Friday, July 06, 2007

Paying The "Pipers"

What is it with the local entities that are the de facto alimentary canal for our city? First it was the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, which recently announced a whopping 50% increase for the removal of fluids - and other stuff, if you get my drift - from our homes and businesses. Then, in the mail yesterday, we received a notice from the Mesa Consolidated Water District - which provides the fluid to more than 100,000 users that the Sanitary District eventually removes - announcing a public hearing on their own pending rate increase!

The interesting part of the announcement on this little postal card I'm staring at right now is not the amount of the proposed increase in water rates - 9% for the potable water we drink and use to perform other functions - it's the timing of the public hearing. The hearing is going to be held at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 in the Board Room at 1965 Placentia Avenue, Costa Mesa, at which time users who wish to protest the proposed rate increase are encouraged, more or less, to make their views know.

The card also states, "All written protests to the proposed water rate increase must be received by 7:00 p.m. on August 28, 2007.... A postmark is not acceptable." It goes on to say, "Comments submitted by telephone, electronic mail (email), or through Mesa's website will NOT be accepted or counted as protests." If you want to protest this rate increase and have it count you have to do it by that date and time.

And just when, you ask, is this proposed 9% increase in the water rate going into effect? Well, the card tells us that the implementation date is September 1, 2007 - three working days following the public hearing!


Now, let me ask you - Do you really think the good folks at Mesa Consolidated Water District give a rat's fanny about how you feel about this rate increase? Neither do I. If they cared at all they'd plan this hearing well in advance of the implementation date instead of just three days before it's to go into effect. This is just another example of bureaucratic arrogance or ignorance, or both. I can just hear a recent conversation in the MCWD Board Room now... "Oh, yes, I guess we'd better tell our users we're going to hit them with an increase pretty soon. What's the latest date we can get away with? Three days before it's effective? Sounds good to me!"

Don't misunderstand me on this issue. I don't doubt the need for a rate increase. Anyone who has lived here for more than a few years understands just how precious water is to us all and, in this year particularly, the need for a rate increase is not a surprise. Heck, in the rainfall year that ended a few days ago we accumulated only 2.2 inches, around 15% of normal.

And, quite honestly, we are practically stealing our water at the current rates. For example, my last water bill was for 42 units at a cost of $83.58 at the current rate. Add in the $15.00 "basic charge" and $.92 for something I don't understand and my bill last time was $99.50. The amount of water I used worked out to $.00266 per gallon! With the rate increase it would rise to $107.06 - no big deal in the grand scheme of things. For some perspective, a gallon of Arrowhead Spring Water at Ralph's costs around $1.50 - more than 560 times more than a gallon of MCWD tap water costs.

I know of a little hamlet along the central coast that has begun water surcharges to "encourage" conservation. The same amount of water over the same time period would have cost more than $2,000! Their philosophy is to "encourage" you to conserve with a tiered rate structure. The more you use, the more you pay - in staggering multiples. If that doesn't work, they simply shut off your water and seal the meter.

No, my complaint isn't that I have to pay more for my water. I just don't like the cavalier way the water district and the sanitary district go about doing their business. That being said, I'll bet we don't have a half dozen people show up for either of the public hearings on the two rate increases next month. No one seems to care about these two utilities unless the water stops flowing - at either end of the "alimentary canal".

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no problem with a small rise in water rates. I think a vast majority of CM residents are entirely unaware of the dire water situation in CA. It is still common to see people hosing down driveways and sidewalks instead of sweeping them, as well as people washing their cars while leaving the hose running, or dramatically overwatering their yards and letting runoff cascade down the gutters. People take water for granted, and maybe a little price hike will help remind people to conserve.

7/06/2007 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree with you that people might need some incentive to use water more wisely, but I think it will take more than a modest increase.

Of course this always brings me to the subject of regional water management and the horrible job I think the states have done in managing development with respect to the available resources, but that is a rant for another time!

7/06/2007 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, I couldn't agree with you more. This is the first I have heard of the proposed increase. Thou, I'm just a worker bee, I'm also a customer. I feel the notice shows lack of disregard to the due process that every customer is entitled. They/We provide an outstanding product, customers trust should be held at the utmost level.

7/06/2007 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I too could go on for a spell about water mismanagement! At least current state law requires water resources to be identified and considered prior to major new developments.

The key is conservation. I lived in Santa Barbara when they were painting lawns, reusing grey water, and considering floating icebergs down the coast. Cheap water and 60% of our population living in apartments without water bills leads to serious waste. If everyone just utilized basic conservation techniques, our water consumption would drop dramatically.

Geoff and Frank - implementing immediately after public comment is a slap in the public's face. Thanks for pointing this out! Let's see if we actually have more than two people comment!

7/06/2007 09:23:00 PM  

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