As the drought went on people became more and more concerned, not only with the gallons of water saved but, with the amount of money that could be saved by participating in a Water Management Program. At that time most people were interested in any method of water conservation that would save them money. Most people knew that saving water would take a lot of effort but they also knew that if a Water Management Program was efficient, then they would save money. The amount of money saved while following a Water Management Program is one way to tell how well the program works. If people see a decrease in their water bill while maintaining a healthy lawn and landscape, then they quickly see that Water Management works.
Our client base is in Contra Costa County, and EBMUD and the Contra Costa Water District differ on the cost of a unit, so it was hard for us to come up with a figure that was representative of each of our clients. We were lucky to come across an article in the Oakland Tribune, EBMUD Targets Big Water Use. This article helped us to determine a universal water rate that would be representative of everyone. This rate was determined by a unit, which is approximately 750 gallons of water. A unit costs approximately $1.37.
This article also included a recommended amount of water per day. Considering the size of the landscapes that we were surveying, in hot dry Contra Costa County, it was impossible for our clients to stay within that recommended amount. So we knew that in most cases our clients were using more water than was recommended. The unit cost ($1.37), that we are using is located on the second chart in the article under Water Rate Changes. This figure represents those who are using more than 250 gallons of water per day.
The rate that we use in our survey ($1.37 per unit), is just an approximation in order to give you an idea of how much water was saved. The only exact figure that we give you is the amount of water used by each client. The size and rate of a unit may be off slightly because these are variable figures, but the amount of water used is accurate because the water use was calculated by the Water District. We have included the entire article so that you will be able to see where our information came from.
The Oakland Tribune
March 9, 1993
EBMUD targets big water users
Top level's rates may stay high
By Tracie Reynolds
OAKLAND - Increased water rates were easy to swallow during the drought. But even though the rains have returned, East Bay water officials may be asking some people to continue paying more. They need the revenue.
Officials of the East Bay Municipal Utility District favor keeping higher water rates for big water users. For one thing. they need to balance the budget. For another, they need to recover $6 million in lost drought-related revenue to replenish reserves.
For the first time in EBMUD's 71-year-old history, the district is considering imposing a rising tiered rate structure - charging bigger water users a higher rate than other customers - when there is no drought emergency. The proposal, which comes up at the board's meeting Tuesday. Is threatening to spark a political uproar, mostly from those who thought they were going to pay less for water once the rains finally came.
It's certain once again to agitate the political tensions, philosophical differences and deep-seated regional rivalries that bave existed across the East Bay for years. The scuffle pits the hotter and heavily landscaped suburban inland users against the cooler and citied Bayside users.
In fact, the issue has grown so tense some Contra Costa County residents have again raised the idea of splitting the district in two.
EBMUD's directors are looking at three main proposals:
Or, they could decide to do something completely different. Supporters of the tiered rate call It unbiased, anti-waste and egalitarian. Critics call it unfair, anti-suburban and discriminatory. Some even say it's illegal.
- To take the district back to a $ 1.10 a unit flat rate, but there's little support for his because it would cause a $2.5 million deficit.
- To impose a higher flat rate of $1.29.
- To keep a two-tiered rate. Those using under 250 gallons a day would pay$1.10 a unit and those using more would pay $1.37 a unit
In fact, if EBMUD's customers conserved as much water as the board wanted, they'd bankrupt the district, said Charles Brydorf, spokesman for W.A.T.E.R., or Water Allocation Through Equitable Rates. He said If everyone cut back water use to 250 gallons, EBMUD would lose about $12 million a year, or about one- eighth of Its $166 million operating budget.
Even EBMUD agrees more conservation would create a fiscal crisis. All the district's budgetary calculations are based on a 10 percent conservation rate, but most expect people to conserve much more than that and every 1 percent increase in conservation equals a $1 million, loss for the district, EBMUD board member John Coleman said.
"It would be an economic disaster," said Coleman. the lone board member who is behind the flat rate.
Paying more for water is even harder to accept, critics say when EBMUD hasn't offered to, cut expenses. The board voted itself a 10 percent pay raise in January and approved hiring 60 new employees last June.
"All they have to do is raise rates. They're a monopoly and they can get away with it" said Dave Abbot of Danville, another member of W.A.T.E.R. But Nancy Nadel, an EBMUD board member, said the tiered rates are not meant to punish or discriminate against any group, They are meant to tell people who use a lot of water that they better prepare to pay for it, drought or no drought, she said. The East Bay debate over fair water rates has intensified ever since Gov. Pete Wilson declared the drought officially over on Feb. 24. EBMUD decided to drop its drought rates on Feb. 9 and will discuss what the post-drought rates will look like from April I to June 30 at its hearing Tuesday. In July, the board will adopt its 1993-94 budget and sei new rates for the coming year.
EBMUD instituted Its multi- tiered rate structure as an emergency measure in 1988, saying it would penalize water wasters and encourage conservation.
But EBMUD's detractors question the board's real interest in conservation. They claim EBMUD's rates are designed to increase revenue, not encourage water-saving, and penalize those with the least political clout - those living in the district's eastern flank, an area represented by only one member of EBMUD's board.
Only one of EBMUD's seven directors strongly favors a permanent return to a flat rate, as the board indicated it would do when the drought came to a close.
The rest are leaning toward a tiered rate, saying It's necessary to make sure people continue to conserve in a state grappling with chronic water shortages, environmental regulations and population growth. Water agencies statewide are looking at tiered rates as an effective way to manage California's increasingly precious resource.
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