By Mary O’KEEFE
Three incumbents and three new candidates are vying for three seats on the Crescenta Valley Water District board. The water district is governed by a five-member board of directors. Each director serves a four-year term.
Richard Atwater, Charles Beatty and Vasken Yardemian now serve on the board. Kerry Erickson, James Bodnar and Wendy Alane Smith are the new candidates looking for votes and a chance to serve.
At a recent forum sponsored by the Crescenta Valley Town Council at Rosemont Middle School, the candidates introduced themselves to the few community members in the audience.
“The turn out was not what I expected. I had hoped more people would have shown up,” Erickson said.
During the forum those in attendance got a true sense of what the candidates’ strengths were and what the community will be facing in the future with the state’s water woes. Conservation was the common ground for all candidates. “We waste 70% of our water on our yards…Somehow we think we don’t live in the desert,” Smith said.
Conservation through reduced use and recycling was brought up by all members on the dais. “It is more than likely that Southern California is not going to get any more water so if we want to maintain our quality of life we have to become more efficient,” Atwater said.
He added that to gain maximum efficiency would be through recycling water supplies and increasing the ability to pump more water out of the local basins.
CVWD does pump some water but also imports water from Foothill Water District which in turn imports from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Anytime water has to be imported the costs increase.
Erickson voiced his concern over past and future increases to residents’ water bills.
“In the last six years water costs have increased anywhere form 33% to 57%
depending on your cost structure. Our services have gone up 53%, our sewer increased 118%,” he said.
And another proposed rate hike is pending as well as a possible mandatory mandate by the state of a 20% water reduction, he added.
Bodnar set cost control as one of his goals as well.
“I will manage cost and provide fiscal responsibility to our district,” he said.
All touted their qualifications for the board; several candidates have engineering degrees and have worked in the water district for years. Atwater, Beatty and Yardemian spoke about their experience on the board and their long time commitment to the community. They have had a front seat in the state’s drying out due to California’s multiyear drought and understand what the future will hold.
Smith said she will use he experience derived from her knowledge of construction through the construction company she and her husband own. Bodnar has a degree in engineering and works at Metropolitan Water District. Erickson said his technical and management skills he used at Jet Propulsion Laboratory would be of value as a board member.
Elections for the water board is on Nov. 3 as part of the general election.
With the important Crescenta Valley Water Board election on Nov. 3, we posed three questions to the candidates regarding water usage and its availability to Crescenta Valley residents.
In addition to conservation, what are some other ideas the board should entertain in finding solutions to our water shortage?
Richard Atwater: I strongly support developing new and reliable local water supplies: recycled water, stormwater capture and fully utilizing our local well water supplies in the Verdugo Groundwater Basin. Crescenta Valley Water District is working collaboratively with the Foothill MWD and the cities of Glendale and Pasadena and LA County Public Works to implement these new local supplies. The Governor and the Legislature are developing this week legislation including a proposed Water Bond which will provide grant funding for these new CVWD local water supply projects.
James Bodnar: The Board should evaluate all options to improve our water supply starting at the most cost effective alternatives. Our most expensive water supply is imported water from Foothill Municipal Water District. Developing a lower cost water supply than imported water will reduce our expenses and improve our reliability.
In addition to conservation, I believe the Board should look at four areas to enhance our supply: water recharge, water recycling, residential graywater, and partnerships with other agencies. Water recharge can be used to protect our valuable groundwater supply so that during droughts the water is available to pump. Water recycling can be cost effective when combined with grants and subsidies. Residential graywater has the dual benefit of reducing sewer flows and offsetting an outside water demand. Partnerships with other agencies can be vital in providing distribution system redundancy and access to new water supplies.
Electing an experienced Board member who knows the difference between an idea and a solution will aid in addressing the water shortage. There are legal and physical limitations to how much water can be recharged and pumped in the Verdugo Basin. There are engineering factors that go into sizing a recycled water plant such as the distribution system and the winter time demand. While the district can encourage residential graywater, there are also regulations that limit how much graywater can be used per household. Electing a Board member that has water resource experience is vital to ensuring the success of any strategy to address the water shortage.
