Respondent Catherine writes:

Any discussion of water pricing structures designed to change individual behavior has to look at the implications for rentals. I never see our water bill so I have no idea how much water I use or how I stack up against the average. All I know is that I’m careful about my water usage because I care about conservation. But I can’t judge how I’m doing without seeing the bill. I could be one of the worst in the neighborhood and think I’m a great some conservationist because I am one in my head.

I would guess that a lot of renters are in a similar position. We have a lot of rentals in San Diego and quite a few dilapidated rental homes with absentee landlords who do little to maintain their properties. With that, you get leaky faucets and poorly maintained, outdated irrigation systems that spill water all over the sidewalk.

If the property owner doesn’t feel the pain of wasting so much water through negligent property ownership, and the tenant has no way to measure water consumption or never feels the effects because he/she doesn’t pay the bill, it’s going to be difficult to reduce consumption.

Respondent raises valid point about rental units. Some renters of homes and apartments pay their own water bills, but in other cases, the owner pays. In cases where the rent paid includes water, individuals conserving water are often subsidizing heavier water users as the landlord may base rents mainly on the size or amenities of the unit. A major cause of this problem is the lack of water meters on individual units.

The major solution to this issue involves the installation of water meters for individual units for apartment and condominium complexes. The cost of meter installation could be subsidized by some of the water revenues devoted to conservation. Whereas this might not be feasible for some older units, where a common water heater is shared, this approach would certainly enhance the move to a more efficient use of water.

— LYNN REASER

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