Water Budget Based Rate Structure

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BudgetIn 2011, the District implemented a Tiered Rate Structure based on property specific Water Budgets. Tiered rates provide customers with an economic incentive to use water efficiently and pass on the higher costs associated with conservation programs and development of supplemental water sources to those who use water inefficiently.

  • Water budgets promote efficient water use by providing enough water for typical, yet efficient, water use indoors and outdoors without penalty. Budgets are property specific and take into account different water use factors depending on whether you have a single-family, multi-family, commercial/industrial/institutional, mixed use, or irrigation-only water account. Since approximately 50 percent of a typical customers water use is for irrigation, the water budget focuses on weather and irrigation data, allowing more water in the summer months.
  • Water budgets allow you to decide how to use your budgeted water. If you want to use more water for a flower garden, you might consider areas of your yard where you can cut back or you might make sure to have water-efficient appliances and implement water-saving practices for your family. Water budgets are about choice. As long as you’re not over watering or wasting water in other ways, you should have plenty of water for your indoor needs and to maintain a healthy landscape.
  • Water budgets enable the District to reduce water demand quickly in the case of unexpected water shortages. For example, if the District were to experience a prolonged infrastructure emergency, such as a water main break, imposing watering restrictions would be a last resort. Instead, the District would lower water budgets and let you determine how to use your budgeted water allotment.

How your water budget is calculated
Your Water Budget is the amount of water your household or business requires each two-month billing period. The factors used to calculate your water budget depend on the type of service account you have with the District. Below is a description of how the District developed Water Budgets for its various accounts.

Single Family: Water Budgets for single-family residential accounts include enough water for efficient indoor and outdoor use and are based on the following factors.

         Indoor Water Use Factors

  • Water use per person, per day.  A 1997 American Water Works Association study showed that on average, a person uses about 60 gallons of water each day indoors. This number includes all indoor water use, such as showers and washing clothes, and is based on water efficient devices.
  • Number of people in the household. The 2000 Census states that there are 2.1 people per household in the city of Laguna Beach. The District is allocating enough water for 3 people per single-family home.
  • Number of days per billing cycle. Number of days, approximately 60, that you are being billed for service.
         Outdoor Water Use Factors
  • Landscaped area. The landscaped area is the amount of area on the property that is being irrigated. Pools and spas are also included in the landscaped area. County Assessor parcel data and Geographic Information System data (GIS) obtained from the City were used to determine the landscape area for your home.
  • Evapotranspiration. The amount of water that is lost by soil each day due to evaporation and plant transpiration. For your water budget, historical rain data has been used.
  • Plant factor. The plant factor is the amount of irrigation water required by a plant. Plant factors vary by the type of plant. For example, turf grasses have a plant factor between 0.6 to 0.8, while water efficient plants have a plant factor of only 0.3 to 0.4. Your allocation is calculated using a plant factor of 0.8.
  • Irrigation efficiency. Irrigation efficiency measures how efficiently your irrigation system operates. Ideally, all irrigation systems would be 100 percent efficient. In reality, most systems have an irrigation efficiency factor of about 0.7. Your allocation is calculated using an efficiency factor of 0.7.

Multi-Family: Water Budgets for single meter Multi-family accounts (more than one family sharing one water meter) are based on a 3-year rolling historical average for each meter. Each business is unique and has water needs based on factors such as the type of business, number of employees, and the use of water for conducting business. Businesses are allocated water based on a 3-year rolling historical water use average.

Hotel Accounts: Hotel/Motel accounts are allotted water based on the number of guest rooms. The District is allocating 144 gallons per room based on a comprehensive study conducted by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, which found that a typical hotel utilizes 144 gallons of water per day for typical hotel use.

Irrigation Accounts: Water budgets for Irrigation only accounts are set according to the property’s total square footage of irrigated area, evapotranspiration rate, plant factor, and irrigation efficiency.

Questions and Answers

What if I use more water than my budgeted amount?
If your water usage is within your water budget, you will be billed at the Tier 1 rate. If you exceed your budget, you will be charged a higher Tier 2 rate for each unit you are over. Based on current water use, approximately 80 percent of all District customers are already within their water budget.

Will unused allotments be rolled over?
No. This concept is called “water budget banking.” The use of banking dilutes the water conservation advantages of the rate structure. For example, if a wet period leads to water savings, it would not help if customers were encouraged to spend those extra savings later in the year through a water budget banking program.

Will I be able to request changes to my water budget?
Yes. Considerations will be made for circumstances such as large families, irrigated area, home daycare facilities, etc. A Variance Request Form must be completed to receive an adjustment. Forms are available on our web site or for pick up at our office.

What if my historical use does not represent current use?

Multi-family, mixed use, and commercial/industrial/institutional accounts can request a review of their historical water use if there has been a significant change in how water is used on the property. This could include a change in the type of business being conducted on the property, ie. retail store is now a bar.

Why is the Tier 2 rate higher than Tier 1?
The Tier 2 rate recognizes that there are increased costs, primarily in the development of additional water resources and water use efficiency efforts related to higher levels of usage. Funds generated through Tier 2 cover 100 percent of the District’s water use efficiency efforts and a small portion of the cost of developing a supplemental water source.

What if I am irrigating multiple parcels through one meter?
Water Budgets for single-family residences are created using County Assessor parcel data and Geographic Information System data (GIS) obtained from the City. If one water meter is irrigating multiple parcels, you will need to complete a variance request form to add the additional parcels to your water budget.

Will budgets be increased for swimming pools?
No. The use of water for a pool is a choice made by the customer. Adjustments to fill a pool from empty will be granted every 5 years.

Is there a lifeline tier for seniors or low-income families?
No. The District is prohibited under State law (Proposition 218) to charge less for water service to one group over any other group.

Why do you use historical rainfall data rather than actual?
Rainfall occurs in real time and can not be included in a budget developed in advance. Your water budget is based on 20 years of historic weather patterns, including rainfall, and are established to provide for the basic needs of turf.

What can I do to reduce my water use?

The District has a Water Use Efficiency (WUE) program designed to help you stay within your water budget. Visit www.lagunabeachwater.com for conservation tips and rebate information. Or contact the District’s WUE department at (949) 342-1437 to sign up for a free Waterwise House Call.