PERRIS (CBSLA.com) — The California Supreme Court has made it a little harder for water companies to impose hefty tiered fees in an effort to discourage heavy water use.

In a case involving San Juan Capistrano, the High Court recently ruled they couldn’t charge their customers more for the water than what the water company paid.

“San Juan, when they established their tiered rate structure, essentially they never did their homework to attribute the cost of service to their water supply cost to their customer cost,” said Kevin
Pearson, a spokesperson with Eastern Municipal Water District in Perris.

He says at Eastern they charge their customers what it costs them to buy the water from outside agencies, plus administration fees.

“Tiered rate structure has been great for our customers and it’s been great for us. We’ve seen water use reduced,” he said.

San Juan also used a tiered system but hefty water wasters saw prices that didn’t reflect what San Juan was buying the water for and, in some cases, some people saw huge bills.

Other municipalities that hoped to use a similar system to penalize water wasters will now have to find other ways to get customers to conserve.

Gov. Jerry Brown said the ruling is putting a straightjacket on efforts to conserve water.

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