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In spring 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the 2012 settlement agreement between California American Water, The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The decision was supported by the state's consumer protection Division of Ratepayer Advocates, and affects customers in seven counties: Los Angeles, Monterey, Placer, Sacramento, San Diego, Sonoma and Ventura.  

Under this settlement, an estimated 20,000 low-income households receive an on-bill rate credit of 20 percent (up from 15 percent) within a tiered rate structure akin to the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program. California American Water Rates Director Dave Stephenson said this model “also promotes wise water use with higher costs for water used outdoors"  by encouraging customers to fix leaks, install water-efficient appliances and avoid over-irrigating their lawns, per California’s goal of a 20-percent reduction in per capita water use by 2020.

California American Water is a wholly owned subsidiary of New Jersey-headquarted American Water (NYSE: AWK), among the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility companies in the U.S, claiming about 6,700 employees providing services to an estimated 14 million people in over 30 states and parts of Canada.

There's surprisingly little on the web about this particular agreement settlement, the bulk of information seeming to originate from Business Wire via Motley Fool.  What seems evident in the idea of a tiered rate system "encouraging" customers to make repairs, purchase efficient appliances, and conserve gardening water, is that public communications are worded to make sense to middle-class customers, and that negotiations between non-profits and powerful government and private entities may only be able to produce small-step-by-small-step advances in social justice, at least until a lot more of us ordinary folks can find a way to get behind the grassroots organizations doggedly advocating for us decade after decade.

Originally posted to mettle fatigue on Thu Oct 10, 2013 at 08:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by California politics, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, and Central Valley Kossacks.

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