Alan Ferdman | A Water Rebuttal


In one aspect, I want to thank Dan Masnada for taking the time to respond to my (Feb. 12) column. I am always pleased to see people are reading what I write, even if they do not agree with me. But at the same time, I am also disheartened when I am accused of saying something I did not say. So, when Dan wrote, “Alan chooses to criticize the agency simply because it is complying with state law in preparing an accompanying water shortage contingency plan,” he was being frivolous. What I did was, question the assertions and content of what was being reported in the paper. 

I participated in SCV Water’s Feb. 17 workshop and thought the staff presentation was excellent. Not only did they present the facts, but also willingly answered questions, even when the answer showed they had additional challenges to work out. The presentation was recorded and will be available for viewing on the SCV Water website.

One of the first things I wanted to find out was how 275,000 customers using an average of 125 gallons per day (for a total of 34 million gallons per day), related to the SCV’s total water demand. In the meeting, our valley’s current demand was shown to be 64,800-acre feet per year (which calculates out at 57.8 million gallons per day). The answer was provided by Matthew Dickens, who revealed the lower number was residential use and not total demand.

Masnada wrote “water is already here,” “the valley has enough water, not just presently, but through buildout as projected in the city and county One Valley One Vision general plans.” However, Sarah Fleury presented a chart that showed buildout in 2050 would bring the SCV’s total population to a number just north of 400,000, and a second chart that indicated the associated water needs to support it. When I asked if an amount was available today to support the 2050 increased number of residents, I thought she was brave to answer “no,” and responded it is SCV Water’s challenge to find a little over 1% per year to meet the projected population increase. I believe we need to all realize, 1% additional water a year over 30 years is a lot more water than we currently have.

Next, I asked a question about adding new customers. Does SCV Water have a defined water availability margin, which is validated when granting a new customer a “will serve letter”? The answer came from Dirk Marks, who indicated I was asking a policy question, and currently SCV Water does not have such a policy. He will attempt to have an updated answer at the next workshop in March, which will center on supply. 

(On recycled water), Masnada wrote, “this approach (recycling) would be far more expensive than conducting public outreach and developing conservation programs that are typically used by water agencies to reduce demand during such shortages.” Isn’t this just another way of saying, “We [the agency] will give you less water, and it will hurt you, more than it does us? 

Dan went on to add, “Why would he (Alan) think the agency would operate any differently now or in the future than it historically has?”

Why improve? Because I believe it is time for us to realize water recycling is more expensive only when water is available at a low cost. When water becomes a scarce commodity, it is too late to spend any amount to help. My position is, SCV Water should implement a reasonable yearly budget to incrementally expand our recycled water supply. Even Dan seems to understand when he states, “The agency’s water supply portfolio consists of two sources of groundwater, two imported water sources and recycled water.” SCV Water’s website shows only 475 acre-feet per year (0.424 million gallons per day) is currently being recycled, offsetting less than 1% of our water demand. We need to do better. 

Lastly, the presentation on “drought planning” did not imply a drought was imminently in our future, but instead was a discussion of how SCV Water uses risk management based on 20 years of data. Possible actions were identified as testing near-term reliability, water banking and water transfer.

The water story is far from over, as the third workshop installment will be held on March 22. I am hoping by then we will be able to meet in person. But in person or on Zoom, please try to participate. It is in our best interest.

So, by now you may have realized, Dan Masnada and I have crossed swords before. He retired as general manager of Castaic Lake Water Agency and at one time his word about water was law. Today, if he wants to defend Sacramento’s handling of not “pumping water through the delta,” I will leave it up to him. Currently, Dan sits on the Santa Clarita Planning Commission, and when he writes of roads not being required to handle peak traffic, I get concerned about how he will vote on future new developments, while keeping traffic flowing in the SCV. I think I will start watching Planning Commission meetings. You should consider watching also.

Alan Ferdman 

Santa Clarita

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