FRESNO, Calif. — When residents of this parched California city opened their water bills for April, they got what Mayor Ashley Swearengin called “a shock to the system.”
The city had imposed a long-delayed, modest rate increase — less than the cost of one medium latte from Starbucks for the typical household, and still leaving the price of water in Fresno among the lowest across the entire Western United States. But it was more than enough to risk what the mayor bluntly admits could be political suicide.
It wasn’t that long ago,” Ms. Swearengin said, “that people here were fighting the installation of water meters.”
Nearly 15 years ago and 1,000 miles away in Santa Fe, N.M., officials faced a similarly dire predicament when a drought came within a few thousand gallons of leaving the city without enough water to fight fires. But Santa Fe’s response was far more audacious