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Enforcement actions could be taken if drought severity grows

Posted: February 15, 2014 10:49 p.m.
Updated: February 15, 2014 10:49 p.m.

“Water cops” patrolling the streets looking for illegal water use. Fines on residents overusing water. Temporary water shutoff; flow regulators installed on homes.

These dire measures could be in Santa Clarita Valley residents’ future should the ongoing California drought worsen dramatically.

Such enforcement actions could be taken under stages 2-4 of the blueprint outlining the SCV’s response to severe drought, according to Steve Cole, general manager of Newhall County Water District and chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Committee, which called for stage 1 to be enacted Feb. 4.

But up to this point, he said, “to my knowledge we have only asked the community for voluntary conservation.”

The plan adopted nearly two weeks ago is based  on Newhall County Water District’s Ordinance No. 112 — the

“Water Conservation, Shortage, Drought and Emergency Response Ordinance” issued in June 2005 in response to the prolonged drought of 1997-2004, Cole said.

Stage 1 is voluntary water conservation under the ordinance. When the Water Committee adopted the Ordinance No. 112 blueprint, however, it called water conservation “non-voluntary” but did not impose any enforcement measures.

The target water-use reduction for residents was set at 20 percent, according to the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which sells water wholesale to water retailers.

The committee, made up of representatives from Santa Clarita Valley’s water districts and regional government, does not have any enforcement power, Cole said.  

“The water committee is not empowered to impose water use standards, only (to) make recommendations to the various agencies such as Los Angeles County, city of Santa Clarita, the Newhall County Water District, Santa Clarita Water Division, Valencia Water Company, the L.A. County Water Works District 36 and the Castaic Lake Water Agency, who all sit on the committee,” he said.

“The real purpose is to have a forum to discuss water resource issues and reach collaborative solutions between multiple agencies,” he said.

Actual enforcement would be imposed by the water districts or government agencies.

 The plan’s stages represent worsening degrees of water deficiencies, Cole said. A water deficiency occurs when water demand exceeds water supply:
- between 1 and 15 percent (stage 1);
 - more than 15 and up to 25 percent (stage 2);
 - more than 25 and up to 35 percent (stage 3);
 - more than 35 percent (stage 4).

The general manager and other district-authorized representatives have the duty to enforce provisions of stages 2, 3 and 4 of the ordinance once they are adopted.

Under the Newhall County Water District ordinance blueprint, “If a violation is ongoing, the district may disconnect service until the violation is corrected.”

For a first violation, water wasters receive a verbal warning.

For a repeat violation, they get a written warning and are fined $40, which is added to the water user’s bill.

For a third violation, the fine increases to $100 and the water user could see the district install a flow-restricting device on his or her service connection.

For a fourth violation, the fine increases again to $250 and “the district may also disconnect the water user’s water service at the property where the violation occurred,” according to the ordinance.

Actual enforcement would hinge on guidelines defined for each stage of the plan. For instance, anyone caught washing a car — except at commercial facilities that recycle water — would be in violation of Stage 3.

Fines would not be issued for anyone failing to meet a “recommended” 20 percent cutback in water usage, but rather for having violated specific and identified water-wasting habits such as home car washing.

If enforcement advances to the point where scrutiny of household water use becomes a factor, consideration would be given for such variables as family size and water use history. No such action could be taken without a “council/board vetting process,” Cole said.

Cole was asked about multiple-dwelling residences, especially those without individual-unit metering.

“This is a difficult question to answer,” he said. “But for multiple-dwelling residences, I would imagine the focus would be placed on outdoor water use by the HOA.”


BBennetts: Posted: February 16, 2014 11:06 p.m.

So we have water softener police already patrolling for illegal softeners and asking to look in homes. We have CHP setting up 'voluntary' smog inspections on the side of roads and we have the sheriff's department setting up checkpoints to educate us about DUIs. Now we are going to have water police checking to see how long our showers are? Is there something wrong with all this?

Rick54: Posted: February 16, 2014 2:09 a.m.

