Rejecting the pleas of California officials worried about water conservation, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday left intact a lower court ruling that makes it tougher for cities and water districts to impose punishing higher rates on water wasters.
In its weekly closed-door conference, the Supreme Court refused to soften the statewide impact of an April appeals court ruling that found the city of San Juan Capistrano's tiered water rates -- common in the Bay Area and elsewhere in California -- were unconstitutional because they charged more for water than it cost the city to provide the service.
The appeals court, in finding the city's approach violated voter-approved Proposition 218's restrictions on such fees, "published" the decision, giving it legal weight across the state and prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to warn it placed a "straitjacket" on his mandates to lower water use.
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