Castaic Lake Water Agency announced Tuesday it’s looking at the possibility of merging with Newhall County Water District.
NCWD and CLWA leaders emphasized this announcement is more about the beginning of a process than the end of one. The NCWD and CLWA made the announcement jointly with a commentary co-authored by CLWA board President Tom Campbell and NCWD board President B.J. Atkins. The column explains how the discussions were initiated during the past year as the two agencies began negotiating potential settlement of litigation between them.
“It’s very preliminary at this point, but we’ve reached the stage where it’s appropriate to seek the community’s input on the possibility of combining our two agencies into one,” said NCWD General Manager Steve Cole. “We’ve reached agreement on guiding principles, goals and conditions that will help shape the process, and both agencies are moving forward in the spirit of cooperation.”
CLWA General Manager Matt Stone concurred, and said there are excellent possibilities for a combined agency to benefit the water ratepayers of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“We’ve been talking about some of the opportunities that would present themselves, from economies of scale that would improve efficiency and reduce ratepayer costs, to the benefits of unified water resources planning and management,” Stone said. “Executed correctly, the combining of these two agencies could create significant public benefits, and we’re optimistic that it can be brought to fruition.”
“While this is an important milestone, it simply marks the continuation – not the conclusion – of our process,” the two agencies’ elected board presidents wrote. “The road before us remains long and requires significant public engagement, intense regional collaboration, potential legislative action and continued negotiations among all stakeholders. Nevertheless, it could lead to fundamental changes to how water services are provided and governed in the Santa Clarita Valley.”
NCWD is one of four water retailers in the SCV. It provides retail water services to approximately 44,400 people through 10,000 service connections.
CLWA serves the valley as a wholesale provider of imported water from the State Water Project and other sources. It also owns the SCV’s two largest water retailers: the CLWA’s Santa Clarita Water Division and Valencia Water Co., whose stock was acquired by CLWA in 2012 and operates as a standalone company. SCWD serves approximately 28,000 connections and VWC serves approximately 31,000 connections.
So far, NCWD and CLWA representatives participating in the talks have agreed the process should seek to accomplish several key goals, including adopting a regional approach to providing imported and retail water services, ensuring a customer-focused approach, and making improvements in the areas of water supply reliability and water use efficiency.
The two agencies have also agreed this process, if completed, would end the current legal disputes between them, and financial debts of one entity will not be borne by the customers of the other.
“In the interest of transparency we will be seeking a great degree of public input as we go forward,” Atkins said. “This is not a decision we would be taking lightly, and it’s important to hear from the public as we consider moving forward.”
Campbell added that those steps would need to be taken methodically and with transparency.
“Something like this doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch,” Campbell said. “If the agencies choose to move forward, there will be some significant procedural steps which will take time to complete. Whatever the outcome, this process has begun with a shared aspiration to do what’s best for all of the water ratepayers in the Santa Clarita Valley.”
The public can expect service to continue unchanged in the foreseeable future. Details regarding assets, finances, infrastructure, rates, governance structure, and numerous other factors involved in creating a new water resources agency would be determined in the months to come.
About the Castaic Lake Water Agency
The Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) is the Santa Clarita Valley’s public water wholesaler. CLWA is one of 29 State Water Project contractors and receives water imported from northern California and Kern County through the California Aqueduct. CLWA operates two large treatment plants, three major pump stations, three water storage facilities and over 45 miles of large diameter transmission pipelines delivering water to four local water retailers. Our mission is to provide reliable, quality water at a reasonable cost to the Santa Clarita Valley. www.clwa.org
About the Newhall County Water District
Newhall County Water District traces its roots back to 1913 and is the Santa Clarita Valley’s first public water utility, currently providing service to more than 44,400 residents in portions of the City of Santa Clarita and unincorporated Los Angeles County communities, including Newhall, Canyon Country, Valencia and Castaic.
For more information about the District, visit www.ncwd.org.