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Tiered pricing considered by officials

Newport Beach administrators weigh plan to introduce tiered pricing in an effort to conserve water.

August 11, 2008|By Daniel Tedford

Newport Beach officials are considering a plan that could have consumers paying more or less for water — depending on how good they are at water conservation — if studies support the process and city leaders agree.

Places like San Juan Capistrano and the Irvine Ranch Water District have already implemented such plans, but to most water districts, the idea of tiered pricing is new.

Tiered pricing is a method of water allocation that aims to motivate consumers to conserve. A base allocation, an amount of water that officials would deem appropriate, would be applied to each individual property for a base rate. If a household went over its allotted amount, it would be charged an increased rate for the additional water.

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Those who stayed within their allotted amount would pay a base amount, a total most likely less than what consumers are paying now, said Steve Myrter, director of Newport Beach Utilities.

The idea of tiered pricing came into play after an Orange County grand jury recently sent a letter to all county water agencies about an investigation concerning water conservation. Each agency was charged to respond to the findings and make recommendations.

The matter was an urgent one for the grand jury, saying water could be at crisis levels as early as next year, according to the report. A multiyear drought, reduced snow pack and a court order reducing imported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have contributed to stress water levels in Southern California, according to the report.

The grand jury’s findings asked for more water conservation and said conservation pricing, or tiered pricing, was a fair and effective means to motivate conservation.

“We want to price water cost-effectively and fairly, but if water becomes a resource that is no longer readily available, we should reward people who use water wisely,” Myrter said. “And if people don’t choose to use water wisely, there is an incentive to improve their behaviors through lowering cost.”

Myrter has helped prepare a letter in response to the grand jury that will be presented at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

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