Is the Los Angeles County Waterworks discriminating against ¾-inch meter customers?
Based on the disparity of water allocations between 1-inch and ¾-inch property owners, it would seem so.
I read your June 18, 2015, article summarizing the Topanga Town Council meeting regarding the recent conservation measures. In it, it states: “target usage amounts are based on each customer’s past use, not on an average across the district.” This is incorrect. Like many in our Water District, the target allocation notification, listing target allocations and 2014 usage amounts confused me.
For clarification, I spoke with Timothy Lippman in Sheila Kuehl’s office. He explained that target allocations are: first, based on reducing 2013 use averages by 36 percent; and, second, based on overall district use averages by meter size.
[Regarding the listing of 2014 allocations], he continued: the individual household’s 2014 water usage is noted on the allocation notification solely as a reference point for 2015-16 conservation planning.
I continued my preliminary investigation into this matter by comparing water bills and water usage with several Woodland Crest neighbors. Despite our sharing similar water use patterns, there is a huge disparity in allocations between ¾-inch and 1-inch meter customers. I belong to the ¾-inch camp: our water allocation is 30 units for the July-August billing cycle, compared to 1-inch meter’s 53 units; and is as low as 16 units for the January-February months, compared to 1-inch meter’s 28 units. Theree-quarter-inch meter property owners are denied 43 percent fewer water units each billing cycle to that of our 1-inch meter neighbors’ respective billing cycle allocations. I fail to recognize the equitability.
Finding the meter size averages an inequitable and discriminatory methodology to conservation, I attended the June 2, 2015 hearing in downtown Los Angeles. “Joe Public” was given an opportunity to voice his and her concerns and complaints. Several Board members, including Supervisor Kuehl, also expressed concerns, but she seemed satisfied with Deputy Director Hildebrand’s responses. The Board of Supervisors approved the methodology and Phased Conservation Plan.
How did the Board find this methodology equitable when, during the 2009 drought and water mandate, each property owner, both ¾ and 1-inch meter customers, received the exact same target allocations?
After several weeks of daily e-mails and telephone calls to the Water District’s Malibu Field office, Supervisor Kuehl’s office, and the Department of Public Works, searching for answers and complaining of meter size discrimination, I received a letter from Deputy Director Hildebrand. In it he explains that using similar meter size and overall all district averages rewards water conservation and penalizes water abusers.
He also writes: “1-inch meter customers receive significantly higher water allocations because they consume double the amount of water used by ¾-inch households.” He says that larger property owners must reduce water consumption even more; and that the allocations and penalties encourage further conservation.
First, I would argue that there is no way to determine whether or not an individual is conserving, based solely on overall district averages. Next, we cannot expect a one- to three-acre property owner, with three children, a pool, and maybe a horse or pony to consume as little water as the single person property owner, whose property is, say, a quarter of an acre or less, has no pool, and minimal landscaping needs.
Lastly, to suggest that because a 1-inch customer uses more water and, therefore, receives more water is to neglect actual household and property size and needs; and, even suggests a bias in favor of 1-inch customers.
I maintain that using meter size to calculate target allocations is unreasonable. Meter size dictates only water flow rates: 50 gallons/minute for 1-inch meters, and 30 gallons/minute for ¾-inch meters. Only household size, property size, whether or not a property owner keeps horses, goats, and chickens and has a pool, among other factors, determines actual water usage and requirements.
As a possible solution to my complaints over inequitable distribution of allocations, Hildebrand and his chief engineer (I spoke with him several times over the past month) suggested that if I want the same allocations as my 1-inch neighbor, I have the option to upgrade my meter. Out of curiosity, I applied for the upgrade: $5200, plus the cost of the contractor to install the meter, which, I was told, could be an additional $1000-$2000.
Speculatively speaking, if every ¾-inch household in our district (approximately 5000) upgraded to a 1-inch meter, thereby consuming double the water, as Hildebrand states, would our Los Angeles County Waterworks still meet their State mandated 36 percent water reduction?
If the goal is to reduce water consumption, it seems odd that during this allegedly worst drought in 100 years that the water powers-that-be would suggest upgrading water meters, thereby consuming more water. One must, at the very least, consider the possibility that the water allocations are exaggerated, even severe; or, what some individuals might consider Draconian.
Please do not mistake my comments as a criticism to all conservation. I have made great efforts to reduce water usage over the past six years. Since the 2009 drought and conservation plan, not only did I reduce water consumption by the mandated 15 percent, I cut an additional 35 percent from my overall six-year average water use.
I am willing to make further reasonable water reductions during this current drought. However, as a Water District 29 consumer and as a Los Angeles County District 3 constituent, I will not be discriminated against for having purchased a home equipped with a ¾-inch meter.