Water, Water, Water

Gee, can I say I told you so? Some longtime readers may recall the Goleta Water District water wars during the drought in the mid-1980s. Ever since Katy Crawford, Pat Mylod, and John DeLoreto, then on the Goleta Water Board, voted for a $100 million solution to a $40 million water problem, Goletans have suffered from high rates.

Here is that story. Rather than allow the Goleta Water District ratepayers to vote on having their own desal plant, a $40 million steam distillation solution, to provide all the water Goleta required to replenish the ground water basin overdraft and have a reasonable amount left over for modest growth, Crawford, Mylod, and DeLoreto supported spending $19 million for a five-year window to use the (now dismantled) Santa Barbara reverse osmosis desal plant. This decision helped pave the way to spend $80 million on State Water, thus permanently tripling Goleta’s water rates.

The people who really needed this State Water solution were not cities near the ocean like Santa Barbara and Goleta but the strawberry growers in inland Santa Maria and developers who wanted an overabundance of water without much regard to cost. We bought more water than was needed to solve Goleta’s immediate overdraft problem and to provide enough water for reasonable future growth.

Now we are seeing that what those of us in opposition to State Water said years ago was true. State Water is more expensive and less reliable than local desal. Goleta desal would have been local and more reliable than the expensive and unreliable State Water.

The Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA) recently met and found a loss of State Water to be “not a matter of if but when” and that environmental concerns limit the State Water available from the San Joaquin Delta.

So the upshot is that we on the South Coast get less water and must spend even more money to ensure receipt of State Water. The levees in the delta are old and need to be reinforced to protect against earthquakes. In order to fix the levees and protect our water source from the ill-conceived decision of going with State Water, we the ratepayers will be faced with a $100 million bill from CCWA.

The moral of this story: Be very careful when developers and strawberry farmers try to frighten the electorate and sell you a bill of goods about water, or for that matter any other infrastructure issues, that dramatically benefits them but that they want us, the general public, to pay for.


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