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Water district has some explaining to do

August 28, 2010

Despite already having among the highest water rates in the region, Crescenta Valley Water District officials are poised to bump them up even higher. But so far, no one seems to care.

The story of rising rates is shared among neighboring utilities, which have struggled to reconcile the decreased revenue that comes with greater water conservation with the fixed, or even rising, costs of doing business. But the Crescenta Valley Water District hasn't done a good job of explaining why its water rates are more expensive, instead persistently invoking the need to keep up with the rising costs of importing water from the Foothill Municipal Water District.

In other cities, especially Glendale, utility officials are held to the fire by customers who treat every proposed increased with a healthy dose of skepticism, and rightfully so. Every rate increase, which must past muster with the water and power commission and eventually the City Council, should be scrutinized to ensure utilities are running as efficiently as possible.

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But in the Crescenta Valley, the public checks are few and far between. Board meetings are sparsely attended, which means customers leave most of the heavy lifting to elected directors. And let's face it, unless elected officials know they're being scrutinized, the rubber stamp becomes more and more attractive.

With another 8% increase on the table, coupled with a proposal to lower the threshold for determining "top tier" water users, Crescenta Valley Water District customers will have no one to blame but themselves if they again give their elected officials a free pass to act in a vacuum.

Rising water rates were a major theme in the most recent election for water board members, and so now is the time to hold them to their campaign promises. Of course, that won't happen if they think no one's watching.

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