Water. It’s the key to our economic livelihood, our residential quality of life and our future. It’s the very thing that makes life on our planet possible. And although it makes up 71 percent of the earth’s surface, its supplies are limited. For these reasons it is critical we manage it responsibly, seeing not to waste it, contaminate it, or otherwise squander this precious resource.
Our region has grown dramatically since we first started thinking seriously about water in the Santa Clarita Valley. When Castaic Lake Water Agency was formed back in 1962, our valley was just a sleepy, rural farming community. Now, there are almost 300,000 of us and as our numbers have boomed so too have the number of water suppliers serving us.
But more water agencies don’t produce more water. Nor are they conducive to region wide management as each agency looks out for the interests of the residents within its service boundaries, rather than the health of our regional aquifers, reservoirs and rivers that supply water to our homes and businesses. This regional approach to water management and water resource stewardship is the key to the prolonged health of those resources and the ongoing vitality of our valley. A patchwork of management entities does not serve that end.
This is why I’ve introduced a bill to create a regional Santa Clarita Valley water agency and end the inefficient hodgepodge of service providers that currently exists. Instead the bill will implement a new, modern, environmentally responsible, economically viable and, frankly, more sensible approach to our region’s most essential resource.
The bill, Senate Bill 634, will dissolve the Castaic Lake Water Agency, Newhall County Water District and form one, unified water agency. Some in the area have asked why? Why not leave well enough alone? The answer, to me, is simple. The current situation isn’t well enough; it’s in need of reform and has led to challenges and troubles easily avoidable under a more united front. It has cost us money and prohibited the responsible management of our, at times, very limited amount of water.
In the Santa Clarita Valley we’ve been plagued by “water wars” with providers battling over supply and rates. This merger will bring an end to legal infighting and we can move forward to focus on our future.
We can bring an end to price and water quality discrepancies by bringing about infrastructural compatibility which will lead to consistently higher quality water at the tap and consistently lower prices for us all. In fact, analysis has determined that the formation of this new regional agency will cut waste and save consumers $14 million in its first 10 years.
But this bill isn’t just about merging these agencies to bring cheaper, cleaner water to the Santa Clarita Valley; it’s also about creating a more responsible and accountable agency, one that answers to and represents the needs of the people.
In the bill, I call for a representative governance structure to address the growing concern that at times these entities haven’t been as responsive to the public as they should be.
The agency will come with yearly financial audits and a built in dispute resolution process including an independent Ratepayer Advocate to ensure business and ratepayers are being charged an appropriate amount for the services and water they receive.
This new agency is a big deal. It will put protections in place for our resources, our environment and our community as a whole. I’m committed to getting this right because it will serve the homes of my friends, my neighbors, and the people who have trusted me as their representative in the State Legislature. I am committed to getting it right because this regional approach to water management is the right thing for our valley. It is the right thing for us now and it is the right thing for our future.