- This Southern California water purveyor (Antelope Valley) will punish "users" who go above "average" use.
- This one (California Water) has developed a water budget for each household
In the second case, it's common to include headcounts (gathered one way or another) as well as landscaping area. I dislike this system because "lawns" have a right to a budget allocation, just the same as people. I think people are more important.*** Further, budgets are VERY expensive to implement, given their data intensity.
As I've said before, I'd set one price of water for all use and raise that price in drought to prevent shortages. Higher prices will cut down on outdoor "waste." Would they penalize the poor? Not if they have a low per capita use (and thus low per capita bill). My suggestion of rebating excess revenues is also progressive, as it creates a net transfer from heavy to light users.
Why don't water managers take my advice? First, I think they like taking "off-the-shelf" solutions from consultants (like those above), rather than trying new ideas (even if those have been used for hundreds of years in other sectors). Second, I think they dislike the idea of setting one price and allowing customers to choose their use (this is why there are water cops [funny!] rather than higher prices). Third, they are "not allowed" to collect too much money, but this is untrue, given the long-standing use of "rate stabilization funds," etc.
Bottom Line: Don't manage my water use. Manage demand for the whole system.
* The American fear of "being counted" has been attributed to concerns about privacy, vulnerability to exploitation, and/or the return of the AntiChrist ("And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads" -- Rev 13:16). Here's a rebuttal.
** Social security numbers are supposed to be used for retirement, but they are used by banks et al. to track accounts and avoid tax fraud. That practice is semi-legal but tolerated because America has no national identification card scheme. That lack (see *) complicates welfare, voting, and many other government programs.
*** Los Angeles Water and Power has a perverse system of subsidizing lawns without helping people.
H/T to JF