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EMWD, UCR Partner on Water Affordability Study

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Perris, CA (January 28, 2020) — An academic study by the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) School of Public Policy, conducted in partnership with Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD), has found that water and sewer costs within EMWD’s service area were a fraction of the federal government’s water affordability threshold.

UCR reviewed eight years’ worth of monthly water bills from EMWD’s service area and compared household water costs the costs of water to other household expenses as a fraction of median household income (MHI). They find that, on average, monthly water and sewer costs accounted for approximately 1.5 percent of median monthly household income.

Those percentages fell well below the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) affordability threshold of 4.5 percent for water and sewer services

Water Affordability will be the primary topic at the Southern California Affordability Symposium at UC Riverside on February 7, 2020. The event will begin at 9 a.m. at the UCR Student Alumni and Visitor’s Center, 3701 Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside, CA.  E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chairman of the State Water Resources Control Board, will be among the speakers discussing water affordability.

When the research team – led by Dr. Kurt Schwabe and Dr. Mehdi Nemati – calculated the cost of basic water and sewer needs (defined as approximately 36 gallons per person, per day), just five households in EMWD’s service area in 2018 had water expenditure ratios above the EPA affordability threshold.

Water and sewer rates within EMWD’s service area were comparable to electricity and telephone costs within households, and that “water services in EMWD’s service (area) comprise a significantly smaller portion of overall income than other essential services.”

The average monthly water bill in 2018 was only $2.35 more than it was in 2011 in real terms after adjusting for inflation. That increase was less than 40 percent of the increase in the Consumer Price Index over that time period, reflecting both moderate rate increases and significant conservation efforts on the part of EMWD customers.

The study also incorporated EMWD’s allocation-based rate structure into its methodology. That structure provides financial incentives for customers to remain within their water budgets by allowing efficient customers to pay lower prices per billing units than customers who are wasteful and exceed their budgets.

“EMWD is committed to providing safe and reliable water service to its customers at an exceptional value,” EMWD Board President Ron Sullivan said. “We are proud of our longstanding efforts to keep water and sewer rates affordable while still maintaining the level of services our customers expect from us.”

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Eastern Municipal Water District is the water, wastewater service and recycled water provider to approximately 839,000 people living and working within a 555-square mile service area in western Riverside County. It is California’s sixth-largest retail water agency and its mission is “To deliver value to our diverse customers and the communities we serve by providing safe, reliable, economical and environmentally sustainable water, wastewater and recycled water services.” More information can be found at www.emwd.org.

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