his column is not going to be an emo-tional plea to the Golden State WaterCompany (GSW) to stop messing aroundwith our water rates in search of more profits.Nor will it side with the unpopular minorityviews stating that Claremont residents use tonsof water, costing huge resources to maintain,while the city has no idea what they are gettinginto.
While both sides make passionate arguments, backed by nu-merous facts and figures, they tend to become blurred when usedto support various opinions.The city of La Verne comes into both arguments too. TheLeague of Women Voters in Claremont compared water usagein La Verne and Claremont because of their similar size, waterquality, use per customer and age of infrastructure. The Leagueconcluded that via the city owned, nonprofit municipal system,the average bill for a La Verne resident is $52 less each monththan that of a Claremonter.Exact figures of water usage are hard to come by. What we doknow is both Claremont and La Verne residents use about 20percent more water than the southern California average. Clare-mont in particular has what many call “super-users.” Most of these residents live north of Base Line Road and average 3 to 5times more than average. The most likely reason for the in-creased usage is the large lot sizes, swimming pools and largerfamilies who live north of Base Line.With this kind of water usage, we may not like to hear thevague word “infrastructure,” but more water used can translateto increasing costs to keep the tap running smoothly.What kind of impact does this have on pricing for other con-servation-minded residents? No one except GSW knows forsure.We also cannot ignore the fact many people are not concernedabout conserving water and simply can afford to pay their billwhatever the rates. Even with the 3 levels of tiered pricing (ratesincrease the more water used), it’s clear when 38 percent* of Claremont residents end up in the most expensive, tier 3 levels,something is wrong.It’s no secret there’s been a loud rhetoric from many sourceson water usage and pricing issues. Unfortunately, most viewsare partially correct. There are politicians with great ideas onspending tax money. Needless to say, there has not been muchlove lost between the city and GSW.On one hand, GSW says they are trying to give users whoconserve a break by charging more to big water users. Tieredpricing encourages people to conserve, which is a key goal forthe water company. On the surface, this looks like sound policy.On the other hand, it’s easy to accuse GSW of price gougingby having tiered pricing, because it’s another way residents canbe charged more. Why not one price for all like La Verne? Giventhe way our water bills have increased over the last few years,it’s easy to understand why Claremonters see this as just anotherway to reach into our pocketbooks.Now before you write a letter to the COURIER (although oureditor Kathryn Dunn is always ready), I’d like to ask a simplequestion. Would Claremont’s price problems look different if we, as a city, simply used less water? I think they would.What’s sad is there are many residents who do a great job con-serving water. And I think more people will make this a priorityin the future. Unfortunately, the super-users not only skew usagefigures, it gives GSW more reasons to keep increasing prices.
*Figure provided by the Golden State Water Company.
by Peter Weinberger
Claremont COURIER/Friday, July 5, 2013
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