By Shel Segal
POMONA – With drought conditions throughout California – especially Southern California – persisting into its fifth year, state and local water officials came together on Tuesday to discuss how to better manage the resource as it pertains to the nearly 1.5 million residents of the San Gabriel Valley.
And while no solutions were put into concrete at the San Gabriel Valley Water Forum that took place at the Fairplex Conference Center, one local official said the forum is a chance to get everyone in the local valley on the same page when dealing with water.
Frank Heldman, the water utility manager for the city of Monterey Park, said the problem stems from the five-year drought and needs a common solution to ensure everyone has enough water.
"What we're trying to do is get consistency in whatever is going on in the basis, to make sure we're being proactive in our conservation efforts and be consistent in what is going on with our neighbors," he said.
"One of the things we're concerned about is making sure our messaging is consistent throughout the basis."
With the past winter being an El Nino winter that brought much water and snow to Northern California while bypassing the southern region, Heldman said he wants to stress that while there is more water now in the state reservoirs, the drought is not near being complete, meaning water conservation measures need to stay in place.
"There is mixed messaging coming, saying there is a lot of water (in Northern California), but we want to matriculate that back down here to our end users to not send a poor message that's saying we are not completely out of the drought and everything is fine and go ahead and start using water again," he said.
"We want to do it responsibly to meet our long-term range and goals in terms of conservation."
But the good news, Heldman stressed, is that water conservation efforts that are being practiced by many residents in Monterey Park and throughout Southern California are paying off with much more water being saved that before.
"We're using less water now than we were using 10 years ago with just as many or more people," said Heldman, adding the biggest savings of water was made when residents started limiting their outside watering. "We're just using the limited resource we have more wisely."
But the bottom line for Heldman is that he thinks water prices in the city will be going up soon.
"There are sunk-in capital costs, there is infrastructure, you have to pay the people to maintain the system even though you're using less water," he said. "We still have those fixed costs associated with running a water system. … Those costs are passed on to the end user."
The water forum was well attended with representatives of local water agencies from throughout San Gabriel Valley