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Pringle Reintroduces Water District Bill

A controversial bill that would shrink government by consolidating a spate of county water districts was reintroduced this week by Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove).

The bill, AB556, would consolidate the county’s four wholesale water agencies, which buy imported water and sell it to other smaller districts, and merge them into a single countywide district by the end of 1998.

The legislation would also meld the county’s retail districts, which sell the water to homeowners and businesses, into five larger districts and eight city departments.

The Orange County Water District, which manages the county’s underground water basin, is not affected by the bill.

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Pringle, the Assembly’s Republican leader, said the bill closely follows the recommendations of several county grand juries that have urged consolidations of water districts in an effort to save money, eliminate duplication of efforts and provide better accountability to the public.

This bill is essentially a reincarnation of the measure he wrote last year that died on the final day of the state legislative session amid partisan bickering, Pringle said.

“The need is still there,” Pringle said. “Consolidation is not a one-year shot. It is not something I take lightly. I plan to continue this effort as long as I am here.”

Last year’s bill sparked protest from officials in the county’s water industry, who question whether consolidation would ultimately save much money. They also question whether the state should dictate such mandates to local government.

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“I agree with Curt Pringle that there needs to be movement and consolidation among water districts and cities in this county,” said Peer Swan, a director of the Irvine Ranch Water District. “But I am not convinced that the legislature mandating consolidation is the best way. A slow, well-thought-out approach is in everyone’s best interest.”


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