Agricultural water rate?

User Forum Topic
Submitted by Eugene on July 20, 2008 - 10:50pm

I seem to recall reading somewhere that some homeowners in Escondido get their water at the special "agricultural" rate. Does anyone know any details - does it apply to everyone within certain areas, is it true in other places like Poway, is this agricultural rate much lower than regular residential rate?

I'm paying $100+/month just to water a 8000 sf grass lot, many of those homes in Escondido come with half acre orchards, I can't imagine how much it must cost to water, unless they are getting some really sweet rates...

Submitted by NotCranky on July 20, 2008 - 11:26pm.

Maybe they have a well esmith?

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 12:28am.

esmith, some questions?

You have kids right? You have an 8k lot and it sounds like alot of grass. Do you actually let the kids play in the front yard? Do you use the back yard often, or is it something that is used 1 sat a month and twice on holidays?
You have a gardern right? Do you have everything on automatic watering, or do you only water when necessary?

Do you get sick of paying $100/month in water? or is it no big deal, just another cost like $5 coffee from starbucks and $4.50 gas in the SUV?

This isnt ment to be an knock against you. It isnt ment to be mean or question your life style, or suggest that I live a very different life style. I promise, I am asking this in absolutely the best of intensions, something like a friend asking over beers at happy hour. I just want to understand if people know that we are in for the big hurt with water in the coming years, and if they do, if they care. I want to understand the mentality people have to keep green lawns in a desert, in a drought.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/...

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 12:38am.

oh, I also know that usually AG rates only apply to parcels over a certain size. Something like 5 acres.

"The study concluded agricultural users weren't paying their fair share, and it recommended that the ag rate increase from $1.96 per 1,000 gallons to the same price most residential users pay – $2.73 per 1,000 gallons, a 39 percent increase."

This is from 2006, but it says enough.

http://sports.uniontrib.com/uniontrib/20...

Submitted by Eugene on July 21, 2008 - 1:11am.

I grew up in a place where grass was green without any sprinklers, there were oaks and birches, and my family had a big garden with everything from strawberries to currants to potatoes and eggplants. I think that a big green back yard is an integral part of the house and if I have to pay $100/month or $200/month to keep it green, so be it. It's a small price to pay compared with $2000/month rent. Barren desert landscape is the biggest thing I don't like about San Diego. If I could live anywhere I want and I didn't have to work for a living, I'd probably move somewhere further north, maybe to Oregon.

Judging by lot sizes I see in San Diego, I'm in the minority here.

Today they ask as to cut down on watering our lawns and to replace real grass with artificial grass, because there's not enough water in the state to keep green lawns and gardens. Tomorrow they will ask us to shower twice a week, because they want to fit 50 million people in California and there won't be not enough water for everyone to shower every day. Or maybe we should set our A/C's to 85 during the day and light our houses by burning dry brush in fireplaces during the night because United States don't have enough power plants.

Southern California is an oasis and we should strive to keep it an oasis rather than try to turn it into thousands of square miles of gray dusty houses populated by gray dusty people.

If we're running out of water in Colorado River, maybe we shouldn't build more houses, and maybe we should build a desalination plant or two next to San Onofre. I'll even put some solar panels on the roof to help with desalination energy costs, if that is necessary.

Does that answer your question?

Submitted by SD Realtor on July 21, 2008 - 7:23am.

Actually the solution to your problem is a grey water system. Unfortunately the regulatory structure in place STRONGLY discourages the implementation of them making it virtually impossible. I was over at a friends house last month and he had a system in his place that was pretty sweet. He has a bigger lot then 8k sf, I think his is more like 12k sf and his system is not permitted. I have seen 2 other people do it as well. I don't promote doing this because as Rustico pointed out in a previous post when I spoke about this, if they are not done properly there are serious health risks. The water cannot be airborne and there are a litany of safety measures to put in. Also each person did not plumb the entire home for the system, only a select number of areas. Furthermore I did not ask what they intend to do if they ever sell the home with regards to removing the system or not, and/or disclosure. Each was very happy with the water bill though as they saw reductions of more then half as yard watering dominates most peoples water bill.

