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Officials form panel to deal with drought

Rules could be enacted to conserve, ration water

Posted: August 21, 2008 7:16 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Local water officials, as well as city and country decision-makers, have banded together to form a Drought Committee in response, in large part, to the deepening state-wide drought declared by the governor two months ago.

“We thought we should probably get together and talk publicly about the drought,” said Steve Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District who was chosen to act as the drought committee’s chairman. “What we’re looking at is to provide a forum for debate.”

The committee is slated to meet publicly the first Tuesday of every month in the Century Room at Santa Clarita City Hall at 2 p.m., beginning Sept. 2.

Those attending the inaugural meeting — dubbed a “Drought Preparedness Meeting” — can expect to hear committee members present the current plan.

“We’re looking at an ordinance for the Santa Clarita Valley that would be instituted in times of drought,” Cole said, adding that right now local water officials are advocating a volunteer program of conservation.
He compared the type of ordinance being considered to the water rationing instituted at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, joined by DWP CEO and General Manager David Nahai, signed a water-use ordinance with expanded restrictions and penalties to encourage water conservation.
That ordinance, which went into effect immediately, is designed to discourage waste by expanding the prohibited uses of water, increasing the penalties for violations and pledging full enforcement of existing restrictions.

Cole said he hopes the structure of local public debate which allows for question-and-answer time is a little more relaxed than the time limits typically given to public speakers at water agency meetings and city hall meetings. “We want to look at our water supply portfolio versus the demands for water in our valley,” Cole said.

The committee wants the public to conserve water but to also start preparing for the Summer of 2009.
In its first press release, the committee wants: Drought committee members include representatives from local water wholesaler, The Castaic Lake Water Agency and each of the four water retailers it serves including: The Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 36, the Newhall County Water District, the CLWA Santa Clarita Water Division and the Valencia Water Company.

Representatives of the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County are expected to a plan to address the current drought conditions, declared by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on June 4.


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