CONSERVATION IS WORKING AS CUSTOMERS CUT WATER USE COUNTYWIDE
By Miriam Raftery
September 1, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) –If you're going to be a water hog, it's going to cost you. But even those who have already conserved will see a water rise on their next bills. Homeowners and businesses in the Helix Water Distirct will be paying 21% more for water usage starting today. Yet even before the rate hikes took effect, Helix customers were already cutting consumption—saving 13% on water usage in July.
“You’re getting less, but you’re going to pay more,” Helix Water Board President Richard Smith told ratepayers at a public hearing last month, when the Board voted to approve the new rate plan. Helix scrapped an earlier proposal that would have levied much higher price hikes on owners of large properties, after a joint investigative report by East County Magazine and Channel 10 news revealed allegations that the Board violated state open government laws.
The District has said the rate hikes are needed because the San Diego County Water Authority has cut the District’s water allocation by 8% and because water wholesale rates have shot up 25.4%. Helix has also imposed additional requirements to foster conservation, including asking customers without water-saving irrigation equipment to water only three days a week. Helix has also told some 900 irrigation customers that their rates will go up sharply if they exceed new water allotments.
Countywide, rate hikes coupled with restrictions on watering schedules and conservation incentives are having an impact. In June and July, the most recent months for which figures are available, water use dropped 21% and 16% respectively, according to the County Water Authority. Conservation rates ran as high as 22% in Poway, with most East County water districts showing double-digit reductions.
Some communities don’t seem to have gotten the message that there’s a water shortage. In Del Mar, water use dropped a scant 4%, while residents of Rainbow actually increased their water usage by 5%.