Article courtesy of Visalia Times-Delta | January 29, 2014 | Shared as educational material
On Jan. 24, the Visalia Times-Delta ran an opinion piece, “Why use less if we’ll just pay more?” which questions whether residents of Visalia should continue conserving water.
Unfortunately, the piece includes several factual errors about California Water Service Company and its operations. More importantly, it overlooks the importance of water conservation efforts as a key part of the strategy to ensure the reliability of Visalia’s water supply.
The piece asserts that continued water conservation may not be in the community’s best interests because customers will just end up “paying more for using less.” This assertion is not accurate. Quite simply, when a customer uses less water, his or her monthly water bill goes down, too. Water conservation is similar to trading in a gas-guzzler for a hybrid; even if gas prices start to climb and you might pay more for each gallon of gas, you have to fill up less often and end up saving money.
The piece also incorrectly states that a “rate hike kicks in next month.” While it is true that the California Public Utilities Commission, the independent state agency that regulates Cal Water, is currently reviewing water utility rates, it has not finished the process. We are expecting them to complete their review of Cal Water’s rates and operations early in the spring. If the Commission approves the agreement reached with the Office of Ratepayer Advocates and the city of Visalia, the typical single-family, residential customer will see their monthly water utility bill increase by about 19 cents a day, to just under $38. As a point of reference, that equates to about $0.002 per gallon. These extra funds will ensure that we are able to safely and reliably operate, maintain, and upgrade the water system.
The piece gives short-shrift to Cal Water’s industry-leading water conservation program. In addition to the indoor water conservation kits it mentions, Cal Water offers its customers a host of other products and services to help them better control their water use, all at no additional cost. These products and services range from rebates on water-efficient appliances to water use surveys. Combined, our water conservation programs will help us meet the state law that requires a 20 percent reduction in water use by 2020. Additional information about Cal Water’s conservation programs can be found online at www.calwater.com/conservation.
Finally, the piece does not adequately explain just how important water conservation is to the long-term reliability of the water supply. For many years, more water has been taken out of the basin that supplies Visalia with water than has been put back in. Although both Cal Water and the city are working on ways to “recharge” the basin, it is more effective and far less costly to reduce the amount of water being taken out of it. Water conservation is a critical part of the plan to help ensure there is enough water for the residents of Visalia for generations to come.
We are extremely proud of the efforts our customers have made to reduce their water consumption. Far from asking them to substantially change their lifestyles, we simply ask that they keep up the good work and to take advantage of the many conservation programs we offer. That will help them gain more control over their monthly water bills and it will help to ensure the long-term reliability of the water supply.
Scott Bailey is district manager for the Visalia District of the California Water Service Company.