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APPLE VALLEY — The drought surcharge that served as a thorn in the side of approximately 25 percent of Apple Valley Ranchos ratepayers will come to an end Sunday, Ranchos officials announced Tuesday at the Town Council’s regular meeting.
The anticipated removal of the drought surcharge is part of Ranchos’ larger decision to revert to Stage One of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan that also will remove the bi-monthly allotment of 32 units (approximately 24,000 gallons) that resulted in the drought surcharge for customers who exceeded that amount.
Ranchos Executive Vice President Leigh Jordan said the expectation is that ratepayers will continue to to conserve water as they have done since Gov. Jerry Brown issued his April 1 Executive Order mandating a statewide 25 percent reduction in water usage.
Ranchos needs to achieve reductions from 2013 over the remaining fall and winter months of about 18 percent to meet the cumulative target, according to a statement.
We will have to go back to Stage Two and reimplement the drought surcharges if it looks like we’re not going to make it, Jordan said during the meeting.
So we ask everyone to continue to conserve so that we won’t have to do that.
Apple Valley Mayor Pro Tem Barb Stanton told the Daily Press she questions Ranchos’ decision making, which she said seems to change on a consistent basis.
I’m skeptical, Stanton said.
I’m questioning if that will really happen. It seems to me that every two weeks or so things change. Their answers change. At the same time I’m very hopeful that they will drop the surcharge and not hold us to the 18-unit allotment (in November).
Ranchos Manager of Financial Services Eric Larsen confirmed that reverting to Stage One will remove the allotment to which ratepayers are currently held; however, Larsen added that the drought surcharge could still show up on bills with higher usage for some time.
The conservation target for Ranchos customers — based on Brown’s mandate — is 28 percent, a number they’ve exceeded every month since May, according to the California State Water Resources Control Board’s conservation statistics.
Since we instituted the drought surcharges this summer we have been carefully monitoring the progress on conservation necessary to meet the state-imposed 28 percent cumulative target, Jordan said in a statement.
Many factors contributed to this decision, but most of all our customers are to be commended for making changes in their lifestyle and doing their part to conserve.
Another factor was that the California Public Utilities Commission is proposing to take Ranchos’ conservation target into account when setting the company’s water rates, which means the proposed new rates will encourage continued conservation, Jordan said.
In addition to a majority of Ranchos customers not incurring the drought surcharge, some 1,946 other customers took advantage of a variance program that either raised their allotment based on necessity or removed it altogether, according to Penna.
We recognized that some people had medical reasons for needing more water, Penna said.
We also looked at larger families, and we looked at gardens (and) livestock to determine how much more water certain customers might need depending on their situation.
Gary Cox is one such ratepayer who took advantage of Ranchos’ variance program.
Previously outspoken against Ranchos after receiving a $178 drought surcharge on one of his water bills, Cox changed his tune when his last water bill was reduced by about $300 due to Ranchos’ variance program.
I sent in an appeal because I have 27 trees, Cox said.
I have geese and chickens. I feed myself and my neighbors with my vegetable garden. That’s putting water to good use. (Ranchos) doubled my allocation. They are really willing to work with you and I think that’s tremendous.
Cox lives on a little over an acre of land that he said resembles a forest, and his argument early on was that residents who don’t have lawns or trees to water are allotted the same amount as residents who live on larger properties with mature vegetation.
Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press