Thought experiment: What residential water cuts might be fair if they were tiered by usage?
This is a thought experiment about water cuts for West Hollywood residents whose water comes from Beverly Hills.
Cuts required by current policy
The State Water Board ordered water suppliers to reduce their usage by 8% to 36%. The State decided to tier the cuts based on per capita usage, so suppliers whose customers use more water have to save more on a percentage basis. Suppliers decide for themselves how to achieve those savings.
Some West Hollywood residents get their water from Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills has high per capita usage (209 gallons per day as of July) and, therefore, a State-mandated cut of 32%. To achieve it, the City imposed a 30% reduction on residential customers. The City exempted those who use the least water (tier 1) and imposed smaller cuts for customers who have already saved a lot (e.g., another 20% instead of 30%). Most other customers have to cut 30% regardless of current usage.
Here’s the thought experiment: What if Beverly Hills adopted cuts tiered by usage? What might be fair? One way to get an answer is by applying the State’s sliding scale of cuts to Beverly Hills’ existing usage tiers.
Per capita water use by tier
Beverly Hills has four tiers each for single-family and multi-family housing. They are ranges based on how much water each house or apartment uses. Since the State’s sliding scale is based on how much water each person uses, we need to convert “per house” to per capita. To do that, we need household sizes. In the absence of better data, we’ll use average Beverly Hills single-family and multi-family household sizes from the Census.
The resulting per capita estimates are shown in the graph below. They are ranges because the tiers are ranges.
If we believe these estimates, then:
- A typical house in tier 4 is using more than 10 times the water of a house in tier 1
- A typical house in tier 3 or tier 4 is using more water per capita than the Beverly Hills average of 209 gallons
- Most customers in apartments and condos are using less water per capita than the Beverly Hills average
Now we can apply the State’s sliding scale of cuts to each tier. The graph below shows the results.
The State decided that a water supplier with per capita usage like multi-family tier 2 only has to cut 8%. So, by analogy, an 8% cut might be fair for apartments and condos in multi-family tier 2. Similarly, multi-family tier 3’s usage implies a cut between 8% and 20%. Multi-family tier 4’s suggested cut would be 20% and up.
For single-family housing, tier 2 translates into a cut anywhere between 8% and 36%. Usage in single-family tiers 3 and 4 implies a 36% cut.