The proposed merger of Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) and Newhall County Water District (NCWD) to create the Santa Clarita Valley Water District, known as Senate Bill 634, passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources with a 7 to 0 vote last week. The bill has been authored by state Senator Scott Wilk (R-21st Senate District-Antelope Valley). Testifying in support of the bill were Maria Gutzeit, president of the NCWD and Gary Martin, board member with the CLWA.
Following a year of study, along with public input and engagement, the majority of Santa Clarita area residents have been favorable to the proposed merger. However, they indicated they felt the decision for whether or not to merge should be decided by the water agency’s and district’s elected officials.
Having endorsed the merger the two agencies had indicated that, “…a single entity would build on and lead to greater success in water conservation, groundwater management (including conjunctive management of groundwater and surface water supplies), and future recycled water expansion across the Santa Clarita Valley.” Wilk indicated that the water districts will integrate water resource management addressing efforts for recycled water development, groundwater, conservation and other local water resource options.
Following the vote by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Wilk’s said, “I am very pleased the Committee sees the value in unifying the current patchwork of regional water management in the Santa Clarita Valley into one streamlined agency. SB 634 would establish a 21st century modern government agency that will not only serve the needs of my district, but will become a model for water agencies throughout the state.” The bill has been double-referred to the Government and Finance Committee.
In support of the merger, CLWA General Manager Matt Stone said last year, “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. Executed correctly, the combining of these two agencies could create significant public benefits, and we’re optimistic that it can be brought to fruition.” The move could save the region $14 million over the next decade. But NCWD’s Steve Cole, general manager, acknowledged a substantial amount of work remains to be accomplished.
Sen. Wilk’s also noted the work yet to be done saying, “This bill is a work in progress and I am committed to getting it right. That means moving forward in a collaborative manner engaging all parties. I am convinced when all is said and done the new agency will provide improved reliability, water quality and allow for a unified regional approach to Santa Clarita Valley water issues, all to the benefit of the environment and ratepayers.”