The water police need to check out the sprinklers running amok on the various medians throughout the city.

stanw1950: Posted: February 16, 2014 7:13 a.m.

And the Post Office (especially at McBean and Creekside) and Eternal Valley cemetery.

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: February 16, 2014 8:15 a.m.

And along Orchard Village at night... nice job watering the street. So, how much will the city be penalized for their massive waste of water?

chico: Posted: February 16, 2014 8:37 a.m.

Dang, right after the last rain storm I celebrated by draining and refilling my pool.

stray: Posted: February 16, 2014 9:12 a.m.

But, but.... There's plenty of water for that proposed new housing development !!! After all, 20,000 new homes can't possibly use that much water, right ???

UsualSuspect: Posted: February 16, 2014 9:13 a.m.

I notice how they stick to a decrease in what you use today, and not what you use compared to your neighbors. My water bill is almost 1/2 of theirs every month, so the message they are sending is, when there is not a drought do not conserve, use more than you need to, so when there is a drought you can show you are doing your part by cutting your usage and conserving. Today I started watering my yard like my neighbors, and trying to break the conservation habits and increase our usage. After reading this if I don't start using more now, I could be fined later because I already conserve and have no where to cut usage. The other side of it is, why didn't they ask folks to cut before it was serious?

Before87: Posted: February 16, 2014 9:37 a.m.

Lawn police showed up in november when my lawn was asleep and told me it was to
brown. Thousand dollars later its green. Water police are coming and are going
to tell me to stop watering so much!
I hydroplane coming down sierra hwy from the medians over flowing.

ohhyaa: Posted: February 16, 2014 10:01 a.m.

Don't forget about the dog police. They busted me a few years back.

castaicjack: Posted: February 16, 2014 11:49 a.m.

I think it's discriminatory. All developers automatically have a right to build whatever they want while existing households have to cut back. I don't believe Newhall Land and Farming should be enabled to use its agricultural rights to build 21000 houses on top of the agriculture by taping the alluvial aquifer. Nor should Tejon Land Management be enabled to build 20,000 houses near Gorman from water projects funded by bond measures that we will be asked to pay for while the aforementioned project will likely never be mentioned in the measure(s) themselves. Oh, and those 1,045 additional homes in Castaic? I don't want them enabled while the residents already living here have to turn their lawns into a rock garden...

lars1: Posted: February 16, 2014 8:03 p.m.

Weste voted to give Newhall Land and Farm a new water treatment plant that provides water for the 20,000 home development. The new treatment plant is going to be paid by increases in Sanitation fees on our property tax bills. This will be hundred to thousands of dollars more each year. The people in the city council find more ways to steal from the taxpayers and give to wealthy big business, landowners and developers.

castaicjack: Posted: February 17, 2014 10:22 p.m.

Even though we were recently told that people in SCV had no reason to worry because of ample supplies of water in reserve, the cutbacks, whether voluntary or mandatory, will probably result in higher water rates because the profits anticipated by the water companies will diminish. So, even if you manage to cut your usage, your rates will likely increase anyway.

ohhyaa: Posted: February 17, 2014 6:52 a.m.

No matter our differences, I hope no one that posts here would ever consider voting for Weste in the next election.

src: Posted: February 17, 2014 8:28 a.m.

Man made drought. Turn the pumps back on! So a couple buckets of useless minnows die each year. BFD. We're turning our farmland into a dust bowl. I hope the rest of the nation is watching CA crumble and taking lessons on what NOT to do.

chefgirl358: Posted: February 17, 2014 9:24 a.m.

Here's a comment I typed in a few weeks ago from some other water conservation article. It still applies.