Submitted by seattle-relo on July 21, 2008 - 7:41am.

The water shortage in California, and especially Southern California, is real. About 80%-90% of San Diego water comes from either the Colorado River basin or from Northern California (State Water Project). Due to the drought in the Colorado River basin San Diego had to obtain about 78% of its water from the State Water Project. However, a judicial ruling last year determined that due to impacts on the endangered Delta smelt the current pumping of water from Northern California to Southern California must be dramatically reduced, or possibly cease.

Some links on this issue:
http://www.calwatercrisis.org/problem.htm
http://voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2007...

Desalination is a possibility for the future, but the cost of the treatment process is still substantially higher than other available options. It will also take time to build the plants, so expect at least five years before a plant can be designed, permitted and constructed. If desalination becomes the only option you can expect that water prices will substantially increase until that technology becomes further refined.

If water use isn't reduced in the near term then San Diego will be forced to purchase water from other sources, such as Imperial County, that has rights to the limited supply from the Colorado River. However, San Diego will be competing with other communities in Southern California that are in the same water shortage situation. The price of water will go up, the question is by how much. What if the cost to water that grass is $400/month or more?

Submitted by peterb on July 21, 2008 - 10:23am.

Agribusiness uses over 80% of CA's water consumption. Of that, Cotton,rice and alphalfa take the lions share. Residential consumption is very small and thus does not matter much when it comes to reductions or conservation of any kind. If the state govt really gets worried, they can just quit giving these special, high consumption crops anymore deals on water.

Submitted by Eugene on July 21, 2008 - 11:00am.

if they are not done properly there are serious health risks. The water cannot be airborne and there are a litany of safety measures to put in.

Would it be safe and healthy to sit on that grass, or eat vegetables that were watered with gray water? If not, it mostly defeats reasons to have the lawn in the first place.

Agribusiness uses over 80% of CA's water consumption. Of that, Cotton,rice and alphalfa take the lions share.

Shocking if true. Why would we grow such a water-intensive crop as rice in CA?

Submitted by peterb on July 21, 2008 - 11:29am.

CA govt gives away water to agribusiness

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 11:58am.

Alfalfa uses 20% of the states irrigation water. When the numbers are run, alfalfa by itself is something like .1% of the AG economic production in the state, and it uses 20% of the water. It is true, and it is amazing that so much water goes to support a crop with such a low value.

Having said that, what do we use alfalfa for?

-cattle
-dairy cattle
-horses
-sheep

This part of the equation often gets left out. CA is the largest dairy state in the nation. It produces billions of dollars of economic activity. But it is also the base product to feed cows to make milk to drink or turn in to cheese, or yogurt, both of which need large, labor intensive production plants which employe alot of people and make the state alot of money.

What do you think your steak or burger use to eat? (other than grain)

How much money does Del Mar and the race horses make? Add in all the breeding, the vet bills, the transportation, housing, etc. and you get a pretty penny or two. Guess what those horses eat? (other than grain.)

Where do you think the wool for your suit came from? (we could replace it with Cotton, but guess what crop also sucks up huge amounts of CA water?)

We can fix our water problem, but not as easily as is being suggested. CA is the true bread basket of the nation outside of a few crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. If you want to see food inflation, take away CA farmers water. Alfalfa is a feed stuff for the whole food industry, which is huge in CA.

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 12:14pm.

esmith wrote:
if they are not done properly there are serious health risks. The water cannot be airborne and there are a litany of safety measures to put in.

Would it be safe and healthy to sit on that grass, or eat vegetables that were watered with gray water? If not, it mostly defeats reasons to have the lawn in the first place.

Agribusiness uses over 80% of CA's water consumption. Of that, Cotton,rice and alphalfa take the lions share.

Shocking if true. Why would we grow such a water-intensive crop as rice in CA?

