• Judge reaffirms MPWMD position on additional water fixtures

    By Marge Ann Jameson for the 12/18/12 edition

    A Pebble Beach couple who sued the Monterey Peninsula Water Management district over water restrictions, fees, and home inspections lost their case in court when Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal ruled  in favor of the water district as to all counts.

    Richard and Sharlene Thum had gone through an inspection related to a new bathroom, during which unpermitted fixtures were discovered. The Thrums, who admitted they had received a multi-thousand dollar water bill for extravagant use, had installed multiple showerheads in a spa shower, all of which worked at the same time, no matter how many people were in the shower at the time.

    “The Judge agreed with the Board that that type of fixture promotes extra water use… and any extra water use is problematic as almost 70 percent of our water use is not legal,” said David C. Laredo, attorney for the Water District.

    The Thrums’ suit argued that  Water District rules are arbitrary and fail to advance legitimate governmental interests, but the Superior Court decision stated, “Allocation of water based upon the numbers and types of fixtures for a property has a ‘real and substantial relation to the object sought to be attained,” that object and governmental interest being water conservation.

    The laws, said Laredo, are designed to conserve and provide water to the Monterey Peninsula and “are not unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious” despite the argument many citizens might raise that the same number of people in a home would not necessarily use more water if more fixtures were permitted.

    David Stoldt, Water District General Manager, said “I am pleased Judge Villarreal validated our processes, in full, after careful and thorough review. This important decision not only finds Water District fees to be valid, but also affirms our mandate to provide and conserve water.” The Superior Court decision stated, “A ‘plain and commonsense meaning’ provides that the Water District has broad express and implied powers to provide and conserve water, collect money for services, and restrict water use during an emergency.”

    Laredo agreed that meters would provide the best measure of home and business water used. “But,” he said, “Cal-Am has that data and asserts it cannot be shared.” Without being given the data or being able to read 38,000 meters on the Monterey Peninsula each month, “How else can you control water use [than to limit fixtures]?” he said. “Judge Villarreal grappled with this, and eventually found that the District’s rules had a reasonable basis.”

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 30, 2012

    Topics: Marge Ann Jameson, Water

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