In their argument for Measure P, Sue Greenwald and Mark Siegler in their op-ed last week argued, “The City Council has made the incorrect claim that two-thirds of people will be paying less under this new system (when compared to the equally unfair Bartle-Wells rates). This false claim relies on the assumption that big summer irrigators like the city, school district and some large-lot neighborhoods will pay massively more.
“The council knows, however, that these users are planning to opt out of irrigation by digging their own wells, further shifting the costs back to remaining ratepayers. Thus, most people actually will be paying far more since this opting out has not been adequately calculated into the current rate estimates.”
Sue Greenwald largely repeated this claim last Wednesday during her debate with Matt Williams.
“The city council has made the incorrect claim that two-thirds of the people will be paying less under this new system,” Sue Greenwald said. “It’s not true. It relies on the false claim that the big summer irrigators (the city and school district) will pay massively more. But they’re opting out.”
But are they indeed opting out? There was a story about a year ago where Village Homes was considering drilling a well to provide non-potable water for Parque Grande and the southern community vegetable gardens. However, the estimates are those two amenities account for just 20 percent of the association’s irrigating costs.
So even that endeavor would only reduce the Village Homes outdoor water use for the Homeowners Association, which would not include either residential homes or outdoors uses for the residential homes, by 20 percent or less than the conservation assumption tied into CBFR.
Moreover, it is not accurate to state that the school district is opting out either. On Thursday night, the Vanguard was informed that the district was looking to move to limited use of wells in some areas, however, they were not overall opting out of the system and would remain large water users.
According to Superintendent Winfred Roberson, there have been one-by-one discussions between the city and district staffs regarding a mutual interest in utilizing existing wells to water our joined turfs. He said, “The most practical location was at F street where the DHS and North Davis fields connect to the City park.”
He noted that, “This option has not been presented as a formal proposal to the District.”
The use of existing city wells is not going to take either the city or the school district off the grid. If you recall, the summer water supply is a bit different than the winter water supply. During peak use, specifically in the summer, the surface water will be combined with small amounts of groundwater to meet demands.
By relying on well water for irrigation, the city and other water users would be able to allow more of the summer water to be a higher quality surface water rather than ground water.
Bottom line is there do not seem to be plans for big users to get off the grid, which would result in the higher prices that Sue Greenwald warns about in her op-ed and her Measure P comments.
Looking at Measure P Proponents’ 40% Claim
Sue Greenwald and Mark Siegler argued, “Homeowners and tenants of single-family homes soon will be paying 40 percent more for each gallon of water than other residential users under the new water rates adopted by the City Council. Not only is this unfair, it ultimately will result in higher costs for most ratepayers and lead to adverse unintended consequences.”
They continue, “Residents of single-family homes will pay 40 percent more per gallon than other residential users, and far more than commercial users, for two reasons: 1) reliance on summer-month peak use to determine two-thirds of the bill year-round and 2) using meter size to determine a portion of the bill.”
Using that 40 percent term, they continue, “Mayor Joe Krovoza and the council claim that it is fair to charge the median homeowner 40 percent more for each gallon of water used because they say the cost of the surface water project is dictated by ‘peak’ summer use.”
The question is really how accurate is that 40 percent claim.
Matt Williams, however, argues, “As stated by Sue in her closing remarks the Yes On P claim that ‘Homeowners and tenants of single-family homes will be paying 40 percent more for each gallon of water than other residential users’ is calculated by taking the Median Single Family Home value ($4.281/ccf) and dividing it by the Median Multi-Family Home value ($3.639/ccf).”
He writes, “That calculation described by Sue only provides a 17.6% difference. The claimed 40% is actually calculated by dividing the Typical Family Home value from the Prop 218 Notice ($4.73) by the Small Apartment Building value from the Prop 218 Notice ($3.33).”
“An examination of the actual data for 2011 shows that the illustrative examples provided in the Notice overstate the 132 ccf per year Single Family Residence value and understate the 1,764 ccf per year Apartment, with the net result that even in the tortured comparison that Yes On P puts forward, the difference is only a 15.2% difference,” he concludes.
We would also be remiss if we don’t point out the obvious false assumptions in the next term: “Similarly, they argue that it is fair to charge one household less per gallon than its neighbor year-round if that household can afford an extended summer vacation.”
Here they are largely failing to recall why summer peak use is critical. The reason, of course, is the higher demand on the water system for irrigation and watering plants and gardens.
According to the city, outdoor water use accounts for 60 to 70 percent of all residential water use. So yes, someone who is able to afford extended summer vacations will be able to cut down on their indoor water use during those months, but unless they let their gardens and lawns die, they are not going to reduce their use by nearly as much as Sue Greenwald and company are arguing.
And, of course, whatever they manage to save on water during that time, they more than offset by the costs of their vacation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting