Water Utility Infrastructure

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Thank you for visiting the City of Millbrae's Water Utility Infrastructure webpage. Over the next year, we will look at the state of our water supply and delivery system, and with your input, consider ways to improve it. 

 Please visit this page regularly for updates on recent news and study session information.

If you have comments or questions regarding Millbrae's water system or the study sessions, please contact us by emailing winfrastructure@ci.millbrae.ca.us.

More information on changes to the City's water rates can be found in the City's report below:

Water Financial Plan and Rate Study


Water Financial Plan & Rate Study 

The City of Millbrae provides water service to residents and businesses located within and adjacent to the
City. The City relies on imported water purchased from the San Francisco Public Utility Commission
(SFPUC) for 100% of the community’s water supply. Financially, the water utility is operated an
independent enterprise that relies primarily on revenues from water rates to fund the costs of providing
service. As such, rates must be set at levels adequate to fund the costs of operating and maintaining the
water system, pay for wholesale water supplied by the SFPUC, and fund necessary capital improvements
to keep the City’s aging water system in safe and reliable operating condition.

The City last adjusted its water rates in July 2013 and has not adopted any water rate increases in almost
four years. During the same period, the City has faced substantial increases in the SFPUC’s wholesale
water rates, large declines in water sales due to conservation, and the resulting need to virtually eliminate
the City’s ongoing capital improvement program due to lack of available funding. Currently, the City’s
water utility is operating in deficit mode as revenues have fallen substantially below the cost of providing

In 2016, the City retained Bartle Wells Associates (BWA) to conduct a water rate study. Key goals of the
study include recommending new water rates designed to a) recover the cost of providing service, b) be
fair and equitable to all customers, c) comply with the legal requirements of Proposition 218.

The City’s water utility is currently facing a number of financial challenges that will require significant rate
increases in upcoming years.

Click here to download and continue reading the entire Water Financial Plan & Rate Study.


 Rebroadcast of Third Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session - April 17, 2017

Please click on the link below to download the presentation from the Third Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session.

Infrastructure Study Session 4-11-17, v4 


Third Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session Announcement - April 7, 2017

On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, the City of Millbrae will be hosting its third Millbrae Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session.

Starting at 6 p.m., City staff will update members of the community and the City Council on the deteriorating financial condition of the Water Utility. In addition, they will discuss options to phase in water rate increases over a number of years to fund recommended infrastructure replacement options.

The study session is open to the public, and will take place in the Chetcuti Community Room (450 Poplar Ave.).



Presentation – Second Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session, February 28, 2017

Click/tap on the image or text below for a copy of the presentation that will be discussed at tonight's meeting.

Infrastructure Study Session 02-28-2017 (v6 js-FINAL)

Presentation - Second Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session, February 28, 2017


Second Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session Announcement - February 14, 2017

The City of Millbrae will be hosting its second Water Utility Infrastructure Study Session on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Residents are invited to discuss the current state of our water infrastructure, building upon the ideas and goals from the previous meeting. 

At this study session, the Public Works Department will present locations within the City in need of upgrades and describe how much of the water system has already been upgraded or replaced. This is an opportunity for the Millbrae City Council and community to learn more about the water supply and delivery system, provide input on how to improve it, and explore options the Council could consider to maintain the system into the future.

This event is open to the public. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the Chetcuti Community Room (450 Poplar Avenue) behind City Hall.



Millbrae Residents Learn About Risks of 60 Year Water System - January 30, 2017

Last week, the Millbrae City Council, staff from the Public Works Department, and community members joined for the first Millbrae Water Infrastructure Study Session. During the open meeting, Millbrae Public Works Director Ray Chan spoke about the state of the City’s water system and challenges the department is facing in trying to maintain it.

“We have a 60-year-old water system. Most water infrastructure has a typical useful life of 50 years,” said Chan. “We are spending more than 40% of our funds on operations, maintenance and emergency repairs. This kind of emergency response is not sustainable and we need to start planning to gradually replace the system.”

Millbrae’s water system was primarily built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Deficiencies in the system became apparent in 2013 when seven water mains broke at the same time, causing thousands of Millbrae residents to temporarily go without water until public works crews were able to repair the broken pipes.

“When a water main breaks, we are obligated to fix it within 24 hours. For many of our emergency repairs, they are only temporary fixes. A complete replacement would take weeks. It’s unreasonable to ask residents to go without water to their homes for that long,” said Chan in response to a question from a Millbrae resident. “A planned replacement schedule is more appropriate for the system, as it allows continued water service to be provided.”

Millbrae’s 75 miles of pipes provide clean water to 23,000 customers. Because of continual responses to breaks in the system and increased wholesale water costs, the City’s budget for long-term capital improvements has shrunk by more than 60% over the past 7 years.

“The major problem we are facing is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has raised our wholesale water rates by 176%. Since we haven’t passed those increases on to our customers, we have significantly less funding to do permanent main replacements,” said Chan.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) provides Millbrae with 100% of its water from a variety of regional sources, including Hetch Hetchy. In 2012, in order to address long needed attention to its own infrastructure backlogs and ensure reliable water sourcing, the SFPUC began a $900 million infrastructure upgrade to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Since then, in order to finance those improvements, the SFPUC has progressively increased its wholesale water rates for Millbrae and other cities in the Bay Area. Instead of passing these rate increases on to residents, Millbrae’s water utility is paying for these increases by deferring needed capital improvements.

In 2009, Millbrae used only 30% of its budget to pay for water from the SFPUC, leaving 70% of customer revenues to fund operations, maintenance and capital improvements. Today, it spends more than 50% for water purchases, even taking into account decreases in annual water usage, leaving fewer dollars for proactive capital improvements and system replacements.

“We need to shift from continual emergency repairs to preventative maintenance,” said Chan. “Public Works recommends replacing 2% of the City’s water pipelines each year over a 50-year period. This replacement rate can be increased to 4% or more, but the 2% rate reduces financial stress on the City and would lower the impacts of street construction interruptions on residents and businesses.”

At the City Council’s direction, the Public Works Department will host two more study sessions in the near future to review system repair options and funding needs. Times, dates and locations of those will be announced as they become available.


Rebroadcast of Millbrae Water Infrastructure Study Session - January 26, 2017

Millbrae Community Television (MCTV) recorded and produced a rebroadcast of the Millbrae Water Infrastructure Study Session hosted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, at 6 p.m. in the Chetcuti Community Room. This meetings was open to the public. 


Millbrae eyes water system fixes: Officials to host study session regarding aging underground infrastrucutre

By Austin Walsh, The Daily Journal - January 24, 2017



City of Millbrae Infrastructure Study Session Announcement - January 6-24, 2017

On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, the City of Millbrae will be hosting a study session to openly discuss the current state of our water infrastructure.

During the study session, the Millbrae City Council and public will hear from the Public Works Department on the weakness of our current system, and the issues they are running into when replacing broken pipes and pumps.

This open to the public event will start at 6 p.m. in the Chetcuti Community Room (450 Poplar Ave.) behind City Hall.


Millbrae Water Infrastructure Study Session Flier - January 6-24, 2017

Water Infrastrucutre Study Session Flier Jan 2017