Poking Holes in L.A.'s Water Rates

* In your Nov. 21 editorial concerning the city's blue-ribbon committee on water rates, you state that "conservation was the issue of predominant concern" in creating the new rate structure. I take issue with that statement for the following reasons:

* The drought is over. One has only to see acres of land flooded for rice cultivation and full reservoirs to realize that.

* Urban use of water is only 10% of the water used.

* There is no other attempt by other city departments to conserve water, such as with a restriction on new building permits.

* During the drought, voluntary conservation was adequate.

The real reason for the two-tiered rate system was stated by the chairman of the committee when he said that as a result of the rate structure, three-fourths of the users had lower rates while one-fourth had higher rates. It is obvious that the purpose of the two-tiered water rate is to redistribute income. I believe that this is an inappropriate use of water rates.

City Councilman Hal Bernson's request to have a new committee appointed is a reasonable one, since the original committee will be loath to admit that its real motivation for establishing a two-tiered water rate was to have one-fourth of users subsidize three-fourths of the users, and that the issue of conserving water was a red herring.

CLARENCE WIGGINS

Northridge

* I am writing concerning your story of Nov. 13 titled "Bernson Urges Disbanding of Water Rate Panel."

Your story stated that the second tier rate kicks in at twice the "average" usage by a Department of Water and Power residential customer. You should have used "median" single-family residential customer. The median as calculated by the blue-ribbon committee was about 50% below the average.

You also stated that only about one-fourth of customers paid higher rates, while the remainder enjoyed reductions. Actually, we all have had higher rates because the committee used 1993 projected increased rates in its 1992 report, amounting to about 50% above the base cost of $1.12 per hundred cubic feet.

That increase included the "temporary" drought surcharge of 18 cents per hundred cubic feet. This was the only way the DWP could advertise falsely that some customers would get lower bills. The United States Congress uses these same tactics.

JOHN J. COX

Woodland Hills

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