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Water retailer gets strict

Resolution spells bad news for late-paying customers of Santa Clarita agency

Posted: February 7, 2010 9:39 p.m.
Updated: February 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The Santa Clarita Water Division can now be tougher on delinquent ratepayers.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency board of directors unanimously adopted a resolution last month to adhere to the state’s water district law, allowing the water division to be more strict with late-paying customers.

Sanctioned measures include shutting off water — the most common — placing a lien on properties that are delinquent for more than 60 days, and investigating water use on private property with a warrant.

All those measures were possible under Castaic Lake’s regulations as a public agency, Santa Clarita Water Division Retail Manager Mauricio Guardado said. But now they’re more clearly laid out and in line with other, similar water agencies, he said.

Castaic Lake, Santa Clarita Valley’s water wholesaler, purchased Santa Clarita Water Division (formerly Santa Clarita Water Co.) more than 10 years ago. The division had been operating under the wholesale agency’s guidelines, which aren’t as relevant to a water retailer with tens of thousands of clients, Guardado said.

“They essentially have four customers,” Guardado said of Castaic Lake, which distributes water from the State Water Project and some other sources to Newhall County Water District, Valencia Water Co., a Los Angeles County Waterworks district and its own retail division.
The rest of the water companies’ water comes from underground resources.

“(The resolution) allows us to develop policies to be more strict when it comes to delinquency,” Guardado said.

That’s a big plus. It allows us to use different, miscellaneous charges for people who are late on their bills or are not paying their bills. It gives us more flexibility for fees we can charge.

“It definitely sends a message that (customers are) going to be held accountable with those types of more stringent policies,” he said.

Guardado and water agency manager Dan Masnada said the resolution was tying up loose ends from when the agency acquired the water company in 1999.

The division’s policies and procedures will be fine-tuned over the next few months, Masnada said.


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