The Visalia City Council has agreed to accept California Water Service’s (Cal Water) request for additional time, to produce results on drought response and other issues of common concern, in lieu of the City considering a potential purchase.
The Council requested an appraisal of the water system in November and the appraisal is pending completion. However, Cal Water has responded to the City’s decision to appraise the Visalia District by requesting that the Council not consider acquiring the system and instead allow the company to focus on efforts to comply with drought-related conservation efforts. The Council has agreed to Cal Water’s request, and has reaffirmed its willingness to work cooperatively with the company.
“We will continue to move forward in the spirit of collaboration,” says Visalia’s mayor, Steve Nelsen. “We all have to do our part and will continue to seek what is in the best interest of the public good.”
The Council can renew its consideration of an offer to acquire the system in the future, but for now, the Council provided Cal Water with the time it asked for to address high rates, conservation and other issues related to Visalia’s water system that have been identified over the past several months and years.
As the City withholds further consideration of acquiring the system, the Council expects progress from Cal Water on a meaningful reduction in ratepayer increases requested in the Cal Water Rate Case and the ability of the City to timely obtain aggregated Cal Water usage data for conservation purposes, consistent with state law and Public Utility Commission rules on privacy limitations. Council also requests Cal Water establish a plan that results in the state’s water conservation standards being met.
“We need Cal Water to develop and implement a water conservation plan that demonstrably meets state water use reduction mandates on an on-going basis, and we must discuss cost-effective water supply projects for groundwater recharge. It’s a number of pieces,” says Nelsen. “We also have to really look at issues related to Cal Water’s facilitation of urban development both within and outside the City.”
When completed, the appraisal of the Cal Water Visalia System will provide the Council with valuable information as the City continues to represent the community’s interests through the Cal Water rate increase process now and in the future.
“Any entity, government or otherwise, wants to know the full value of their community’s assets, particularly when one of them is the system that delivers our most vital resource,” says Nelsen. “The valuation of Visalia’s water system was important in light of the significant rate increases that Cal Water continues to pursue.”
At direction of Council, City staff has intervened in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Rate Case process and intends to continue to act as an advocate for the Visalia ratepayers through the CPUC process.
The appraisal will be useful in the event the Council, or the community, identifies a need to consider acquiring the system at some point in the future.
“If we can’t move forward and make some real strides, we’ll revisit the possibility of acquiring the system,” states Nelsen.