Soapbox

Merging water districts makes more sense during drought

At the onset of the drought nearly four years ago, our staffs and elected board members began discussing and studying options to increase water supply quality and reliability. These talks have resulted in a proposal to merge the San Juan and Sacramento Suburban water districts to create a stronger entity more capable of responding to water supply uncertainties.

Given the unprecedented drought, we can no longer assume that next year will be different. Our region needs to ensure sustainable water supplies, which support the economy and environmental needs of the entire state. This proposed merger would strengthen the historic water rights and increase water reliability in the combined district.

On March 27, the districts released a draft report (available at sswd.org or sjwd.org) for public review and comment. It shows that a merger could significantly improve reliability for customers because Sacramento Suburban has vast reserves of groundwater, and San Juan has extensive water rights and contracts for surface water.

The merger could also save ratepayer dollars by eliminating duplication of job duties. We are proud to say that both districts have balanced budgets and stable water rates. The debt of each agency is a result of investing in water delivery systems required to maintain operations. Besides ensuring a reliable water supply, another reason we are looking to combine operations is to try and maintain our rates.

This is absolutely not a done deal. We would like to hear from our customers. Should both of our boards agree to proceed, our next steps would be to conduct further community outreach and to refine the analysis while working with the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission, which would have to sign off on the merger. We have been very methodical and will continue to ensure this is not a rush to judgment.

It’s rare that you will find two general managers encouraging a merger of their agencies, but we believe strongly that given current regulations and uncertainties, now is the time to act.

Shauna Lorance is general manager of the San Juan Water District. Robert Roscoe is general manager of the Sacramento Suburban Water District.

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