The New Santa Clarita Valley Water District: What it Means for Customers

The implementation of the new water agency is designed to have minimal impact on day-to-day water service for Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses. This is in direct response to the public’s prioritization of a methodical process to limit any disruptions to customer service. Thus, many important changes will occur, but will be done over the next several years in order to smoothly transition to a modernized governance structure and realize cost savings.

The following outlines both broad and detailed changes as well as a timeline of implementation.

Key Changes

Regional Water Governance: Currently, CLWA, the wholesale water provider and operator of the retail Santa Clarita Water Division, has a 11-member board composed of six divisionally elected, three at-large elected, and two appointed directors.. Terms for the elected directors are four years. Additionally, Newhall County Water District has a five-member board elected at-large. NCWD has one appointed director who serves on the CLWA board. So currently there are a total of 15 elected or appointed water officials in the region.

What Changes: By 2022, the new district Board will be entirely elected. It will have nine directly elected directors. Instead of at-large or appointed seats, each director must live in one of three electoral divisions and will be directly elected by the people within that electoral division. This is called divisional representation. It is strictly compliant with the California Voting Rights Act and allows neighbors to elect neighbors to govern water resources. It also ensures equal representation for all corners of the Valley. The public also requested a more efficient board. In response, the new agency will have nine members instead of the current 15 elected/appointed members.


Imported/Wholesale Water Service: Imported water is purchased from the State of California and other sources, treated to drinking water standards, and then provided to retail water districts in the Valley, including Newhall County Water District, Santa Clarita Water Division, Valencia Water Co. and Los Angeles County District #36. This service is currently provided by Castaic Lake Water Agency, which has a contract with the State to provide imported water.

What Changes: Not much. The new district will assume responsibility for importing water. It will have the same boundaries and continue to bring in imported water to the region. However, the three separately operated retailers of NCWD, SCWD and VWC will be operated jointly, with greater economy of scale, and overseen by a single publicly elected board. District #36 will have access to imported water from the new district.


Retail Water: Customers are most familiar with retail water. This provides water directly to homes and businesses. Currently, there are four retail water providers – NCWD, SCWD, VWC and District #36. Each retail provider has its own system of pipes, water reservoirs, budget, general manager, staff, facilities, etc. The size of these retailers ranges from just over 1,000 to more than 30,000 service connections.

What Changes: The new agency will converge NCWD, SCWD and VWC into a new retail provider. This creates economies of scale that are projected to save $14 million in the first 10 years. It also removes institutional barriers to integrated water systems, better regional management of watersheds and water supplies. District #36 will continue its retail water service as currently operated and will have access to imported water from the new district. There are provisions in the legislation that would permit (but not require) District 36 to join later, upon mutual agreement of the new district and the Los Angeles County, and approval through LAFCO.


Retail Water Areas vs. Electoral Divisions: The boundaries of NCWD, VWC and SCWD will dissolve. There will be accounting related to these “legacy boundaries” for the purpose of firewalling debt from the past agencies. But this is different from the electoral divisions. These electoral divisions are crafted to ensure fair, equal representation and do not relate to historical retail water service boundaries. They have been crafted by an expert demographer to account for several issues, including: the California Voting Rights Act and minority populations, communities of interest, man-made and natural boundaries (e.g. I-5), and other dynamics.

New vs. Old – Matrix of Key Customer Service

The vehicle to implement these changes is Senate Bill 634, authored by Senator Scott Wilk. This legislation was unanimously approved by the State Senate and must now be approved by the Assembly then signed by Governor Jerry Brown to become law. The below matrix provides a more detailed “before and after” account of new water governance for the region.

Newhall County Water District

IssueCurrent StructureNew Structure
RatesCombination of fixed fees and volumetric ratesNo anticipated immediate change; long-term changes to be set by future board; efficiencies offset external impacts to rates (e.g. inflation)
Governance5 at-large directors elected within NCWD boundary9 member board by January 2023, all SCV residents to vote on three directors from distinct electoral divisions; division-based system meets CA Voting Rights Act compliance
ElectionsAt-large electionsDivision-based elections (e.g. must live in certain division to represent that area); First election for new district will be in 2020
Customer ServiceOnline, in-person, website, auto-pay optionNo change; contact information to remain same and slowly transition over time
Bill CycleMonthlyNo change

 

Santa Clarita Water Division

IssueCurrent StructureNew Structure
RatesCombination of fixed fees and tiered ratesNo anticipated immediate change; long-term changes to be set by future board; efficiencies offset external impacts to rates (e.g. inflation)
GovernanceSCWD governed by CLWA board of directors9 member board by January 2023, all SCV residents to vote on three directors from distinct electoral divisions; division-based system meets CA Voting Rights Act compliance
ElectionsSCWD customers vote for at-large and divisional CLWA directorsDivision-based elections (e.g. must live in certain division to represent that area); First election for new district will be in 2020
Customer ServiceOnline, in-person, website, auto-pay optionNo change; contact information to remain same and slowly transition over time
Bill CycleMonthlyNo change

 

Valencia Water Company

IssueCurrent StructureNew Structure
RatesCombination of fixed fees and tiered ratesNo anticipated immediate change; long-term changes to be set by future board; efficiencies offset external impacts to rates (e.g. inflation)
GovernancePrivate board of directors9 member board by January 2023, all SCV residents to vote on three directors from distinct electoral divisions; division-based system meets CA Voting Rights Act compliance
ElectionsNo retail water elections; VWC residents vote for CLWA leadershipDivision-based elections (e.g. must live in certain division to represent that area); First election for new district will be in 2020
Customer ServiceOnline, in-person, website, auto-pay optionNo change; contact information to remain same and slowly transition over time
Bill CycleMonthlyNo change

 

Los Angeles County Water Works District #36

District #36 customers will elect regional water leaders, as part of the new water district. This is consistent with how District #36 customers currently vote for CLWA directors. But their day-to-day retail water service will remain unchanged.

Key Milestones and Dates

Before & After: Simplifying Water Management

The following maps represent the modernization brought by SB 634. The top map shows the current “patchwork” retail water districts with the regional CLWA boundary in black. Old, institutional boundaries created a system of odd service areas, redundant water infrastructure and inefficient operations.

The new map shows the three electoral divisions of the new water district. The retail service will be provided seamlessly throughout these areas, eliminating the odd and institutional boundaries of the past. It also creates a modernized governance structure so every corner of the Valley has equal and fair representation.