Last week The Signal took a deeper look into the new water district recently approved by Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) and Newhall County Water District (NCWD).
The editorial focused largely on the new governance structure and expressed a desire for a smaller board of directors. We agree and have constructed the new board to be leaner, more accessible and cost substantially less than the current approach.
But the column included a few misinterpretations of cost, and it’s important that the public have a clear understanding of the new system.
The new district will be governed by a board of directors directly elected by Santa Clarita Valley voters. It will be built in three separate, evenly sized divisions to ensure equal representation for all corners of the valley, and it will be California Voting Rights Act compliant.
It will also reduce the overall size and cost of board operations by upwards of $200,000 each year.
On Day One, the new agency’s board would be smaller than our current approach. It will also require that we shrink from 15 to 12 members by 2020 – a 20 percent reduction. There is even consensus to explore reducing it to nine members shortly thereafter.
We believe this shift respects past election results and allows stability while methodically transitioning toward a better and more cost-effective system for the valley.
The Signal and others have also stated that only NCWD is dissolving, implying that CLWA is taking over the smaller retail district. This is not accurate.
CLWA, NCWD and the Santa Clarita Water Division (a retail provider owned by CLWA) will all dissolve to make way for the new district.
This is truly a brand new water district for our valley, and we, as board presidents, have a mutual desire to ensure that “we’ve always done things that way” does not become a refrain for how we operate.
We are firmly committed to exploring new ways of serving our community.
Beyond a more modern and efficient form of governance, the new water district will also save money and improve regional water management.
In its first decade, the new district can save upwards of $14 million. It would substantially reduce outside services like attorneys and accountants.
Internally, staffing resources would be reduced by upwards of 7 percent, but done through attrition so as to not impact customer service and our loyal employees.
It ends years of costly litigation between NCWD and CLWA. It also eliminates redundant operations, contributing significantly to savings.
The bottom line: $14 million in savings would help bolster local water reliability and support rate stabilization.
The new district will also allow us to build more significant projects, including our first true regional recycled water system. As one district, we can do this far more effectively and efficiently than our current fragmented approach. In fact, these projects have proven far too costly to build under the status quo.
Additionally, managing water resources in one boardroom has become critically important for our region, as the state now requires a more integrated approach to both groundwater and surface water management.
Our two districts are excited for what’s next. We’re grateful for the engagement of the public, The Signal and other stakeholders to make this a better process and outcome.
We are now eager to do the final work necessary to bring real results directly to the people of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Details on the proposed governance structure, cost savings and regional water management can be found at www.YourSCVWater.com.
Maria Gutzeit is president of Newhall County Water District; Bob DiPrimio is president of Castaic Lake Water Agency.