The Metropolitan Water District approved a 10 percent hike in wholesale water rates by 2014, but customers in Los Angeles may only see a small ripple of change in their bills.
The MWD, which sells water to local agencies serving about 19 million people in Southern California, said the rate hike would help pay for repairs to the state's aqueduct system and infrastructure.
"Our costs are increasing for a number of reasons," MWD general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. "One of the biggest is the constant need to repair and upgrade our aging system to ensure the continued reliable delivery of water.''
Although the MWD doesn't charge homeowners and other water users directly, its higher fees are likely to be passed along by local water agencies.
This rate increase is not likely to affect water bills in Los Angeles very much. Customers in Los Angeles could see a one-percent increase, but the actual amount could be more in a year with less snowpack or less in a year with high precipitation, according to Los Angeles Department of Water & Power officials.
Snowpack is at 55 percent of the April 1 average, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Snowpack is measured monthly from January to May every year.
"An unusually wet March improved conditions, but did not make up for the previous dry months,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “The take-home message is that we’ve had a dry winter and although good reservoir storage will lessen impacts this summer, we need to be prepared for a potentially dry 2013."
The rate hikes would have been steeper if the MWD hadn't eliminated 160 staff positions over the past three years, said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the MWD's general manager.
Nearly half of the agency's infrastructure is more than 60 years old. The 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct was completed in 1939. The share of MWD's budget earmarked for refurbishing infrastructure has jumped from about 30 percent in 1998-99 to more than 50 percent over the next two years, officials said.
On Tuesday, the MWD board approved a $1.78 billion budget for fiscal year 2012-13 and $1.89 billion for 2013-14. The budget includes $20 million a year for conservation programs and $33 million annually for a program that provides incentives for local water agencies to recycle.
The agency will also contribute $25 million to study an environmental conservation plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where the MWD gets about 30 percent of Southern California's water supply.
A 5 percent increase in MWD's water rates will begin in January 2013 and again in January 2014.
-- City News Service contributed to this report.