|Los Angeles, Ventura County, CA||November 7, 2000 Election|
Questions and answers about water
By Phil HofCandidate for Member, Board of Directors; Castaic Lake Water Agency; Division 3
This information is provided by the candidate
What specific actions would you take to protect us from future droughts, which in California are all but certain?
First, I would change the misrepresentation of what the true water availability is on the SCV. The City and County make planning and growth decisions, and they rely in this information to make those judgments. So far they have been misled by CLWA and it's offspring, the Water Committee. Entitlements are not real water, they are "paper water," yet this distinction is not correctly made in the Water Report sent to the Supervisors.
Second, I would instigate a mapping and modeling of the underground water systems (the Saugus Formation and the Alluvial aquifer), in terms of their capacity, their flows under a variety of rain and pumping scenarios, and the effect on surface flow. Perhaps we can get USGS to use their sophisticated equipment previously used locally for seismic mapping here, and maybe get Federal or State funding for the SCV for a new pilot program for groundwater mapping, this saving CLWA ratepayers some of the cost.
This also has the benefit of providing a rational basis for understanding the flow of the perchlorate contamination plume from the Bermite property.
Third, armed with this mapping, develop plans for using groundwater basin (underground) storage of imported State water, on a cost-effective and environmentally sound basis, to use in later drought years.
Fourth, seek additional water entitlements, subject to VOTER approval if the debt involved, and with concrete PLANS for transport, storage, treatment, and distribution of this new water. To oversimplify a little, water is free-- its getting it here that costs money. Entitlement is only half the problem.
Lastly, develop conservation plans, make them mandatory by City and County under drought conditions, and identify those conditions so that businesses and residents can plan ahead for their water use (equipment, lifestyle, landscaping) to accomodate those contingencies when they arrive.
We presently have more than 30,000 acre feet of groundwater we use every year, and we use about 25,000 acre feet of our 95,000 acre feet of State Project Water entitlement. Even if we only can receive 50% of our state water during a drought, we still have a surplus of water don't we?
The Water Report identified these sources, but severely misprepresented the actual availability in two ways. First, while admitting that there is a perchlorate contamination problem, it glossed over remediation options, and then proceeded to count ALL the 30,000 AF in the "available water" table! This water is partially unusable now, and without concrete, funded, time-phased plans for remediation, this is grossly negligent to count as a practical water source. Also, the effect of pumping this amount of groundwater on surface flows, required for habitat protection of several endangered species in the Santa Clara River, was not addressed, and neither was the potential for accelerating the contamination plume migration downstream, so the actual feasibility of this water figure is suspect.
Also, the "50% of entitlement" figure, contrary to the report, is NOT a drought year number-- it is the average over many years, both wet and dry. In a true drought year, the delivery may drop to near ZERO percent.
Lastly, we have a backlog of tens of thousands of dwelling units already approved for development, but as yet unbuilt. Also, the projections of the water report negligently excluded Newhall Ranch.
Therefore, the water you quote above, discounted for real-world conditions, is barely adequate for CURRENTLY approved needs. Yet this so-called "surplus" was used by developers before the Board Of Supervisors as a justification for ADDITIONAL developments like Newhall Ranch.
This is double-counting the water! It is misleading the County into approving so much housing that it is MANUFACTURING a future drought condition!
This is bad planning, and more than one judge this year has realized this, and per court orders, many housing developments are on hold pending a realistic assessment of the true water picture in the SCV.
Reliability of imported water from the State Water Project
We all know that we have both wet and dry years in California. Despite our storing huge amounts of snowmelt in reservoirs across the state, this variability means that deliveries to CLWA from the State Water Project, the source for more than half our water in the SCV, varies tremendously as well.
Agencies like CLWA have what are called "entitlements." Don't be fooled by the name, it doesn't mean CLWA is entitled to any water at all. It simply caps the amount, and provides a means for the State to apportion the scarce water available in dry years.
In fact, over the last 20-30 years, the State delivers, on the average, only about HALF OF THE ENTITLEMENT amount!
Here is a graph showing the delivery vs. entitlement amount from the State Water Project for the timeframe 1967 to 1994 (the latest info I have handy):
You can see that the trend (black line) has been less and less reliability, averaging only 43% over the last five years (the right tip of the blue line)!
Now suppose we want to have 95% confidence of a given amount of water. (95% is standard practice in most utility industries). In other words, 19 years out of 20 we want to have no shortage. What percentage of the entitlement can we count on? The following histogram answers the question (the red line traces from 95% confidence on the left side, then down to answer at the bottom):
You can see that to get 95% confidence, we need to plan for only 35% or less of the SWP entitlement.
When considering new development, the County is to consider water availability. Does CLWA provide ACTUAL water availablility to the County? NO! They give the County the ENTITLEMENT amounts, which we see OVERSTATE ACTUAL AVAILABILITY TWO TO THREE TIMES OVER! Does this sound responsible to you?
Put another way, the CLWA figures are leading the County to approve TWO to THREE TIMES the future housing that we will RELIABLY have water for. Does the CLWA board know this? Of course! Ask yourself why they don't give out the REAL figures. Who profits, who pays?
This three-for-one shortfall is a primary reason a judge, looking at the REAL water numbers, halted the Newhall Ranch project (22,000 homes), and the PUC has halted the North Valencia II and West Creek projects (4,000 homes).
Many say this is the beginning of a trend toward more realistic and responsible water planning. I agree.
