General Rate Case FAQs
Our top priority is always the health, safety and reliability of your water service — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
We plan to spend $435 million on water infrastructure over the next 3 years, including replacing 75 miles of water mains. Just one of the many ways we keep your water safe and reliable.
How are rates set?
San Jose Water (SJW) is regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and serves over one million customers in the San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga communities.
Every three years, we are required by law to file a General Rate Case application to adjust water rates. The proposed rate adjustments must be reviewed and approved by the CPUC, following a robust and transparent process that spans about 12 months.
Customers are encouraged to participate in the ratemaking process by providing feedback to the CPUC at a public hearing — which will be scheduled later this year.
What is a General Rate Case?
On January 4, 2021, we filed a General Rate Case (GRC) application to adjust water rates for the years 2022-2024. The application is requesting a total increase of $87,712,000. If the CPUC approves this application, SJW will recover forecasted costs in rates over a 3-year period beginning on January 1, 2022. We work with the CPUC to file a GRC every three years to ensure:
- Investments in the infrastructure needed to deliver reliable water service
- Continued commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability with an effort to further reduce our environmental footprint
- Reasonable and fair rates
SJW has been serving customers for more than 150 years. The growth of our system, including more than 2,400 miles of water mains, has mirrored the development of Silicon Valley. As this infrastructure ages, it needs to be replaced and upgraded with new materials and technology. We strive to maximize the useful life of our assets — replacing them as they approach failure. Waiting until they can no longer provide safe and reliable service is simply not an option.
What’s happening with rates in early 2022?
If our rate request is approved by the CPUC, the average monthly residential bill with a 3/4-inch meter using 11 CCF per month would increase by:
- $17.33 (or 18.73 %) from $92.54 at present rates, to $109.87 in 2022
- $3.55 (or 3.23 %) to $113.42 in 2023
- $3.84 or (3.38 %) to $117.25 in 2024.
These rates include current and requested surcharges and fees.
What is a Monthly Service Charge?
Your monthly service charge is applied each billing period to help cover a portion of fixed costs — such as meter reading, water quality testing, water treatment, and maintenance of our distribution system including leak repairs. The service charge is applied to all customers regardless of how much water is used. Having a steadier source of revenue to cover our fixed costs helps to alleviate the more frequent rate changes that have occurred in the past few years.
What is a Quantity Rate Charge?
Unlike your monthly service charge, your quantity charge rate can fluctuate from month to month. This is because it is based on the amount of water a customer uses, and can also be affected by conditions such as drought, rain, or the number of people living at your home. In an effort to encourage water conservation, many water utilities employ tiered rates where rates increase as usage increases.
The below table outlines how proposed quantity charge rates may change in the coming years, per tier of water use.
The average SJW customer uses approximately 11 CCF (one CCF is equal to 748 gallons) per month. The proposed rate changes show a decrease in many monthly quantity charges because more of the fixed costs are proposed for recovery in the service charge.
What are we doing to help customers with their bills during COVID?
- No water shutoffs
- Extended and flexible payment plans
- No collection activity
- Water Rates Assistance Program (WRAP) for qualified customers
Where does the SJW rate money go?
- Purchasing imported water and paying groundwater extraction fees to Valley Water
- Increasing our investment in infrastructure:
- Maintenance and full replacement of 24 miles of pipe annually (1% of total mains)
- Upgrading or replacing storage tanks for earthquake resiliency and improved water quality
- Upgrade or replacement of pumps
- Strengthening our water system and readiness to respond to:
- Pandemics - COVID-19
- PG&E PSPS
- Broken pipes
- Paying taxes and fees on water and services to support the local economy
- Covering operating costs, including the #1 cost for electricity
What has SJW done to ensure reliable supply of safe water during the pandemic?
SJW’s mission is to provide safe and reliable drinking water to its customers, while supporting the communities where we live, work and serve. The pandemic has heightened our awareness of the need to protect public health and safety, and to deliver safe, reliable water service. SJW has continued to replace and upgrade water system components such as new water mains, tanks, wells and treatment plants. We have multiple projects in the works to better and more sustainably deliver water and serve our customers.
How affordable is your water?
A widely used benchmark for water affordability is published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It shows that annual water bills amounting to less than 2.5% of median household income are considered affordable. SJW’s current average monthly bill for water service is approximately $93 (or about $186 per two-month billing period), which represents approximately 1% of the median household income in Santa Clara Valley (based on 2014-2018 Census data).
Are the rates based on the number in each household?
Rates are based on the size of the water meter that serves a home or business, more commonly known as the service charge. Additional charges are levied for the amount of water consumed or volume charges. All rates are approved by the CPUC and can be found on our website under billing schedules.
How can I reduce water consumption?
SJW has maintained a long tradition of promoting conservation. To help educate our customers about water conservation, we offer complimentary water check-ups, educational materials, and free low-flow devices. Please visit our conservation section for more information.
How do I learn more about rate increases?
Please visit the rates section of SJW’s website.
What is your relationship with Valley Water?
Valley Water is the County’s water supply agency. SJW purchases water from Valley Water and delivers that water to homes and businesses. If SJW customers encounter any issues — for instance downed trees near waterways or an illegal encampment on water district property — they should contact Valley Water.
What is a surcharge?
A surcharge is a tool a water company can use to fund specific capital projects or unusual expenses, to provide water quality, or a means to pass-through Valley Water’s mid-year increase. A surcharge has a specific use and is temporary in nature. The surcharge is removed from your bill when the project or amount is paid in full. All surcharges must be approved by the CPUC.
How can I submit a comment?
Customers are encouraged to participate in the ratemaking process by providing feedback to the CPUC at a public hearing — which will be scheduled later this year. Check back on this page for updates.
Is there assistance for low income customers?
SJW’s Water Rate Assistance Program (WRAP) provides a 15% discount on the total water bill for eligible low-income customers.
What number do I call if I still have questions?
You can call our dedicated 24-Hr Customer Service Advocates at (408) 279-7900 or email email@example.com.