Screw the city! The day they stop approving building projects like the large one they just ok'd for Castaic, complete with water sucking golf courses (yes I know now a golf course wasn't approved, but 1 acre lots were so I'm sure they'll be landscaped and watered), putting in medians covered in trees, plants (none of them drought resistant desert plants like they should be) and sprinklers, stop watering golf courses and adding water to developments like Bridgeport and the lake in the shopping center across the street from it, and watering everything in town even while it's pouring rain..then they can talk to me about conserving water. When it did rain this past week, I drove down Newhall Ranch Road and all of the sprinklers were on. Whenever we've had lots of rain, I walk down the paseo and the grass is a waterlogged marsh at that point, but the sprinklers are on!

This article really ticks me off, "The Water Conservation Action Plan calls on residents and businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley to take reasonable actions to reduce water consumption and eliminate any water-wasting practices." Why is it all on residents and businesses? Why is none of this, let alone the bulk of it, on the city planning commission or the city council for approving all of the crap they shouldn't have?!

Unreal: Posted: February 17, 2014 9:59 a.m.

BBennetts: Don't forget the unconstitutional red light cameras set up to harass citizens for our own good too.

17trillion: Posted: February 17, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Let us also no forget that 80% of our water usage is for agriculture. Not taking a stand one way or the other, other than to say the savings for residential water usage can only be a minute fraction of overall usage.

castaicjack: Posted: February 17, 2014 12:30 p.m.

That 80% figure is a bit misleading:

shenanigans: Posted: February 17, 2014 1:28 p.m.

Something tells me we won't be avoiding the mandatory regulations if we all continue with the "why should I if they don't have to" attitude.

UnusualSuspect - you aren't proving any points by upping your usage considering the article says:

"Fines would not be issued for anyone failing to meet a “recommended” 20 percent cutback in water usage, but rather for having violated specific and identified water-wasting habits such as home car washing"

In a perfect world, we wouldn't even have to ask people to cut back because turning off the water when you're not using it and not watering your lawns at noon during summer time would be common sense.

chefgirl358: Posted: February 17, 2014 2:26 p.m.

Why should I cut back my water usage when the pools in my housing tract all remain full, water features such as Bridgeport and the shopping center lake are full, golf courses are green, medians with plants and trees continue to be put in, freeway on/off ramps are being landscaped and watered and high density development projects continue to get approved? When the city shows a genuine effort to curtail most or all of these things, then I'll give a little too, until then they can get bent.

Also, a while back our city owned tree in the front yard died and they wanted to put in not one, but two more! They told us this is the tree city, I kid you not. We fought them and said we don't want anymore trees that screw up our plumbing (had plumbing issues due to another tree before) and create big messes for us to clean up, and that we have to water. They were persistent but we prevailed.

Aristotle: Posted: February 17, 2014 3:59 p.m.

Part 1

The water shortage situation in the Santa Clarita Valley is far worse than any of the commenters have anticipated. Over the last 10 years, half of the drinking water for Santa Claritans has come from water wells and half has come from the "State Water Project". Now that the State Water Project has completely cut off the water it would ordinarily send to Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) the Santa Clarita Valley is "down by 50%" in its reliable water supply, a fact CLWA admits

First, it's important to note that the "water banked water" which CLWA claims it owns is merely the "left overs" of water banked water which the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) has parked underground in the south east portion of the San Joaquin Valley. CLWA and Santa Clarita's 3 water agencies are NOT members of MWD, so Santa Clarita will not get first dibs on that "banked water".

CLWA paid mega-millions for those "second draw rights" to that water banked water, yet each year CLWA is entitled to take only 1/10th of the left over water banked water. As we discuss this issue, CLWA is now fixing to spend MILLIONS MORE IN TAXPAYER DOLLARS to purchase other "first draw" rights to water banked in in the south east portion of the San Joaquin Valley guessed it...Newhall Land.

That 2014 payment to Newhall Land would be on top of the $73,800,000 in taxpayers' cash which CLWA spent to buy all of the stock in Valencia Water Company in December 2012.

