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Two water districts in Santa Cruz County — the San Lorenzo Valley Water District and the Scotts Valley Water District — are considering consolidating their operations, officials announced this week.
Both districts draw water from the same series of aquifers in the region known as the Santa Margarita Groundwater Basin. They are also connected through a system that allows the districts to share water during an emergency.
Their proximity and shared goals, in addition to staff meeting together regularly, are among reasons representatives believe consolidation may be a good idea.
“This is a collaborative effort to consider what is best for our customers, our water supply and our environment now and into the future,” San Lorenzo Valley Water District Manager Rick Rogers said. “It’s a good time to consider our options and have a conversation with the community.”
Piret Harmon, manager of the Scotts Valley Water District, echoed similar sentiments and said both districts have “complementary strengths,” which merit consideration for consolidation.
“Specific benefits of merged operation could mean economies of scale, improved levels of customer service and more opportunities for employees,” Harmon said.
Process will take time
But it will still be at least a year before consolidation can occur.
That is because the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) begins the process of consolidation with an exploratory phase of at least a year.
In that year, LAFCO will analyze the water districts and collect input from a stakeholder group consisting of representatives from each district.
If LAFCO’s study is favorable to consolidation, the districts can then apply for a change of governance.
“LAFCOs were created to support how municipal services, such as water, are delivered,” Joe Serrano, executive director of the county’s LAFCO said. “It is encouraging to see that the two water districts continue to collectively search for ways to ensure that their constituents have adequate water supply through a strong level of service.”
“It is encouraging to see that the two water districts continue to collectively search for ways to ensure that their constituents have adequate water supply through a strong level of service.”Joe Serrano, Santa Cruz LAFCO
Before the exploratory phase of consolidation can occur, Serrano will provide an overview of the process at each water district’s board meeting.
Throughout the exploratory process, residents will have “multiple opportunities” for public engagement and feedback, water district officials said in a statement.
There will also be a specific period where customers have the opportunity to oppose or support consolidation. Consolidation can also only pass if it not opposed by majority of ratepayers.
Serrano said that consolidation is “simply another tool that districts can utilize to improve how water is delivered.”
Serrano gave his consolidation overview presentation to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District on Thursday evening.
The Scotts Valley Water District will hear the presentation this Thursday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. The virtual meeting can be accessed online or by calling 646-749-3122 (Access Code: 488 730 213).