SANTA MARIA, Calif. -

An apparent accounting error by the state's most powerful water agency could mean higher water bills for customers on the Central Coast.

The California Department of Water Resources is notifying its nearly 30 partner agencies that it failed to collect millions of dollars in fees for State Water Project deliveries over the most recent years.

The DWR says it also failed to account for employee pay increases as well as filling vacant staff positions.

The net result, the DWR says there is a funding shortage for the State Water Project of more than $100 million.

"You can call me cynical and skeptical, but I'm not buying it", says Santa Maria resident and State Water Project ratepayer Jeffrey Guss,  "all of a sudden they discover something during the time we have a drought, and the light bulb goes off, I mean how long has the commission been in service?"

It could mean financial hardship for ratepayers in the State Water customer of the City of Guadalupe which has the lowest household income of any city on the Central Coast.

"The net of it is, the way it works, is if your expenses go up for whatever reason, at some point your rates are going to have to go up", says City of Guadalupe City Administrator Andrew Carter.

Because the City of Santa Maria receives the largest water allocation ever year from the State Water Project, Santa Maria would have to be the largest portion of whatever is owed the DWR by the Central Coast Water Authority.

The CCWA is negotiating with the DWR to reduce the amount that is being sought.