California Forum

Unequal water cutbacks not simple, not fair

Despite our many differences, Californians have a long history of facing – and solving – problems together.

So, when Gov. Jerry Brown publicly announced urban water usage should be cut by 25 percent compared to 2013 consumption, it was an easy-to-understand approach that treated everyone fairly.

But the details that followed have been anything but simple.

The State Water Resources Control Board has followed with an arcane, confusing and extremely unfair approach to solve the state’s water woes (“Area water agencies push back against level of cuts”; Page A1, April 15) .

Rather than an across-the-board cut of 25 percent, the board announced a proposed plan where some communities are being told to curb their water use much less this year while others are ordered to save as much more. Other communities would need to cut about the same at 2014.

This is in stark contrast to Brown’s request last year for all Californians to equally cut their water use by 20 percent.

Ironically, with the new formula, many Californians actually will be told they don’t have to save as much water this year as last, despite the worsening drought.

Consider that a person living in an apartment in San Francisco will be told they can actually use more water this year, but a person living in an apartment in Fair Oaks will be told to significantly cut their usage.

This plan is based on the misguided notion that everyone’s water consumption needs are the same.

In the greater Sacramento area, we use more air conditioning than people in San Francisco. We use more not because we’re wasteful; we use more because it’s much hotter here than in San Francisco.

Water has a similar parallel. A homeowner in Los Angeles with a modest lawn would use less water than a Rocklin homeowner with a similar-size lawn. That’s not because the Rocklin homeowner is wasting water – it’s because it takes more water, given the climate of Rocklin vs. Los Angeles. But both can cut back their usage by 25 percent.

Certainly, this four-year drought demands aggressive actions, and everyone must make sacrifices. But establishing different goals is confusing and unfair, particularly with fines potentially coming for those who don’t make these mandated cuts.

A better and simpler plan is to once again ask all Californians, as was done in 2014, to be part of the solution – and to apply an equal reduction throughout the state.

Kirk Uhler is chairman of the Placer County Board of Supervisors.