I know, Peter Weinberger has another simpler, more intuitive answer: use less. Very appealing, and for those who are wasting water that seems like good advice. But most of us don’t waste much water.
One day, as I drove by the apartments and shops packed side-by-side on streets near the Los Angeles River, it struck me especially hard why Claremonters use more than the southern California average: there were no trees. It was hard to find anything growing green. Claremont is a city of trees. About 80 percent of the water we use is for irrigation. Of course, we use more water.
Is the secret really “use less” to reduce water bills? Not for most of us. As people in Barstow, Wrightwood, Seal Beach, San Dimas, anywhere in Golden State Water Company’s Region 3, use less water, the rates for everyone in Claremont go up.
Golden State just adds that WRAM (Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism) charge to our bills so their profit is preserved. The Public Utilities Commission said they could. And what a deal it is. Golden State saves by importing less water at 5 times the cost of local well water and they get WRAM as well. But that’s not the best reason to “go local.”
Golden State has more than doubled our water usage rate since 2008. That’s right, more than doubled for the typical Claremont user in 5 years. Claremont water usage rates are also roughly twice those for our neighbors in La Verne with their municipal system—and they have to rely on a lot more of that expensive imported water.
With a few facts and a little thought, it’s not hard to figure out what's best. Do both: go local—use less. Let’s get control of Claremont’s water in our own hands, out from under a private monopoly and the PUC. We would set our own rates, and be masters of our water future. That’s going to be ever more important as temperatures rise, population grows and we have less water to use.