Montecito Water District Update
Source: Montecito Water District
Montecito Water District’s Board of Directors met and acted on several items this week. Business improvements, technological advancements, and cautious optimism about future water supply were the prevailing topics. Here are the highlights:
Capital Projects and Technological Advancements
• Engineering Manager Adam Kanold presented a Capital Projects update. In early October, an essential water main replacement will begin on Sycamore Canyon, between Eucalyptus Hill Road and East Valley Road. Approximately one mile of nearly 100-year-old cast iron pipe (dating back to 1923) will be updated. Affected customers will be notified, and traffic advisories will be communicated by the contractor on the project, Lash Construction. The District recommends taking alternate routes during construction, and more information is available on the District web site: http://www.montecitowater.com/
• The District welcomed new Dam Caretaker Alan Prichard, who is based at Jameson Lake and will be responsible for regular maintenance and monitoring of the Juncal Dam. Mr. Prichard joined the meeting through videoconferencing over a Wi-Fi connection, and this “face-to-face” introduction would not have been possible a year ago. Over the past six months the District installed a satellite communications system and abandoned approximately 5-miles of “land line” which required ongoing costly maintenance. The new system has greater capability for data transfer and is expected to be far more reliable, particularly during storm events, when communications between the dam and office staff are most critical.
• Improved operations through technology was also the focus of an update on the District’s nearly complete implementation of a Geographic Information System (GIS). This new system will reduce response time and costs related to diagnosing and repairing line breaks and other supply issues, and provides important tools for managing water loss. The District’s field crews have been trained on the new system, and now have instant access to accurate information pertaining to the location of water lines, connection equipment, and meters. In the past, most of this information was only available in District archives stored in binders and filing cabinets. Now crews have access to everything on file from the field, including updated and precise meter and connection locations confirmed by GPS (Global Positioning Systems). This means more timely and more informed responsiveness to customer and community needs.
Water Portfolio Considerations
• As anticipated, the District has seen a slight increase in water sales since the suspension of penalties in March, and continues to closely monitor consumption now that allocations and penalties have been repealed. Ongoing conservation is targeted for 30% of 2013 usage, and thus far customers have stayed well within that range.
• Planning for potential winter rains was an important part of Tuesday’s discussion. Fueled by a surplus of water around the state and robust delivery from the State Water Project, the District has again accumulated supplemental water supplies in San Luis Reservoir, which spilled last year. If more rain falls this winter, San Luis is almost certain to spill again. While the District had laid plans to begin Groundwater Banking through Semitropic, a surplus of water around the state has delayed Montecito Water District’s participation until there is adequate capacity. If that option does not become available as we move into the rainy season, the District is now poised to move 2,400-2,500 acre feet of water stored in San Luis Reservoir to repay debt incurred during the drought when the District purchased supplemental supplies from Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency (AVEK).
“Acorn production is up this year,” said Director Sam Frye, “And according to farmer’s lore, when the oaks are filled with plump, ready-to-fall acorns, it means the trees sense that there will be moisture to sprout the fallen acorns into trees. Whether or not that tale will ring true, we can see that San Luis Reservoir is certainly at risk of spill again, and we have planned accordingly.”
• In support of a recommendation from the Finance Committee, the Board selected Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. to be the District’s Investment Management Firm, and anticipates significantly higher annual returns on District assets.
• The Board also approved the selection of American Riviera Bank as the District’s new banking institution, a change that will result in significant cost reduction. Customers currently taking advantage of automatic payment setups will need to make minor adjustments, and will receive more information and be assisted with the process in the coming months.
• Due to the high cost of processing appeals, the Board adopted Resolution 2158, establishing an administrative fee of $115 fee for appeals concerning newly adopted DistrictOrdinance 95. If an appeal is granted, the fee will be reimbursed.
• The Board also voted to adopt Resolution 2159, which will put Directors’ compensation at $150 per Board meeting beginning in October 1, 2017. This is an increase of $10 per meeting, yet it still is perhaps the lowest compensation locally. “By the time we read the packet, prepare for a meeting, and attend a meeting, we’ve typically invested a minimum of 5-10 hours depending upon the complexity of the issues being discussed. When considered as an hourly rate, the compensation is minimal. It’s definitely not the reason we are here,” commented Director Richard Shaikewitz. Moving forward and beginning in 2018, the compensation amount will be reviewed annually, in December.