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LADWP still considering more tiered water prices, despite recent ruling

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building.
Photo by Omar Omar via Flickr Creative Commons

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One day after an appeals court threw out San Juan Capistrano’s system of pricing water to encourage conservation, water agencies across the state are reviewing what the ruling means for them.

Like San Juan Capistrano, California’s largest water agency, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, uses something called “tiered pricing.”

In effect, Angelenos who use more than a certain amount of water pay more to do it.

Roughly two-thirds of all water agencies in CA use the system because it lets them hammer water guzzlers with higher bills while keeping prices low for water savers.

However, after voters approved Proposition 218 in 1996, water districts were limited in how much they charged customers.

The new las mandated that prices must be related to the actual costs of providing water.

The decision in San Juan Capistrano seems to leave the door open for agencies to continue using tiered pricing, so long as they can justify it said Mel Levine, President of the Board of Commissioners for LADWP.

Levine says those justifications can be things like building water recycling plants, purchasing imported water or upgrading infrastructure.

"All of these things need to be factored into how the rates get set," he said.

Despite the recent ruling in San Juan Capistrano, Levine said LADWP is still considering going from a two-tiered system to a four-tiered one.

However, the utility will be reviewing its costs to make sure the tiered bills reflect what it actually takes to deliver the water.