1st, grey water is fine if you treat it right. So, you took a shower, washed your self with some shampoo, and then used the water to water your grass. And suddenly it isnt safe to sit on grass watered with what you washed off yourself?
Food is alittle more tricky, since you will be ingesting it, but the majority of residental water is used outside, and the vast majority of that is used for lawns. The few who have gardens could still water with pottable water and wed fix any water problems.

2nd. I can use the same argument about rice about lawns. "Why should we be growing water hungry grass lawns in CA?" At least growing rice gives us food stuffs and economic output. What does your lawn do for the state?(Please dont mistake this for support of rice, or alfalfa for that matter. But this isnt as simple as many want it to be. Everyone has benifited from the era of cheap water. We need to make some hard decisions, and not just blaim everyone else because we dont think it will affect us.)

Submitted by Eugene on July 21, 2008 - 12:37pm.

When the numbers are run, alfalfa by itself is something like .1% of the AG economic production in the state, and it uses 20% of the water. It is true, and it is amazing that so much water goes to support a crop with such a low value.

If it's such a low value, we can EASILY afford to import alfalfa from Mexico, or maybe Montana, and it would cost us 0.1% of GDP (OK, maybe slightly more, because it needs to be transported) but we would cut down our water consumption by 20%.

suddenly it isnt safe to sit on grass watered with what you washed off yourself?

It's safe to sit on grass watered with what I washed off yourself. Sitting on grass watered with what I just flushed down the toilet ... maybe not so safe.

I'm not quite sure what exactly is defined as gray water. If it's the same as reclaimed water, it may be treated with some chemicals to kill bacteria & such before it arrives to my lawn.

"Why should we be growing water hungry grass lawns in CA?" At least growing rice gives us food stuffs and economic output. What does your lawn do for the state?

What does my showering or using TP do for the state? Grass lawn is a necessity, it does not need to be justified. Besides we don't live in a socialist country, it shouldn't be up to the government to decide whether they should allocate more water to rice growers at the expense of my lawn. I will pay the market rate and they will pay the market rate, and if there's not enough water, just raise the rate. The problem is, they are probably NOT paying the market rate, I don't see how they could profitably grow rice (which basically has to be submerged in water for most of its growing period) if they were paying for water as much as I do.

BTW my grass lawn creates more oxygen than needed by my entire family. I could say that you're breathing my oxygen :)

Submitted by peterb on July 21, 2008 - 1:02pm.

Water is life. Having lived where there was no water except for what could be captured during a rain, very few things survived. Just about every living thing is a consumer of water in some way. The trick is to figure out our priorities in order to best allocate it. With approx 40M people in CA, I would think that residential water use would take a priority over certain crops. Keep in mind, though, that up until 10 or 20 years ago, agriculture was the number one revenue generator in the state of CA. Amazing when you consider all that comes from CA. I'm pretty sure that the lobbying power from this group pulls some weight in sacto.

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 1:34pm.

esmith wrote:

What does my showering or using TP do for the state? Grass lawn is a necessity, it does not need to be justified. Besides we don't live in a socialist country, it shouldn't be up to the government to decide whether they should allocate more water to rice growers at the expense of my lawn. I will pay the market rate and they will pay the market rate, and if there's not enough water, just raise the rate. The problem is, they are probably NOT paying the market rate, I don't see how they could profitably grow rice (which basically has to be submerged in water for most of its growing period) if they were paying for water as much as I do.

BTW my grass lawn creates more oxygen than needed by my entire family. I could say that you're breathing my oxygen :)

Thank you, now you have answered my question.

(and considering the enormous amount of energy needed to pump that water from either the Colorado river, or from the Delta and over the grapevine, I doubt your grass is oxygen positive. Therefore, I think you are using MY oxygen. ;) )

Submitted by Eugene on July 21, 2008 - 2:11pm.

(and considering the enormous amount of energy needed to pump that water from either the Colorado river, or from the Delta and over the grapevine, I doubt your grass is oxygen positive. Therefore, I think you are using MY oxygen. ;) )

Actually that's not the case. Here are some numbers.

