At least two local agencies that plan to cut rates are walking a fine line: They are cutting prices because they expect demand to go up. At the same time, they are still talking about the importance of conserving water. But too much conservation means sales won’t rebound and water agencies might have to raise rates again.
By Ry Rivard.
When water use goes down, water prices go up.
It’s a maddening paradox San Diegans have dealt with for the past year.
When Gov. Jerry Brown last year ordered Californians to use 25 percent less water, water agencies saw their sales plunge and holes open up in their balance sheets. So they raised rates. Short showers, brown lawns and dirty cars were rewarded with stubbornly high bills.
The state recently relaxed those water rules because rain and snow this winter refilled rivers and reservoirs. People can now legally go back to using more water, and in anticipation of rising demand, a few water agencies have lowered prices.
That’s unusual relief for water customers accustomed to ever-rising prices, but it may not last. Even if it does, it may leave the state flatfooted if the drought deepens.