• Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Heavy water users opposed to statewide conservation efforts are using California's Proposition 218 as a tool to undermine water agencies' pricing tiers, which charge more to higher-consumption customers. The measure, passed in 1996, requires voter approval of "tax, assessment, fee and charge increases" by state and local government agencies.

Last April, an appellate court found tiered water rates charged in San Juan Capistrano to be unconstitutional. Following that decision, local resident Mark Coziahr last week launched a class-action suit against Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority, and Otay Water District, which serves a large swath of East County and South County.

Coziahr's argument hinges on a portion of the measure's text, which reads "Revenues derived from the fee or charge shall not exceed the funds required to provide the property related service."

Both Metropolitan and Otay (though not the San Diego County Water Authority) have three rate tiers, wherein larger consumers of water are charged at a higher per-unit rate than lower-consumption customers. If these higher rates result in revenues higher than the cost of actually providing services, the agencies would be in violation of the state law.

Coziahr is seeking an order declaring the rate structures unconstitutional and an injunction blocking the agencies from charging based upon the existing system. A similar case is currently pending in Marin County.

Interestingly, the county water authority has, with some success, used the same argument in its ongoing battles with the Los Angeles–based Metropolitan.

Contacted by Courthouse News Service, Andre Mura, a lawyer with the firm representing Coziahr, explained that "The California Constitution expresses the people's view that water conservation is achieved by pricing that reflects the actual cost of water delivery service to a given property. This suit seeks to enforce the water conservation policies adopted by the people."

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Comments

AlexClarke July 20, 2015 @ 5:50 p.m.

If there is a lack of supply of something does increasing the price of it make it more available? If there was a true lack of something then there would be a shortage of it no matter what the price.

0

jnojr July 23, 2015 @ 8:15 a.m.

Yes, raising the price makes it more available. First, higher prices encourage conservation like no bleating government announcement ever could. Second, in a free market, higher profits attract investment by those seeking to make money.

What's your solution when demand exceeds supply? Leave the price the same? Lower it? What mechanism do you propose, how would it work, and what would it accomplish?

0

Twister July 20, 2015 @ 9:10 p.m.

Water law is a travesty. It should not be permitted, on the basis of precedent alone, to overpower common sense.

Water should be a public commodity, shared equitably.

0

jnojr July 23, 2015 @ 8:19 a.m.

What, exactly, is "equitability" here? Can I have as much water as any farmer? Or should the farmer only be allowed to have as much water as me? Of course, now we hear, "That's ridiculous, obviously the farmer needs more water than you do!" Really? Who determines that? What if I want to be a farmer, too?

We should absolutely have a "water bankruptcy" where these ancient "rights" and agreements are swept away, just like in a financial bankruptcy when an entity owes more than it can pay, and everyone recognizes that "what's owed" is now irrelevant, and the only question left is, "What's available, and who gets how much?" But after that we should be left with a free, open market; not some government bureaucracy deciding what's "fair" and who gets what.

0

Twister July 23, 2015 @ 10:47 a.m.

The devil's in the details. There is the existing system. There are alternatives. The alternatives can be explored, then the question answered, "Which is better?"

0

dwbat July 23, 2015 @ 7:12 a.m.

Since San Diego County residents have been ordered to cut back on water usage, perhaps the top water executives should demonstrate their empathy by taking a salary cut. Maureen A. Stapleton, Gen. Mgr. of SD County Water Authority (per 2013 figures from Transparent California; http://transparentcalifornia.com/), has salary + benefits of $390,117.81. The figure may be higher now.

1

Twister July 23, 2015 @ 6:50 p.m.

Re: jnojr July 23, 2015 @ 8:15 a.m.

Yes, raising the price makes it more available. First, higher prices encourage conservation like no bleating government announcement ever could. Second, in a free market, higher profits attract investment by those seeking to make money.

What's your solution when demand exceeds supply? Leave the price the same? Lower it? What mechanism do you propose, how would it work, and what would it accomplish?

Water is a FINITE resource and an absolute requirement for life, like air to breathe. It is required for food, from salad to steak. It is not optional for these uses, it is a true NEED. Landscaping and car washes, and many other USES are not needs but DESIRES. In a lifeboat full of people with a limited amount of fresh water, one should think twice before using it to wash one's hair, for example, when others need to drink it in order to live. When one overwater's one's landscaping and washes one's car or otherwise uses water for LUXURY CONSUMPTION, one is not acting responsibly with respect to society at large.

Water rates should be set at an allocation level which will sustain the distribution system and our lives according to priority--first needs, then desires. One cannot achieve perfect equity, but it is possible to make the system more equitable. For residences and some commercial property, for example, allocations can be set based upon lot size and the CIMIS evapotranspiration zone. All of the required data already exists in electronic form, so a huge expenditure is not required for set-up.

For example, if you live on the seacoast where the CIMIS map (http://www.cimis.water.ca.gov/App_Themes/images/etozonemap.jpg ) indicates an evapotranspiration demand of about three acre-feet per acre per year (in addition to the foot or usually less of precipitation), you would be allocated that much per year (see the CIMIS map), which is enough to have the entire lot planted in grass.

If you live in the hotter, drier interior where the evapotranspiration demand is higher, you would be allocated more to achieve a kind of parity, so the level of "suffering" would be equitable. You might be allocated five or more acre feet per acre.

Look at the CIMIS map for your evapotranspiration (etozone) and compare it to your water bill's report of your consumption.

0

Twister July 23, 2015 @ 7:06 p.m.

Continued from previous post:

In other words, enough for any landscaping you desire, at the basic luxury consumption level. Indoor use is less than outdoor use (according to the authorities), so that would add a bit of additional water for the outside, giving anyone a comfortable margin for errorwatering. Any use above that amount would set off a water-rate increase formula with a ceiling (of, say, 200 percent?) that would fund the reward of those using less than their basic allocation.

If this level, in any given state of water supply would be excessive, the allocation level will shift accordingly.

This same kind of formula applies to agriculture. Farmers and industrial agriculture corporations would not be overcharged unless they wasted water in a seasonal cycle, and they could regain their waste penalty by not irrigating at all if they kept their fallow fields in a non-irrigated state but grew crops (wildflower seed or ?) that required no irrigation but kept the soil from blowing away in dust "storms."

Not perfect equity, perhaps, but far more equitable than the present system, and far more objective.

0

ecigcompany July 5, 2016 @ 10:01 p.m.

Interesting article with interesting information...

0

Sign in to comment