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We want fair, equitable water rates

By From page A6 | November 15, 2012

By Matt Williams

Bob giveth and Bob taketh away. On the one hand, the esteemed Mr. Dunning’s flattery of my perceptiveness on the “huge community mistake” comment was well … flattery. But then he turns around and declares the fiscally responsible proposed Loge-Williams rate structure “ludicrous” because he believes that four residents out of Davis’ 65,000 residents deserve special dispensation from the pope because they replaced their lawn with a rock garden. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

No one is proposing putting any ratepayer in a different tier based on prior consumption. What we are proposing is that everyone shoulder their fair share of the fixed costs of the water system that reliably delivers water to us here in Davis. In the rate system that Bob appears to support, a ratepayer who used 51 hundred cubic foot units (ccf) per year in 2011 paid $2.71 per ccf, while a ratepayer who used 600 times that amount (3,040 ccf) paid only 5 cents per ccf. Yes, you read that correctly … literally thousands of Davis ratepayers paid 600 times more per unit than other Davis ratepayers did.

My question to Bob is, “Why should the people who use very little water pay 600 times more than the people who use a whole lot of water?” That question is particularly meaningful when you realize that the Water Advisory Committee had to design in 600 times more capital expenditures on the surface water plant to support that high user than they had to design in to support the very low user.

What Bob is saying, in effect, is that four groups of Davis citizens should make recurring annual charitable donations to the large water users here in Davis. Those four groups are 1) senior citizens, 2) low-income residents, 3) residents who have unfortunately lost their jobs in this down economy and 4) residents who have worked hard to conserve water. For the first three of those groups, Bob appears to be playing reverse Robin Hood … taking from the have-nots and giving to the haves.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now for the rest of the story.” Using the fiscally responsible Loge-Williams rate model, the 5 cents-per-ccf high user of water would have paid 90 cents per ccf, and the $2.71-per-ccf careful user of water also would have paid 90 cents per ccf.

Paying the exact same amount per unit of water consumed is fair and equitable and proportional. You don’t need special dispensation from the pope or a new rock garden to know that 90 cents equals 90 cents and that 5 cents does not equal $2.71.

— Matt Williams is an alternate member of the Davis Water Advisory Committee and the creator, with fellow committee member Frank Loge, of a proposed water rate structure under consideration by the committee. He lives in El Macero.

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