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Polluted water shouldn't count — and it doesn't

SCV Voices

Posted: June 1, 2008 3:24 a.m.
Updated: August 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.
I applaud all the interest in our water quality, and truly hope those wanting more information about the process and timing of the groundwater cleanup contact our water agencies. There is a wealth of information available and it's quite fascinating.

What is extremely unfortunate is that some folks choose not be informed and to alarm the public with charges of "counting polluted water." The end game is to thwart business by crying wolf and spreading misinformation that no one bothers to check.

Our Urban Water Management Plan (a 25-year projection) also doesn't count polluted water. See page 3-1 of the November 2005 document, available at It takes snapshots every five years, and currently projects lost water supply will be restored by 2010.

The treatment system is currently being installed south of Lowe's on Bouquet Canyon Road. Dirt is dug; construction crews are onsite.

Additional water will be delivered in a pipeline going in along the bike path, where construction has also already begun.

And if anything changes, the Urban Water Management Plan is up for renewal next year, and the timelines and plans can be adjusted.

Brine line
Another tidbit of recent misinformation includes worry about a brine line. The treatment system being installed uses resin that is removed, not a self-regenerating system that generates brine. This is in the permitting documents, and has been discussed at numerous public meetings.

The money for the system and 30 years of its operation is already available, thanks to a hard-fought legal battle in which the water districts won payment from the polluter.

No water supply assessment (supply calculation for individual developments) has counted polluted water.

These are redone every single time a project goes for permitting, so they are constantly updated with the most current water information. No polluted water is counted as available now.

What about the proposed legislation that Newhall County Water District didn't support? Assembly Bill 2046 says you can't plan on water until the cleanup is done. On the surface, that sounds good.

However, consider the parallels to other utilities, like electricity.

When you build a building, you check if there will be power available.

The power company says yes, you pay your money, and they run the power to your lot.

Poorly written bill
No one would deny that building on the grounds that there's insufficient electricity just because the power line isn't already hooked up to the dirt lot. It just has to be installed.

The same is true with water. The Association of California Water Agencies, representing all public water utilities in California, opposes AB 2046. Newhall County Water District received a memo from our government relations consultant that contained some very good points: "There is existing approved treatment technology to remove contaminants like perchlorate, nitrate, and most contaminants of concern in groundwater. At the same time, there is little incentive or compelling interest to treat groundwater until it is needed as a source to meet projected demands."

The bill is also poorly written - seeking to take water off the table during 20-year planning horizons, and during permitting which occurs three to seven years prior to building large projects.

It does not amend the most critical water supply review - the law authored by stateswoman Sheila Kuehl, which looks at water right before groundbreaking.

Sen. Kuehl wrote: "it is not the intent of the author to preclude projected water supplies that can be reasonably relied upon, so long as there is substantial evidence put on record that demonstrates the projected water supplies will likely be available by the time the housing units are ready for construction. ... SB 221 is not intended to require that a public water system have a 20-year supply of water in place and immediately available at the time a final subdivision map is approved by a city or county."

None of us has a 20-year supply of food in our house, or a 20-year supply of income in the bank, but no one expects to starve or go broke because of it. We all make provisions for the future.

That is what engineers at water districts do with Urban Water Management Plans. Existing laws require reams of paper documenting water supply. No one has ever run out of water in Santa Clarita, and our planning has come to fruition, making us far better off than most of the rest of Southern California.

We will weather the current dry conditions better than many areas you see covered in the news, but we all need to not be wasteful, and support technology and infrastructure improvements, not just pork-barrel giveaways (fodder for another column in the future.) Water is simple - turn on the tap and it comes out.

Yet it is also complex, and therefore a handy tool for those looking to stop growth.

Certainly we live in a near-desert, and it's easy to believe we're going to be the next Las Vegas, baking in the heat, with gravel lawns and dead bushes. The water community needs to do a better job explaining what we do for our customers, the homeowners and businesses of Santa Clarita, and why we do it.

We all live here. We all have houses here. There are plenty of things to be vigilant about, especially related to growth, but I am confident our area is one of the best for water supply. It is extremely dishonest to say otherwise.

I invite anyone with questions, including all the recent op-ed columnists, to come to Newhall County Water District, or any of the other water agencies, and make an appointment with the senior staff.

We will get out the books, show you the plans, answer all your questions, and show you the pages where we are clearly not counting polluted water.

Maria Gutzeit is a Santa Clarita resident, environmental engineer, and elected official serving as vice president of the Newhall County Water District board of directors. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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