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Lynne Plambeck: Reduce our dependence on imports

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: October 27, 2010 8:36 p.m.
Updated: October 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.

People who care about our local environment should not only be monitoring city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County government actions, they should also be watching the water agencies.

Water agencies are not responsible for land-use decisions, but they are certainly responsible for issues like water supply, water quality and water conservation that affect both the environment and our quality of life.

When a city election comes up, we always have lots of candidates, but not so with water district elections, especially the Castaic Lake Water Agency. At least this November, voters will have the option for business as usual by re-electing the incumbents, or voting in new candidates that may pay more attention to the public and their concerns.

Many issues before this board affect the local environment and our community. The biggest is the increased chlorides found in imported water that CLWA brings from Northern California.

Water from Northern California travels through 400 miles of aqueduct and needs many huge pumping stations to arrive in the Santa Clarita Valley. It is high in chloride salts that are the cause of the proposed increase in sewer fees. It is also expensive.

But since our local water supply is fully utilized, we cannot build more housing without reducing our water use or importing more water from Northern California.

The less water we import, the less chloride salts we will have in our system. If we can reduce the salt, we can keep our sewer fees down. Also, the less water we import, the lower our water bills will be because state water is so expensive.

Imported water is also an intense energy user. It takes lots of energy to run the various pumping stations needed to transport this water, especially the huge pumps that lift it over the Tehachapi Mountains into the SCV. A reduction in imported water will reduce our carbon footprint and air pollution.

Part of the resolution to these problems depends on looking at them from a new angle, i.e., long-term sustainability and protection of local resources.

For many years, local environmentalists have been saying that we must not pave over our water-recharge areas. We must not hardscape everything or we will diminish our local water supply and reduce our water quality.

Castaic Lake Water Agency and the other water purveyors should be working with the city to protect these areas when building in the flood plain is proposed. Recharge areas should be mapped and indicated for restricted use so that we can ensure the availability of our local water supply.

Water agencies should begin to require “water neutral” development with mitigation suggestions in their water-supply assessments and urban water-management plans.

Landscaping with native plants to reduce our water usage, especially in the large landscaped open areas and hillsides, collecting stormwater run off to recharge the ground water, and not hardscaping the Santa Clara River flood plain and recharge areas should all be part of the answer.

We must establish a watershed council, so that agencies like flood control, local water districts and the city can begin to understand the importance and good sense of working together to ensure long term water supply for our community.

We need more elected officials who promote these cost-effective solutions that are already being used in other areas. Will we be like Glendale and the city of Los Angeles and pave over our flood plains — only to have to remove the pavement many years later at taxpayer expense when we understand the damage we have done to the environment and our water supply?

If you, the voter, want a water agency that cares about the environment and watches out for your interests, not the interests of the water industry or the local developers, then you need to know what the CLWA is doing. You need to be an informed voter and elect people who will stand up for your interests. 

See you at the polling booth!

Lynne Plambeck is a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.



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