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Higher Water Rates Keep California Conserving


If my Dad were alive today I would not call him cheap, I would call him green or sustainable or maybe a conservationist. I was reminded of this as I spoke to an old friend this week when he told me, “I don’t waste anything because I don’t want to waste money.” 20 years ago we would have called him cheap or on a good day frugal. Fortunately today our outlook has changed and whatever the reason for not wasting (altruistic or selfish) we are celebrating the green society. The recent water rate hikes in California are going to keep California conserving because people want to save money. The growing awareness of the environmental is an additional bonus.

Saving Money Drives Conservation

According to a Grant Thornton report in 2014 saving money is the number one reason executives give for moving towards more environmentally sustainable business practices. We are experiencing this in the landscape industry especially in California. As water rates increase our phones light up with questions from customers asking how they can save water and save money. I have made many sales of water saving projects over the years using a return on investment calculation to justify the expense of improving water conservation. Thanks to complicated and delayed water bills most customers have no idea how much they pay for water or how much they use, but they all know now it’s a lot.

Water Rates In California Are Soaring

This water rate proposed increase was passed in San Diego and rates will increase by approximately 40% over the next few years. The exact amount of increase will vary among customers because of varying levels of water consumption.

Similar water rate increases are happening all over California. In Northern California the Milpitas City Council voted for a 57% rate increase. Even with improved snow packs, full reservoirs, and the ground water recharge California will not go back on rate increases. This is because the water agencies are playing catch up from many years of drought and need any surplus to repair an aging infrastructure. In addition construction on projects that capture more stormwater are beginning. These are expensive, but will have a positive impact on water supplies for years to come. This story will play out in most cities around the country in the next few years as well.

The True Conservationist

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

                                                                                                                                                        -John James Audubon

There has also been a meaningful shift in perceived values of landscapes. The Christian Science Monitor points out in this article the culture has changed in Southern California. Los Angeles residents are experiencing a transformation in their landscapes to water conserving landscapes and no one wants to be left behind. A thirsty landscape is a sign of a homeowner not interested in conservation. Who wants to be that neighbor?

Solution: Combination Of Rate Hikes And True Conservationist

This creates the perfect positive storm. Water rates are soaring and at the same time enthusiasm for true conservation swells. We haven’t had this combination in California before. We are valuing the environment more than we have ever before and at the same time charging more for water. An import line has been crossed and Californians are not going back to their old habits.

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Richard Restuccia

Richard is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. He served on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. Richard also writes for other publications and is an award winning contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine. In 2014 his efforts were recognized with a “Leadership in Landscape” award. He has a great interest in the supply of clean water for people in developing countries and as an outdoorsman, spends his free time running, swimming and surfing.

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