Saturday, August 2, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Water rationing: If it comes, do it right

elias column sig

By
From page A8 | March 05, 2014 |

Despite heavy mid- and late-February rains that briefly drenched Northern California and the respectable ensuing snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the California drought remains.

In fact, it is still more severe than the worst previous dry spell of modern times, which hit in 1976-77.

Short of millennial downpours in late winter or early spring, this means water rationing is almost certain for most Californians. When and if it comes, there are lessons to be learned from what happened 37 years ago:

Rationing must be fair and include heavy consequences for failure to comply, homeowners must be willing to let some landscaping go brown and the entire system must be free of politics. Otherwise, there’s a good chance large numbers of residents simply won’t comply.

It would also help to accelerate the water metering program now underway in Sacramento and other Central Valley communities that had no meters in the 1970s drought and a milder one that struck in 1991.

How fair is it that drought or no drought, Sacramento residents (including tens of thousands of state officials and bureaucrats) use an average of 279 gallons per day, compared with 98 gallons for San Franciscans and less than 150 per day for Los Angeles residents, habitually accused by some Sacramentans of “stealing” their water?

How fair is it for denizens of the leafy San Francisco Peninsula suburb of Hillsborough to use 334 gallons per day, while 14 miles away in much less fortunate East Palo Alto, residents glug only 79, according to reportage in the San Jose Mercury News?

Those figures and the reality that only about half the homes in Sacramento and several other Central Valley cities now have water meters makes it blatantly unfair even to consider asking or requiring anyone to cut use by a set percentage.

Yes, everyone will likely need to cut. But when Hillsborough or Sacramento residents cut by the 20 percent Gov. Jerry Brown now requests of all Californians, they still use far more water than most Californians do even in a normal, non-drought year.

It’s also true that when people are told to cut voluntarily by a certain percentage, regardless of their normal use levels, they understand that percentage cuts may soon become mandatory and be enforced with penalties. But no one knows what date will be designated as the benchmark from which use levels are measured. So anyone cutting back now risks being forced to trim much more later, when rationing begins. This creates potential future penalties for anyone who conserves today. Strategically, it makes no sense for residents to trim now when they know they may soon be asked to reduce from a new, lower level.

So rationing based on percentage cutbacks can be inherently unfair. By contrast, per-person use limits are fair, and Californians tend to respond well to them when imposed. In 1991, for example, the Marin Municipal Water District told households they could use no more than 50 gallons per person daily. Residents did better than that, using just 47 gallons each.

A weakness in this kind of system is that water districts and city water departments can’t know how many persons live in each household. Even information from the latest Census is outdated. And yet Californians have usually been honest about this kind of thing. The Marin district sent out its own census cards in 1991, with the total of residents reported on them almost identical to the district’s population.

Percentage-based rationing can be successful, too, even if it’s unfair. In 1976-77, when Los Angeles households were asked to lower water use by 10 percent, residents responded by cutting almost twice that much.

What’s more, a UC Berkeley study of nine water districts at the time showed that the heavier the fines for overuse, the better was compliance.

Then there’s politics, like the February attempt of congressional Republicans to give Central Valley farms a virtual monopoly on the small supplies available this year. They ignored city residents and fishing interests, and risked putting several other species at risk of becoming endangered, as happened to the notorious Delta smelt in the 1970s drought.

All of which means water rationing can work, as it has before, but only if Californians are convinced it is both necessary and fair.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at tdelias@aol.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

County unveils Solano economic diversification study

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Fairfield, Vacaville face off at Solano fair

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Reports close books on Solano DA race spending

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

’4 guys, 4 guns’ case ends with acquittals

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

 
Starbucks card as bribe? Not this time

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

County offers free Hepatitis C testing

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3

 
Commune with your neighbors on National Night Out

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: July 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: July 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Weather for Aug. 2, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

.

US / World

Stars willing to risk opinions on Gaza clash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
In brief lull, Gaza’s displaced survey devastation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Congress backs Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Poll: Public ready to close book on 2 wars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Israel pounds Gaza as it searches for soldier

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Last ex-city official sentenced in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California prisons alter treatment of mentally ill

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Court gives new life to California high-speed rail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Lightning sparks dozens of new California fires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Attorney in deadly bank robbery requests records

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Report disputes mom’s claim in school altercation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Ukraine: Body parts retrieved at jet crash site

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

2 Americans detained in North Korea seek US help

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Iran opens first state-run alcohol rehab center

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Remains of Air Algerie crash victims now in Paris

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
China bladder trade sending porpoise to extinction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Uruguayan pot marketplace may go up in smoke

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Ugandan court invalidates anti-gay law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Ebola moving faster than control efforts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Stolen WWI gas mask found in pawn shop

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

WWI aviation still alive at aerodrome in New York

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

Perspective needed on Gaza conflict

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

.

Entertainment

.

Sports

Vogelsong stifles Mets in Giants’ 5-1 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Baseball Notebook: Vanden grads Negron, Aplin making their mark

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raul Ibanez homers to carry Royals past A’s 1-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Giants RHP Cain needs surgery to remove bone chips

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Expos stop Shockers, stay alive in state tourney

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Redskins WR Jerry Rice Jr to have shoulder surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spurs sign Tony Parker to extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Browns’ Gordon meets with NFL on appeal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Woods, Mickelson paired together again in a major

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
George suffers serious leg injury in US exhibition

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Montoya interested in running The Double for Penske

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nick Watney leads Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Anaheim Ducks to retire Selanne’s jersey Jan. 11

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Mudcats still alive in Auburn Classic

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Sergio Garcia shoots 61 to take Firestone lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Goodell defends NFL’s 2-game suspension of Rice

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Packers unveil statue for the Lambeau Leap

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Marco Dawson leads 3M Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

PGA Tour refutes report Johnson suspended

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Blaine Gabbert learning 49ers system

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Jon Lester ready to help lead A’s back to playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Hunter-Reay tops after early Mid-Ohio practices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Larson wins 1st career pole at Pocono Raceway

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Raiders’ Bergstrom adding center to his resume

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

US job growth eases but tops 200K for a 6th month

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Rare summer relief for gasoline prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

US auto sales sizzle in July, helped by discounts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
S&P 500 has its worst week in 2 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Microsoft sues Samsung over halt to royalties

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
HP to pay $32.5M to settle Postal Service dispute

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Hyundai recalls more than 419K vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Allergan sues Valeant, claims fraud in buy attempt

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Marjorie Lee Myrick

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Alice Marion Brown

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Enid Mary Vesci

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B10

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
.

Home Seller 08/2/14

Right at Home: cooking up a color-happy kitchen

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for Aug. 2, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.12 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3