At the end of each year, we at the Castaic Lake Water Agency reflect on the previous year’s challenges and accomplishments and then look ahead at the coming year with the goal of sharing our priorities with the community and how we plan to address them in the future. This year is no different. Except… Well, except 2016 may have been the most historic year in local water management in over 40 years. And, with the wholesaler Castaic Lake Water Agency and retailer Newhall County Water District working together to form a new valley-wide water agency, 2017 is shaping up to be no less historic. But first, there were also a few other key moments in the management and planning of your water in 2016: Urban Water Management Plan In another instance of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water agencies working together for the overall betterment of the valley’s water supply, CLWA, NCWD and CLWA’s Santa Clarita Water Division collaborated in a yearlong process to evaluate the community’s water needs and supplies up to the year 2050. Included in that process were three community workshops and two public hearings, which provided opportunities for input from the community, water partners, environmental groups, business groups, elected leaders and other stakeholders. The culmination of those efforts came in June 2016, when CLWA and NCWD both adopted the 2015 Urban Water Management Plan. After a great deal of collaborative research, the plan concluded that a combination of existing and planned programs to increase water supply and conservation will be sufficient to meet the valley’s water needs through 2050 — in wet years and dry ones alike. Drought, more drought California has endured a record-setting drought: The past five years, according to the National Weather Service, were the five driest ever recorded in downtown Los Angeles. Is it any wonder “drought fatigue” has set in? “Drought fatigue” is described as a relaxation of conservation efforts over time. In 2016, CLWA and the other SCV water suppliers noticed drought fatigue in the form of increased local water use, particularly on the heels of the relaxation of some state-mandated drought restrictions last summer. From June to September, local use was up 24 percent compared to the previous year (during which the community had achieved a phenomenal 30+ percent reduction). That’s understandable, but we’re also striving to maintain a high-level awareness of the importance of continuing to use water efficiently – not only because we all still have to meet the state-mandated goal of a 20 percent per capita reduction in water use by 2020, but also because it’s the right thing to do. SCV water users have done a great job of using water efficiently in recent years, and we want to build on that success. As always, we’re advocating not just short-term conservation, but an ongoing ethic of water use efficiency. New path for the future Like siblings who sometimes squabble, over the years CLWA and NCWD have had disagreements. But as 2016 began, the efforts to amicably resolve some of those disagreements spawned a realization: We have a great deal of common ground. We’re better working together than separately. And what if we could create a single agency that better serves the needs of all Santa Clarita Valley residents? At first we weren’t sure where the discussion would lead, but together, CLWA and NCWD informed the community in 2016 that the two agencies were contemplating the creation of a new agency that would replace them both. A website, yourscvwater.com, was established to provide information and updates. Workshops were held to gather public input, and both agencies set about the process of studying the possibility to determine whether it will better serve the community. Representatives of both agencies presented and gathered input from civic and community groups over a year. The answer, after nearly a year of study and public engagement, is yes. In separate votes Dec. 13, the boards of both CLWA and NCWD voted overwhelmingly in favor of creating a new public water district to serve the entire valley. Both agencies concluded that creating a new water agency will reduce costs, enhance regional water management and strengthen the valley’s water governance. Up next: In 2017, CLWA and NCWD will jointly pursue state legislation to authorize the creation of a new valley-wide water agency. More on that in Saturday’s edition. Tom Campbell recently completed his term as president of the Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors. Incoming president Robert DiPrimio will provide a look ahead to 2017 in the second part of this series.