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Drought watch: Sacramento tops list of cities with unmetered water connections

The latest drought related problem is with cities that do not have meters on residential and business water connections. Sacramento tops the list of California cities that fail to measure with meters. With no way to measure water consumption, households and businesses cannot experiment with different strategies to cut waste. There has been fierce resistance to meters in traditionally water rich areas like Sacramento, but a March 11 Guardian news article shows how the protracted drought has changed attitudes. Many now favor the idea of water metering.

South Yuba River at Bridgeport
Edith Allen

Throughout the state, cities and towns are ordering specific water saving measures and are monitoring for violations. One city might place restrictions on watering lawns. Another city might go after businesses and homes that fail to fix water leaks. In many areas, homes and businesses have voluntarily cut back on water usage.

The theory is that water meters are very effective in helping homes and businesses to use water more judiciously. The proof is in the city of Fresno, which once banned meters. Now that installations are complete, Fresno saw a 22 percent drop in per capita water consumption. Daily consumption dropped from 313 gallons to 245 gallons.

The problem is that about 255,000 California homes and businesses have no meters to help with water conservation measures.

According to a March 8 Mercury News article, ten cities have the most unmetered water connections. With about 66,000 water connections go without metering, Sacramento tops the list. This represents about 49 percent of water consumption. Per Capita water usage in Sacramento is about 279 gallons per day.

It gets worse for Sacramento as the Sacramento Suburban Water District (32 percent) and the Sacramento County Water Agency (21 percent) are also on the “top ten” list. These two agencies account for 25,476 meter-free connections.

Next is Bakersfield with 37 percent, or 26,441 connections that are not metered.

Rancho Cordova, also in the Sacramento region, had the highest per capita water usage at 369 gallons. The the South Tahoe Public Utilities District had the lowest usage of the top ten with 201 gallons per capita. This is just above the state average of 196 gallons per person.

All but two of the top ten cities are in the central valley, where the vast Sierra watershed meets up at Sacramento. Normally, there is so much water that flooding is a regular threat. Now the state’s reservoirs are at rock bottom.

When water was always in great abundance and the rivers were full, many people in Sacramento and other cities banned meter installations. Most water-rich cities saw no need to install water meters when there were more important priorities, like upgrading sewer and water delivery infrastructures.

With this drought, cities and individuals are much less resistant. They consider the central valley’s water a birthright, but have always understood that water comes and goes with the whims of nature.

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