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Billing FAQ

A basic explanation of your bill is available to download here:

How to read your bill             Información para leer su factura

In addition, this page answers many common questions about the charges found on your bill and how they are determined, as well as other common questions.  This information is broken down into several sections:


Common Abbreviations

The following abbreviations are found on your bill and/or this webpage.

 Ccf  100 cubic feet 1 Ccf = 748 gallons
 CDPH California Department of Public Health www.cdph.ca.gov
 CPUC California Public Utilities Commission www.cpuc.ca.gov
 DOWC Del Oro Water Company www.delorowater.com
 ROR Rate of Return
 RTS Readiness to Serve
 SWRCB State Water Resources Control Board www.waterboards.ca.gov
 WQ Water Quantity

Defining Rates

1.      What are my current rates?

Your current rates are always listed on this website, on your district’s page. Simply go to District Information and select your district to see your current rates.  In addition, all requested future rates are also available: simply click on any “pending” Advice Letter to see the proposed rates.

2.      What is the “Readiness to Serve Charge”?

The “Readiness to Serve Charge” (RTS) is a percentage of the total cost to run the water system, and is your basic fixed monthly service fee, which is determined by the size of the water meter serving your property.  This charge applies even if you used no water during the billing period. It is called RTS because your property is connected to the water system and DOWC is ready to serve water to your property at any time.

All metered rates in California, for CPUC regulated companies, include RTS. Together with Water Quantity Charge, these form your basic water rates. RTS is specifically allocated to cover a percentage of the costs of maintaining and operating your water system even when no water is being used and pays for staff, facilities, vehicles, water testing, etc.

a.    Who determines what percentage of the rates is RTS?

The CPUC reviews all of DOWC’s operational costs and determines the RTS percentage. If there are no special factors involved (such as a vacation community with part-time residents), RTS is approximately 50% of the total basic rate.

3.      What is the “Water Quantity Charge”?

The “Water Quantity Charge” (WQ) is determined by how much water you use during the billing period. It is calculated as follows:
Current Meter Reading
– Previous Meter Reading
Current Water Use (Ccf/g)      X      WQ Rate ($ per Ccf/g)      =     Water Quantity Charge ($)

Water use is measured in units of 100 cubic feet (Ccf) for most districts. 100 cubic feet = 748 gallons. Magalia and Lime Saddle Districts use gallons (g).

If there are no special factors involved (such as heavy seasonal water use), WQ is often approximately 50% of the total basic rate. It covers the remaining costs not paid for by RTS.

4.      What is the “CPUC Fee”?

It is a surcharge levied by the CPUC to be added to all customers’ bills. It is calculated on all amounts due and is forwarded to the Commission throughout the year.

5.      Why are there additional charges on my bill? What are they?

Additional charges, such as “PG&E Offset”, “Interim Rate Surcharge”, and others may appear on your bill from time to time. These are temporary charges intended to cover operating costs in excess of the CPUC approved budgeted amounts. For example, if the cost of gasoline increases beyond expectations, this may result in a “Transportation Surcharge” to cover the increased cost of operating DOWC vehicles.

The Advice Letter (see FAQ #21) pertaining to each specific additional charge is posted online on your District’s website. The advice letter contains an explanation of the charge and why it is necessary.  Notification is also included on your bill, under “Important Customer Message”, whenever a new rate is added to your bill.

 6.      Is there a low-income rate available?

Low-income rates, or LIRA, are available in some districts. Please contact DOWC directly to find out if LIRA is available in your district, and if you qualify.

In districts where LIRA is not currently established, if there is a significant desire from the customers to establish LIRA, or if the CPUC requests it, DOWC will do a customer income survey to determine if the area qualifies for a low-income rate.

It should be noted, however, that LIRA is a customer-funded program: it is the other customers within the district who must pay the difference.

How Rates are Created

7.      What is the formula for deteriming basic rates?

All Rates are determined by following a formula, defined by the CPUC, as shown in the steps below.  Potential rate changes are submitted to the CPUC in the form of “General Rate Cases”.

Step I:      Determine “Rate Base”.

Rate base represents the current value of the water system infrastructure.

          Assets   –   Depreciation   =   Rate Base ($)

Step II:      Calculate the “Rate of Return” (ROR).

The ROR is the maximum return that DOWC is allowed on our investment in the district. ROR is determined solely by the CPUC and is a percentage of Rate Base.

CPUC defined ROR percentage   X   Rate Base   =   ROR ($)

Step III:      Determine requested operating revenue.

Total Estimated District Expenses   +   ROR   =   Requested Revenue ($)

Step IV:      Split Requested Revenue between Readiness to Serve (RTS) and Water Quantity (WQ).