Cost to pump fresh water to LA through California State Water Project: 3000 kwh/acre-foot or 9 wh/gallon

Carbon dioxide consumed by 1000 sf of grass: around 500-600 kg/year (hard to find good numbers)

Water spent to grow grass: let's say 40"/year in addition to rainfall = 25,000 gallon/year = 225 kwh

worst-case scenario (100% coal-powered electricity): 1 kwh of electricity = 1 kg of emissions, 225 kwh = 225 kg

So, even in the worst-case scenario, my lawn would be net oxygen-positive. And California has fairly clean electricity.

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 2:15pm.

wow, huh. Where did you get those numbers?

Submitted by Eugene on July 21, 2008 - 3:31pm.

Google :)

Energy cost of pumping water to SoCal:

http://www.eesi.org/briefings/2006/Energ...

Energy to CO2 conversion factors are easy to find - e.g. here

ftp://ftp.eia.doe.gov/pub/oiaf/1605/cdro...

0.61 lbs (275 g) of CO2 per kWh of electricity (California, 2000)

Carbon consumption of the lawn is the hardest one. Many places say that it takes 625 sf of grass to capture all carbon dioxide exhaled by one person (roughly 1 kg / day).

Submitted by ucodegen on July 21, 2008 - 3:57pm.

and considering the enormous amount of energy needed to pump that water from either the Colorado river, or from the Delta and over the grapevine

Actually it goes through the grapevine. There is a long tunnel going through the mountains there.

http://www.hellolosangeles.com/Landmarks...

I tried to find pictures of it before it was put into use. I found them once before. In addition, energy reclamation techniques such as siphoning (the water going downhill in the pipe is used to push/pull the water up the hill) and using the downfall to generate electricity are used. Even so, moving water around CA requires an incredible amount of energy.

http://www.spannertech.com/water/
http://wsoweb.ladwp.com/Aqueduct/history...
http://www.ladwp.com/ladwp/cms/ladwp0044...

Submitted by ucodegen on July 21, 2008 - 4:01pm.

Just for the fun of it, here is a picture of a very old redwood aqueduct that is still in use..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Aqued...

found when I was trying to get pictures of Aqueduct Tunnel

Submitted by DWCAP on July 21, 2008 - 4:28pm.

The water going through that area is raise more than 2000 feet before going through those tunnels. You can see some of it off to your right when heading North on I5 just past Castaic lake. I am always amazed at home much water they move around there.
You are right about them using alot of energy to move water around, the SWP is the largest user of energy in the state. (It also happens to generate alot of energy too)

I havent quite figured it all out for myself just yet, esmith, care to help me understand the slide just after the one you reference about 3000kwh for water to LA. It says 6900kwh for San Diego, but it calls it energy intensity, which I have not had time to wrap my head around. At first glance it looks like an acre foot of water to San Diego is something more like 6000kwh/ac foot.

Submitted by Eugene on July 21, 2008 - 5:36pm.

I havent quite figured it all out for myself just yet, esmith, care to help me understand the slide just after the one you reference about 3000kwh for water to LA. It says 6900kwh for San Diego, but it calls it energy intensity, which I have not had time to wrap my head around. At first glance it looks like an acre foot of water to San Diego is something more like 6000kwh/ac foot.

"Energy intensity" is all energy spent on that water before it's consumed. It includes energy spent on heating water that goes into showers or dishwashers, for example. That slide basically says that it takes 2040 kwh to get an acre-foot of water to the customer, and then that customer will spend an average of 3900 kwh on that water to heat it, or do anything else he wants.

http://www.nrdc.org/water/conservation/e...

page 33

Submitted by patientlywaiting on July 22, 2008 - 12:28am.

Rustico wrote:
Maybe they have a well esmith?

Do you know if it's legal to drill a well on a lot with city water? How much would it cost? Thanks.

Submitted by SD Realtor on July 22, 2008 - 12:44am.

