Utility's aging system concerns water district

LA CRESCENTA — The Crescenta Valley Water District on Wednesday warned of a “slow deterioration” of its infrastructure unless more resources were dedicated to improving the utility’s aging system.

With the proceeds from a $10-million bond nearly spent and rates already among the highest in the region, water district board members could face an uphill battle in securing the needed funds.

Less revenue generated by water conservation rules and the rising cost of imported water have prompted the board to defer some basic maintenance of the utility’s network of pipelines and reservoirs, which General Manager Dennis Erdman said could lead to a “slow deterioration” of the system if left unaddressed.

At a budget planning workshop on Tuesday, board members said they would support increasing maintenance funding for the next fiscal year.

“You can only defer maintenance for so long until it becomes a breakdown in the system,” board member Ken Putnam said.

District Engineer David Gould presented a five-year, $16-million capital improvement plan — including access road improvements and a new groundwater well — that he says would help keep the system up to date.

Board members voiced support for tackling at least some of the plan, saying they wanted to move past fixing problems only as they occur.

“I am just not comfortable with the status quo after looking at the facilities,” said board member James Bodnar, who recently toured utility facilities.

A split board last year approved an average rate increase of 8%, which officials said was needed to keep the utility from continuing to dip into its reserves to cover operations.

At the end of last fiscal year, the agency’s reserves had dropped by nearly 20% from the previous year to $4.3 million.

“I think what we’re saying as a board is, ‘Yes, we want to be moving ahead again,” board President Kathy Ross said. “Once we see the numbers, we will have to determine what we can do this year.”

Over the long term, board members said they would like to see more funds set aside on an annual basis for upgrades, and directed district officials to research the potential for issuing another bond to fund projects in the short-term.

“My feeling is that the [capital improvement program] needs to be at a higher level,” Putnam said. “The only way it’s going to be at a higher level, without significantly raising rates, would be to turn to bond funding.”

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