Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bob Dunning: A Davis dilemma: conservation vs. cheap water


From page A2 | July 18, 2014 |

GET IT WHILE IT’S HOT … generally, in times of shortage for a particular commodity, the price of that commodity rises, sometimes dramatically … however, in the wild and wonderful world of Davis water rates, just the opposite is true … at least for the next few months …

Indeed, even as the governor has called for a 20 percent statewide reduction in our water use, and the state Water Board is threatening water wasters with a $500 fine, and we remain in the throes of a drought of biblical proportions, water rates in Davis have plunged … at least temporarily … yes, thanks to the passage of Measure P last month, Davisites will now pay just $1.50 per ccf, with the rate rising to $1.90 per ccf when the household uses more than 18 ccf per month …

In today’s bone-dry climate, those are bargain-basement, fire-sale rates that will not come around again in anyone’s lifetime … even Noah would be happy floating his ark at those rates … in other words, the local cardiologist is warning us all to cut down our consumption of red meat just as the meat market has lowered the price of prime cut ribeye steaks to 59 cents a pound …

Will Davisites really be able to conserve during the long hot summer with water rates at $1.50 per ccf or will they wait until Nov. 1 when the rates are likely to nearly double? … human nature being what it is, I’m betting on the latter …

SPEAKING OF RATES … by 2019, when water rates reach a whopping five bucks per ccf, Davis is likely to look more like a town in the Mojave Desert than a once-green town that cherished its beautiful lawns and mature trees … there is justifiable concern that those rates will drive some folks out of business, or at least out of town … safe to say, had the Davis City Council had the courage to put those specific rates on the ballot along with the surface water project in March of 2013, both the rates and the project would have failed …

EVEN MORE RATE CONCERNS … unfortunately, Proposition 218 forbids giving low-income households a break on their water bills, but it doesn’t prevent the city of Davis from devising other ways to help those who may have trouble paying for the water they use … the city already has a modest plan in place to the tune of $10 a month in aid to those requesting it, but it would be easy to include a place on our water bills to voluntarily add a few dollars to a fund to specifically address this problem … I’m sure many of the citizens in this fine town would be happy to contribute …

WE DOTH PROTESTETH ENOUGH … true, the city still has to go through a cumbersome Proposition 218 protest procedure before it can force any new rate structure on the town, but a cease-fire has been declared by all sides in the Water War and any protest movement will quickly fizzle and die … with approximately 8,000 formal protests necessary to overturn the new rates, this town won’t generate even 5 percent of that … the water project and the sky-high rates that come with it are both here to stay … water your plants at your own risk … or at least when no one’s looking …

A SOLUTION IS AT HAND … later this summer I plan to tow a backhoe to the Oregon side of the Columbia River, then dig a trench along Interstate 5 to bring all that fresh water directly to my parched front lawn … I will be more than happy to share the water with anyone willing to kick in for gas money …

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]





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