Kerry Erickson: *Recycle graywater. This is an easy way to make each gallon of water serve the needs of two or three areas. For instance, use the water from your washing machine for irrigation and allow it to percolate into the aquifer for groundwater replenishment.
* Collect rainwater and use it for irrigation and allowing it to percolate into the aquifer.
* Collect stormwater runoff and use it for groundwater replenishment and irrigation.
* Treat wastewater and use the recycled water to irrigate public areas such as Two-Strike and CV parks and freeway landscapes; also spread the water for groundwater replenishment. In the 1970s there was a sewer treatment facility in the Pinecrest area where sludge was removed and the recycled water was sprayed on the hillsides.
* Obtain right to draw more groundwater from our Verdugo basin. This is especially important if we are putting water into the basin through groundwater replenishment.
* Obtain more water for the southland and our district by working with the legislature to channel water directly from the northern sierras.
* Use the water produced by air conditioners to irrigate plants.
* Reduce District water loss and waste caused by water line and system leakage and allowing line flushing flow into the street.
* Obtain consumer tax credit for using graywater by working with the legislature.
* Obtain an alternate source of water from LA City.
* Look for other opportunities where recycled water can replace potable water.
Wendy Alane Smith: 1. Expanded use of recycled grey water.
2. Expansion of desalination.
3. Expansion of reclamation and reuse. All of the above are part of a balanced water portfolio to help meet California’s existing and future water supply.
4. Additionally, increased abilities to capture storm water.
5. Rain water catch barrels at every home to collect rainwater from our roofs and gutters to use it on our gardens.
6. Replacement of driveways, patios and sidewalks with permeable materials to replenish aquifers.
7. Increase xeriscaping with residents replanting with drought tolerant plants
8. Retrofitting of old plumbing fixtures and retrofitting irrigation systems.
9. But with all that being said, water conservation is the most effective way to increase and protect our water supply.
Vasken Yardemian: First of all, there is no water shortage in Crescenta Valley. The Water District has been restricted in water supply allocation by the Southern California Metropolitan Water District (MWD) through Foothill Water Municipal District (FMWD). The allocation has been reduced by approximately 10%. Currently, the Water District imports 40% of our current water supplies from Metropolitan Water District. If the Water District does not stay within that allocation, then it will pay much higher rates to MWD. The answer and solution is to be less dependent on the expensive imported water from MWD and to develop our own new and reliable local water supplies like recycled water and capture and recharge storm water into our Verdugo Basin. In 2004, the Water District conducted a groundwater modeling and study which indicated that the it can capture and recharge storm water into Crescenta Valley County Park through infiltration. The cost of the project is $3 million. Currently, the District is working collaboratively with the FMWD to implement this project and the funding may come from the water bond that FMWD is proposing this fall. As far as recycling water, the District has to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different options, either buying recycled water from City of Glendale or have its own water treatment facility to irrigate the parks, school sites, businesses and freeway medians.
What do you think has been the most effective tool used by the water board to address our water needs?
Richard Atwater: The Board of CVWD has been a leader in southern California in encouraging water conservation. In particular, the rebates for installing low water use landscapes and modern irrigation systems have been very successful. This summer working with all the Foothhill water agencies with the Water Alert signs throughout La Crescenta and La Canada has resulted in overall water use being reduced by over 15% from the previous summer (2008).
James Bodnar:The most effective water resource the Board has in addressing our water needs is our local groundwater supply. Our rights to pump water from the Verdugo groundwater basin provides about fifty percent of our water needs at the lowest cost. We need to ensure that our groundwater is protected from contamination and also that the supply is available during a drought.
Another very important tool the Board has in managing our limited water supply is developing an appropriate rate structure. Although our tiered rate structure encourages conservation, I think there is still room for improvement. Other water districts have rate structures that not only look at lot size, but also the number of occupants to fairly distribute the water to the community. They even adjust their water allocation to their residents based on the evapotranspiration rate to allow for more watering during hot days and less watering after it rains. I would like to improve the water rate structure to be more equitable and fair while rewarding those who conserve.
