City of San Diego residents—look at your water bill
By Anna Daniels
We were told last year that our water rates in the City of San Diego would go up on January 1st of 2016. That prompted me to look a little more closely at the most recent bill which includes December and January. This year’s bill for the winter months, when outside watering was unnecessary, broke a hundred dollars for the first time.
Yes, the rates have gone up. But in addition to the amount due other information on the bill caught my eye. It not only compared previous and current year use for a full year, it also reflected the average gallons of water used a day during the billing period. This is useful information. The bill also provided information that I hadn’t noticed previously for the average single family residential use in my area.
There are many variables in the residential use comparison. One household close by is comprised of two middle aged working parents and two teenagers. They have minimal landscaping.
That residence is much more reflective of the demographics on the street than our household. As a retired couple we shouldn’t be using as much water as other single family residences. The average single residential use in the area should be significantly higher than our own consumption. That is important feedback even if it is imprecise.
According to the City’s Water Department site “The average San Diegan uses about 88 gallons of water each day at home for both indoor and outdoor uses.”
Customers of the agency [Santa Fe Irrigation District], which serves Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch and Solana Beach, were using an average 584 gallons per person per day *
The current billing information provides a broader picture in which I had a better sense of how our household’s water consumption compared to that of our neighbors. The comparable residential use is unfortunately only shown in Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF) instead of gallons and I had to use a calculator to convert the information.
HFCs may make sense if you are a farmer but have little relevance to someone keeping their potted plants green outside by schlepping gallon buckets of water that were saved from heating up water in the shower. It would be more helpful for the residential usage in one’s area to be expressed in gallons.
The City of San Diego has been tweaking the billing information since mandatory water conversation measures were instituted a few years ago. The city, however, provided scant information that would help residential consumers reduce their water consumption by simply becoming more conscious of their own comparative household use.
The Mayor and City Council had issued a stage 2 water alert and had put into affect mandatory water restrictions by the time our December/January water bill had arrived in 2011. The meter reading was done in Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF) and the current usage was compared to the same period in the prior year. Despite the mandatory water restrictions, there was little information to reflect the impact of household conservation efforts over an extended time (full year), in meaningful terms (gallons) and in comparison to other residential usage.
How does San Diego’s 88 gallons a day average usage compare to other areas of California?
How does San Diego’s consumption compare to other parts of the world?
The chart below is from 2010 and reflects usage in liters. It is nevertheless evident that the US leads the world in per capita water consumption, followed by Australia, Italy, Japan and Mexico.
Residential water conservation in San Diego does not equate with lowered costs as SDFP editor Doug Porter recently noted in his Starting Line article San Diego Water: Pissed Away, Pricey and Less-than-Perfect.
Drought conditions in California are linked to global warming. The question is whether here in San Diego, in California, in the United States, we will see water conservation as more than attempt to offset higher water costs. Are we willing to think about “our area” not only as our neighborhood but as the whole planet— and adjust our usage accordingly?
Will the City of San Diego Water Department be bold enough to include on our water bills the message that global warming is real—that in fact it has already arrived?
Correction: The original article omitted the link to the originating site (San Diego Union Tribune) of the pull quote regarding the average daily water use in the Santa Fe Irrigation District.