If you missed our coverage last week of the misrepresentations and exaggerations the city’s Water Department has been making as it works to adopt a policy to cut citywide water use, here’s a recap.

City water officials have long argued that they couldn’t adopt a fairer approach to water rationing now because it took an Orange County water district as long as 12 years to do it. Instead of basing reductions on historic use as San Diego plans, the other agency, the Irvine Ranch Water District, based them on how much each customer should be using.

That argument turned out to be wrong. It took Irvine Ranch a year.

City officials claimed that implementing the fairer approach would require them to go site-by-site just as the other agency, the Irvine Ranch Water District, had done.

That turned out to be wrong. Irvine Ranch didn’t do door-to-door surveys.

City officials claimed that they couldn’t draw up a fairer plan because they’d only had six months to plan for water shortages.

But they’ve known about the possibility — and warned about it — since September 2007.

City officials have tucked one reason in between their misrepresentations that may hold water. They’ve said that Irvine Ranch’s approach would be difficult to replicate locally because San Diego’s lot sizes aren’t as homogenous as Irvine’s.

Marcela Escobar-Eck, the city’s former development services director, told me this morning that the city’s reasoning “is probably very true.”

Subdivided parcels in Irvine and surrounding communities are newer than San Diego, Escobar-Eck said. The shapes of parcels in San Diego are often older and very different. Two similarly sized lots may have widely differing amounts of landscaping, she said.

“It’s hard to translate lot acreage to water usage,” she said.

She also cautioned that allocating water based on the number of residents in a house could pose problems. Irvine Ranch assumed four residents per house and allowed them each 75 gallons (for a total of 300 gallons per home for indoor use). Households with more than four residents can apply for exemptions; the district has granted 2,100 of them to larger families.

Escobar-Eck said some families may not want to come forward to identify that.

“Sometimes you end up punishing people that don’t have a voice, that are scared to come and talk to government in situations like that,” she said.


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