As drought drives prices higher, millions of Californians struggle to pay for water
On California’s eastside, hundreds of people lined up at the water department to fill their jugs with the cold water they could not afford to buy, in line for weeks.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure people get water that they can use responsibly,” state Treasurer John Chiang said. “This is a crisis that’s going to have a huge impact.”
Californians can get water in a more cost-effective way, however: buy it.
The price of water has soared more than 40 percent in the last four decades, but as the state’s three largest water suppliers — the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District of Northern California and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and which have not been cut off from the state — face steep debts to purchase water in the dry year, residents are struggling to pay high prices for the commodity that is central to California’s economy.
“It’s like a death spiral. People can’t afford water, so they’re buying it under contract,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), a sponsor of a bill that would have required the water departments to contract directly for water, removing the last obstacle to a system of water purchasing.
“People aren’t making these decisions for themselves. They have the government telling them what to do,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), a sponsor of a bill that would have required the water departments to contract directly for water, removing the last obstacle to a system of water purchasing.
The bill was opposed, including by some of the water suppliers, on the grounds that it could be misused to force cities to buy expensive water, which would drive prices and cost the state more money.
But in a sign of the deepening political war over water, and an uncertain future for a system that has been central to California’s economy and identity, the bill passed the