At the year end, the effective leaders assess the health of their companies and set the direction for the upcoming year. As the general manager, I do the same for the Scotts Valley Water District and would like to share some of my thoughts with the community.
It is my responsibility to work with the board of directors to balance the priorities of the agency, to maintain a balanced operating budget with sufficient reserves for emergencies, and to manage a capital improvement program (with a $2 million budget this fiscal year). I am also responsible for ensuring operational efficiencies, taking care of the customers and employees, and last but not least, making sure that the district is a strong and considerate member of our community. I say “our” as I live in Scotts Valley too.
The Scotts Valley Water District has differences and similarities with other California water agencies. What makes us different? SVWD, along with other Santa Cruz County water districts, is dependent upon local water resources. Since we are geographically separated by the Santa Cruz Mountains, we are not connected to the state’s water supply system. District residents do not receive a drop of water from a system that serves 25 million other Californians — and with this autonomy comes higher vulnerability. Our drinking water supply is 100 percent groundwater which makes making us less susceptible to seasonal fluctuations in precipitation, but challenging us with treating water that is high in mineral content and more expensive to produce. For example, our electric bill is about $500,000 each year.
Similar to almost every water agency throughout the United States, our infrastructure is aging even though it is just over 50 years old. According to the infrastructure cost study done by the American Water Works Association in 2012, “Restoring existing water systems as they reach the end of their useful lives and expanding them to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years, if we are to maintain current levels of service. In the years ahead, all of us who pay for water service will absorb the cost (of this investment), primarily through higher water bills. In some communities these infrastructure costs alone could triple the size of a typical family’s water bills.”
Our 65 miles of potable water mains, six production wells, and four treatment facilities continue to need constant care, maintenance and upgrades. We also share the need to be water efficient and conserve water. Being water-smart benefits everyone — it reduces individual water (and energy) bills and helps the District to continue to restore our aquifers to sustainable historical levels. Customers who take advantage of our water-efficient rebates have collectively preserved hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in our aquifers and seen reductions in their water bills.
The District has many challenges but we continue work on finding new solutions to a sustainable water supply:
n The City and the District are working together to supply recycled water for large landscape irrigation at businesses, HOAs, schools and parks.
- Local developers are installing water efficient plumbing fixtures for new construction.
- Homeowners are replacing spray-irrigated lawns with low-maintenance and low-water landscaping.
- The District is collaborating with neighboring water agencies to construct system interties to provide more reliability.
You can count on me and my staff to communicate with you and keep the community informed on the district’s projects, accomplishments, challenges, and successes. To start out the New Year, we invite you to take advantage of our free Water Wednesday presentations that will take place at the district office in January. Please stop by to learn about the “wonderful world of water”, and get an opportunity to ask questions on matters that interest you. Visit our website at www.svwd.org for more information.
Best of the holiday season and successful (and rainy) new year for us all!
- Piret Harmon has been the General Manager of Scotts Valley Water District since July 2013.