Level 2 drought declared and new water rates set

OCEANSIDE — No water rate increases have been implemented just yet, but Oceanside has a drought rate schedule ready to go.
City Council approved a schedule to step up water rates for overusers if supply does not meet demand in a 3-2 vote May 20. Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Rocky Chavez voted against. The drought rates will charge single-family residents 30 to 50 percent more for water if they use more than 13 units per month of water during a level 2 drought.
A level 3 drought reduces allowable water use for single-family residents to 11 units before a 70 to 120 percent increase is charged.
The city water supply has already dipped to a level 2 drought according to Lonnie Thibodeaux, water utilities director.
At the same time, residents’ conservation measures have reduced water demands by 8 percent, leaving a safe margin of available water.
“The local supply is meeting our demands,” Thibodeaux said. “We will not adopt an ordinance immediately.”
Residents shared water smart measures they are already implementing.
“We’re interested in being proactive,” Mike Faulkner of the Oceana Senior Community said. “We are replacing 35 controls, and 8,000 to 9,000 water nozzles saving three gallons per hour.”
The Oceana community has also been actively replacing high-water-use landscaping with low-water and zeroscape plants over the last three years.
While the water supply is OK for now, residents are still urged to conserve more water.
A residential irrigation schedule will be in effect immediately requiring households with even number street addresses to limit watering to Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and odd street addresses to only water on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays.
If a higher drought level is reached, stricter conservation is needed. At drought level 4, no residential landscape watering will be permitted, Thibodeaux said.
Most agree water conservation is necessary, but some residents protest the rate schedule that charges commercial and agriculture a smaller percent increase if they over use.
Others suggest that monetary incentives be given to those who conserve water.
“A financial incentive should be added,” Oceanside resident Bob Blanco said. “Even a one-cent reduction per unit used would be a positive signal from the city to demonstrate that saving or not wasting water is saving money.”
Chavez, who voted against the ordinance, disagreed with the premise that charging more for water will curb water use. “We need to learn to live within our environment,” Chavez said. “Raising fees doesn’t work. We need to change the way we use water.”
The approved drought rate fees can begin at any time with a 30-day customer notice, if necessary, but increased fees are not expected to be implemented any time soon. “I think we can make it this year,” Thibodeaux said.

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