The majority of California’s cities and water districts charge “tiered” water-rates. Tiered rates foster conservation; they penalize people who use extravagant amounts.
But tiered rates are in jeopardy. A California appeals court ruled last month that San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates violate the state Constitution.
Water-rate tiers are based on the amount you use. If you use a low amount, you are in the low-rate tier and are charged the lowest rate. If you use a huge amount, you are in the upper tier and are charged the highest water rate.
The court almost apologized for its ruling against the tier rates. It said the decision wasn’t based on what is right or on what is more reasonable, but on what conforms to a state constitutional amendment that we voters approved in 1996.
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That amendment prohibits government agencies from charging us more for a service than the agency’s cost of providing it. That sounds reasonable. I may have voted for it. Who knew it might permit wealthy people to take more than their fair share of our water?
The appeals court didn’t outlaw tiered water rates completely. It returned them to the lower court, which is to seek a way to let them continue. I hope that happens, but I’m pessimistic.
Consider this tale of two Southern California communities. It was in Monday’s Tribune. Last summer in Cowan Heights, the average person consumed 572 gallons of the water per day. And about 30 miles away in Compton, the daily rate per person was 64 gallons.
Guess which community was described as “working class” and which as “a lush oasis of wealth and comfort.”
But, will raising wealthy homeowners’ water bills actually motivate them to conserve water? The article said such people may not even know how much water they use. I guess their gardeners or property managers or secretaries take care of that stuff.
I’ve never known anyone that wealthy. Well, maybe there was guy in my basic training platoon in the Army. He was friendly. I liked him. But he never washed his clothes or sent them to the GI laundry. He just went to the PX or Commissary and bought new. His foot locker must have been full of dirty clothes.
But regardless of what wealthy people may or may not do, I’m not watering my lawn this year or maybe ever again. It will become an authentic California yard.