Metering water sales

To folks in many parts of the arid western United States, the notion that some California communities don’t meter residential and business water sales seems crazy.

It is. This may be, by some measures, a record drought in California. But even without it, Californians have known they have serious water stresses. That it has taken this long to get this basic water management tool in place is, in fact crazy. Here’s Paul Rogers:

Despite urgent calls for water conservation amid one of California’s worst droughts, more than 255,000 homeowners and businesses across the state can still use all the water they want without paying higher bills.

And nobody even knows how much water they are using.

Why is this? First, homes and businesses without meters, while large in number, are the exception:

Most California residents have had water meters for generations.

Los Angeles finished installing them in the 1920s. San Jose has had meters on every home since the 1930s. Oakland began installing them in 1906 and was fully metered by 1940.

But people seem to like living in a wet, green world:

But even in a large, prosperous city like Sacramento, plans to require water meters sparked controversy for decades.

“For some people, it’s like going to Alabama and saying you are going to register their guns,” said Barbara O’Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Cal State Sacramento.

“It’s a visceral reaction,” she said. “People in some places view it as a birthright that they have big trees and green grass. They see the water in the rivers, they walk along it, and they raft on it. It’s part of the right of being a Sacramentan.”

The full article is worth reading for those interested in water policy steps that are relatively straightforward and that can make a difference in building resilience against drought and climate change. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” as my business school grad colleague likes to say. And kudos to the Mercury-News for publishing the full data table.