The iron fist

The big action at today’s SCVWD Board meeting was a direction to District staff to craft a mandatory conservation plan, ready to implement in case renewed calls for voluntary 10% conservation fall short. The directors also expressed strong support for tiered pricing, where heavier water users pay more than the thrifty. About half of the municipal water retailers, including Morgan Hill and San José, already have tiered pricing, and the San José Water Company is, according to CEO George Belhumeur, currently working with the Public Utilities Commission to implement it themselves.

This is a good place to point to the Aguanomics blog, by David Zetland, who calls for a true market in water to allocate resources more efficiently.

The water supply outlook presentation was pretty darn grim. If 2009 is an average year, we’ll be holding our own, but, if it’s a critically dry year, then the difference between demand and supply is an breathtaking 230,000 acre-feet. The supply in this forecast is not even half of the expected demand.

Directors Kwok and Santos also called out strongly for increased use of recycled water, both in streamflow augmentation, if possible, and in new development along North First Street in San José. Chair Kamei pointed out that the joint District-City committee on recycled water will not meet for the first time until August.

A very interesting fact pointed out by Mr. Belhumeur is the seasonal difference in water use due to outdoor irrigation. A typical winter day sees the San José Water Company delivering 85 million gallons of water, while that number often rises to 220 million gallons in the summer. Due to this past very dry spring, residents turned on their sprinklers in March instead of May, and year-on-year water use jumped up. Outdoor water use is really where residential customers can make the biggest impact, but it requires a much bigger investment to replace thirsty landscaping. Turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth doesn’t have quite the same effect.