Readers React

Want a lush lawn? Pay more for water, or move out of California

To the editor: I was very disappointed to read about the state appeals court decision invalidating San Juan Capistrano's tiered rate structure. As they tell us in Economics 101, incentives matter. ("Appeals court throws out San Juan Capistrano's tiered water-use rates," April 20)

The fact is that people who want their yards to resemble the estate of an English lord are being subsidized by the rest of us. They are not paying the full cost of delivering those large volumes of water. Those costs are externalized, both geographically — since they affect a broad swath of ecosystems and human communities — and temporally, as they will be borne by our children, who will face depleted aquifers and a further degraded environment.

If the courts find themselves constrained, then we need to prevail on our legislators to change the law so that our water fees include all of the real costs of providing 160 gallons of water, every day, to one person living in a place that gets 13 inches of rain per year.

Those who wish to live in a landscape like that of Lord Crawley should move to one of the states with year-round rainfall and not expect their California neighbors to subsidize their fantasies.

Janet Wolcott, Altadena

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To the editor: One fact concerning water rates that your article did not mention is the per-customer monthly charge that most water districts impose regardless of how much the customer uses.

I live in Glendale, one of the cities affected by this ruling, and on my latest water bill I paid about $50 per month. However, of this only about $13 is based on my meter readings. The other $37 is the "Water Customer Charge," which I must pay regardless of use levels.

When I did the math I found that it costs me less than a nickel to waste a bathtub full of water. If my wife and I were to take draconian measures and reduce our water usage 50%, we would save a mere $6.50 per month, hardly an adequate financial incentive to conserve.

If water districts would eliminate their monthly charge and simply raise the per-gallon rate to make up the difference, this would give a real financial reward to those of us who are doing our best to conserve and an incentive to those who are not to reduce their usage.

Steve Mills, Glendale

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To the editor: California should follow in the footsteps of our friends in Israel, who live with drought cycles due to the desert nature of most of the country.

They built desalination plants that now satisfy about one-third of their potable water needs. They are building new plants that will result in desalination providing most of Israel's water.

Also, they take care of their agricultural needs by using drip irrigation rather than the wasteful water spraying that we do in California.

If we follow in Israel's footsteps, our cost for water and new infrastructure will be somewhat painful for a while. But we will never have a drought again.

David Kaye, Granada Hills

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