Don’t punish conservationists

Cal Water Service Co. needs to take care of the customers who’ve cut back on water consumption

California has been in a drought for four full years, and many people, long before the state imposed mandatory water reductions for residential users, have been smart enough to kill their lawns and other thirsty landscaping.

Enter the Aagaards, a Chico couple who were among those ahead of the curve. In 2012, they ripped out their turf, installed drip-irrigation, invested in concrete and other water-free features, as well as drought-tolerant plants. By the summer of 2013, they’d significantly reduced their water consumption. Unfortunately for the Aagaards, that is the same year state water regulators chose as the baseline by which consumers must reduce their usage 35 percent (see Ernesto Rivera’s Greenways story, page 16).

Considering the Aagaards had already cut their water usage by 45 percent, it would be unfair to expect them to curtail it even more. But the couple have been caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare with California Water Service Co., which has an appeals process established for this very situation. Somehow, the Aagaards haven’t gotten through to the company, which twice has rejected their appeal. Let’s hope the third time’s a charm.

Pulling out a whole yard and replacing it with new landscaping is an expensive endeavor. But it’s the responsible thing to do to sustain this valuable natural resource. Cal Water needs to better vet the appeals it receives from customers who took such measures and already were using less water than their neighbors before the regulations went into effect. Those who had the foresight to cut down should not be punished for their trouble.

In fact, we think that the Aagaards—and customers like them—should be rewarded for their conservation efforts.