Court rules "tiered" water billing illegal

By John Perry and Kim Lefner 

In another “I told you so” moment, the Capistrano Common Sense learned that the Second Appellate District Court appears to have confirmed our suspicion that the manner in which we are billed for water is punitive and therefore violates the law.

The recent Court ruling held that the Palmdale Water District’s “tiered” water billing structure does not comply with Proposition 218. San Juan Capistrano has a similar tiered billing structure as Palmdale in that it punishes consumers for exceeding their monthly water allocation by charging significantly more for each progressive “tier” (amount of water consumed), rather than basing it on the actual cost of providing the service.

Timothy Bittle, Director of Legal Affairs for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association told the CCS,

“This type of structure violates Proposition 218 because the service provided doesn’t reflect the actual cost to the City of providing the service.”

Our City’s four-tiered structure appears to be focused on generating additional revenue for the City while conserving water.

CCS Board members began questioning the water billing structure in 2009, when the City proposed raising water rates by 40%. Unfortunately as is often typical of our City Council and staff, our concerns were simply dismissed and our water rates have continued to automatically increase every year, per the Council’s direction. 


CITY/base rate

1. SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO - $3.32/ccf

2. SAN CLEMENTE -$2.40/ccf

3. EL TORO - $1.91/ccf

4. SOUTH COAST - $1.91/ccf

5. SANTA MARGARITA - $1.89/ccf

6. MOULTON NIGUEL - $1.38/ccf

It may take a taxpayer lawsuit to resolve the issue of punitive tiered water rates vs. actual cost of service. CCS will keep you informed as the City tries to find a way around what appears to be this latest violation of Prop 218.

Editor’s Note: Are your water bills too high? We want to hear from you! Please email us at: .

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