Pasadena Puts Hold on Plans to Save Water : Drought: Directors are split on two approaches. The city staff is ordered to form alternative plans by May 7.


City directors--split between two water-rationing approaches--put all plans on hold Tuesday.

Some directors favored mandating a 15% cut in usage for all customers, while others want to impose higher rates for excessive consumption.

Directors told the Department of Water and Power staff to come up with alternative plans by May 7.

"Our focus ought to be to help the large residential and large commercial users to change their plumbing and their technology to conserve," said Director Rick Cole, who favored higher rates for excess use.

But Directors William Thomson and Kathryn Nack, who recalled the opposition two years ago to a proposed tiered system that would have hit large water users with extremely high rates, were reluctant to revive that idea. They favored an across-the-board cutback of 15%.

Cole, along with Mayor Jess Hughston and Director William Paparian, favored the city cutting back its own use by 15% and using the estimated $150,000 it would cost to implement rationing for a conservation program instead.

Because of the drought, the water department last month proposed mandatory 20% cuts based on 1989 usage to comply with cutbacks imposed by the Metropolitan Water District. The rationing would have gone into effect June 1.

But because 22 inches of rain fell last month, the staff revised its suggested cuts to 15%. Cole called the rationing plan unfair because it would require all customers to cut back by the same amount, even though the average water user consumes just 6,732 gallons monthly while some users consume more than three times that amount. Cole suggested price incentives for conservation and penalties for excess water consumption.

But Nack and Thomson objected. "I remember the discussion of two years ago, I remember it very vividly," Thomson said. "I don't want staff to scrap rationing and come back with what we went through with two years ago."

Under the rationing plan currently proposed by the water department, penalties would be imposed for failing to comply with the 15% cutbacks. The average residential user who consumes 13,464 gallons of water and pays $14.17 each bimonthly billing period would pay $25.69, including penalties, if consumption stayed the same. The fee would be $11.56 if usage was decreased by 15%.

For a large residential user now paying $63.88 for 56,100 gallons every two months, the rate would be $126.35 for the same amount but $59.89 for a 15% reduction.

Small commercial users paying $163 for 118,000 gallons would pay $274 for the same consumption or $152 for conserving 15%. Large commercial users paying $1,145 for 897,000 gallons would pay $1,962 for the same consumption and $988 for conserving 15%.

Nearly 60 residents appeared at Tuesday's meeting, most opposed to rationing.

The board should find ways to meet water needs, not impose lifestyle changes, said east Pasadena resident David Powell.

Clifford Benedict, a Lower Hastings Ranch resident, said he already had installed conservation devices. "Now, if you want me to reduce another 10 to 20%, I don't know where it's supposed to come from," he said.

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