Friday, May 20, 2016

Is There A Sacramento - Sierra Madre Water Disconnect?

Here is something to ponder upon. While Sacramento declares that the water crisis has eased, Sierra Madre is now stepping up its financial penalties for using too much water. Doing so while claiming it is helping the city reach water conservation goals that were set by ... Sacramento?

Life can be confusing. But fear not. We'll start by examining the latest news on this topic from Sacramento. This first article is titled "Many California cities predict no conservation requirements under new water rules," and it comes to us from the legendary Sacramento Bee (link).

Before throngs of TV news cameras in April last year, Gov. Jerry Brown stood on a patch of bare Sierra dirt that should have been covered in snow and told Californians they had to be unified in conserving water.

Noting that his call for voluntary conservation had not resulted in a significant change in habits among urban and suburban residents the previous summer, Brown said that he had no choice but to order urban water providers to collectively reduce water use by 25 percent compared with 2013. “We’re in an historic drought,” Brown said. “And that demands unprecedented action.”

Flash forward to this week.

From a statewide perspective, conditions have marginally improved: Northern California had a good winter, and reservoirs are healthy. But Sierra snowpack remains well below average, and much of the state remains in a drought. What’s strikingly different is the message delivered this week about how conservation will play out in 2016.

The new rules adopted Wednesday by the State Water Resources Control Board allow more than 400 urban water agencies to propose their own conservation standards. Agencies will “self-certify” a target based on their assessments of the health of their water supplies and anticipated local demand.

On Thursday, several California water agencies told The Sacramento Bee that, based on the new rules, they expect their assessments to show they have plenty of water, and to largely back away from requiring customers to reduce water use tied to a specific target. That was the response from agencies in the Sacramento region, where a relatively wet winter has bolstered reservoirs and where groundwater supplies remain strong. But also, more surprisingly, from agencies in Southern California, which received very little rainfall this year.

This next bit of water use info is titled "In Sharp Reversal, California Suspends Water Restrictions," and descends upon us from none other than the venerable New York Times. You can get all the news that fits by clicking here.

California on Wednesday suspended its mandatory statewide 25 percent reduction in urban water use, telling local communities to set their own conservation standards after a relatively wet winter and a year of enormous savings in urban water use.

The new rules are a sharp change in policy for a state struggling to manage one of the worst droughts in its history. They came after a winter in which El Niño storms fell short of what meteorologists projected — particularly in the southern part of the state — but still partly filled parched reservoirs in Northern California and, more critically, partly replenished the mountain snowpacks that provide water into the spring and summer.

And Californians, responding to an executive order issued in April last year by Gov. Jerry Brown, reduced their use of potable urban water by 24 percent compared with 2013 levels. Officials said they were hopeful that reduction would prove permanent because of changes in water use such as replacing lawns with drought-tolerant shrubs.

The rules, adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, are likely to mean a huge rollback — and in some places, an elimination — of water reduction mandates that have forced people, businesses and governments to curb watering of gardens and lawns, take shorter showers and flush toilets less frequently.

That's the latest statewide news. They're loosening up on water restrictions and people can now presumably go back to whatever it is they were doing before everything dried up.

So what is the news from Sierra Madre? The little city that often prefers to march to the beat of a different drum? A Pasadena Now article called "Sierra Madre Water Penalties Set to Increase" (link), breaks it to us this way.

This year’s El Niño rains have had a limited impact on our part of the state. Water conservation remains as critical as ever as California enters into its fifth year of drought. Sierra Madre City Council approved a measure earlier this month that would increase the penalty rate assessed on excess water use.

The City of Sierra Madre would like to thank its water-wise customers for doing their part to make every drop count. The latest water billing numbers for May show 75% of Sierra Madre customers met, or outperformed, their water conservation targets. The remaining 25% of customers are of increasing concern for the City, as many of the customers who exceeded their water use target in the month have a repeat history of doing so.

The City of Sierra Madre will introduce a new water penalty rate beginning on July 1, 2016. The rate will apply to each billing unit used in excess of a customer’s conservation target. The current penalty rate is $5.04/unit. The new rate will increase to $10.72, or two times the Tier 4 rate.

The Pasadena Star News is also on the Sierra Madre water tip, and in their article, "Excessive Water Users In Sierra Madre Face Stiffer Penalties" (link), says this:

The city council voted Tuesday to increase the penalty rate starting in July for water customers who exceed their monthly goals.

The vote came just a day after Governor Jerry Brown announced a new set of water mandates Monday and emphasized the continuing threat from the drought on the state.

