PARLIER, California (KSEE/KGPE) –Families in Parlier could start paying more for their water usage starting next month. The proposed rates would continue increasing through October 2025.

“We’re trying to increase it gradually for our residents so they don’t feel such a hit really hard, especially through Covid,” said Mayor Alma Beltran, who points to state regulations as the reason behind the new rates.

In 2014, the State of California adopted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to help manage its groundwater. By 2040, urban water suppliers are prohibited from pumping more groundwater than it can replenish, meaning water levels must stay level compared to previous years.

According to Beltran, because of SGMA, the city will have to pay $395 per acre-foot of water starting in 2022, which is up $200 from the current rate.

That translates into an 11% increase per thousand gallons starting October 1st. In Parlier, a single-family home currently uses about 6,500 gallons on average, in one month. Under the new rates, their bill would hike up to $10.60 from $9.60. A new 12% increase would go into effect each October through 2025. By then, the average single-family household would be paying around $16.70, almost twice as much as what they pay today.

“There’s no other way we can figure out other resources to make up the difference, so it’s a process that we have to go through, yes,” said Beltran, who added that the city is still providing rent and utility assistance to families struggling during the pandemic.

For many of the city’s low-income residents, the proposed rates would put a strain on their budgets.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be charged more when the water isn’t even clean,” shared Karina Alvarez, who’s lived in Parlier for a decade and says she continues to get letters from the city warning about the contaminants in her tap water.

“The water is dirty. It feels greasy sometimes –I feel it on my skin when I shower.”

Like other residents, Karina said she spends additional money on bottled water to drink and cook with, and asks local leaders to resolve Parlier’s tap water problems before upping her bill.

Mayor Beltran said the proposed rates would also address that problem.

“We did sue the companies that use chemicals on our soil,” she said, which resulted in a $9 million settlement in 2016 to install filtering systems in city wells.

“So that will help with the contaminated water with the TCP. The problem we’re facing is it’s a $14 million project. We have to complete this project by March 2022, or we will get fined $10,000 a day by the State Water Board.”

The City Council will vote on the resolution proposing the water bill hike at its Sept. 2 meeting after hearing from public comments.