California’s epic drought is officially over. As drought-related mandatory water conservation orders end, ordinary citizens’ water, sewer, utility rates and other water-related costs continue to rise.
East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) recently announced two water rate hikes, one of 9.5 percent in July and another next year of 9 percent. Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) is countering with two increases of 7 percent each. San Mateo residents learned recently of plans to raise their sewage rates 36%. These and other rate-hike stories are common across our state.
As if these water rate hikes weren’t enough, California State Assembly member Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) pushed her way to the front of the line with new laws seeking to extend and make permanent the drought’s mandatory conservation requirements. She introduced her bills moments after Gov. Jerry Brown concluded his revised budget presentation to the legislature and press.
Friedman’s three water-use bills — targeting citizens, farmers, businesses and water utilities — all have the stated intent of taking more money out of your paycheck and further limiting how much water you can use, even as trillions of gallons of water flow to the ocean each day.
The bills would also overturn the cart of complicated, interwoven and historic California water rights and are sure to trigger years if not decades of litigation by stipulating court-supervised negotiations between all parties drawing water from critically impacted aquifers.
Between new laws to mandate conservation and cause water rates to rise every time you turn a water faucet or flush a toilet, it is the poor and working-class Californians that are getting soaked with higher costs, not their driveways, lawns and residential landscapes.
Timing, we are told, is everything. This mandatory “culture of conservation” legislation followed announcements that the drought emergency was being lifted. It took place at the peak of one of the wettest years in the state’s recorded history, and it followed months behind declaration of an emergency for widespread flooding affecting 50 California counties.
Water conservation is integral to the respect and value Californian’s have for our precious and shared resource. But should Friedman’s legislation pass, new and accelerating water-rate hikes are certain to follow. This punishment will complicate the paradox of conservation: Californians do good and use less water, but they pay more, ultimately frustrating them and discouraging responsible water use.
Skyrocketing water bills and overreaching water legislation beg the most important question: Who can afford to live in this new and ideal California utopia, the dreamchild of out-of-touch wealthy political elites? Certainly it’s not the working class, the elderly on fixed incomes, those struggling in disadvantaged communities or any other would-be productive citizen trying to stay afloat.
Nothing — not even food — is more vital to survival needs than water. It is essential to life, yet our state insists on artificially and unnecessarily limiting its availability and increasing its cost to everyone.
Unable to use the drought as an excuse any longer, the Legislature will blindly vote on how you use your water and how much you will pay for the privilege. Now all Californians will experience what it’s like to pay for 100 percent of their water but receive only lesser amounts our high-handed government believes you should have, a dubious distinction previously reserved for farmers and water agencies.
Are increased water rate hikes being invested in our outdated and crumbling water infrastructure or used to expand our limited water supplies so as to make water affordable again? No. In fact $17.6 billion of $27.1 billion of voter-approved water-bond funding sits, unspent since 2000.
So long as our water system is broken, the state’s leaders will keep asking for more money to “solve the problem,” use the “new” money for other purposes and ignore vital services or desperately needed new supplies.
Gov. Brown has had a few choice words to describe California’s taxpayers suffering under the state’s heavy load, including: “…freeloaders — I’ve had enough of them,” and “…we have lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes. But smart people figure out how to make it.”
This is the reality of the new cost of living in California. Governor Brown and the state Legislature are making it perfectly clear through their actions. If you aren’t smart enough to skip on the bill; or if you just can’t afford their new California, then get out!