PALMDALE — The Palmdale Water District will use aerial mapping technology to more precisely determine the amount of landscaping found at each ratepayer’s address, information used in setting water rates.
The District’s Board of Directors on Monday unanimously approved a contract with Costa Mesa-based Eagle Aerial Solutions for a maximum of $31,500 to provide the aerial mapping service.
The mapping uses near-infrared technology to show areas of landscaping, including determining areas of artificial turf and swimming pools. All of this data is used in determining the amount of water used on a specific parcel for outdoor use, termed efficient use on District water bills. Swimming pools are included in landscaping square footage totals, as they evaporate water like plants, according to the staff report.
Since 2009, the District has used water budget rates in billing its customers. This method calculates both indoor, or essential, water use and outdoor, or efficient, use for purposes such as irrigating landscaping.
At the time this method was adopted, the technology was not available to accurately measure the amount of landscaping on an individual parcel, Finance Manager Michael Williams said.
Right now, the District uses a formula for calculating outdoor water use that figures half the total parcel size is landscaping, Williams said. This mapping data will be much more precise and better match individual ratepayers’ actual use.
Under the contract with Eagle Aerial, the data collection is expected to cost the District approximately $1.25 per customer account for single-family residences, commercial/industrial customers and multi-family residence accounts. Those water accounts with dedicated irrigation meters are addressed separately.
Eagle Aerial is also developing a program for the state Department of Water Resources employing this technology that will be used as part of state water efficiency regulations. By using the same company and technology for its own information gathering, the Palmdale Water District will have accurate data at the individual parcel level that will be accepted by the state to comply with regulations, Williams said.
The state program will aggregate a landscape area within a water agency’s boundaries for determining water efficiency targets, Williams said. By collecting their own data, the District will have specific information for each parcel, not an average of the total.
Palmdale Water District has begun the work with consultant RDN to set water rates for the next five years, 2020 through 2024, later this year. The information collected by Eagle Aerial will be used in formulating those rates.
The District last performed a water rate study and adopted a multiyear plan in 2014, covering the years 2015 through 2019. That plan included a drought surcharge and recommended 5.5% rate increases for 2015 through 2019, but the District ended up approving increases of 2.5% for 2015, 4% for 2016 and 4.25% for the remaining years of the plan.