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Water is critical to our very existence and we are never so conscious of this fact than when we are in a drought. In spite of recent rainfall, our reserves are low.
Recently the El Dorado Irrigation District notified its over 39,000 ratepayers that they would voluntarily have to reduce consumption by 30 percent. Some few months later we have been advised that our efforts have fallen short and thus we are facing draconian rate increases. I am appalled and incensed on several counts.
First, this punitive approach to reducing usage treats the ratepayers as if we are errant children. They have said everything but, “You are grounded go to your room.”
Second, rather than be creative and figure out ways to incentivize conservation (looking to best practices from other water utilities who have faced the same problems), they have taken the easy way out — raising the cost of usage.
For instance they could single out those users who have not reduced their usage or, in some extreme cases, actually increased their usage. They could increase the rates only for the very largest users. They could reduce rates for significant usage reductions or use a water bank concept. The solutions are endless.
Lastly, there is a disproportionate use of water by agriculture in the county. Statewide over 80 percent of all water is used by agriculture. And agriculture users receive an egregious rate subsidy, some of who are merely hobbyists. In general, those who qualify for agricultural subsidies, about 950 agriculture users or 2.4 percent of all ratepayers, account for over 20 percent of the water. And they pay only a few cents on the dollar (about 1/17) that residential users pay ($49 per acre-foot versus $829). And only about 2 percent of EID debt cost is borne by the agricultural users.
And nothing above addresses, because it does not directly relate to water usage, the excessively high salaries and bloated payroll at EID, the overly generous benefits provided in terms of health insurance, time off and vacations (which can reach 50 or more days for some), and the devious approach to financial dealings which hold separate huge unfunded mandates for pensions in their fiscal reporting.
We recently elected two new EID Board members but nothing seems to have changed. We have the same administration, the same policies and the same contempt for the customers.
We would not even be talking about this if one of our newly elected board member, Dale Coco, voted based on his rhetoric and promises he made during the election and joined a progressive coalition with Alan Day and Greg Prada. He portrayed himself as a reformer, one that would not follow the reflexive, rubber-stamp approach of the good ol’ boys.
With Mr. Coco’s sure vote, the board will be approving a new $65 million bond issue which will add $4 million per year to the ratepayer burden and is guaranteed to bring another double-digit rate increase in part to service this debt. Damn the ratepayers, full speed ahead.
Mr. Coco has revealed to me, in a rare moment of candor, that he was in the pocket of the developers and large ag users all along. If ever a public official has misrepresented his intentions and turned on his supporters it is Mr. Coco. If ever a public official deserves to be recalled he is the poster child.