Wheeling and Dealing on the Water Board

Records releases from La Habra Heights County Water District and Rowland Water District fill in some knowledge gaps but raise more questions about the proposed water trafficking deal between the two agencies, that would uses LHHCWD facilities to transport an unknown quantity of water to Rowland Water District via a pipeline to be constructed below Fullerton Rd, north and east from East Rd, and if water quality aspects have been identified and addressed.

Under the proposed Agreement, La Habra Heights County Water District (LHHCWD) would transport (known as wheeling) water for Rowland Water District.

At the Special September 13, 2011 LHHCWD Board meeting Manager Mike Gualtieri said that LHHCWD water would not be used, but he did not say, at that meeting, where the water would come from.

In a response to a query for documents provided to the Rowland Water District Board regarding the proposed agreement, the Rowland Water Board information agent said the Board was provided with no documents, other than a draft agreement later in the process. She said the Board was informed verbally at meetings about the purpose of the agreement and other details. She referred us to Board minutes for more information, however the Board uses "action minutes" which include little detail other than a motion and vote. We were told there were no recordings of the meetings to listen to in order to learn more.
Rowland Water wrote "The sole purpose of partnering with these agencies is to reduce RWD's dependence on MWD (RWD is 100% dependent upon MWD for water), stabilizing water rates and providing increased reliability for our rate payers in the future. Additionally, these partnerships will create a revenue stream for these agencies benefitting their customer base."
The information agent verbally added that total available water supply to Rowland could increase with these deals.

In response to a request for Staff Reports to the LHHCWD Board about the proposed deal, LHHCWD provided copies of 3 brief memos to the Board but without the referenced attachments (see memos below). The records request was resubmitted for the missing details.

As we reported in a previous story, the LHHCWD attorney had concerns, saying it was unusual for a smaller district using almost half its capacity to serve a larger district.

The LHHCWD 2011-12 Budget projects $100,000 Wheeling Water income in a $3.5 million budget (see Budget below).

It is not known if LHHCWD did or had done a cost analysis to determine all costs (short & long term, maintenance and capital, accelerated deterioration of equipment and lines, opportunity costs, etc) of the proposed agreement and if the proposed income from Rowland is adequate.

A 2010 San Gabriel Valley News article stated that Rowland Water had a $20 million operating budget.

The LHHCWD Board has been working on the deal for at least a year. In a September 15, 2011 La Habra Journal article, LHHCWD Vice President and candidate for re-election Pam McVicar said she feels the board members need to be paid if they want to be taken seriously by other water companies, "The board has not wanted to be the only volunteer board in the state."

Concerns about Water Quality

LHHCWD has provided high quality water to District customers according to the annual Water Quality reports, supplying primarily groundwater from District fields.

Rowland Water District sources most water from MWD (Metropolitan Water District) with non-potable water from recycled sources.
A 2008 Rowland Water District Certificates of Participation Disclosure suggests that the District adds contaminated water to the recycled system :
"Groundwater Contamination
The District overlies the Puente Basin, which was adjudicated in 1981 and which has been designated as a super fund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to contamination from a variety of industrial processes. While the District has a single well that produces a limited amount of groundwater, it is of poor quantity and quality. Due to the expense of treatment it is instead used to supplement the recycled water system, and the District currently does not have any plans to incorporate groundwater into its potable water system." (see 2008 Disclosure below and do word search for above section)

However, the proposed agreement with LHHCWD is for groundwater, as is the 2011 signed agreement with Cal Domestic (see agreement below).

Some residents have expressed concern about the quality of water that could be wheeled through La Habra Heights pipelines and water system under the proposed agreement.

LHHCWD has not released any details about the source of the water, quantity that would flow through District pipes, intermixing of water sources, cleansing of pipelines, or quality control measures and questions remain unanswered about these issues.

An agreement between Rowland Water and Cal Domestic signed in January 2011, for a purpose similar to the LHHCWD proposed agreement, does not include any details on water quality or testing of water transported other than to assure quantity accuracy for billing purposes. (See agreement below)

A contamination plume in the same water supply basin has resulted in well closures.

Lower quality water could be added to the LHHCWD supply diluting it to remain within acceptable standards but less than ratepayers are accustomed.

Board Candidate Speaks Out

Water Board Candidate Judy Hathaway-Francis released a statement about this issue. Excerpts include:


All LHH residents and customers of our La Habra Heights County Water District (LHHCWD), you have serious, undisclosed and expensive water issues that require your immediate attention and action!

Current directors want to make major changes to our water system and supplies without your knowledge or input.

Why we all are concerned!

The Water District has kept this project under-wraps by way of unpublicized meetings, no website and no cable!

You need more information.

This proposal will definitely affect the quality of your daily life and your wallet. The Board decision is now being made without customer and ratepayer knowledge. Is this a decision you want to support with so little information available and no time to contemplate?

Come to the LHHCWD meeting to protect your quality of life and major financial investment. Do not be exploited!"

What you can do

Residents are encouraged to attend the September 27, 2011 LHHCWD Board meeting at 4:00 p.m. at the Board offices at 1271 Hacienda Rd, just north of City Hall.

A Town Hall Meeting in the City Multi-Purpose Room has been called for in order to explain all aspects of the proposed agreement, along with pros and cons, prior to the Agreement being acted upon by the Board.

See La Habra Heights County Water District released memos to Board regarding proposed agreement

See La Habra Heights County Water District 2011-12 Final Budget

See 2008 Rowland Water District Certificate of Participation filing

See Rowland Water - Cal Domestic 2011 Agreement for Production and Transporting of Water

Related Stories:

La Habra Heights Water Board explores water trafficking agreement with Rowland Heights

(2009) Water District Board Wines and Dines at Your Expense

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