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Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network, a local utility watchdog, sent a critique of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed water cuts plan to the City Council today.

The five-page letter’s bottom line: The mayor’s proposal to base cuts on historic use isn’t fair, and the council could fashion a better approach by changing the Water Department’s rate structure.

Shames offered four recommendations:

  • Adopt a steeply tiered rate structure that lowers rates for customers who use the least and increases rates for those who use more.
  • Lower the base rate that every customer is charged. (Every city water customer gets charged $33.04 regardless of how much water they use.) Instead, tie those rates to consumption.
  • Adopt stricter prohibitions on water use and fund enforcement with fines.
  • Start working on a “more robust” water cuts plan such as the one adopted by Irvine Ranch. Implement it next spring.

Shames concluded his letter:

The City doesn’t have to be a pioneer — other water districts throughout the state (and world) have led the way. But its failure to adopt creative approaches and to downplay price signals dooms it to underachievement and controversy by selecting a rationing model that penalizes conservers, rewards wasters, and fails to promote a smarter water usage ethic. UCAN urges the City Council to aspire for more and trust its citizenry to respond to true leadership.

ROB DAVIS

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