Antioch residents currently enjoy some of the lowest water rates in the county. They are charged $1.80 per 748 gallons of water, averaging about $35 per residence per month. Those who use around 300 to 400 gallons of water per day probably would not need to pay a higher rate, according to Phil Harrington, Antioch director of capital improvements/water rights.
But penalties would kick in for heavier water users if the drought emergency plan is implemented next month. Those using 400 to 500 gallons of water per day might pay four times the current rate. And those using more than 500 gallons/day could be paying 10 times as much for their water, possibly totaling hundreds of dollars per month, depending on their usage.
The extra money would not stay in Antioch, however. It would go to the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) to pay for the penalties imposed on Antioch should the city not meet its water conservation requirement. A CCWD hearing was held Wednesday night to determine whether that requirement would be a 25-percent mandatory reduction or a 15-percent voluntary reduction. The results of hearing were not available at press time.
“We definitely don’t want to be in a position where we are considered punitive,” Harrington told the council on March 24. “The only reason we are considering the increase (for heavier users) … is the fact that that money is simply a pass through to the (CCWD) to help them with their (conservation) program.”
If it’s implemented, Antioch’s conservation program would target and penalize some categories of water users more than others. Residential customers would need to cut back by 25 percent, industrial businesses by 5 percent, commercial businesses by 15 percent and landscape irrigation in parks by 50 percent.
“The City’s Drought Emergency Program Ordinance’s main objective is to reduce water consumption to meet available supplies by focusing on reduction of outside water use while minimizing impacts on industrial and commercial customers during this downturn in our current economy,” Harrington’s staff report states.
Not everyone was on board with the plan. Mayor Jim Davis and Councilman Brian Kalinowski voted against it, saying they prefer to wait for the results of the CCWD hearing and to see how the water situation looks in early May. And former Councilman Jim Conley spoke passionately against it, arguing that the so-called water emergency is all wet.
“Ten percent of Antioch’s housing stock is in foreclosure,” he said. “They are not washing dishes, they are not taking showers, they are not washing clothes and they are not watering their lawns. That should take up most of the 25 percent (reduction) that they have mandated. Los Vaqueros Reservoir was built just for this purpose, and we are paying for that. That’s where the emergency water supply is supposed to come from.
“We need to ask ourselves: why is this happening? I’ll tell you why. Because the state needs the votes from southern California to mandate the peripheral canal. They are going to suck the fresh water out of the Sacramento River and they are going to ruin the Delta. And it’s all for southern California’s benefit.”
Conley said that of the 165 major reservoirs in California, 113 are at 75 percent of capacity or better, including 57 that are full, and that the Sierra snowpack is larger than last year. “There is no emergency,” he said. “There is no need to cut back 25 percent. This is just the government saying, ‘You’re going to change your lifestyle’ – and it’s not right.”
Harrington responded that the two major reservoirs used to gauge how much water is distributed to CCWD and other agencies are Lake Shasta and Oroville, both of which are about half full. He added that the snowpack is below the normal level.
Councilman Reggie Moore expressed trust in Harrington’s expertise on the issue, saying, “I have every confidence that you will guide us through this very difficult process.”
Antioch gets nearly two-thirds of its water supply from CCWD; the rest from the San Joaquin River. The council’s action set in motion the planning for the three-tiered water rate structure. But it won’t be implemented unless the council approves it on May 12, and then it probably would not go into effect until June.