14 May 2008

Rationing in NorCal

EBMUD has announced mandatory cutbacks:
The proposal requires water users to cut the number of gallons they use from 5 to 30 percent, depending on the type of user. For instance, a family of four would be required to use 19 percent less water; a golf course 30 percent; a refinery 5 percent. In addition, the proposal would ban the use of water to clean off sidewalks and patios; irrigating on consecutive days; and washing cars with hoses lacking shutoff nozzles.

Along with restrictions on use, the board is expected to discuss proposals for incentives and enforcement measures, which include a temporary 10 percent hike in water rates across the board, fines for those whose use exceeds benchmarks set by the district and, in cases of severe violations, reducing water flows or disconnecting water service. A separate vote on pricing will take place in early July after a period for public comment.
You can see from the article that EBMUD believes that threats of fines and cut-offs are a necessary addition to its wimpy 10 percent increase in prices. As you can also see, EBMUD is requiring the smallest cut from one of its biggest users (the refinery) and the biggest cuts from golf courses. Although I see the economic rationale behind these cuts, I fail to see why anyone should get special treatment on cuts.

I would prefer to see far higher price increases (start at 50% and then move up to 200-300% increases for high volumes -- while leaving "base rates" unchanged to protect/reward watermisers) and no rationing at all. Since rationing is based on past use, it's also based on past waste -- more waste in the past makes it easier to cut by 5-30 percent now.

Bottom Line: EBMUD, like you and I, has no idea of where water savings can be made at lowest cost. It should set higher prices and then let its customers figure out whether it's a good idea to water the sidewalks (or refine more gasoline).

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