From 2009 through 2013, EID’s 35,000 residential ratepayers reduced their water consumption 5,000 acre feet annually. Residential ratepayers further are on pace to conserve an additional 2,000 acre feet this year. If this pace continues, the cumulative residential conservation since 2009 will be 30 percent.
Meanwhile, EID’s small farm water consumption has increased 1,400 acre feet annually. Contrary to calls for conservation, this is a five percent increase in EID’s overall water sales.
In the last two years EID management added more than 500 new ratepayers to the small farm rate category, mostly from two sources.
First, hundreds of ratepayers previously on EID’s domestic irrigation (DI) rate were converted to EID’s small farm rate. EID had to eliminate its domestic irrigation rate because it has been illegal since 2006 under a California Supreme Court ruling.
Proving their financial resourcefulness, in the last two years hundreds of former DI ratepayers planted crops to qualify for EID’s $49 small farm rate. But in order to qualify for the small farm rate and save themselves $600 to $1,200 annually on their EID water bills, these former DI ratepayers doubled their average water consumption from 1.35 acre feet annually to 2.7 acre feet annually.
Many attendees at EID’s two June 24 small farm workshops reported that they do not sell the additional crops but instead donate them. They further warned that EID’s proposed changes to its small farm rate qualification criteria would result in their using even more water.
A second major contributor to EID’s last two-year 1,400-acre feet increase in “small farm” water consumption is a proliferation of people in Greenstone Country and elsewhere who planted baby olive trees that will not produce a marketable crop for the better part of a decade, if ever. At least 40 people in Greenstone alone are watering oversized lawns, filling their pools and have more than doubled their water consumption to exploit EID’s $49 small farm water rate.
If EID is to have even a modicum of fairness to its 35,000 residential ratepayers, the “olive tree” and “plant more merely to get the $49 small farm rate” opportunist abuses need to be shut down immediately, not two years or more from now (if ever) as EID management currently proposes.
In rescinding rate qualification to the above small farm rate opportunists, legitimate and material agriculturists can best be protected against sweeping changes to EID’s agricultural water rate.