Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 | Someone at City Hall must really like San Diego’s existing water rate structure.
San Diego water officials have offered numerous reasons this year explaining why it isn’t practical to adopt new rates that could boost conservation and penalize waste.
They’ve praised the concept, currently used in the Irvine Ranch Water District in Orange County. Then they’ve misrepresented key facts about it. Now, as a supportive City Council weighs it as a response to the current water shortage, those same city water officials have a new reason for their resistance: Lawyers would have a field day.
The city would get sued.
The concept under evaluation is called a “water-budget based rate.” It sets a monthly limit — a budget — for how much water homes and businesses should use based on site-specific factors such as property size and number of residents. Go over budget and you pay more for each gallon than someone who stays at or under budget.
Several water lawyers said such plans are legal, again casting doubt on the officials’ latest explanation. Michael Cowett, a water law attorney who represents a local agency that recently adopted such a plan, said he was “very surprised” the city would claim it was illegal.