The Carmel Pine Cone
November 12, 2004

Water moratorium will only be a last resort


Contrary to reports in local news media earlier this week, the state Public Utilities Commission has not been asked by its Office of Ratepayer Advocates to consider imposing a moratorium on new Monterey Peninsula water hookups.

Danilo Sanchez, manger of the water branch of the consumer watchdog agency, said his office is simply advocating a back-up plan in case conservation measures, which include raising rates, fail to keep water use within state-mandated limits.

"It's a second trigger," Sanchez explained. "If higher rates don't fix the problem, then a moratorium is an option. But it is only one option. We are not recommending that a moratorium be imposed at this time. We are recommending it only as a last resort in the future."

Sanchez acknowledged that higher rates have in the past successfully put the brakes on water use.

The California American Water Co. was granted an emergency rate hike in June to reduce consumption and spare the company up to $4 million in fines.

Cal Am general manager Steve Leonard agrees that a moratorium is not imminent.

"A moratorium should only be used for a true shortage, not a regulatory shortage," he said. "If you look outside, it's been a very rainy fall. Even if we wanted a moratorium, it would take a while to implement it on a procedural level. And we don't want a moratorium. Almost everyone on the Monterey Peninsula is opposed to a moratorium."