The Dry Garden: Looking at redesigned LADWP bill and considering the true cost of water

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has redesigned its bill. It won’t make the price of water any cheaper, but it will make it easier for customers to appreciate how much of it they use. The hope is that this knowledge, in turn, will encourage conservation.

There is still much room for improvement. We’ll know we’re where we should be when our watersheds are healthy and our summer gutters are free from sprinkler runoff. To sharpen the challenge, the state has set a goal of reducing water consumption 20% by 2020.

The shame of this laudable goal is that it is too easily manipulated by finessing the starting date. Given the state of our beaches, the Colorado River Delta and Northern California fisheries, environmentalists such as Heal the Bay President Mark Gold have set their own benchmarks. By 2020, Gold would like to see us at no higher than 100 gallons per day, per person, of fresh water, a standard that he argues would give homeowners incentive to do more to augment their supplies with rain trapping and gray water.

Economists such as UCLA professor Matthew Kahn argue that L.A.’s tier system unfairly benefits large land owners. To my mind, the real crime of our water pricing is the cost to the environment. The loss of Owens Lake and the Colorado River estuary, the slow decline of San Francisco Bay and mind-boggling pollution from lawn culture scarcely figure as “costs” in our bills.

To read the full article by Emily Green click here.