Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Tell that to my water bill, the drought surcharge is still over 50% of the bill...

The reason for the surcharge is Orwellian.

The water company asked us to reduce, reuse and recycle. We complied.

We did such a great job, that they increased rates because we weren't using enough water and they weren't making enough money.

It's insane.

I'm not sure Orwellian fits. Really the price should be a flat rate because its not about the marginal cost of providing water.

...but then that leads to the idea that you can use any amount of water and it's fine so they have a punitive use charge to change user behavior.

But because of the extra revenue, they can lower the flat rate. ...but that gets you in trouble if the punitive charges decrease.

So you have to adjust to a relative usage surcharge which is basically where we're at but it just looks like "why lower if they raise the rates?". ...well because it's relative to everyone else's usage.

I think the word the GP was looking for is "Kafkaesque".

Did you expect the utility to eat the costs of lower consumption despite their costs going up?

I doubt the dip in water use was enough to offset the wear on infra that needs to be dealt with. Or the labor costs to do that maintenance which go up each year.

Oh sure some of the revenue may be useless but you can’t expect something like a water utility to behave like a social media company. Facebook could go tits up and people are out of jobs.

What happens when a water utility folds?

Don't worry, they won't give you any of that back, unfortunately. We moved out of California last year, but during the drought we cut back like everyone. How did the water company reward us? Oh, they didn't make enough money anymore because everyone was conserving water so they raised everyone's rates. Sheer madness.

The changes in behavior those surcharges are intended to cause remain important, especially as future droughts are quite likely.

We got a price increase this year on our water bill (on top of drought surcharges from prior years) because the district used less water than expected, so that the district "needed to increase prices to remain profitable." Use less water, so that you can pay more for less.

I'm very skeptical that "drought" prices are more related to encouraging environmentally friendly behavior than they are about disguising greed.

Oh the quality of life behaviors of residents that use a very small percentage of the water? Residents use 10% of the water, 50% of the water is "environmental" and is dumped into the ocean for the smelt, etc.[0]

[0] https://www.ppic.org/publication/water-use-in-california/

> 50% of the water is "environmental" and is dumped into the ocean for the smelt

That's a funny way of saying "we didn't want to dry up the rivers", isn't it?

It is sort of a trope in CA, oh and it's the deltas, are you saying that stinking up their bathrooms with un-flushed urine and being charged a surcharge to save 10% of 10% of the available water is logical?

Isn't it really just a "feel good" thing?

Residents weren't being asked to save 10% of 10% because taking that water from the environment would destroy it. They were being asked to save 10% of 10% so agriculture couldn't point to residents and say "see, they're doing it, we should be able to take whatever we need to from the delta too".

No one is arguing about wet years either. Look at the dry year example. 36% environmental. 62% agriculture. 13% urban.

Edit: also notice the chart - the delta is only about half of those environmental percentages (on average, unfortunately they don't split it out for dry years). The other half comes from "North Coast" which seems likely to be more difficult to take advantage of - at least I haven't heard any controversy over trying to use that water. We don't know what the exact percentage would be in a dry year, but it would still be below 36%.

Australian toilets frequently have two buttons, one for a small flush (for urine) and another for a larger flush. "No flushing" is hardly the only option.

California needs to tackle water usage. There are reasonable changes that can be made in homes and towns - swapping to drought-resistant gardens instead of lawns, rain barrels to catch run-off, absorbent parking lots that don't drain out to the sewers, etc.

Agriculture also needs to be tackled, sure. That doesn't mean saving a percent here and there is of no use.

This style of toilet is already very common in California, as is drought resistant landscaping. There could be more, but California could already be past 50% towards best case on those approaches.

I don't think it makes sense to look at the total supply of water and use that as a starting point of the savings. The total supply of water is only useful in the context of a discussion of multi-billion dollar infrastructure improvements to expand the ability to transport water from one place to the other.

What really matters is the amount of water that can be channeled to your place of living today.

And then having small changes like non-flushed toilets help increase awareness about water shortage. If that ultimately makes people replace their lawn with desert plants, I think it's a win.

Bingo. Asking the citizens to 'cut back' has always rubbed me the wrong way. We (citizens washing our cars or watering our lawns) are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the actors in the state.

Don't forget to account for all the water that California exports in the form of water-hungry crops.

Residential water use is a tiny fraction of the states water use.

The drought surcharges are complete and utter bullshit.

is it legal to get rain barrels and other types of rain collection systems?

Of course it is generally legal to collect rain from your roof, assuming local HOA rules allow it. But you won’t likely get much quality water from that. Better would be greywater collection and recycling.

He's asking because in some states it's illegal to collect rain water, it belongs to someone else. Colorado, for example, only recently legalized rain barrels - but limits it to only 2: https://source.colostate.edu/extension-offers-fact-sheet-on-...

I was reluctant to state it completely because California's constitution itself limits water rights. It would be unconstitutional to cover your entire property with a giant roof and capture all the water, thereby eliminating the creek downstream of your property and denying the downstream users of their riparian rights. However this is not the use I believe the OP was looking at.

in some states rain water belongs to someone else -- the most surprising thing I've learned this whole month...

Yes. They are not as useful as you might hope since California's dry season lasts six months, so they will go empty when you need them the most.

I guess it depends on how much water you collect....

I believe it's illegal in the Bay Area, I seem to recall someone getting in trouble for doing so.

That's just how it goes.

Revenue streams never go away. Government becomes dependent on that revenue and continuing to collect is it easier than re-shuffling other revenue around or choosing what to de-fund so the revenue gets kept.

Get used to your drought surcharge. It's not going anywhere.

Edit: Based on the popularity of this comment one would think government revenue streams go poof all the time. If anybody has evidence of this I would like to know more about is to I can advocate for replicating those circumstance in my state.

Remember those "fuel surcharges" from when gas was over $4/gallon? Me too. I'm still paying them.

You've ridden in a taxi lately too huh? Gas was $1.99/gallon and the cab adds a $2 "fuel surcharge" for a 10 minute ride.

Reading the article it sounds like the federal government never actually repealed the tax (Clinton vetoed the most recent attempt) but collection was ultimately halted in 2006 as a result of a federal court ruling. I guess the tax did actually go away but it was not voluntary on the part of the government.

Edit: Is this interpretation incorrect or just inconvenient?

>Revenue streams

I see what you did there.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact