STAN LIM, FILE PHOTO
Western Municipal Water District, which removed the grass at its Riverside office in April, will buy unused water from Riverside under a deal the Riverside City Council approved Tuesday.
Riverside will pump water it doesn’t need for city customers and sell it to Western Municipal Water District for $1.6 million, under a deal the City Council unanimously approved Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Riverside water customers could also get a rebate from the proceeds of the water sale, but the council won’t decide that issue until it gets more information in about two months.
Some residents complained about state-mandated conservation and described the deal as subsidizing Western. But several council members noted the city will lose the water it doesn’t use and said the city’s water customers deserve a break.
“I think we all want to do something for the ratepayers. It’s just a matter of when and how,” Councilman Jim Perry said.
Riverside Public Utilities has the right to pump 55,000 acre-feet per year from the Bunker Hill basin, but shrinking customer demand because of the drought has left it the utility with a projected 5,000 acre-feet it won’t need this year.
An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough water to supply two households for a year.
The court judgment that established the pumping rights doesn’t allow unused water to carry over into future years, so Riverside loses any water it doesn’t pump.
The deal, which is only in effect until the end of the year, has Riverside pumping and delivering 2,500 acre-feet of water to Western, which could save up to $400,000 compared with more expensive imported water it would have bought.
Utility officials had recommended using the money from the deal to help close a projected $3 million gap in revenue created by customers’ decreased water use.
But Councilman Mike Soubirous, who wanted to approve a rebate Tuesday, said giving money back to ratepayers won’t break the bank, considering the utility’s $300 million in reserve funds.
Other councilmen wanted data on how the money might be refunded and how much each customer might get.