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Tom Campbell: CLWA planning for our valley’s water needs

Posted: June 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Water — it’s our lifeblood.

We as humans cannot exist without it. Our community’s quality of life and natural environment depend on it. For this fundamental reason, the Santa Clarita Valley Family of Water Suppliers (composed of the Castaic Lake Water Agency and the four local water retailers) work diligently to provide the water necessary for our homes and businesses, and to serve as conscientious stewards of this precious resource.

Water-supply planning and acquisition is a multifaceted process. Every five years, the Santa Clarita Valley water suppliers are required by law to prepare an urban-water management plan. This plan is a tool that helps guide our actions and offers a broad perspective on a wide variety of water issues. It is not a project-specific document, nor does it take the place of individual project requirements.

From the outset, the water suppliers’ goal in preparing our urban-water management plans has been to go above and beyond the letter of the law to develop not just a comprehensive planning document but to enhance the opportunities for public input.

As such, we have exceeded many of the state’s requirements. For example, the requirement was for the plan to extend to 2035; our plan extends to 2050 to coincide with local land-use planning efforts such as the city/county One Valley, One Vision general plan amendment processes.

A new state law SBX7-7 requires California urban-water agencies to reduce their water use by 20 percent per capita by the year 2020. As part of our community’s new urban-water management plan, we have incorporated cutting-edge water-conservation planning in accordance with SBX7-7, assuring it is a high priority in our service area.

In addition, the state requires only one public hearing as part of the urban-water management plan preparation process, yet we have exceeded this requirement with six community workshops and two public hearings to date in fully exercising our public trust responsibility.

The third and final public hearing is scheduled for 6:15 p.m., June 22 in the CLWA boardroom. These workshops and hearing have been conducted to truly comply with the spirit of the law, and thus ensure our entire community has ample opportunity to be a part of the water planning process.

The creation of the new Santa Clarita Valley Urban Water Management Plan began in May 2010 and, at key decision-making points in the process, we created meaningful opportunities for input from our community, our water partners, environmental groups and individuals, elected officials, business groups and other community stakeholders. Each of these public workshops and the accompanying presentations were publicly posted online, and the water suppliers notified interested parties of workshops and hearing through letters, emails, website postings, Facebook postings and advertisements in the local newspaper — all encouraging attendance and participation.

In spite of the many opportunities for public input into this process, the local environmental community has barely engaged. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this is nothing new. If past history serves as an indicator, the local activists will choose to litigate after the plan is adopted and submitted to the state rather than having proactively participated in the development of this legally mandated document over the past year. 

Would it surprise you to learn that over the last 10 years, the Castaic Lake Water Agency has spent about $8.5 million defending frivolous activist lawsuits? That equates to a cost of about $100 per Santa Clarita Valley household. This is real money that could have been used to reduce water rate increases, develop critical infrastructure and create water conservation efforts aimed at reducing consumer costs.

While we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us if the activists will again file a frivolous lawsuit opposing our 2010 Urban Water Management Plan, each and every residential, industrial, retail and business water user in our service area should not be surprised — and should once again be saddened — if more of their hard earned money has to be expended to defend against these ridiculous legal challenges.

Tom Campbell is the president of the Castaic Lake Water Agency board of directors.

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