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Secret to reducing Claremont water bills: use less

By Peter Weinberger

This column is not going to be an emotional plea to the Golden State Water Company (GSW) to stop messing around with our water rates in search of more profits. Nor will it side with the unpopular minority views stating that Claremont residents use tons of water, costing huge resources to maintain, while the city has no idea what they are getting into.

While both sides make passionate arguments, backed by numerous facts and figures, they tend to become blurred when used to support various opinions.

The city of La Verne comes into both arguments too. The League of Women Voters in Claremont compared water usage in La Verne and Claremont because of their similar size, water quality, use per customer and age of infrastructure. The League concluded that via the city owned, nonprofit municipal system, the average bill for a La Verne resident is $52 less each month than that of a Claremonter.

Exact figures of water usage are hard to come by. What we do know is both Claremont and La Verne residents use about 20 percent more water than the southern California average. Claremont in particular has what many call “super-users.” Most of these residents live north of Base Line Road and average 3 to 5 times more than average. The most likely reason for the increased usage is the large lot sizes, swimming pools and larger families who live north of Base Line.

With this kind of water usage, we may not like to hear the vague word “infrastructure,” but more water used can translate to increasing costs to keep the tap running smoothly.

What kind of impact does this have on pricing for other conservation-minded residents? No one except GSW knows for sure.

We also cannot ignore the fact many people are not concerned about conserving water and simply can afford to pay their bill whatever the rates. Even with the 3 levels of tiered pricing (rates increase the more water used), it’s clear when 38 percent* of Claremont residents end up in the most expensive, tier 3 levels, something is wrong.

It’s no secret there’s been a loud rhetoric from many sources on water usage and pricing issues. Unfortunately, most views are partially correct. There are politicians with great ideas on spending tax money. Needless to say, there has not been much love lost between the city and GSW.

On one hand, GSW says they are trying to give users who conserve a break by charging more to big water users. Tiered pricing encourages people to conserve, which is a key goal for the water company. On the surface, this looks like sound policy.

On the other hand, it’s easy to accuse GSW of price gouging by having tiered pricing, because it’s another way residents can be charged more. Why not one price for all like La Verne? Given the way our water bills have increased over the last few years, it’s easy to understand why Claremonters see this as just another way to reach into our pocketbooks.

Now before you write a letter to the COURIER (although our editor Kathryn Dunn is always ready), I’d like to ask a simple question. Would Claremont’s price problems look different if we, as a city, simply used less water? I think they would.

What’s sad is there are many residents who do a great job conserving water. And I think more people will make this a priority in the future. Unfortunately, the super-users not only skew usage figures, it gives GSW more reasons to keep increasing prices.

 

*Figure provided by the Golden State Water Company.

 

 

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