NEWS-LEDGER — MARCH 19, 2014 —
By Steve Marschke
It’s a drought year, and both state and local officials want Californians to find ways to use 20 percent less water. But many West Sacramentans have no way to measure that: this city is among those communities, mostly in the Central Valley, that don’t yet have a meter on every water connection.
It’s not possible for at least 40 percent of local customers to know how much water they’re using. Sacramento has a similar problem.
“We have 14,590 accounts,” West Sacramento public works director Denix Anbiah told the News-Ledger. “8,500 are metered. All the businesses are metered, but on the residential side, we are doing it one piece at a time.”
Right now, that means the Westmore Oaks area is getting a water meter retrofit, street by street. That neighborhood is bounded by Park Boulevard, Deerwood Street, Clarendon Street, Norfolk Avenue and Webster Street. About 600 new meters are going in, raising the city to the mark of being 60 percent metered.
Target for completing every neighborhood is 2018 – as required by the state – said Anbiah.
Some cities – like Los Angeles, Oakland and San Jose – have had water meters in place for a half century or more.
Once a house is metered in West Sacramento, homeowners have the option of being charged for their water either on a flat rate or on a “tiered” basis, where low water-users can pay less and heavy users will pay more. The flat rate is still the “default” for residential customers of the city water system.
“All of the commercial users are metered,” Anbiah said. “Residential has an option. If the meter is installed, they can call us and request metered billing. But once they do, they can’t go back.”
(Residents can request billing at the metered rate by calling the city finance department, 916-617-4575.)
Anbiah said that any new construction in West Sacramento is built with water meters. But a lot of older areas still need the retrofit. The process of installing a meter at a home’s water line can be relatively simple if the water connection is in front, near a sidewalk, he said.
Who uses the most water in California?
Often, it’s the drier inland areas who have the most demand for landscape irrigation. Demand is also higher in communities with water-using businesses. Demand is usually heavier inland than it is along California’ coast.
The San Jose Mercury news last month published an online database of water use, per capita, throughout California. The data comes from the state Department of Water Resources. It can be found at www.mercurynews.com/drought/ci_25090363.
The database shows West Sacramento residents consuming 305 gallons of water per day per person, compared to 279 gallons in Sacramento, 289 in Woodland, 202 in Davis and 172 in Vacaville. That database, though, includes business consumption. So it tilts the scale higher in places with, for example, food processing plants.
Anbiah, the city’s public works director for about the past six months, said there is a penalty if West Sacramento doesn’t finish metering by the state deadline.
“If we don’t meet the 2018 deadline to install all the water meters, it may have an impact on the City’s ability to negotiate a new water contract, which will also have an impact on the water rates,” he said.
The governor and local jurisdictions are also pushing the “conserve water” message very hard in 2014, due to the continuing drought.
The City of Sacramento this month approved a “cash for grass” program, giving rebates to homeowners who take out their thirsty green lawns and replace them with drought-tolerant landscaping. Sacramento has set aside $100,000 to offer rebates that might reach 50 cents per square foot of lawn, up to 1,000 square feet per applicant, reports the Bee.
The News-Ledger asked the West Sacramento Public Works Director if this city was looking at anything similar.
“We don’t have that right now,” answered Anbiah. “If it were to come, it would have to come from the city council.”
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