The most valuable resource of all that impacts our water needs is you, the water user. Our community has met the challenge during the drought by reducing its water usage by around twenty percent when compared to the previous five years. Although there is always room for improvement with conservation, most of us are doing a great job. As your next Board of Director, I will increase community outreach and involvement in conservation, and improve the water rate structure.
Kerry Erickson: The two-day outside watering restriction has certainly raised the public awareness of the water crisis. As a result most households and businesses have reduced their outside usage and some have begun to also reduce inside water usage. The introduction of the tier charging structure in 2008 created more public discontent than public support in conserving water. A few households in response to the cost increases, especially those with fixed income, did reduce their water usage. Others at least initially accepted the higher bills. Together these measures have resulted in the community reducing its daily water usage. But it also raised concerns, objections and dissatisfaction by many on the fairness of the conservation program. Why does one neighbor get to water 3 days a week and another 2 days? Or why are some communities insisting on 10 minute water times and others having no time limits? Where the CVWD missed the boat was on working with the community to obtain support before implementing them.
Another segment of the community the CVWD continues to ignore is the household where water conservation has been a part of their life style for several years. Unfortunately the district has not included these low-volume users in their plans; definitely an area we need to address. Rebates have been targeted toward the general high-end user or they have been difficult or even costly for some residents.
Wendy Alane Smith: If I felt the board has been effective I would not be running for office.
Vasken Yardemian: One of the tools that the Water District used to address our water needs was to raise the awareness of water conservation in our community. A few years ago, the Water Board came up with the idea of implementing a Water Conservation Alert System which was crafted for our small community. The system that has different colors which corresponds to different water needs raised the public awareness of the water crisis and the reaction was very positive by our residents and businesses. Signs were developed and posted all over the community in front of the fire stations, public parks, libraries, and other public facilities is to inform the public on our water needs in Crescenta Valley. Now, we are in orange color which means we are in water rationing stage. The District saves thousands of dollars by not having full page ads in local news papers regarding water conservation efforts.
What does the future hold for CVWD customers including higher rates and/or more conservation efforts?
Richard Atwater: I am very excited about developing these new local water supply projects (recycled water and stormwater capture) because they will benefit all the residents for the next 30 to 50 years. And with the potential for State and Federal grants and subsidies from the Metropolitan Water District will pay for over half of the capital costs. The State of California has available state water grants now to fund these local supply projects (and has proposed new State grant funding for the CVWD projects). And after just getting back from Washington DC meeting on Wednesday, October 28 meeting with Congressman Adam Schiff, Congressman Dave Dreier, and Senators Feinstein and Boxer I am very optimistic that Foothill MWD and CVWD will recieve over $20 million in federal water grants for these new local supply projects in the next few years to also fund a significant portion of the water recycling and stormwater capture projects. This will save all our customers a significant amount of money in the future by avoiding the purchase of expensive imported water from the Metropolitan Water District. Therefore by making smart investments in local water supplies we can keep our water rates lower than if we continued to buy expensive imported water (which is about 40 percent of our current water supply) and it will also “drought proof” the La Crescenta area from future statewide droughts!
James Bodnar: Our water supply future will certainly improve. The imported water restrictions we are facing are only temporary. With increased rainfall and environmentally responsible solutions within the Sacramento Delta, the shortage will end. Our water district is much more prepared in providing affordable and reliable water than many other neighboring water agencies. With experienced leadership on the Board, we will be better prepared for future shortages and emergencies.
Conserving water saves money, energy, reduces sewer flows, and is environmentally responsible. Providing rebates for conservation is a good start, but must be balanced with the costs and benefits. Improving the tiered water rate structure encourages conservation by lowering water costs and rewards the household based on performance on every water bill. Although some customers will see higher water costs, many will not. As a Director, I will work to construct a rate structure that is both equitable and fair. I also want to modify the sewer charge to be based more closely on indoor water usage.
