Measure W vote will determine Claremont’s water future: Guest commentary

As a longtime Claremont resident and professor of chemistry (Pomona College, 1954-1994), with grandchildren growing up here, I have a keen interest in what living in Claremont will be like in coming years.

With projections of increasing temperatures and drought, our water supply will be vitally important.

Will we be able to accommodate a growing population, or even the current one? We have been importing half of the water we use, but that may no longer be possible. What can be done, and who will be in control of our water future?

These are immensely important questions. The future of our families depends in important ways on having honest, factual information about water, and on how we vote on Measure W.

Because of my concerns about water I worked with the League of Women Voters on the report “Water Issues In Claremont 2005,” which is posted on their website. I helped write Claremont’s Sustainable City Plan, which calls for city-wide planning to use recycled water, and helped establish the community organization “Sustainable Claremont,” which I chair.

A decade ago, when we were preparing the water report, we were invited to meet with Floyd Wicks, then-president of Golden State Water Co., and others in administrative positions, including regional vice-president Denise Kruger.

We met several times to discuss water issues and developed cordial relationships. Floyd Wicks liked to say the company was built like a three-legged stool, with community relations being one of the legs.

There was talk of taking Claremont out of the regional rate structure so we could set our own rates, and of possibly giving the water company’s share of the Thompson Creek Spreading Grounds to Claremont to be used as a low-impact public park and as a means of increasing the capture of water to replenish the aquifer. The Rivers and Mountains Conservancy funded a $200,000 grant to plan for the proposed park, but nothing came of it.

Then Floyd Wicks retired. GSW apparently lost interest in working with Claremont. Water rates soared. Claremonters became outraged. The City Council voted unanimously to look into acquisition of the water system. We are now in contention with those who once called us “part of the family.”

I often wonder what the situation would be now if GSW management had not changed. Was it a mistake on the part of the new management to focus so intently on increasing profit, or will it prove to be a wise decision for them in the long run? The vote on Measure W will determine that.

GSW has clearly become Claremont’s adversary. How sad it is to see them using a million dollars, paid for with our water bills, to mount a campaign against us, based on dishonest statements such as “it’s a tax,” “water bills will go up by $100 per month” and “the system is worth over $200 million” (when the appraised value is $55 million).

The water company clearly wants to frighten us so it can keep monopoly control of our water future.

The third leg of Floyd Wicks’ stool has collapsed. If Measure W fails, water rates will soon be higher here, under GSW, than they ever would have been with the purchase.

What frightens me most is being helpless if Measure W does not pass. We will be at the mercy of GSW management, and they may not have kindly feelings for Claremont.

That’s why I am such a strong advocate for voting yes on Measure W.

Freeman Allen is a Claremont resident and a member of Claremont Friends of Locally Owned Water — Claremont FLOW.