PW that is a good question. As for well costs, they vary according to the depth. As for drilling you also may very well have title restrictions or ccrs in newer subdivisions that prevent it.

Esmith - as to the restrictions about the greywater system, they are numerous but not impossible to overcome. There are alot of books about creating them. It may be worth the time to simply pick one of them up. Also the robustness of your system is up to you. Most people grab the easiest outflows such as the washing machine and maybe downstairs bathroom sinks. Kitchen outflow is discouraged but that is up to you. As for the restrictions about not exposing the greywater to air and such, again, many people think that the current reglations are way overkill and I tend to agree but am by no means a health expert.

I honestly do not believe that a greywater system jeopardizes your health within the confines of your lawn and such. Also regarding vegetables it is very arguable that the amount of pesticides and types of fertilizers used in commercial farms are a hell of alot more sketchy then a grey water system.

That is only an opinion and not based on anything official by any means. All I am saying is maybe read about them and learn up on them and then form an opinion.

Submitted by LuckyInOC on July 22, 2008 - 1:51am.

This is how OC solves its water problem..

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/02/...

Amaizingly good article from LA Times...

Lucky In OC

Submitted by Coronita on July 22, 2008 - 2:38am.

Caught wind of this thread late and I found it interesting.

One question i have.

From reading other people's post, I guess "gray" water means water from your personal use, such as taking a shower or washing laundry....

What about reclaimed water? I see at a lot of new companies and such that there are signs on outdoors vegetation that states not to drink the water because it's using reclaimed water? I doubt this is gray water, but where are these companies getting the reclaimed water from? Is it possible to get it piped to residential homes?

Submitted by NotCranky on July 22, 2008 - 9:10am.

Ucodegen, That was a great photo and project. Thanks.

PW,

A well requires a permit which is typically denied if there is a water utility. subdivisions below a couple of acres density almost always have infrastructure requirements and therefore zoning won't allow wells.

In any case a 6" well, which is the residential standard was around $13 a per foot of depth. Well drillers customarily place a 4" plastic pipe sleeve in the well which cost another $5-$6
per foot. Some drillers say this is not necessary. There are a few other cost and details but that will cover most of it.
I have a well and my water bill is a small part of electricty costs, which for my house are $50-$60 a month. I water about 20 trees and various gardens but no lawn.It is 300ft deep and cost 5K. I did all the mechanical work such as setting up the pump and storage and pressure boosting system whihc otherwise could easily run another 10-15k with contractor.

A properly installed grey water system should be safe. I think airborne hepatitis spores are the biggest concern. Usually, earth cover is 18 inches but there are concerns that erosion or poor maintenance would jeopardize that. I think I read that even on a properly functioning septic system(black water) the anaerobic effects have neutralized health threats in just the first few inches away from the leach lines. There is a concern about ground water contamination too. Large distances from wells and water courses are required.

Mostly we are talking about drain fields which are anaerobic systems but there are also aerobic systems that allow for the treated water, both grey and black to be sprayed above ground for irrigation. The set ups are moderately complicated take up space in the yard and require several times a year inspections and maintenance. This might be what you are seeing FLU. Not really sure if it is happening in California and if so probably in commercial or highway landscaping zones. On a smaller residential scale you have cost benefit issues when sewer is already available at the curb. So you are either seeing conventional grey water leach fields, or water from a treatment plant piped in or an onsite aerobic system.

I have one septic system at my house and am digging on for the second house now. This is not set up for irrigation. It is a very simple anaerobic black water system.

Submitted by patientlywaiting on July 22, 2008 - 4:39pm.

Rustico, thanks for the info. Interesting.

Submitted by fm on July 22, 2008 - 7:10pm.

LuckyInOC wrote:
This is how OC solves its water problem..

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/02/...

Amaizingly good article from LA Times...

Lucky In OC

I saw that on TV, where they toured the plant. However, in San Diego that is called "toilet to tap," and people (at least the governing officials) have not wanted this.

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