Unlike many past water Board elections, you have a choice of candidates. All of the candidates are dedicated and hard working people. However, I encourage that you look beyond just dedication, and look at the experience and qualifications of each candidate. I believe that my background and experience in the water industry sets me apart. You can learn more about me, my background, and my platform at www.ElectBodnar.orgor by emailing me at James@ElectBodnar.org.
Kerry Erickson: The future under the old Board if it were to remain intact, will be continual rate increases as MWD costs are passed on and higher property taxes (as FMWD has proposed) to offset reduced revenue from conservation. The future under a new Board will be one showing forward-thinking and taking the initiative to insure our future water supply and keeping our rates at a reasonable and equitable level; not just passing the buck. Ideas in question 1 will give us these results. Conservation will continue to be important in combating the water crisis as we shift our dependency away from imported water and use more recycled water. CVWD needs to expand its conservation effort such as placing ultra low-flush toilets in every household. Improved consumer communication. The CVWD website needs to have up-to-date and timely information. The customer bills should clearly illustrate where in the tier structure does a resident fall (similar to the SoCal Edison bill) and how their usage compares to similar households. Finally the CVWD needs to rethink how it does business. An important aspect notably absent for many years has been little involvement with the community. More consumer input in the decision process is needed, especially on issues pertaining to conservation. The community has a lot of resources to offer the CVWD; subject matter experts, people with connections, and those simply wanting to help keep their community the beautiful place and reason they chose to make it their home.
Wendy Alane Smith: 1. You can expect from me increased focus on water conservation to establish a water conservation ethic throughout our community 2. A better tier system with better water prices for people who are already conserving water. 3. Rebate assistance to the elderly and fixed income retirees. 3. More rebates for increasing your personal water conservation. 4. A more mandatory approach to conservation. Your children will thank me in 20 years for not waiting until it’s too late. 5. Establishment of a new water conservation program that leads to comprehensive education to help create public awareness and a conservation ethic. Public understanding and support are critical to the ultimate success of a water conservation plan, because changing behaviors is key to affecting water demand management. Educational outreach and technical assistance will target both public and private sectors. My friends, I think outside of the box, I am open to all alternative ideas. I know that a combination of all the ideas I have mentioned above is the key to saving and preserving our water supply. If you care about this community’s water I suggest you vote for Richard Atwater, Kerry Erickson and myself to protect your water supply both now, and in the future. Thank you for your vote on November 3, 2009.
Vasken Yardemian: Conservation is critically important to maintaining our water supply in Crescenta Valley. In 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger issued a new water conservation goal, a plan to achieve a 20 percent reduction in capita water use statewide by 2020. This requires the water districts across California to develop and implement more aggressive water conservation programs. Eventually water conservation will be part of our lifestyle in the future. Therefore, the Water District will enhance its water conservation program by enhancing our water conservation rebate program. We will apply for state grants to implement a series of water conservation programs in addition to what is currently being implemented. For example, more efficient toilets, new standards for irrigation controllers and other new building and appliance standards. By conserving more, we will be less dependent on expensive imported water. However, this will not be sufficient to keep our water rates low. Currently, the Water District imports 40% of our current water supplies from Metropolitan Water District. We can not depend on imported water that is becoming more expensive every year and eventually we need to develop new local water supplies, like recycling water and recharging storm water in the Crescenta Valley. Currently, the FMWD is considering a $20 million bond financing with a repayment period over 30 years. In order to pay back the bond, their Board of Directors is considering using a property assessment. If this property assessment is approved by the property owners within FMWD’s jurisdiction, the FMWD will fund projects to develop new local water supplies, like recycling water and recharging storm water in the Crescenta Valley. There is also a good possibility that FMWD may receive $20 million in federal grants to fund water recycling and stormwater capture projects. Therefore, when we develop these local supplemental sources of water supply, we will be less dependent on expensive water from Metropolitan water District, thus keeping our water rates low.