Lincoln Villagers speak up

Two homes in north Stockton. The Lincoln Village boundary runs between them. The house on the left pays for water based on how much is used, while the house on the right has no meter and therefore pays a flat rate.

My Sunday story about the lack of water meters in Lincoln Village and other unincorporated portions of Stockton irritated some folks who don’t like the implication that they are wasting water.

Indeed, they may not be.

“I don’t think I use that much — I’m pretty careful,” said a Lincoln Village resident who called me today and left a voicemail. She didn’t give her name.

The woman said she pays a substantial assessment of $737 per year on top of her regular property taxes. ¬†At least part of that assessment is for water. “I’ve always felt I’m charged too much, probably,” she said. “You don’t have any control over it when you don’t have a meter and they’re charging directly to your (tax) bill.”

What this illustrates is that people who are careful with their water use might actually see their costs go down if meters are installed — at least, that’s what has happened in Lodi, according to the Public Works director there.

My story doesn’t say Lincoln Village residents are getting their water for free. No, callers tell me their assessment is, again, substantial.

What the story does say is that residents there are paying a flat rate, no matter how much water they use.

And you’d think that would frustrate people who are truly attempting to conserve. They are, in effect, subsidizing those who do waste water.

Perhaps the next step in this story is to identify the overall amount of water going into Lincoln Village and Colonial Heights from the city of Stockton, break that down per capita and compare to the rest of the city, which is fully metered. That might give us a better idea whether the lack of meters makes much difference in Stockton.

In general, many experts say meters do make a difference. Ellen Hanak, with the Public Policy Institute of California, found that households without meters used 15 percent more water than those with uniform rates (i.e., those who are charged based on the amount of water they use but pay the same amount per unit of water). Saving another 10 percent are households with “increasing block rates,” (i.e., those who are not only metered but also pay more per unit if they use more water).

We’re talking savings of 15 percent to 25 percent, depending on which rate structure you choose.

That, too, is substantial.

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