Gary Martin | Water Supply Info in the Pipeline

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In her Oct. 9 Signal commentary, “Updated Water Supply Info Needed,” Lynne Plambeck uses a conflation of opinion, facts and her biased and often faulty version of reality to conclude that our policy makers are not following the law in using updated water supply information when considering new development projects and thus not making “informed” decisions.

At issue is whether our local planning authorities are adhering to the legal requirements of two bills that were passed in 2000, SB 610 and SB 221. These statutes are now part of the Water Code, and are commonly referred to as water supply assessment and water supply verification. Ms. Plambeck refers to these as the “show me the water” laws.

Plambeck cites a commentary she wrote last year that went into more detail about this same assertion, conveniently ignoring the rebuttal commentary by former Castaic Lake Water Agency General Manager Dan Masnada challenging her mischaracterization of SCV water supply and development coordination (https://signalscv.com/2018/07/would-plambeck-ever-say-there-was-enough-water/#disqus_thread.

Masnada stated:

“In her assertion…Plambeck ignores the foundational document for water supply verifications, the SCV Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP). This document, which is updated every five years by the SCV water suppliers, projects water demand and supply through 2050, when the SCV is expected to be built out. The 2015 UWMP includes demand projections for all land uses in the 2010 city and county general plan amendments (also known as One Valley, One Vision). Water demand for all existing and anticipated future development, regardless of size, is included.”

Plambeck then raises a number of challenges faced by water suppliers throughout the state, leaving the impression that the SCV faces all of them as well. In fact, we have a diversified water supply portfolio consisting of multiple sources of imported water and groundwater along with a recycled water system that is the largest component of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency’s capital program going forward.  Recent municipal well closures mentioned in her commentary are being proactively addressed by the agency with the construction of treatment facilities. In one instance, she correctly points out that climate change is affecting our State Water Project supply; however, the Department of Water Resources accounts for its effect on SWP water supply projections the agency relies on for its planning purposes.

With regards to the Newhall Ranch project, Plambeck asserts that the Board of Supervisors erred when it approved in 2017 the initial phase of the project without an updated water supply assessment. However, she neglected to mention that water demand and supplies for the entire Newhall Ranch project are contained in the 2015 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP), upon which all SCV water supply assessments are based. In fact, Water Code Section 10910 states that if a project was included in a previous water supply assessment, no additional assessment is required unless project water demand substantially increases, or there are conditions or information that would substantially affect the public water system’s ability to provide a sufficient supply of water for the project. The 2015 UWMP indicates that no such condition exists. 

Plambeck concludes her commentary by stating that “[in] the face of water supply reductions in a warming climate, we must follow the law and update water availability for new projects so that we can make informed decisions to ensure the well-being of our community.”  On this point, I agree with her – at least in concept.  

However, as stated above, a new and separate water supply assessment is not necessary or required in this case.  

The 2020 Urban Water Management Plan Update is due to be prepared next year and will, as have all prior UWMPs, address water supply availability for the entire SCV.  

As president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, Plambeck may choose to ignore this fact in her efforts to oppose new development. However, as a long-time director of Newhall County Water District (NCWD) and current Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency director, she is keenly aware the UWMP will be updated soon.  As an NCWD director, she voted to approve the 2015 UWMP.  Presumably she will vote to approve the 2020 UWMP because it is giving her the updated water supply information she supposedly wants. 

Gary Martin is a vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency board of directors.

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