As part of continuing water conservation, the council asked city staffers last month to focus on pushing a trio of measures to achieve their goals. In addition to the stiffer overuse penalties, staff will reach out to the city’s top water users who have exceeded their conservation targets and renew the city’s water conservation campaign.

The new penalty rate for excess water use will be $10.72 per billing unit, an increase of 64 cents over the previous penalty. Customers are on four different rate tiers and the new penalty is double the Tier 4 rate, the highest. The penalty will apply to customers who exceed their goal regardless of their original rate tier.

Though the number of customers exceeding their conservation goals has been reduced, the last two billing cycles for February and March show there were still more than 1,000 customers who exceeded their conservations limits by at least 1 unit. There were 41 who exceeded their goal by 50 or more units, and 11 customers who exceeded their goal by 100 or more units.

Though the increase could bring in more than $80,000 for the city’s water fund revenue, staff noted that they hoped the measure would encourage conservation.

I wouldn't want to automatically assume that Sacramento is correct here, and everyone should be permitted to just go water hog wild again. You can only imagine the pressures being exerted up there by certain big special interests that want to get back to the good old days.

But still, it certainly does looks like Sacramento and Sierra Madre are going in very different directions. Go figure.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

37 comments:

  1. Typical Sierra Madre, a day late and a dollar short.

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    1. let's get the leaks fixed with new pipes using all the extra money, no need to put it in the general fund where I suspect the moneys to land

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    2. It is costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to resurrect the SMPD. The costs of paying the Sheriffs to take up the slack at night alone is huge. That is where a lot of the money is going.

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    3. ssshhhhhhhh! Gene Goss' imaginary friends want the SMPD. Too bad Geno can't show the emails to prove what he says.

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    4. Plugging the gap at night with Sheriffs will end up costing the city around a million bucks. Giannone says he won't get his 9 or so fresh out of the academy rookies into the field until sometime this fall. Then get ready to pay for their raises. You know, so they don't leave.

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    5. great - we are hiring new recruits - no experience and they get a gun?

      at least they'll be ready to write parking and speeding tickets

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    6. Newbies need to ride with a training officer for what, 6 months. SMPD lost so many officers, maybe LASD can train newbies on night shift.

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  2. Wasn't Staff supposed to reach out to those high water users months ago?

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  3. thar is gold in that h 2 o .......so speak th our city manager

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  4. "Though the increase could bring in more than $80,000 for the city’s water fund revenue, staff noted that they hoped the measure would encourage conservation."

    Oh, of course they do. It is to solve a problem the state doesn't think exists anymore.

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  5. Not that the City is correct in continuing to blow the horn (listen at 5pm today!) but look, just cause we got a few more inches of rain this season, don't damn think that in 3 years we won't be right back where we were before this "rainy" season. Conservation aint going away baby, get used to it. Here's the thing, the City still needs to figure out how much of a Top Tier waterwaster they are through the leaking pipes and who knows where else. To my knowledge that quantification still hasn't been resolved.

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  6. Our beloved city is no better than Peyton Place. We just don't get the tittilating part!

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  7. The drought is not over and we must not be complacent or we will be in even worse shape down the road. That's another reason not to allow unmitigated development in our cities. More users coming on line using water will mean that we will have a much narrower choice of options in trying to deal with the drought. I don't mind the city being smart and proactive for once.

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  8. hmmmm.... smart and proactive... then they best find and fix their leaking pipes asap; the longer they wait the more water gets lost, and the higher the cost to fix. Now that they passed the tax, get on it!!

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    1. Measure UUT money will not be used to fix the pipes. It is for salaries and CalPERS benefits. The tax that will be used for infrastructure repair will be on the ballot in 2018. It will either be a parcel tax, increased property taxes, or both. It will take a 2/3s vote to pass.

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  9. great! Wait until we're a) out of water again, and b) maxed out on the spending cycle and cries of anguish will have us taxing ourselves greater yet again. wonnerful.

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  10. Clear signs of Water disconnect have appeared on the 'horizon of water politics' now it's between the haves and have not's and those who wish to exploit confusion in Sacramento's water restrictions to their own monetary benefit. The true reason for water conservation change was 'the all might buck' city's were losing money or they say they were losing money hand over fist in reality their own poor management of city funds was the culprit as Sierra Madre has seen most recently and there will be more to come.

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    1. No actually we ran out of water 'member? Or was the dry wells a conspiracy?

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    2. True. I haven't taken a bath in months.

