehension of the person or people responsible for the shooting death of 18-year-old Isaiah Arviso last May.

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the city’s website.

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