Ventura Water Task Force: Minority Report
Summary of Alternative Sustainable Recommendation Report to the Water Shortage Contingency Plan
The majority of the task force recommendations are well thought out, written and vetted reflecting a wide spectrum of opinion. The reason for this report is twofold. First, to provide the Council requested findings for a potential water connection moratorium as the task force "politely declined" the request due to the scope and time-intensive nature of the endeavor. Secondly, to create the case that the new higher-cost drought rates need to be balanced with a temporary water connection moratorium so that increased demand doesn't create a situation where the water shortage is perpetual.
Model Moratorium & Recommended Change to the WSC Plan
First, the water connection moratorium findings previously requested by the Council are attached. They were produced from Ventura Water staff and consultant reports as well as city, county and state actions. These findings were assembled using the Sierra Madre resolution as a guide and are ready for a thorough analysis by our city's legal staff.
Secondly, this report recommends amending the task force work by making the implementation of the new higher-cost drought rates concurrent with a temporary water connection moratorium. The task force added the higher-cost drought rates to the previous contingency plan, but left the water connection moratorium unchanged at the 50% reduction level. This does nothing to prevent reaching the higher water-use reduction stages.
With the addition of new drought rates, the task force succeeded in protecting Ventura Water's finances despite reduced water sales during a water shortage. It is vital that we also protect Ventura Water ratepayers from the unnecessary expense of reaching the higher water-use reduction stages. Making a water connection moratorium activate concurrently with the higher-cost drought rates will ensure the shortage is not exacerbated and accelerated by allowing increased development demand on a deficit system.
The drought rates are a financial penalty to push existing users to conserve more water so the community can survive an extended drought. Absent a concurrent temporary water connection moratorium, the community's water conservation gains will leak away to new development demand and the community’s water supply will still be in jeopardy.
It is vital to remember, these recommendations are to automatically trigger in future events. We are either in an emergency water shortage situation or we are not. If we are in a dire shortage we cannot continue to increase demand on a deficit supply. If we are not in a dire shortage we cannot ask existing consumers to use less and pay more. We cannot have it both ways. If the water connection moratorium activates concurrent with the higher-cost drought rates, we ensure that existing users are not forced to pay perpetually higher bills as new development continues to increase the demand on an already deficit supply.
Reasons to Implement Recommended Change
It is the most fair and equitable solution to implement the water connection moratorium concurrent with higher-cost drought rates. This ensures that:
drought rates will only be entered into when we have a serious water shortage condition.
conservation efforts are used to survive the water shortage rather than being negated by increased development demand.
existing ratepayers are protected because:
1. it helps prevent water shortage from reaching more dire stages; and 2. it gives incentive to augment supply to lift moratorium rather than staying in perpetual state of shortage and basically allowing higher drought rates to become permanent as they did in the early 1990's.
the city protects the health and safety of existing consumers who were already promised service.
state case law protecting existing consumers is followed:
In Swanson v. Marin Municipal Water District (1976) 56 Cal. App.3d. 512, 519 the court refused to narrow the scope of Water Code Section 350, stating that "The language of section 350 makes it clear that a water district is empowered to anticipate a future water shortage and to impose appropriate regulations and restrictions where, lacking such control, its water supply will become depleted and it will be unable to meet the needs of its consumers."
In BIA v. Marin Municipal Water District 235 Cal. App.3d. 1641,1651 the court affirmed the water district's governing board has discretion to conserve its water supply for the greatest public benefit and that “When supplies become available that are in addition to present supplies, such supplies shall be considered by the Board and be allocated in a manner as deemed appropriate by the Board so long as the [Board] finds that there is no increase in magnitude or frequency of risk of future use reductions to existing consumers.”
The key point of this report is that the Water Shortage Contingency Plan, as written, has residents suffering the pain of 20%, 30%, 40% and 50% water reduction stages before development stops. In severe shortage conditions our city policies should favor people here now, who have already been promised water, over people who may be here in the future.