In reality, CLWA gave up far more than the $73,800,000 for that water company. What CLWA gave up is each current Santa Claritan's right to "first dibs" on Santa Clarita's drinking water, be it local water or imported state water. Instead, as discussed below, in that purchase contract CLWA agreed to give Newhall Land, and to developers who buy Newhall Land's property in Stevenson Ranch and Newhall Ranch, a guaranteed water supply in specific quantities, regardless of whether current Santa Claritans are suffering from water rationing, fines or increased water rates to account for the drought.

Aristotle: Posted: February 17, 2014 4:02 p.m.

Part 2:

See the 12/12/12 signed by CLWA with Newhall Land, concerning the purchase of Valencia Water Company at: [Plug in the dates 01/01/2013 to 01/31/2013 in the search engine, hit enter, then look at bottom of the PUC page, for the second of two documents in Case C1301005. When you click on that document link the CLWA-Newhall Land-Valencia Water Company contract dated 12/12/12 for the purchase of Valencia Water Company pops up.]

In that 12/12/12 contract between CLWA and Newhall Land, at Paragraph 6.5, CLWA reserves and guarantees that the owners of the Newhall Land property called "Legacy" or Stevenson Ranch Phase 5", or Stevenson Ranch Venture, will receive at least 2,500 acre feet of potable water per year from CLWA and its Valencia Water Company subsidiary. That water will be delivered to Newhall Land and its customers regardless of what is going on in the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley in terms of water shortages. While LA County has not yet approved the subdivision and development of Stephen Ranch Phase 5, Stevenson Ranch Venture/Newhall Land proposes to build 5,000 new housing units there. Those new housing units will get their 2,500 acre feet of water before current Santa Clarita residents are entitled to get a drop.

Even worse, at Paragraph 6.3 of that 12/12/12 contract, CLWA assumes the obligation to force Valencia Water Company to perform on a newly made contract with Newhall Land called the "Agreement Establishing Process for Determining Water Demand" (the Water Demand Contract) for the 25,000+ housing unit Newhall Ranch project. In the 12/12/12 contract CLWA promises that they will not cause or allow Valencia Water Company to breach that Water Demand Contract. In that Water Demand Contract CLWA also promises that if they merge Valencia Water Company into CLWA that CLWA will directly perform the terms of that Water Demand Contract. How, exactly does the Water Demand Contract disadvantage existing Santa Clarita residents in a time of drought? Those who have seen the Water Demand Contract say that it guarantees that Valencia Water Company will provide certain quantities of drinking water for the Newhall Ranch project, come hell or low water. Why can't we be more precise about what that Water Demand Contract has to say about Newhall Ranch/Newhall Land's rights to drinking water for new development during times of drought? Because CLWA's General Manager Dan Masnada and his employee-subordinates who are the 5 Board of Director members of publicly owned Valencia Water Company have patently refused, for more than a year, to let the public see the Water Demand Contract, defying their obligations under the California Public Records Act.

Aristotle: Posted: February 17, 2014 4:12 p.m.

Part 3

To summarize, $73,800,000 in public taxpayer funds were used by CLWA to purchase all of the Valencia Water Company stock, CLWA assumed the obligation to perform on the Water Demand Contract with Newhall Land, but it's a secret contract which the public and the press are not allowed to see.

Even worse, in the 12/12/12 contract, which you can see by following the link to the Public Utility Commission file, at Paragraph 6.11 CLWA contractually promises to give Newhall Land and its successor developers FOR FREE all of the non-potable water Newhall Land or its successor developers want. So even though Santa Claritans are paying for their drinking water, and Santa Claritans are paying to have their sewage processed by the Santa Clarita Sanitation District, CLWA is obligated to pick up that sewer plant outflow water and send it over to Newhall Ranch for free forever. That means that CLWA cannot set up a system to "use up" all of the sewer outflow water for existing Santa Clarita establishments, like green belts, street medians, parks, athletic fields and golf courses. It's not your recyclable sewer outflow water Santa Claritans, CLWA has already given it away to Newhall Land.

