You know that feeling of anticipation you’d get the night before a big event, like a wedding or a big family reunion? That’s how we feel about 2017. The year ahead provides promise for Castaic Lake Water Agency and residents of the Santa Clarita Valley as we move forward with efforts to better serve the valley’s water needs — up to and including the potential for a history-making change in regional water supply and governance as CLWA and Newhall County Water District work together to create a new valleywide water agency. As historic as that change may be, we also will focus on several other important initiatives to help us plan for and serve the needs of the community. Among them: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Both water from the State Water Project and local groundwater are vital components of our water supply portfolio. Throughout the state, communities rely on groundwater, and managing those supplies is crucial. Recognizing this, the state approved the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a package of three bills that provide a framework for agencies statewide to achieve local groundwater sustainability within 20 years. Historically, we have worked together to manage our groundwater resources in a sustainable way to ensure its availability. As a first step, Castaic Lake Water Agency is working with its Santa Clarita Water Division, plus several other agencies including the Newhall County Water District, the city of Santa Clarita and county of Los Angeles, to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, as required by the new state law. Once the agency is formed, it is required to create a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2022. The public will have various opportunities to provide input, and those outreach efforts have begun. The first stakeholder forum is scheduled in late January, and a second is planned a month or two later. In order to meet SGMA’s requirements, the Groundwater Sustainability Agency must be formed by June 30, 2017, followed by initial steps to create the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. LARC Ranch and Bouquet Canyon: The coming year brings hope that a long-running water supply challenge will be solved in an area of our community that has relied on well water. The issue arose over two years ago, when the nonprofit Los Angeles Residential Community (LARC) Ranch found its wells were running dry. LARC is located in Bouquet Canyon, outside Santa Clarita city limits and almost 2 miles from the nearest municipal water connection. The residential facility, which houses approximately 100 developmentally disabled adults, had no choice but to begin trucking in water — a significant expense, especially for a nonprofit organization. The challenge facing LARC prompted local leaders to seek a solution. As 2017 begins, we are proud to say CLWA’s Santa Clarita Water Division is working together with LARC Ranch to secure a state grant that would fund a municipal water connection to LARC and, potentially, some other property owners in Bouquet Canyon who rely on well water. We’re proud of the collaboration that has gone into this project as we work with the state and LARC to resolve an issue that has impacted some of our community’s most vulnerable residents. Making history with a new water district: The past year saw initiation of a collaborative effort by CLWA and Newhall County Water District to explore the possibility of forming a new, single, valleywide water district. In December, both agencies’ boards voted overwhelmingly to settle litigation between the two agencies and pursue state legislation that would authorize creation of the new agency. The new agency, as agreed upon by both Castaic Lake and Newhall, would: ■ Create economies of scale saving ratepayers an estimated $1.62 million annually. ■ Assure ratepayers within each retail service area do not bear the legacy debt of another retail service area. ■ Create a new valleywide, locally elected board of directors with equal population electoral divisions. ■ Facilitate increased water recycling and improve regional planning and management of other alternative sources. ■ Create a stronger, more integrated and reliable water utility system. ■ Reduce duplicative costs for outside services such as legal expenses and consultant fees. ■ Realize staffing efficiencies of combined operations, which would be achieved through attrition. Additional details can be found online at yourscvwater.com. It truly is a win-win, and the next steps are under way as Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District are working together to pursue legislation to make the new agency a reality. Indeed, 2017 holds great opportunity for improving the way we provide water utility services to you. Stay tuned! Robert DiPrimio is the incoming president of the Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors. His commentary reflects the agency’s views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.