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Water district debate flows smoothly

Three election candidates signal agreement on most issues, urge voluntary conservation, oppose manda

Posted: September 17, 2009 10:10 p.m.
Updated: September 18, 2009 7:00 a.m.

Moderator Leon Worden, left, gives instructions to Newhall County Water District candidates, from left to right, B.J. Atkins, Michael Cruz and Maria Gutzeit before a debate Wednesday afternoon. The debate was hosted by SCVTV, KHTS AM-1220 Radio and The Signal newspaper.

Candidates for the Newhall County Water District volleyed pleasantries and showed more commonalities than contrasts during a debate Wednesday night.

Newhall County Water Board hopeful Mike Cruz took on incumbents B.J. Atkins and board president Maria Gutzeit. The fourth candidate on the ballot, Kathleen Collie, was a no show.

The debate is the only one before the Nov. 3 election.

Signal Managing Editor Lila Littlejohn and KHTS News Editor Carol Rock quizzed each candidate on a bevy of issues ranging from the crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to whether the SCV needs four water retailers.

With nearly 50 percent of Newhall County Water’s supply coming from the state water project, Cruz and the other candidates stressed the importance of developing more local sources of water.

“I would like to see a recharge facility like the Orange County Water District that recharges 100 million gallons a day,” Cruz said.
Gutzeit noted the current groundwater supply as a boon to Newhall County’s water portfolio, but added that more conservation is needed.

For Atkins the answer to securing a viable water supply in the future is simple.

“We should learn to sip our local water resources,” Atkins said.

The trio of candidates also agreed on the issue of mandatory rationing, a practice common across Southern California, that has been instituted in the SCV.

“I wouldn’t ask for mandatory rationing, but we need to increase voluntary conservation,” Cruz said.

The best way to increase conservation, Cruz said, is educating customers on the benefits of voluntary conservation.

Gutzeit is strongly opposed to water rationing.

“I am absolutely opposed to mandatory rationing,” she said. “Conservation will not ever fix Santa Clarita’s needs 100 percent.”

Atkins repeated his plea for customers to “sip” the water they use, drilling home his conservation message.  

All three candidates also strongly oppose the water company playing an active role on either side of the Santa Clarita Valley’s development debate.

“It’s not the role of the water board to stop growth,” Atkins said. “It’s to provide water to customers.”

Atkins said the city and the county make decisions on growth and the water district provides information on whether they can safely serve the new customers.

Gutzeit echoed Atkins’ comments and added that existing customers shouldn’t foot the bill to add new customers to the system.

“We’re not funding growth,” she said. “Growth is funding us.”


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