PALMDALE — Palmdale Water District customers will have more protections before their water service may be shut off for neglecting to pay their bills on time, following policy changes approved Monday.

The changes reflect the requirements of Senate Bill 998, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018. The District has a deadline of Feb. 1 to comply with the state law.

The Board of Directors unanimously approved the new policies.

“The finance department is working very diligently, very hard to try to implement SB 998 and it’s not an easy task,” Finance Manager Michael Williams said. “There are a lot of requirements that are going to be very difficult, but we are going to do our best.”

Under the new state law, water service may not be shut off for delinquent payment for at least 60 days and written notice of pending shut-off with specific information must be provided to customers.

The District may not discontinue water service for customers who meet certain medical, financial and alternative payment conditions and certain customers must have the ability to enter into alternative payment arrangements.

The number of water shut-offs must be reported annually to the state and posted on the District’s website.

The state law requires the District to provide written notices not only in English and Spanish, but also in Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and any other language spoken by at least 10% of the people residing in the service area.

Every notice does not need to go out in every language, Williams said. The notice initially is sent in English, with statements in each of the different languages stating how to get translations, if needed.

The policy will be posted on the website, www.palmdalewater.org, in those languages.

“This is another unfunded legislation, but we are a law-abiding water agency, and as such, we must follow the regulations within Senate Bill 998,” Director Robert Alvarado said.

The District may be fined $1,000 per day for not having these policies in place, Williams said.

Among the ways the new policy may impact the District’s operations and finances is in the new requirement to hand-deliver notices that have been returned by the postal service as undeliverable, Williams said.

These first reminder notices will have to be posted at the address with the delinquent account.

“This is something we didn’t have to do before, so this is additional manpower and additional cost that we’re going to need to figure out somehow to get it done,” he said.

Other potential financial implications include a decrease in reconnection fees, an increase in administrative costs, collections, costs for preparing the multiple translations and increased postage costs, among others.

Additionally, the policy may delay the District’s cash flow temporarily, due to the extended water disconnection date, Williams said.

However, it is not expected that the policy will reduce the District’s overall revenue, but the full impact is not yet clear, he said.

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