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  11. We gave up our lawn some years ago, so I've been bothered by the fact that some residents did nothing to conserve. I'll agree it's late but I'm glad there's an effort to make everyone accountable.

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    1. If there was accountability in Sierra madre we'd have fired the police chief I mean director of public safety and brought LASD in full-time. the Chief gets the big bucks but he runs half a dept. try that in the private sector, he would have been fired at least 6 months ago

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    2. The people who voted for Measure UUT might have saved the SMPD. But that is pretty much it. There will be little money left over for all of those other things.

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    3. But SMPD will get their Platinum Pensions from CalPERS. So there's that.

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  12. 7:39 is right on.

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  13. I might have not explained the issue properly 1.) Sierra Madre mismanaged it's precious little water in it's wells and did not recharge the aquifer properly - city hall mismanagement. 2.)Now that the piped in water is now going to be twice as expensive as before city hall mismanagement again.

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  14. I'm tired of fighting poor management backed by special interest groups. Look at us, paying more in taxes, worrying about our next glass of water and more taxing laws on the horizon. When are we as a town ever going to vote on truths and facts and take control of the problems at hand. I'm paying more for a less safe neighborhood because of ??? reason to keep spending more for less. Soon as a new Police recruit can they will leave to greener pastures. And by law city's can't stop them. Something is so questionable when you look at all the costs to keeping SMPD, who can tell us whats going on?

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  15. UUT could be used to reimburse the water department for all the "loans" for non-water city projects for the page 40+ years. Sierra Madre Water Dept. was the bank for the city and deferred maintenance is the result of that boneheaded and ignored (by us and elected City Councis) creative book keeping.

    We still have a local water crisis to contend with. Our wells are far below capacity and we are putting expensive imported water into the settling basins to purify it the old way after thousands of wasted dollars on 1) the water expert; 2) added organophosphates to "hope" the crud would cling to the pipes and not discolor your water at the taps, and 3) flush water down the street and into the storm drains to the ocean (next to none of that was captured locally) as we "burped the lines" to clear the crud so it would not discolor your water at the taps.

    They may have rain water in the reservoirs in Northern Californa and snow melt to capture from the frozen reservoirs in the Northern Sierra but we are still a desert and we need to kept our lawns gone and work to be smarter about water usage and demand that the city treat everyone fairly.

    Did you see the LA times today about the Texas community doing Toilet to Tap. Some Texas communities have been doing this for a number of years. It should be offensive to all of us that we flush our toilets with drinking water on one hand and send the perfectly drinkable water from third stage water treatment into the ocean to come back as rain someday. Some smart entrepeneur needs to make home retrofit for graywater to the toilet easy to accomplish. Folks are doing it on their own but more of us would if you could walk out of Home Depot or Arnolds ready to install.

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    1. Good points, here.
      Just don't develop this toilet business in our beautiful neighborhood - there will be opposition on all fronts.

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  16. Our water is gold again. Any one else?

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  17. Look, Sierra Madre has been on water rationing for years, Gov. Brown had nothing to do with meeting a goal. We have been saving water so our wells will get to the point where we don't need to pay the MWD for our drinking water. Additionally, the UUT, poor management, police, sheriff, special interest groups, CalPers, or anything else you all have been carping about has caused the need for conservation. It's the drought, stupid. The drought is not going away in the near future so we need to live with it and quit complaining.

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    1. Tell it to Jerry Brown. He just ditched your Jerimiah butt.

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    2. Wait a second, 2:52. You mean to say it isn't about the money?

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    3. I think the problem some people are having is it is too early to start talking about raising taxes to save the Library again. Leaves them at a conversational disadvantage.

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  18. I specifically remember that while watching the City Council on channel 3 that none of the Council voted to have a sunset clause on the restricted units allotted to each household. If it pours rain daily, we are still, by law, restricted to our allotted number of units...and therefore subject to the accompanying fines. All done by design for future city income! $$$

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    1. Yeah, but the election is over and the utility tax increase passed. Now they can do whatever they want.

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    2. This measure was voted on by the City Council only, no residents had a vote. It occurred around February 2015. It had nothing to do with the residents voting on the recent 10% UUT measure! As I said, it was all by design so that more money could be collected for the City COFFERS. The Council knew that eventually it would rain someday and the metered units would not be necessary, but they voted it in forever without a sunset clause. After all, SOMEONE has to pay for the water bond debt!

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    3. Really? I think it had everything to do with politics. The City Council made itself look very agreeable, especially to those who want to control development. But now that the utility tax increase has passed, and by a vote of the people, the rules have changed. The city needs more money, and development impact fees are a good source for that.

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