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Water Budget Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why are new water rates being considered?
A: As a public water provider, the City of Chino Hills can only charge its customers for the costs associated with providing water service. The City cannot earn a profit and can only pass along the costs associated with providing and maintaining the service. When determining water rates, the City of Chino Hills prioritizes:
  • Fair treatment of all customers
  • Reflecting the true cost of service
  • Maintaining and protecting the City’s financial stability and its ability to provide high-level service
  • Sufficiently covering fixed and commodity (water) costs
  • Encouraging water-use efficiency

Q: Why has the City proposed a budget-based water rate structure?

A: The purpose for this rate structure is to ensure compliance with the state mandate for a “20% by 2020” reduction, which encourages long-term efficient water use and provides an equitable means to reduce your usage during water shortages. Those who are efficient will pay the lowest water rates. Inefficient users will pay more due to the increased costs associated with their higher usage. Only those accounts that exceed the personalized water budget will be billed at the higher tiered rate, so there is a financial incentive to reduce water use and conserve this precious resource.

Q: What is a water budget?
A: A water budget is a monthly volume of water for a household that meets their indoor and outdoor water needs at an “efficient” level.

Q. What are water budgets based on?
A: For single-family residential customers, the total water budget for each billing period is based on an indoor allocation (Tier 1) plus an outdoor allocation (Tier 2).
The indoor water allocation for single-family residential customers is calculated to accommodate an average household size of four (4) people per household based on U.S. Census and State of California Department of Finance data. Residential customers are allocated 55 gallons of water per person per day at the Residential Tier 1 rate which is consistent with the State of California standard for efficient indoor water use.

The outdoor water allocation for single-family residential customers is calculated according to a property’s estimated irrigated area, based on County of San Bernardino parcel data. The second tier (Tier 2) reflects outdoor irrigation usage based on an average of 34.3% or one-third of the total lot size with a cap of 7,500 square feet. The outdoor water allocation is distributed per billing period based on the seasonal water needs of plants (more in the warmer months, less in the cooler months).

Q: How is the budget for each tier determined?
A: The budget-based water rates include three (3) tiers:
i. Tier 1 (indoor or essential use) – The State of California has targeted 55 gallons per person per day as an efficient indoor use goal. The average number of people per household in Chino Hills is 3.2 (based on U.S. Census and State of California Department of Finance data). It was determined to round that number up to four (4) and use it as the foundation for defining the Tier 1 average water efficient household base rate. In this tier, water customers are budgeted up to nine (9) units per month or 6,723 gallons. The number of days in your billing cycle may change the number of units.

ii. Tier 2 (efficient outdoor use) – All residential customers are provided with an outdoor budget to accommodate efficient irrigation of their landscaped areas. The outdoor water allocation for single-family residential customers is calculated according to a property’s estimated irrigated area, based on County parcel data (lot size) and GIS information (house footprint, garage/carport area, and driveway space). The factors used to calculate the budget for this tier assume a landscaped area of 34.3% or one-third of the total lot size with a cap of 7,500 square feet. This tier varies by lot size. The 2010 State of California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance provides the basic equation for efficient irrigation.

iii. Tier 3 (Inefficient use of water) – Tier 3 is considered inefficient water use that exceeds the Tier 1 plus the flexible Tier 2 allocation. Tier 3 is all water use above 13 CCF.

Q: How much water is in a billing unit?
A: Water meters register water by the cubic foot. Billing units are expressed in Hundred Cubic Feet (CCF). One CCF is equal to 748 gallons.

Q: 748 gallons seems like a lot of water. How much water is that?
A: 748 gallons (or 1 CCF) is equivalent to 150 five (5) gallon water bottles or 5,984 sixteen (16) ounce bottles of water. A case of twenty-four 1.69 ounce water bottles costs $3.00. 236 cases of water would equal 748 gallons and cost about $706, compared to 748 gallons of tap water for about $3.00. If you purchased a one-liter bottle at $0.69 cents, you would need 2,832 liter bottles to have 748 gallons of water and cost $1,953.72 compared to the 748 gallons of tap water at a cost of about $3.00. Your tap water must meet all Federal and State water quality standards. These standards do not apply to bottled water; however, some bottled water companies use municipal water as their source water.

Q: How does the City know how many people live in my home?
A: The City of Chino Hills does not know the actual number of people living in each home so we considered the average household size of 3.2 residents per household based on data from the U.S. Census and the California Department of Finance, and rounded up to four (4) per household to establish the Tier 1 average water efficient household base rate.

Q. How may I apply for a variance to the indoor water allocation?
A: At this time, we will not be accepting any requests for variances or modifications. In the future, the City Council may consider variances for indoor use.