Even worse, in the 12/12/12 contract, at Paragraph 6.5, CLWA acknowledges that it has entered into a separate "Pre-Annexation Agreement" to bring certain Newhall Land properties, including but not limited to Stevenson Ranch Phase 5, into CLWA's territory, so that CLWA can provide wholesale water to those Newhall Land properties' water suppliers, be they Valencia Water Company or someone else. Traditionally, a water agency like CLWA cannot enter into a Pre-Annexation Agreement without doing a full analysis of whether it has enough water to supply the ultimate developers and homeowners of the land to be annexed. CLWA simply decided to skip that step. Instead, a CLWA officer signed the Pre-Annexation Agreement with Stevenson Ranch Venture as a subsidiary of Newhall Land. What exactly does that "Pre-Annexation Agreement" provide? The public is not allowed to know, even though that contract was signed by a public agency. CLWA's General Manager Dan Masnada and his employee-subordinates who are the 5 Board of Director members of publicly owned Valencia Water Company, and 8 of CLWA's publicly elected directors patently refuse to let the public see the Pre-Annexation Agreement, defying their obligations under the California Public Records Act.

Aristotle: Posted: February 17, 2014 4:24 p.m.

Part 4

Oh yes, one final point on the 12/12/12 contract which you can read and weep about. At Paragraph 11.13 CLWA and Newhall Land agree that if there is any litigation over the parties rights and obligations under the 12/12/12 contract, or the matters described in it, the litigation will occur in a secret court proceeding called a "Reference Proceeding" heard by a rent-a-judge who is paid by the hour. (The taxpayers, through CLWA, will pay 1/2 of the rent-a-judge's fees, which are typically $750 per hour.) So the public won't have a clue that such litigation is occurring, let alone be able to see what is going on in the case or see the reports and testimony of any witnesses in the case, including the expert witness reports and testimony, all of which is being kept secret. While that sort of "closed litigation agreement" by a California public agency is outrageous from the average citizen's or reporter's point of view, it is nothing new. CLWA signed a similar agreement to secretly litigate with Whittaker Corporation over further clean-up of ground water contamination in Santa Clarita allegedly caused by Whittaker's operations at the Bermite site on the mountain above the Saugus Swap Meet. CLWA already knows that one plume of that contamination has already traveled all the way to the intersection of Valencia Blvd. and McBean...but the public only knows that fact because the California Department of Health Services got involved when 2 of Valencia Water Company's drinking water wells near that intersection became contaminated and had to be closed. No member of the public or press know how, if at all, CLWA is pursuing Whittaker and its insurer AIG for more money to clean up the contaminated ground water, because CLWA agreed that the same sort of secret "Reference Proceeding" would be held.

Just wait Santa Claritans. You will be told by your water provider that you can't water your lawns. Your big, beautiful trees whose roots are watered by your lawn sprinklers will die, just like they are in communities which already have water rationing. You and your neighbors will have to spend about $10,000 each to have a landscape contractor convert your property to "drought tolerant landscaping with drip lines and landscape gravel". You will have to fight with your homeowners association because your lawn will be brown or gone. In the meantime, eager to sell new homes to more upper middle class people whose cars will clog the 5 Freeway, Newhall Land will keep its new home subdivisions "super green" and desirable by home buyers.

Santa Clarita's well water and its now non-existent state water has been ripped off on Newhall Land's behalf by your elected water officials at CLWA.

Aristotle: Posted: February 17, 2014 4:27 p.m.

Part 5

Who are the idiots who breached their fiduciary duties to the voters/taxpayers/public and agreed to these disadvantageous and secret contracts which are so very harmful to the average, existing Santa Clarita Valley water users? Eight (8) of the CLWA Board of Directors members, Thomas Campbell, William Cooper, Edward Colley, Dean Efstathiou, Peter Kavounas (later resigned), R.J. Kelly, Jacque McMillan and William Pecsi. Read their resumes here:

Director B.J. Atkins, who lives in Newhall County Water District territory, voted against the $73,800,000 purchase of Valencia Water Company. Sadly, Director Atkins didn't get to see or object to the content of the 12/12/12 contract and Pre-Annexation Agreement signed by CLWA General Manager Dan Masnada, because CLWA's other directors delegated complete authority to negotiate the terms of and sign the contracts to Mr. Masnada. For those who don't remember, Mr. Masnada was once an employee of Valencia Water Company when it was owned by Newhall Land.