The requested revenue is split between RTS and WQ based on a CPUC defined percentage rate (see FAQs #2 and #3 above).  The revenue is then further broken out on a per unit basis.

            RTS:   Requested Revenue
X   RTS percentage                                                    
Total RTS Requested Revenue
÷   Number of Customers in district                  
Annual Per Customer RTS Charge
÷   12 months                                                               
Monthly Per Customer RTS Charge ($)

            WQ:    Requested Revenue
X   WQ percentage                           
Total WQ Requested Revenue
÷   Estimated Water Use (ccf/g) 
WQ Charge ($ per ccf/g)

** Estimated Water Use is based on the average historical water use, usually the last 3 years

Step V:      The CPUC determines the final rates.

CPUC staff then reviews and audits all submitted calculations, including detailed expenses and water usage records. The staff may request additional supporting documentation, which DOWC provides.  CPUC staff may also choose to change certain expenses, which then changes the final rate calculation.  When CPUC staff have completed their audit and findings, and all other General Rate Case procedures have been completed, the resulting rates are submitted to CPUC Commissioners. Following Commission approval, the new rates are set forth in a Resolution, becoming the new DOWC rates for the District in question.

8.  What is a General Rate Case?

A General Rate Case (GRC) reviews ALL of DOWC’s income and expense categories necessary to operate a district, as well as historical water use, and seeks to set new rates (either higher or lower) based on the current expenses and trends. GRCs are submitted to the CPUC at a minimum of every three years. The utility does have the option of filing a GRC every year, if needed. In the GRC process, the CPUC sets rates to cover the costs of providing water and allow the utility to earn a reasonable return on its investment in the water system. Major costs to operate a water system include purchased electric power, purchased water, treatment costs, groundwater pumping costs, transportation, and labor.

The rate-case process is as follows:

  1. DOWC reviews its historical income and expenses, projected income and expenses, and planned water system improvements, and prepares a GRC application for the consideration of the CPUC staff. Notices are mailed to all customers.
  2. The CPUC and DOWC together host public hearings to receive input from customers on the proposed rates. Customers may also write to the CPUC. The address is listed on the back of your monthly bill, the mailed GRC Notice, and the GRC Advice Letter.
  3. The CPUC may, on rare occasion, hold a formal hearing, which is similar to a court proceeding, presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Then the ALJ issues a Proposed Decision.
  4. The CPUC Commissioners vote on the Proposed Decision. New rates typically become effective five days later. The entire process may take nine months or more.

9.  Is the ROR percentage guaranteed to Del Oro?

No! If actual expenses exceed what was estimated and approved by the CPUC, then DOWC’s actual ROR declines or disappears. The CPUC defines the maximum ROR that DOWC may make.

While it is true that some excess expenses may be recovered with a surcharge, this is not true for ALL excess expenses. Basically, only those excess expenses over which DOWC has no control (like the price of fuel) can be reimbursed. Everything else reduces DOWC’s rate of return.

10.  What is the ROR used for?

The net income of the districts is most often reinvested in the districts in the form of capital (infrastructure) improvements. It is also used to cover budget shortfalls, as described above.

11.  How are surcharges determined?

The CPUC requires water utilities to track certain expenses in “Balancing Accounts”, which are compared against the expense amounts allowed in the CPUC approved rates. Balancing Account expenses include the tracking of electricity rates, purchased water costs, CDPH costs, EPA costs, and fuel costs.

Once per year, the CPUC and DOWC review the balancing accounts to determine whether these costs were higher or lower than forecast in the DOWC’s previous rate case filing. If the costs are higher, the CPUC authorizes a surcharge on customers’ bills; if the costs are lower, the CPUC authorizes a credit to customers’ bills.  These potential surcharges are submitted to the CPUC in the form of Advice Letters.

The purpose of Balancing Accounts is to protect both utilities and customers from unforeseeable and uncontrollable changes in costs, and to ensure that rates accurately reflect the cost of providing water service.

12.  Is there any other way rates can increase?

Infrastructure repairs and additions (capital improvements) can also result in rate increases.  For all large projects, customers are informed in advance and given the opportunity to offer input and ask questions about the proposed or planned projects at informal public meetings.  As with Balancing Accounts, the project expenses are carefully tracked. When the project is completed (or when a Phase of a very large project is completed), the expenses and request for rate increase are submitted to the CPUC in an Advice Letter.

In addition, CPI (cost-of-living) increases may be authorized annually due to normal inflation.

Due Dates & Service Fees

13.  My due date keeps changing. Why?

Del Oro uses a standard billing cycle, which is described below.  In order to comply with CPUC regulations, all due dates and shut offs dates are calculated based on the day your bill is mailed.  Because Del Oro always mails on Wednesdays, your actual due date will vary slightly each month.

