LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Would adding a more complex pricing structure at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) encourage customers to cut back on their water usage?

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports a recent UCLA study found that while some residents have stepped up conservation efforts, others have leveled off as the statewide drought continues to worsen.

Last month, City Councilmen Felipe Fuentes and Mike Bonin introduced a motion (PDF) to have the DWP explore a number of conservation policy changes, including “an increasing
block rate structure for DWP customers with more than two tiers, in which the unit price for water rises as the volume of water consumption increases.”

The proposal – outlined in a June study by researchers at UCLA’s California Center for Sustainable Communities – calls for implementing the revised multi-tiered pricing structure for residential water use that, under one option, could be used in combination with seasonal rate hikes in which prices increase during the summer months.

Stephanie Pincetl, director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, said the study’s findings showed wealthier customers with bigger lots use as much as three times the amount of water that other residential customers use.

One potential solution according to Pincetl: the adoption of household water meters that measure indoor and outdoor water use separately.

“Water prices should reflect the amount of water people use,” said Pincetl.

In January, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in response to California’s drought, asking residents to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. Recent surveys have found water use has declined by just 5 percent statewide since that time.

Edward Randolph with the California Public Utilities Commission said when state regulators added extra tiers to electric rates to encourage electricity conservation earlier this year, the results were mixed – and often an unwelcome surprise.

“You don’t understand you’ve gone into the next tier until you get your bill,” said Randolph.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the DWP would report its findings to the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee.

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