Priced to Sale or Priced to Save?

Living in a state with a historic drought that is now going on year four we are bombarded by new information every day. Many receive a notices in the mail from their local governments letting them know about new and upcoming water restrictions. These letters and notices are great pieces of motivation and information for California residents, but do they really do anything?

In one of our earlier blog postings we touched on behavior modification and how that can make a difference when conserving energy, but can the same be said for water? Would behavior modification solve our drought wows or does California need to look into other options such as going to tiered water rates.

Many Californians are making an argument to move to tiered water rates, since our water future is in dyer straights. Sadly those advocating for this change face an up hill battle, since the state has proposition 218 that challenges this type of "cost of service." Proposition 218 was passed in 1996 and states that municipalities cannot impose fees for services that exceed the actual cost of the item. 

This proposition was challenged this April when San Juan Capistrano tried to impose a four-tiered water rate system. But when it went for approval a California appellate court ruled that imposing such a system was unconstitutional. The courts reasoning was allocating a higher cost to a higher user for means of conservation is against the law, but if you were to charge a higher price to a higher user only based on usage that would be just fine. 

As we sit in what is now titled a "drought emergency" many say we should implement the tiered water rates under the premise of higher users pay higher prices and not get hung up on the word conservation. Here at SJVCEO we truly believe in the word conservation, since it encompasses management and protection of our environment and natural resources. But....when it comes to natural resources being depleted because of the word we can let it slide for once. 

As a fellow Californian I believe that we should do all that we can to save water. Maybe having higher users pay a higher rate will force those users to make a change if they don't like their bills. Which I think in laments terms means forced behavior modification. 

But, every household will have its own view on how and what should be done to help with the drought in California. Let your household decide what is best when it comes to conserving water, but remember to keep saving!

"Ruling Forces California Water Districts to Review Water Rate," Apr. 21, 2015,

"Water Rates Under Prop. 218," Apr., 24, 2015,

Megadroughts: Our Future

Usually Seattle has cloudy skies and constant drizzle between mid October and late June and, to be honest, I was not looking forward to leaving Southern California for this weather. This winter, however, has been so mild. We’ve had as few as none and no more than four rainy days a week, which in comparison to just last year is nothing. The sun is shining now and it reached nearly 70 degrees just a couple of days ago. We're supposed to be smack dab in the middle of our very long rainy season! Clearly, the climate is changing. Not only are we Seattleites not getting a whole lot of rain or snowfall, but Californians have also received so little that there is approximately one year of water left. ONE year. That’s it.

A NASA water scientist calculated that all reservoir water, groundwater and backup supply water for the state of California will only last through the next year. Last winter, there
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was a drastic decrease in rain and snowfall and this year, there has been even less.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough urgency surrounding this issue. There have been a few local water restriction efforts set up throughout the state, but the golf courses in Palm Springs continue to be lush and green and not enough Los Angeles residents are participating in the Cash for Grass Rebate Program to alter their lawns. There hasn’t been a huge drive to create or enforce a statewide water conservation campaign.

To top it off, NASA predicts “megadroughts” to take over the Southwest and Great Plains starting sometime during the second half of this century. Each megadrought can last between 10 years and a few decades. So if you notice that our current water crisis is making it harder for Californians to live, farm, raise cattle, etc., just wait. This year, areas all over the state have had increased problems with water theft, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are fallowing an increased number of plots and reservoirs are at record lows. I hate being a Debbie Downer, but this is our future. 

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Most Californians, instead of creating a strategy to deal with this situation, just stare at the sky, hoping for a few drops of rain. Hoping won’t cut it at this point. The public needs to be involved in and prepared to substantially reduce water consumption and dependency, even more so than they have. Laws need to be implemented that will combat these issues with groundwater sustainability plans, enforced water use limitations and efficient technology innovations. Think we can do it? I do. But we need to act. The longer we wait, the less likely change and improvements will not only happen but be effective.

Update: Governor Brown and California lawmakers develop strategies for drought mitigation. And as of April 1st, water restrictions have been imposed, calling for 25% reduction on California's supply agencies. That's what I call progress!