Water system maintenance (September 25, 2016)

A letter writer criticized me for attempting to explain how water rates are set in California for private companies (Water gobbledygook, Daily Press, September 25, 2016). I didn’t say it was easy, I just said that the information is available for those who desire it, and gave an example. As for why Liberty Utilities applies for rate increases every three years, that has a much easier answer.

When the Wheeler family owned Apple Valley Ranchos, they had to delay maintenance and upgrades due to financial constraints. (I’m not criticizing the Wheelers, just establishing the history.) When The Carlyle Group purchased our water system, it doubled annual investments in repairs and upgrades. Liberty Utilities has continued Carlyle’s practice of investing millions in our community since acquiring our water system.

As it stands, our water system — while in relatively good shape — still has many, many miles of mains that are near, at, or beyond their service life. The Carlyle and Liberty Utilities schedules of main replacements could have (and probably should have) been more aggressive, but the CPUC limited how much investment could occur in any given year, as well as how much can be recouped. It’s a tough balancing act, but the experts currently running our water utility have been making solid improvements with what they are given.

The alternative is to allow the water system to deteriorate, and I hope no one wants that. The unfortunate thing is that once the politicians get involved in running the water system, they make political decisions, not decisions that are sound for the water system (think Flint, MI).

We’ve had local control of our local water system for 70+ years. Liberty Utilities has a great team in Apple Valley, and they do a great job.

If we let the Town take control of our water system, it will be at our peril.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.

Published: Daily Press, October 6, 2016