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California

Newsletter: Water and Power: Customers pay for saving water

Your guide to the California drought from the Los Angeles Times.

NEWS AND POLICY

Water and dollars: Water customers in Apple Valley who succeeded in cutting their usage received a rude surprise on their bills — a surcharge for using less water. It's a Catch-22 for water customers: Conserving water means less revenue for water districts, which in turn leads to higher rates. In Apple Valley, the rates are reigniting a fight with Park Water Co., which is owned by the private equity firm Carlyle Group in Washington, D.C.

Science and drought: Global warming may be affecting California's drought by accelerating evaporation, but it's probably not the cause of the drought, nor is it responsible for the state's wildfires. That's in conflict with comments from Gov. Jerry Brown, who has blamed climate change for more intense and unpredictable fires. "That is the nature of politics, but sometimes the science really has to matter," said Roger Pielke, a University of Colorado climate change specialist.

ON THE GROUND

Parched patches: The drought is taking its toll on pumpkin patches put on by small "agritourism" farms. And even when farmers are able to grow pumpkins, they might not have enough water for the traditional elements that help create a Halloween wonderland. "We didn't have the water to grow all of the sunflowers and the maze — the things that make the patch. I don't want to look like the guy down the road who has just a tent and is throwing pumpkins on the ground," said Bob Lombardi, a farmer in Santa Clarita.

Poolside guilt: Demolish that swimming pool! That's the attitude among some homeowners now that California is four years into the drought. There's the expense, the upkeep and the guilt. "You have to keep replenishing the water. Of course we can afford it, but you feel it's unfair... And you definitely feel a little guilty," said one homeowner, who transformed his kidney-shaped pool into a pile of dirt.

Caught off base: Oakland A's executive Billy Beane has the distinction of being one of the top water users in the East Bay. His household went through 5,996 gallons a day. For perspective, the average East Bay Municipal Utility District customer consumes less than 250 gallons a day. "I certainly pay for it," Beane said of the water, much of which is used to irrigate his large lawn.

OFFBEAT

Gushing water: In a San Francisco public housing project, one woman's efforts to conserve water were thwarted by an unruly bathroom fixture and bureaucratic indifference. Water gushed out of Starnisha Bryant's bathtub 24 hours a day for two months. The pressure finally built up so much that water shot out of the pipe attached to the washing machine, flooding the entire apartment. And the whole time, Bryant's calls to management about the water problems went ignored.

Put away the plastic: Restaurant owners in Fort Bragg will not have to rely on disposable plates and utensils after all. The City Council had approved a requirement that establishments move to paper or plastic to save water on washing dishes. After recognizing the expense such a rule would create, city leaders decided to make it a recommendation rather than a rule.

BIG IDEAS

"I don't care what else you do in these mansions, but when hard-working Angelenos from all walks of life are ripping out their lawns, putting buckets in their showers with them in order to water their plants and flushing their toilets only once a day, it's not only unfair, it’s ridiculous." – L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz on wealthy customers who use excessive amounts of water without penalty

"Ultimately, the market will show how feasible the development is when the water goes down. Then residents can decide if they want move to Fresno or Des Moines."
– David Fey, executive officer of the Fresno County Local Agency Formation Commission on the future of growth in drought country

DROUGHT SNAPSHOT

As Huntington Lake recedes, tree stumps are left exposed. The reservoir is part of the San Joaquin River watershed. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

DAILY TIP

After years of dry weather, here are 28 things you can do to prepare your home for El Niño's rains. "It's time to get your head in the game. Preparing your house, your yard, your car and your insurance — now — can be the best hedge against an unpredictable season."

LOOKING AHEAD

Thursday:  The Metropolitan Water District will host a workshop on the "Water Tomorrow'' plan to meet the region's future water needs.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.


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