Let’s not repeat past mistakes

I recently heard the argument made by Claremont Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA) regarding their concern over what will happen if we acquire the water system and then conserve water.

With regards to acquiring the water system, whether or not we conserve water is really irrelevant. Any impact on revenues due to future water conservation would apply to whoever owns the system. Are they under some delusional assumption that Golden State would not raise rates if we conserve water, besides hitting us with WRAM charges?

In the 2011 rate case, Golden State requested a 21 percent rate increase. The number-one reason they gave was “reduced sales” and said we had reduced our water usage by 13 percent. So because we used 13 percent less water they needed to increase rates by 21 percent.

What can we expect to get out of acquiring the water system?

Local control. That means we do what’s best for Claremont and we do it now. Under Golden State ownership, value decisions and priorities will always be made under the lens of regionalization and under the goal of maximizing profit. Is doing one thing for Claremont more important than doing this thing for Calipatria (our region 3 compatriot)? Will doing this for Claremont be more profitable than doing that for Calipatria? This is how Golden State frames every question. A few cases to highlight these points:

Today, Golden State doesn’t extract all the local groundwater they are allotted. In fact, they’ve completely filled their carry-over account and are essentially losing the rights to our local water. The result is they have to replace that with imported water at five times the cost, resulting in higher bills for us. Are there any repercussions for them? No. Is there anything you can do about it? Nothing whatsoever.

Golden State has two local wells that have been inoperable for the past 10 years. It took 10 years for us to put a man on the moon; there is no good excuse why it should take 10 years to repair a well. Supposedly, Golden State has an army of people to fix problems. Well, maybe something came up in Calipatria and they just didn’t get around to it.

Today, if the city were to try to implement a water reclamation project, they would be sued by Golden State because they believe only they have the right to supply recycled water. We know this because they are now threatening to sue the Colleges over a proposed water reclamation project. Wouldn’t it be better to work with the Colleges rather than against?

If we own the system, we can control the outcome of these issues and we can be like more than 75 percent of California and have publicly-owned water. Ultimately, these things would bring down the price of water and reduce our water bills.

There is a lot of debate over acquisition costs and the impact it will have on rates, but consider what you can expect staying with Golden State given their history of requesting sky-high rate increases: 21 percent in 2011 and 33 percent in 2009.

Ten years ago, the city considered water acquisition but stopped short. Apparently, this also occurred sometime in the 1990s and even decades before that but the city never went through with it, most likely for the same reasons we’re debating now.

Looking back on it, had we acquired the water system at any of those previous points in time, we would be far better off today. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past and continue to pass this burden on. Vote yes on Measure W.

Arnold Tuason