On Feb. 2, 2021, the Scotts Valley Water District (SVWD) and the San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) announced that their respective board of directors would consider exploring the potential of consolidating the agencies’ operations. Read more in this press release.
On May 20, 2021, the SLVWD Board of Directors decided to not continue exploring consolidation of the two water districts.
Q: Why are you considering consolidation?
A: The two public water agencies located in North Santa Cruz County have a long-standing history of working jointly. In recent years, the districts have collaborated on sharing staffing resources, equipment, know-how, and consultant services. Moreover, they operate with a shared water source – a groundwater basin that they both have a responsibility to manage. Further streamlining of activities and pooling resources could lead to more efficiencies, improved customer service, better opportunities for workforce and potential financial benefits from eliminating redundancies.
Q: What is the timeline for this process?
A: LAFCO, the county oversight agency responsible for coordination and approval of consolidation of public water districts, estimates that the exploration phase takes approximately 1 year, followed by another year of the required proceedings.
Q: Will there be a public vote?
A: Pursuant to state law, a special election is triggered if LAFCO receives between 25-50% opposition from the total registered voters during a response/protest period or 25-50% from the total assessed land value owners during the response/protest period. If the opposition is less than 25%, then LAFCO approval would stand. If more than 50% are opposed, the consolidation would be terminated.
Q: What is the financial impact of consolidation?
A: The expectation is that a consolidation will result in efficiencies and savings in the long run. Specific savings would be determined through a feasibility study.
Q: Why is this being considered now?
A: The two districts, including their staff and boards, have been more involved in various collaborative efforts in recent years. All water agencies in the state and nationwide are being challenged with addressing aging infrastructure needs, escalating operating costs, increasing regulatory framework, climate change impacts, environmental stewardship concerns, and the complex issues surrounding water accessibility and affordability. One of the potential solutions for balancing the various competing needs is to support collaboration, innovation and partnership that could come from consolidation.
Q: Is Scotts Valley running out of water and is that a motivation for seeking to merge?
A: No. Scotts Valley Water District system demand has been steady for the last 5 years and pumping has decreased about 40% from the historical highs in late 1990s. The groundwater levels stabilized early 2010s and have even seen some slow recovery underway. SVWD residential customers’ current usage (2020) is 60 gallons per day per person, while SLVWD residential customers’ current usage (2020) is 76 gallons per day per person. Also, the projected annual increase in overall water demand for SVWD is 0.26% per year and SLVWD’s annual increase is projected to be a comparable 0.18% per year.
Q: Is there enough water to support all customers?
A: Yes. Current water supply is sufficient to meet the needs of current and future customers using the historical rainfall assumptions. The biggest anticipated threat to the availability of local water supply is climate change. SVWD and SLVWD along with the other local water agencies are actively working on supplemental supply alternatives that could offset the climate change impacts.