Account numbers beginning with:
010, 012, 016, 018, 019, 020, and 022: Bills are mailed on the second Wednesday of every month.
006, 007, 008, 011: Bills are mailed on the third Wednesday of every month.
003, 004, 005, 013, 014, 015, and 023: Bills are mailed on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Account numbers beginning with 002:
Due to the size of the Paradise Pines District, properties have been split into 3 billing billing groups based on meter reading regions:
For properties in Cycle 2, bills are mailed on the second Wednesday of every month.
For properties in Cycle 3, bills are mailed on the third Wednesday of every month.
For properties in Cycle 4, bills are mailed on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

All bills are due 19 days after they are mailed, which is always a MONDAY. The due date is found on the bottom right of your bill below the heading Payment Details.

On the day immediately following the due date (day 20) a late fee will be applied to unpaid accounts, followed by a Discontinuance Notice just prior to shut offs. If the account is not paid within 60 days after the due date (day 79), water service will be shut off.

14.   Can I change my due date?

Unfortunately, our billing system does not allow us to change due dates for individual customers. Every person in a given district is billed and due on the same day.

If you cannot pay by the due date because of an unusual circumstance, please call the Customer Care Center to see if you qualify for an extension.

15.  How much is the late fee?

As of February 1, 2020, the late fee is $10.00.

16.  I mailed my payment on time. Why was I charged a late fee?

Payments must be received at the Corporate Accounting office on or before the due date. DOWC does NOT go by the postmark date.

All payments that are received in the mail Monday afternoon are applied on Tuesday morning, before late fees are charged.  Payments placed in the drop box at the Magalia Service Center (available to greater Magalia area customers) at any time on Monday are also applied on Tuesday morning before late fees are charged.

17.  I paid using my bank’s online billpay system. Why was I charged a late fee?

Payments made via your personal bank’s online billpay (not paid via www.delorowater.com or www.PayMyH2OBill.com) may take up to ten days to reach DOWC. Bank payments are not instant; the banks print physical checks and mail them to DOWC. Many of the banks only print those checks once a week.  If using your bank’s online billpay, we recommend scheduling your payments to arrive a few days early, just in case it takes longer than expected for the payment to reach DOWC.

18.  I’ve been shut off for non-payment. How much will it cost to turn my water back on?

Once your account has been shut off for non-payment, you will need to pay the past due balance plus a Reconnect Fee of $30.00 to have the water turned back on.

If you request that service be turned on after hours, an additional $45 After Hours Fee will apply.  An additional $20 Collection Fee may also apply if paying your field representative directly.  If requesting an after hours turn on, DOWC recommends pay your bill on DOWC’s website in order to avoid the Collection Fee. When paying online, save or print your payment confirmation to show the field representative prior to turn on.

If service has been shut off for non-payment for more than one week, a new deposit may also be required in order to reinstate service.

aCan I turn my water back on by myself?

No.  The water meter and valve are DOWC property and can only be turned on and off by DOWC staff.  Once payment has been made, DOWC will return to turn your service on as soon as possible. Further, if you attempt to turn water back on and cause any damage, including cutting locks, you will be charged for the damage.

19.  Is there a fee to pay by phone? Is there a fee to pay online at Delorowater.com?

Yes. As of February, 7, 2023, Del Oro’s credit card provider charges a fee of $2.50 to pay online at www.delorowater.com, or $2.95 over the phone with an agent by calling our Customer Care Center.

20.  Are there any other fees I should know about?

Del Oro’s courtesy services, such as checking for leaks and emergency water shut off, are free of charge, provided customers do not abuse this courtesy.  If special work is performed that is not part of Del Oro’s responsibility, such as customer-requested repairs to the customer’s water lines, a charge may be applicable and will be reviewed with the customer prior to the work being performed.

Bounced Checks and Automatic Payments that are refused by the bank will result in a $20 fee, payable immediately.  Accounts are subject to shut off if these fees are not paid promptly.

Damage to any Del Oro property, beyond the usual wear-and-tear, may incur a charge, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. If this is the case, you will be contacted directly.

If a new mainline must be added in order to serve a property that was not previously connected to DOWC, installation costs may apply.

Advice Letters

21.      My district’s page lists several “Advice Letters”.  What are they?

An Advice Letter is a request to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) seeking a specific approval or authorization.  They usually deal with rates or company rules.

