YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Fairness prevails with water rates

By From page A2 | December 19, 2012

NO MORE TIERS … while modest tiers for water use will remain during a two-year transition period beginning May 1 of next year, the City Council voted Tuesday night to permanently eliminate tiers after that for Davis water users … starting in the third year of the five-year rate plan the council approved, all residential water users will pay the same amount per gallon, whether they use two gallons a month or 200 gallons a month … no more pitting neighbor against neighbor … no more class warfare based on household size …

While it might have made more sense to eliminate tiers as well during the two-year transition period — council members seemed willing to go either way on this one — the Tier II break-off point was raised from 10 ccf per month to a much more family-friendly 18 ccf per month …

Had tiers been eliminated across the board for all five years, the water project itself might fare better at the ballot box in March, but what the council approved Tuesday night is a vast improvement on what was being considered just last week … it goes a long way toward putting all Davis water users on equal footing and gives them certainty about the size of their future bills and the steps they might take to control them … that option was not available in previous plans the council was considering …

The whole matter will now go through the Proposition 218 process, where ratepayers will be notified by mail in January of the proposed rates for all five years … those ratepayers then will have 45 days to file a formal written protest of the rates with the city … if a majority of Davis ratepayers file protests, the rates cannot be instituted … this process is not to be confused with the ballot measure on the water project itself, which will be decided on March 5 in a straight up-or-down mail-only vote … for sure, water rates will spike considerably for everyone over the next five years, but the pain will be shared equally … that’s about the best anyone can hope for, given that $113 million isn’t likely to appear out of thin air …

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? … because our water usage tends to go up in our long, hot summers when grass and trees and zucchini are extremely thirsty, some folks in town claim outdoor water use should be dramatically curtailed to conserve water … they also claim the only difference between a low-water user and a high-water user is how much water the latter “wastes” on outdoor use … household size, they claim, has nothing to do with it …

Well, if only outdoor use sends our meters spinning, why does the city spend so much money offering rebates for things like low-flow toilets, which, last time I checked, are all indoors? … yes, summer water bills are higher than winter water bills because you’re adding outdoor use to normal indoor use …

My good friend Don, who knows a thing or two about growing stuff, says he has been “a little frustrated hearing people suggest that outdoor watering is somehow less valid than indoor. Point: people actually eat stuff they grow with that wasteful water.” … indeed … in fact, I thought growing — and eating — your own sweet corn and beefsteak tomatoes and apricots and oranges and lemons was the exact definition of “sustainability,” a buzz word this town has absolutely fallen in love with …

Besides, one of the very best things kids can do with their spare time is to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, water them and marvel at the miracle of how one tiny black watermelon seed can produce so many great big juicy watermelons … I hope that the pure joy and amazement that this causes never disappears in our town …

PEDAL POWER … my friend Al at ucdavis.edu forwards a piece from the widely read journal “Governing” that notes “16.6 percent — portion of people who bike to work in Davis, Calif., which is more than any other city in the country.” … eat your heart out, Fort Collins …

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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