News Feature | June 29, 2015

Mandatory Water Rationing In San Jose Prompts Backlash

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Mandatory water rationing in San Jose, CA, has prompted a backlash from locals who say the rules are too strict.

“Despite an outcry from hundreds of residents, San Jose Water Company officials say they are sticking with their [decision to impose] some of the state's strictest water conservation rules on more than 1 million people across Silicon Valley starting June 15,” the Contra Costa Times reported.

At a hearing in June, hundreds of residents showed up to protest the new rules, which will affect around one million customers. The rules confine each home to a limited amount of water each month before fines are imposed. The San Jose Mercury News detailed how much water each home may use:

For the months of July, August and September, each home will be allowed 13 units of water -- about 30 percent less than 19 units, which was the 2013 average for those months in the region. Each unit is 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons. The allocations will require homeowners to cut water use 30 percent from 2013 levels. The 30 percent isn't based on a home's individual use, however. Instead, it's calculated on the month-by-month average of all residential users in San Jose Water's service area, minus 30 percent.

Governor Jerry Brown announced in April that towns and cities would need to cut water consumption by 25 percent over 2013 levels. The order affects industry as well as the public. The governor focused the mandate on commercial and residential properties, USA Today reported.

Utilities and local government have leeway to decide how to achieve these results. In San Jose, penalties will be imposed depending on the amount of water a household consumes above the baseline allowance.

“Ratepayers will pay the normal cost per unit, which varies from $3.20 to $3.91 a unit. On top of that, however, they will pay a penalty of $3.56 per unit for each unit above their allocation, and $7.12 per unit for each unit above the 2013 baseline,” the Mercury News reported.

Ratepayers are disgruntled by the rules. “Customers complained the one-size-fits-all rules are unfair to people with large yards and large families -- although the water company has agreed to adjust one of its rules to allocate more water to residences with more than four people,” the Times reported. Officials said that will be the final rule adjustment.

Robert Goldman, a San Jose resident, called for a softer approach.

"You chose the option which was the most painful to the residents," he said, per the Times.