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Town fights turning on long

MORADA Amid the acres and acres of lush lawns in this wealthy enclave, the yellowing grass in a vacant lot on Los Cerritos Drive is one of the few reminders that California is in the fourth year of a crippling drought.

Even in the Central Valley, where paying a dirt cheap, flat rate for all the water you want, is often seen as a birthright, Morada stands out: San Joaquin County installed water meters here five years ago, but Moradans have managed to avoid using them by employing wholesale jerseys from china a questionable some say outrageous stalling tactic.

The water district serving Morada is so small that a handful of savvy homeowners have preserved their $126 monthly water rate by using an obscure provision of a nearly two decade old statewide ballot measure to challenge and block any increases. They’re paying less than many homeowners in nearby cities, while using eight times as much water as the county cheap jerseys average.

« These are estate size lots, and it takes a lot of water to keep that much grass green, » said Morada resident Ed Schroeder, 72, a retired hospital executive. « If we switch to meters and everyone lets their lawn go, it will change this whole neighborhood. »While most of California’s large cities have been fully metered for generations, proximity to abundant water supplies has long fueled resistance to meter installation in the Central Valley. But that attitude is quickly changing because of the drought, coupled with a state law that requires every California community to install water meters by 2025. That shift is the focus of the latest installment of this newspaper’s ongoing series, « A State of Drought. »

« The days when anyone could use as much water as they wanted without paying a fair price for the volume should be over, » said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit group in Oakland that studies water issues.

The same ballot measure at the center of the dispute, Proposition 218, also helped San wholesale jerseys china Juan Capistrano residents win a closely watched legal battle over a tiered water rate structure that charged higher prices for greater water use. Gov. Jerry Brown lashed out at the state appeals court that issued the recent ruling, calling it a « straitjacket » stifling local water agencies’ ability to respond to the drought.

All Moradans had to do to stop the county from turning on their meters was get a majority of 113 homeowners in the water district to write letters protesting their use. Morada, located northeast of Stockton, is one of three small towns in the county where water meters have been installed that aren’t being used because of Proposition 218. The other two, Acampo and Fairway Estates, surround Wholesale Football Jerseys China Lodi.

Morada’s critics say the town’s residents should be embarrassed.

« There are lots of people in this state who don’t have clean, safe drinking water right now because of the drought, » said Kathryn Phillips, executive director of Sierra Club California. « Not to conserve as much as possible is unconscionable and irresponsible. »

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said Morada’s application of Proposition 218 is « new to me » and his anti tax advocacy group wrote the initiative, which passed with 56 percent of the vote in 1996.

Ryan Cogdill, an attorney for the group, was more familiar with the section of the measure stating that utilities cannot impose new fees or charges if a majority of ratepayers protest, but he cautioned against using the protection too liberally. « Having the right to protest doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wise to exercise that right, » he said.

Some Stockton residents who live on smaller lots less than a mile away from Morada said they were shocked by the lack of fairness, noting that the water flowing from all their taps comes from the same source.

Sprinklers water the lawn of a home in Morada on April 24, 2015. Morada is one of the small towns in San Joaquin County that have been bitterly fighting the installation and use of water meters that will be vital in measuring progress toward Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory water use restrictions. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

« The rates should be equal, » said cheap nfl jerseys Lissette Diggs, 36, who runs a day care center. « They’re trying to pay less and get more. »

Before San Joaquin County hired him in 2012, Jim Stone, the deputy director of public works, was unaware that small water district customers could use Proposition 218 to block rate increases without any proof that the higher costs are unfair.

« Some folks say they don’t want meters because they don’t want to give their neighbors a reason not to water their lawns, » Stone said. « Others can’t get past the idea they’ll have to pay more for the same service. »

But if Morada’s homeowners don’t start using meters soon, the water district, known as County Service Area 46, will be deep in debt. The flat fee homeowners pay, Stone said, no longer covers the cost of the district’s pump taxes and electricity bills.

So next month, county officials will try again to switch the district’s water users from a flat rate to a metered rate. Stone wholesale jerseys china says they’re hoping for a different outcome this time around because of a more aggressive public outreach campaign.

An attorney for the State Water Resources Control Board agreed with the governor that Proposition 218 will make it tougher for some communities to comply with his orders to cut water use 25 percent statewide. And, he added, using the measure to refuse to use water meters outright « sends a very unfortunate signal. »

« You can’t manage what you don’t measure, » said Michael Lauffer, the board’s chief counsel.

The Legislature passed the law requiring that all homes be metered in 2004. Ironically, however, the state capital still has the largest number of homes without meters about 61,000 leaving slightly less than half the city unmetered.

The Sierra Club’s Phillips, who lives in Sacramento, said she’s been begging to have a meter installed on her property.

« Because I don’t have a water meter, I don’t know if I have a leaky pipe squirting like crazy in the backyard, » she said. « I don’t know what I’m using and when wholesale jerseys I’m using it. »

The slow pace of meter installation in the Central Valley is rooted in the region’s abundance of rivers, streams and underground aquifers and the belief of residents that they are entitled to access that water, said Jay Lund, director of UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Science.

« Water never cost much in this part of the state because it wholesale jerseys was everywhere, so meter installation and meter reading always seemed like an added, unnecessary expense, » Lund said.

California had cheap nhl jerseys a quarter million unmetered connections in 2012, when the Department of Water Resources last gathered the data, but the drought has led Central Valley cities such as Galt and Lodi to speed up the pace of installation. Discovery Bay is the only urban water supplier in the Bay Area that’s not fully metered.

Ernie Boutte, president of Morada’s homeowners association, doesn’t know what will happen in June, the next deadline for residents to submit more letters of protest to the county or relent to a metered future. But recent talks wholesale cheap jerseys he’s had with neighbors lead him to believe change is coming.Articles Connexes:

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