Counter-productive, counter-intuitive

Liberty Cut

“The problem is that a perfect storm of factors has come together for the district.”

Customers at a suburban Sacramento County water district are getting slapped with hefty rate increases for doing the right thing – using less water – because the decline in water use is contributing to a decline in revenues for the local water agency. And the agency isn’t alone.

Something is wrong with this picture.

The Carmichael Water District seeks an 18 percent rate hike on Jan. 1, in addition to an even larger increase that already has been approved through the next three years.

The problem is that a perfect storm of factors has come together for the district: Water use has dropped 25 percent, in part because of conservation and wet weather, because homes have been shuttered through foreclosure and aren’t using water at all and customers, hoping to save money in the face of rate increases, are using less water still. It’s a Catch-22 and a detailed description of the issue can be seen here.

The problem is not limited to suburban Sacramento. Local and regional water districts face the twin-whammy of high-fixed costs to support infrastructure and operations and legal requirements to cut water use. The dichotomy has long been a problem; with a swelling population and demands on services it is likely to get worse. During the drought, some water agencies impose rate hikes on those who don’t conserve water, leaving the customer to feel that he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Quite rightly, too.

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