Pumping of local groundwater
A few years ago, additional groundwater pumping got us through the last drought. Our population, and therefore our drawing of State water, has increased dramatically since then. Therefore, we do not have enough groundwater to save us next time! So instead we need a reserve of State water.
Furthermore, overdrafting the Santa Clara River has a devastating effect on the plants and animals who depend on its flow for their survival, including several federally-designated endangered species. And excessive pumping might also speed the migration of the perchlorates contaminating several wells already.
But CLWA is trying to gain control over our groundwater through the purchasing of, and influence over, local water agencies who now control this groundwater. Do we want a water monopoly? Sure, CLWA argues that it could be more efficient as a single, all-encompasing wholesale/retail water provider. But is efficiency the only criterion for a public agency? And do you know of ANY monopolies that are MORE efficient than the competitive marketplace provides to consumers? I don't either.
Proposal for chloride limit increases
There seems to be no hard science backing up either the current standard OR the higher proposed standard. Lacking such evidence, one wonders why there is such an unexplained push for the new standard. I will not support the increase until shown why it's needed (more than just tax scare stories) and what effect it has on not only drinking water, but discharged water into the Santa Clara River. I am concerned that the higher choride content may alter plant growtha and bird habitat along the Santa Clara River, and farm yields in Ventura County.
I am also interested in the possible linkage between the proposed higher standard and the water reclamation plans of Newhall Ranch. If their water use and reclamation would increase chloride loads in the river, then shouldn't THEY pay for the additional processing to meet the current lower standard? Why should we taxpayers give them relief from their additional costs of meeting the standard? Again, no data is being provided to answer this question.
Surveys identifying current and past choloride levels have been spotty and may have been taken at non-representative points in the river flow. We need better data on current levels, and the effects of higher levels downstream.
There is much that isn't being discussed, just tax scare stories. Let's get educated before we act.
CLWA debt and who pays it off
Californians have the right to vote on all bond measures, right? Well, not really...
Did you know that you have a water bond payment coming? Well, it's not CALLED that...
But without your vote, CLWA voted for a "Certificate of Participation," or COP, that acts just like a bond. The PLAN is to pay it off through future connection fees (in other words, paid by developers). But if growth and development don't meet expectations, YOU THE WATER RATEPAYER, will foot the bill!
CLWA has made its financial future BEHOLDEN to new growth. And therefore YOUR water bill beholden to that growth.
It's ironic, even hypocritical, that the pro-growth board members SAY that water policy shouldn't be used to control growth, yet they have ALREADY linked the two with these COPs.
"Grow or Pay."
I think that's bad policy, and I believe that ALL such major debt decisions should be made by voters. WE are the ones guaranteeing payment, after all!
Sprawl, "smart" growth, and the CLWA
As stated in the last question, growth and water are inextricably linked, to the point of YOU being financially responsible for paying off CLWA debt if we DON'T get "enough" growth.
CLWA needs to accommodate a reasonable amount of growth, but not go so far as to encourage excessive growth. How much is "reasonable?" We have a General Plan, adopted by the County, that defines "reasonable." Does this mean there should be NO changes? No, but keep in mind that even without a single new Plan Amendment, there are already about 40,000 more dwelling units approved for building in the SCV! That translates to a likely increase in population of more than 120,000 people which is a huge percentage of our current 180,000 estimated population. If we need more than that, then the burden of proof should rest with the developer, including proviong there is adequate water.
"Dedicated" water for Newhall Ranch
The idea of "reserving" water for a single development (Newhall Ranch) sounds to me like the most blatant form of corporate welfare and sell-out, pro-growth policy I have ever heard of! Yet at one time that was seriously considered by the present CLWA board! Inadequate water stopped Newhall Ranch. But so much money is at stake (literally billions), that they will almost certainly try more tactics like this again.
Flat Rate pricing on your water bill
The idea of flat-rate pricing of water, similar to present plans for your electric and gas bills, sounds reasonable. But this ISN'T like those plans. On the electric and gas plans, at the end of the year, a "settlement of accounts" is made, and any overpayment you made is refunded, or applied to your next billing period. The CLWA plan for pricing to its retailers (the ones who you as a consumer actually buy your water from) makes NO such adjustment. In fact, the retailers would pay for a given water amount, whether they use it or not. Guess whose water bill will go up to cover the loss? Yup, YOURS.
Recent Board actions on water committees
The plan for the Upper Santa Clara River Water Committee makes no accommodation for public participation whatsoever. This flies in the face of the empty proclamation by the CLWA board that it intends to open up to the public more. Don't be fooled. This is a way for CLWA to operate with private water interests out of the view of the public. How does this serve you, the ratepayer? It doesn't.
Purchase of water retailers by CLWA
I am flatly against water monoplies in the SCV. Newhall Land and Farming owns Valencia Water Company. CLWA, run by board members supported by NLF, has bought Santa Clarita Water Company. Who will be next?
I prefer competition and a two-tiered water system (retail and wholesale separate) to a developer-friendly monopoly.
Will we lose local control of water to Los Angeles "big water" interests?
CLWA purchased rights to large amounts of water that it has no present means available to transport to the SCV. The gatekeepers are the "Big Water" interests consisting of the State, the Metropolitan Water District, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Will they just "give" us this water transport and storage for free? Of course not. We will either pay through the nose, or cede control of OUR water to them. I want more local control, more voter control, over our water-- and therefore, over the quality of life and our future here.
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