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Much of Lake Mendocino dried up last year; similar conditions are expected this summer.
photo credit: Department of Water Resources
Most locals will be digging a little deeper into their pockets to pay their water bills in the months ahead. Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a roughly 6.5% rate increase on wholesale water prices. 
 
Officials from Sonoma Water though said ratepayers will be mostly shielded from the increase though agreements with other utilities, and that ratepayers should see an increase closer to 1%.
  
County supervisors agreed to raise the wholesale price of water to $1,061 per acre foot.
  
There is some irony. Locals have saved so much water, it has thrown the agency's ledger off kilter.
   
"When there is a drought and there's less water, less water sales mean less revenue and you're kind of chasing your tail a little bit," said Supervisor David Rabbitt. 
 
Sonoma Water provides drinking water to Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Windsor and the Valley of the Moon Water District. 
 
The agency is also catching up on deferred infrastructure maintenance and strengthening systems against earthquakes and wildfire.
  
Sonoma Water's Jake Spaulding said a bond sale and significant state and federal grant money will help offset much of the impacts on ratepayers.
  
"We're in a drought year, if we have lower water deliveries, that's going to affect the amount of revenue that we are going to receive," Spaulding said. "The finance staff at Sonoma Water has done stress testing and we are confident that the budget that we put together we can fund with, even if water deliveries come in slightly below where we are budgeting."
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