Water District Bill Is All Wet
Water and sewer service is crucial to the developers who want to build new subdivisions and shopping centers. I fear that the state Assembly bill (AB 2109) that would impose consolidation on Orange County water districts has a hidden agenda.
AB 2109 will remove water and sewer service approvals from the small districts governed by the citizens of the neighborhood served and place them in a huge super district that is controlled by a board dominated by developer interests. That is how the Orange County Environmental Management Agency was created to facilitate the development of southern Orange County. (Three of the five supervisors do not have constituents in south Orange County but get a majority of their campaign contributions from South County development interests.)
Orange County’s long-standing refusal to become a full-service behemoth like Los Angeles County is one of our unsung triumphs. As each unincorporated area developed, it was compelled to create a quasi-state agency to provide domestic water and sewer service. These small water districts may appear to be duplicative but their physical facilities are not subject to consolidation. Water lines, sewer lines and treatment plants must stay where they are. To consolidate their management offers the illusion of economies of scale, but at the cost of creating a remote and multilayered bureaucracy that is unresponsive to the interests of the neighborhoods impacted by new developments.
These districts are “fee for service” organizations. No tax savings will be realized by AB 2109. The Assembly should find out if the people on whom they are imposing water service consolidation really want to give up their neighborhood control. If we seek a vote from the people who live in the presumed inefficient small districts that the Assembly is trying to “help,” I predict that the voters will choose to keep their local water service supplier with a governing board composed of their neighbors, rather than submit to a huge super agency headquartered 20 miles away.
ALAN J. NESTLINGER