GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Opinion: local media sends confusing message on San Diego’s water conservation efforts

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 22, 2009

More confusion.

Today on KPBS Radio’s These Days program, Maureen Cavanaugh interviewed Mike Lee, reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune, to discuss whether outstanding water conservation efforts in the community means success or if there are unintended consequences.

Ms. Cavanaugh pointed to the relaxation of rules on reduced watering schedules that begin in November and offered the premise that water departments may be doing that because conservation has reduced revenues needed for operating costs. For the most part, Mike Lee went along with that assessment. The implication being that water departments may be forced to increase the price of water if consumers don’t use more water. Catch-22.

In the city of San Diego, that’s just not the way it works. The San Diego Water Department charges a fixed ‘base’ fee for operating expenses. The water ‘used’ fee is separate and by law goes only toward the cost of the water. If the water used fee goes up, it’s because the the water department has to pay more for it. On the other hand, you can use no water at all but you’ll still pay the fixed base fee for those operating expenses.

The San Diego Water Department will face increased water prices in January 2010, which is when their suppliers (Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and California San Diego County Water Authority) will raise their price for water, so San Diegans can expect to see bills go up again. The fixed water base fee may go up too, due to increased operating expense. Almost certainly both fees will go up, but not because people have reduced their consumption.

Athough some water districts do draw operating expenses from their water fees and consequently their operating budget is squeezed when consumers reduce consumption, the San Diego Water Department doesn’t do it that way.

If the San Diego mainstream news media wants to suggest that reduced water use affects revenues for operating expenses, they should explain the intricacies and be specific to which agencies they are referring.

Click here to listen to the KPBS These Days interview.

One Response to “Opinion: local media sends confusing message on San Diego’s water conservation efforts”

  1. Callie said

    thanks for the great post. Best regards

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