While officials are calling for conservation in the face of an ongoing drought, 42 California communities are lagging in installing the most basic tool of water management: water meters.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that means more than more than 255,000 homeowners and businesses statewide can still use all the water they want without seeing higher bills.
People without meters are charged a flat monthly rate for water – usually between $20 and $35 a month.
The newspaper cites state records that show those communities, including areas of Bakersfield and Sacramento, use 39 percent more water per capita than the average.
Most California residents have had water meters since the early decades of the last century.
Under a law signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, providers are required to install meters on all connections by 2025.