Different Paths on Energy & Water Conservation

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Among my many pet peeves are my neighbors who let their sprinklers run when it’s raining or water the sidewalks instead of their lawns. Too many Angelenos waste water.

So it should come as no surprise that the L.A. Dept of Water & Power (LADWP) Board of Commissioners voted last week to impose penalties on homeowners who do not reduce their water consumption by 15%.

As someone intimately familiar with the state’s water situation and the need for greater conservation, I am not opposed to this new policy. I don’t love it, mind you, but this plan is far better than mandatory rationing, which was also on the table. I can do a lot more to cut my water bill, and this vote along with Michelle Obama’s green thumb inspired my family to consider replacing more of our lawn with a vegetable garden, if not a cactus or rock garden.

The timing of the LADWP action is interesting. Earlier this month, the city’s controversial Measure B solar energy mandate was defeated, much to the surprise of the political establishment that took its victory for granted.

The ultimate goal of Measure B was noble—to increase our renewable energy portfolio by 20% before 2014. The specific goal, however, was to install 400 MW of photovoltaics with the work done specifically by one labor union without a competitive bidding process and without the voters’ benefit of a reliable economic analysis. Various estimates put a price tag of anywhere between $1-3 billion.

The LADWP’s action to decrease water use is interesting to me because the same action could easily be applied to energy ratepayers—and, unlike Measure B, will cost the utility nothing.

The water rate increase is not perfect. I would prefer something that is balanced with incentives for additional water conservation practices along with discounts on water using appliances. This logic could also be applied to our energy use with incentives being extended for energy saving appliances.

So that being said, couldn’t the LADWP achieve the same energy conservation goals as water and reduce our use of “dirty” electricity—for next to nothing?

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