22.      Why does DOWC need CPUC approval?

The CPUC’s job is to protect customers and make sure that rates are fair and reasonable. DOWC cannot change a rule or published rates without CPUC approval. Oversight by the CPUC ensures that necessary improvements are made to the water system; that the system is operated efficiently; and that the company earns no more than the authorized return on the funds it invests in water system infrastructure.

23.      When are Advice Letters posted?

Advice Letters are posted on the appropriate district webpages within two (2) business days of submission to the CPUC. Advice Letters remain on the website until they are no longer in effect. In addition, customers are mailed notices whenever an Advice Letter for their district is submitted to the CPUC.


24.  Is DOWC audited?

Yes. Del Oro’s financial statements are reviewed annually by an independent accounting firm. In addition, all proposed income and expense categories are reviewed by the CPUC and the supporting documents audited prior to any rate increase. Further, the CPUC receives DOWC’s annual report every year and does further audits at their discretion.

25.  Are DOWC’s records available to the public?

DOWC publishes a detailed Annual Report every year, per CPUC requirements. The report is available from the CPUC and, upon request, from DOWC.  A Consumer Confidence Report is also published and mailed to customers annually no later than June.  Finally, the financial workpapers supporting rate increases are included with every rate case that is filed, and documents submitted to the CPUC are a matter of public record. They are available both from the CPUC and DOWC.

26.  How do I know my meter is working correctly?

Meter readers alternate monthly, providing a system of continuous audit.  Also, DOWC office staff regularly audit all meter reads and dispatch field representatives to test any questionable meters. In addition, DOWC has replaced over 2,000 meters over the last two years and continues to change out all of the system’s oldest meters. Further, any customer may request a free test of their meter once a year. Information on reading your meter and testing for leaks is available here.

27.  What are my payment options?

DOWC accepts checks, money orders, cashiers checks, credit cards, and ACH (see Auto Payment below).

  • Mail – Payments may be mailed to Del Oro in the envelope provided with your bill, or by mailing to: Del Oro Water Co., Your District , Drawer 5172, Chico, CA 95927-5172.
  • Phone – Customer Service Representatives are available from 8am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday, at (530) 717-2500 to process payments by Debit Card or Credit Card.
  • Website – Del Oro’s website at www.delorowater.com accepts debit and credit card payments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Automatic Payment – Del Oro is pleased to offer an automatic payment option. If you choose to enroll, automatic payments will be deducted directly from your checking account (ACH bank draft) or credit card once a month.  Enroll by filling out the form found on the back of your payment stub, or via the online form found under “Billing Options” and then “edit” when logged in to your account.

Account numbers beginning with:
003, 004, 005, 013, 014, and 023: Automatic payments will be deducted on the 5th of every month.
010, 012, 016, 018, 019, 020, and 022: Automatic payments will be deducted on the 20th of every month.
006, 007, 008, 011, and 015: Automatic payments will be deducted on the 25th of every month.

Account numbers beginning with 002:
As of June 2016, autopay dates for accounts beginning with 002 are determined by billing cycle (see question 13, above).
Autopay customers in Cycle 2 will have their payments automatically deducted on the 20th of every month.
Autopay customers in Cycle 3 will have their payments automatically deducted on the 25th of every month.
Autopay customers in Cycle 4 will have their payments automatically deducted on the 5th of every month.

  • Drop Box – In addition, customers located in the greater Magalia area may place their payments in the blue drop box located in front of the Magalia Service Center or the payment slot in the side of the building. The Magalia Service Center is located behind the Magalia Post Office on Lakeridge Court.

28.  How can I contact DOWC?

  • Phone:  DOWC may be reached by phone Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 8am to 4:30pm by calling 1-877-DEL-ORO-H2O or your district’s direct phone number. Your district’s number is shown on your bill and also on your district’s website. After hours, messages can be left and staff will respond the next business day. For after hours emergencies, you will have the option of speaking to DOWC’s emergency operator, who will dispatch a field representative if required.
  • E-mail:  DOWC can be reached by email by filling out the Contact Page
  • Mail:  Correspondence may be mailed to:

Del Oro Water Co.
Drawer 5172
Chico, CA 95927-5172

29.  Where can I get the most up-to-date information regarding rates and other matters concerning my district?

The most current information about your district is always available online at www.DelOroWater.com; simply select go to “Water Districts” on the menu and select your district. In addition, customers regularly receive notices on their bills as well as inserts about potential rate changes, public meetings, water quality, and more.

30. I have a concern or complaint. Who do I contact?

We would strongly encourage you to contact DOWC’s Customer Care Center prior to contacting the CPUC so that you may receive the quickest satisfactory resolution. We will do everything within our power to address your concerns.  If your concern remains unresolved, the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch may be contacted directly. The CPUC contact information is printed on the back of your monthly statement.