Q: Will I get a larger budget in hotter months?
A: Yes. You will receive a larger Tier 2 budget in hotter months. If you are watering efficiently, you should be able to stay within your budget.

Q: Why do I have to pay a higher rate for my outdoor water use?
A: Indoor water use is essential for public health and safety, while outdoor water use is necessary for growing aesthetically pleasing plants and landscaping. Additionally, it is more expensive to supply the water needed for outdoor uses due to higher temperatures. In other words, we need additional water supply and distribution system capacity to meet the needs of outdoor watering, particularly in the summer months. Therefore, the cost of providing outdoor water is recovered through a higher rate. Outdoor water use can be reduced by increasing irrigation efficiency and replacing water-thirsty grass with more water-efficient plants.

Q: I have a pool. Does this give me more irrigated area square footage?
A: Each property’s landscape calculations include the square footage for the surface area of your pool and is included in your landscape budget.

Q: How do swimming pools factor into the water budget?
A: Pools lose about as much water to evaporation as lawns, so pools are considered irrigated landscape in a customer’s water budget. Refilling a pool for maintenance purposes; however, may push your use above your water budget and result in you having to pay a higher cost for water.

Q: Are other water agencies using this new method?
A: Yes. A number of agencies have transitioned to water budgets during the last several years and have documented a reduction in their per capita water use. Nearby agencies include Corona, Monte Vista Water District, Moulton Niguel Water District, East Valley Water District and Western Municipal Water District to name a few.

Q: Did water rates increase?
A: Yes. The cost of providing reliable water service and purchasing water from the City’s water vendors continues to increase, necessitating rate increases regardless of the implementation of a new rate structure. Water budgets ensure that all City customers are provided a reasonable amount of water based on adopted standards and pay their fair share for basic water service. Under this rate structure, only those customers that exceed their water budgets pay for costs the City would otherwise not incur, such as conservation programs and increased cost of service during high demand periods.

Q: How will the City use the revenues generated from customers who exceed their water budgets?
A: Revenues generated from customers using water in excess of their water budget will be used to acquire the water necessary to meet this excessive demand, and to develop programs to help all customers conserve water. The purpose of budget-based water rates is to help all customers achieve efficient water use, not to generate additional revenue.

Q: How were the new water rates determined?
A: A Water Rate Study was conducted to determine the cost of providing water service which is the basis for the tiered rate structure i.e., Tier 1 - indoor need, Tier 2 - outdoor need, and Tier 3 - inefficient use.

Q: I’m interested in how I can use water more efficiently. What resources are available?
A: The City’s website has information on how you can save water as well as any rebates available. Visit www.chinohills.org/WaterConservation for more information.


How do I vote YES?
A: If you want to vote Yes, you simply do nothing.

How do I protest the increase?
A: If you oppose the rates, put an “X” or a check-mark in the ballot box next to this sentence: “I protest the proposed water rate increases.” That is a NO vote. You must sign the ballot on the line that says “Signature.” You may mail the ballot or return it in person to the City Clerk’s office at City Hall, 14000 City Center Drive, Second Floor. The deadline is 7:00 p.m. on May 8, 2018. Ballots must be in the City Clerk’s possession by the deadline.

I lost my ballot. What do I do?
A: For a replacement ballot, please call the City’s Proposition 218 consultant at (888) 510-0290. The City Clerk’s office can also assist you in replacing your ballot by calling (909) 364-2620 for assistance.

I voted “No” and changed my mind. What can I do?
A: Go to the City Clerk’s office at City Hall, 14000 City Center Drive, Second Floor to make a correction.

I’m a tenant. May I vote?
A: You may vote; however, if the owner and tenant both turn in protest ballots, both votes will count as only one vote to comply with Proposition 218.

May all the residents over 18 in my household send in a ballot? May all the registered voters in my household vote?
A: The Proposition 218 process allows only one vote per parcel. Only valid, non-duplicated ballots will be counted.

Why doesn’t the City set up polling places throughout the City, just like in a general election?
A: The City must follow the voter approved guidelines of the Proposition 218 process.

How many “No” protest ballots must the City receive for a successful protest vote?
A: A successful protest vote requires 50% plus one of the total number of properties for which the ballots were mailed, which equates to 11,095 protest votes. Only valid, non-duplicated ballots will be counted.

Who came up with the Proposition 218 process?
A: The voters of the State of California approved the Proposition 218 process.

What happens if there is a successful protest?
A: The current Proposition 218 process is for water rates only. The proposed water rate increase is needed to maintain the current level of service for all water customers and pay for the costs of operating and maintaining complex water treatment and distribution systems. Without these rate increases, the public could see reduced levels of service.