17trillion: Posted: February 19, 2014 8:04 a.m.

Get off the golf course rant Chefgirl. I don't know about others, but Valencia Country Club has their own well and also utilizes several ponds for water storage.

chefgirl358: Posted: February 19, 2014 9:50 a.m.

17, you must be a golfer. Sorry, but if the drought is THAT bad, then most golf courses should be dead. Twice now you've gotten all sensitive and weird about golf courses. Get over it, they're a waste of water!

Also, the real elephant in the room isn't that we are that short on water, which we are, but the cause of that...there's TOO MANY PEOPLE! There are more people than there are resources, and nobody talks about that or the fact that they keep approving projects everywhere to add more people who suck up ever more resources. What's the answer to having too many people? I haven't a clue, but we shouldn't pretend the problem doesn't exist and we certainly shouldn't keep encouraging more with tax breaks for more kids and building more housing and large scale development projects.

17trillion: Posted: February 19, 2014 10:13 a.m.

Of course I'm a golfer and why should I get over it, because you say so? They OWN the water beneath the course. If they didn't they/I would have to pay for it and then perhaps SOME mitigation might be necessary. However, your whining about golf courses being green is like whining about people who grow their own food and thus have lower food costs than you do. Perhaps you think they should share their savings with you or that you think they should grow bananas instead of lettuce? Who are you to mandate what another does with their own property? A waste of water? Who cares what you think is a waste since it doesn't belong to you anyway.

I would have thought you would be a bit more open minded about such things. Rant about further development, I'm with you. Rant about too many people, I'm with you there as well so much so that I dream about leaving this s'hole of a state almost daily, but don't cry about something that doesn't belong to you. You have no right to complain about how they use it.

17trillion: Posted: February 19, 2014 10:15 a.m.

And by the way, educating you is not being sensitive or weird. Unless of course you think a presentation of facts is grounds to accuse someone of being sensitive, let alone weird. I could say your fixation on golf courses is weird.

Rick54: Posted: February 19, 2014 7:40 p.m.

I'm only going to drink beer brewed back east. They have plenty of water. There, I've done my part.

chefgirl358: Posted: February 19, 2014 7:48 p.m.

17, so every bit of water that waters a golf course belongs to them and them only? It's in storage tanks or grey water? Because ok great if it is. But I'm not singling out golf courses for any personal reasons, it's just a specific example, just like Bridgeport, of an area that uses a great deal of water, so do parks and I think they should quit watering them too if water is so tight. My point is, if water supply REALLY is in such dire straights and some water cop is gonna bug me about washing my car or whatever, then I'd better see a big change in places I just mentioned with really large water consumption. In other words, they shouldn't be just picking on residents with average water usage. My personal opinion is that it's not our problem at all, people like you, me, or any other regular citizen. I think the big water savings would happen with things I've previously mentioned, medians, freeway landscaping, and no further development. Additionally, just like fiscal budgets run amok by lawmakers who don't save for a rainy day, they should have been working on water storage eons ago with the influx of people that they are encouraging. The way politicians always lie and try to blow everything up into a personal opportunity, I sincerely wonder if this "crisis" is almost entirely manufactured. Yeah, I know it's been a horribly dry winter and we've been low on rain for a long time, but is it really THAT bad? If so, how come nobody mentioned it all these years? How come all of the sudden it's the biggest crisis in the history of the state?

ohhyaa: Posted: February 20, 2014 7:31 a.m.

Scoop up a bunch of the Smelt population. Move them to a hatchery. Stop diverting billions of gallons of fresh water into the ocean. Problem solved.

ohhyaa: Posted: February 20, 2014 7:34 a.m.

Reminiscent of Enron. Who's at the switch laughing?

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