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The council’s two hydro hogs are Jim Madaffer and Scott Peters.

Like a magnet, District 7 councilman Madaffer continues to draw scrutiny with his water usage. Last year, when Madaffer was in arrears on his bill, the city padlocked his valve — not once but three times, in June, August, and October. Publicity surrounding the third cutoff finally got Madaffer to pay the hundreds of dollars he owed. (The water department declined to say whether Madaffer is now paying his bills on time.) The councilman also happens to chair the council committee that oversees the water department. In the past year, including the time he hadn’t paid his bills, Madaffer used 306,680 gallons, which is 145 percent more than the average residential user. Madaffer may have voted against the hike because of the bad publicity he has received for his water trouble. But if his water usage remains high, the proposed increase clearly benefits him.

While Madaffer’s water bill shows heavy usage for his home in Tierrasanta, the water bill for District 1 councilman Scott Peters, who voted for the rate hike, reveals an astounding amount of freshwater used for a single-family residence. Peters was billed for 848,232 gallons from midsummer 2001 to midsummer 2002. This was 579 percent more than the average user. Between mid-May and mid-July of this year, the Peters family used 216 hcf, or 161,000 gallons — more water in two months than the average local family uses in a year.

Peters’s single-family home is in La Jolla, not far from Mount Soledad and La Jolla Scenic Drive South. The 1.25-acre lot is dense with trees and bushes and includes a tennis court, a four-car garage, and a huge house. In this home and on this lot, the Peters family uses on average 16,300 gallons of water per week. For the same week, the average San Diego home uses 2400 gallons.

Perhaps the most revealing way to show how the rate hike benefits large individual users is to compare Toni Atkins’s bill to Scott Peters’s. In the most recent one-year period, Toni Atkins paid $511.57 for 88 hcf of water. That works out to $5.80 per hcf. In roughly the same one-year period, Scott Peters paid $2603.21 for 1134 hcf. Yes, he used more, but he paid less than half of Atkins’s charge — $2.29 per hcf.

Peters describes himself as “an environmental lawyer” and continues to make, according to his statement of economic interest for 2001, $100,000 per year practicing law. He is married to multimillionaire investment banker Lynn Gorguze, who, with her 85-year-old father, owns Cameron Holdings, a private equity investment business. According to its website, Cameron Holdings “acquires small to mid-market manufacturing companies with annual revenues of $5 million to $200 million.”

Peters reports five investments of his own, seven investments in trusts for his children, and, under his “spouse’s separate holdings,” more than 100 large-cap growth stocks, each with a worth of at least $10,001 to $100,000, with several holdings worth $100,001 to $1,000,000. These stocks are in oil and gas, energy, telecommunications, electronics, software, and the copper and fiber-optic cable industries. Gorguze is the director of several cable companies. She is the sole general partner of Gorguze Investments LP and specializes in buying portions of or acquiring high-tech manufacturing businesses.

One example of Gorguze’s deal-making is her purchase with her father in 1990 of Aldila, a Poway company that produces carbon fiber golf club shafts. Gorguze also oversaw the opening of another Aldila plant, a maquiladora, in Tijuana. Today, according to Aldila’s website, there are four manufacturing plants worldwide, including one in Poway, with a total of 950 employees. As of 2001, Gorguze owned options on nearly 300,000 shares of stock in Aldila. Gorguze’s stock holdings in large companies with local operations include Aldila, Sony, Qualcomm, and Coca-Cola, which has a sizable San Diego facility.

Did Peters’s vote on the inequitable water-rate increase benefit his and his wife’s stock holdings as it obviously did their residential water bill? Whether here or elsewhere, tourism, manufacturing, development, and technology are driven by water consumption. This is particularly true in the fiber-optic business, where large amounts of super-cooled water are used as part of the manufacturing process. The interests of the Gorguze and Peters families have much to gain (and much to lose, had the vote gone the other way) by passing the business-friendly rate hike.

Since the lion’s share of the water-rate increase goes for capital improvements, one finds scant spending allocation in the department’s budget that targets conservation or inefficiency among San Diego’s big water consumers. True, efficiency will be increased when the department replaces thousands of feet of cast-iron pipe, which is 60 years old and breaks more often than the newer pipes, subjecting the system “to catastrophic failure.”

The water department says in its January 2002 Annual Water Conservation Report that its programs “reduce water demand through promoting or providing incentives” to bring about “permanent water savings.” Such programs include water surveys, landscape-watering calculators, gray water usage, and low-flow fixtures. Last year, when San Diegans used 232,000 acre-feet of water, the department claims to have “saved” 13,000 acre-feet because San Diegans installed hardware or participated in the city’s programs. These programs have also brought about a decline in “per capita water use,” even as San Diego’s population has grown in the past decade. For a region facing supply reductions and rising demand — the water department estimates that it will need 255,485 acre-feet by 2015, roughly a 10 percent rise — the only way to keep lowering per capita use is to conserve more. The city has few plans that will lower the amount of water its customers are currently using, perhaps because it allocates only $3.2 million, less than 1 percent of its annual revenues, for its conservation budget.

Some question whether conservation hasn’t, over the past decade, realized its major savings. The key technological advances of the 1990s — ultra-low-flush toilets, low-pressure showerheads, and the like — have been widely installed. If most public bathrooms have been outfitted with low-flow toilets and motion-sensor technology already, how much more savings is possible? The new front-loading high-efficiency clothes washers help conserve water. But at $1000 to $1300 — nowhere near the price of a low-flow fixture — the washers are too expensive (despite the $125 voucher from the city) for most San Diegans.

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