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VIEWPOINT: Water is uniting the city

by Helaine Goldwater, chair of Claremont Friends of Locally Owned Water

Long ago, Claremont decided to allow a private company, Southern California Water Company, to own and manage its water. For quite some time that worked well enough. Although buying the water system was proposed a number of times, the water was reliable and prices increased slowly enough so that the majority of Claremont residents felt the costs of buying the company outweighed the possible benefits of owning it. 

But the situation has changed radically under the management of Golden State Water Company. Our rates have increased much faster than they have in surrounding cities, which own their water systems. Since we are good citizens, we are altering our lifestyles and landscapes in response to the current drought, but GSW has not tightened its belt.

GSW profits are guaranteed to be about 9 percent regardless of how much water it sells, so we pay extra charges when we conserve water. Although there have been plenty of objections to GSW policies, neither the city nor its citizens have been able to stop the recent exorbitant rate and service charge increases.

But now we have a real chance to slow these upward-spiraling bills. An amazingly wide and varied group of Claremont residents has decided that enough is enough—the only chance left to control rampant increases in our water bills is to buy the water system from GSW. People who never thought they would have anything in common are now working side-by-side towards this goal. 

For the first time, we have a city council unanimous in its agreement to buy the water system. The purchase is supported by the League of Women Voters, Sustainable Claremont, the Chamber of Commerce, Progressive Christians Uniting, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, new residents, longtime residents, people of every age, every income level, and in every neighborhood in the city. The constantly-increasing list of those who endorse passage of Measure W, the city water bond, is testament to this (www.claremontflow.org).

All these people support the bond measure because, if we owned the water system, there would be no profit motive and no exorbitant executive salaries and dividends to figure into the water rates. We could demand transparency and accountability in setting the rates and charges. There would be no threat of the water system being sold to an unaccountable international corporation. And we could determine conservation policies that would help ensure affordable and reliable water rates not only for us but for future generations of Claremonters. This last is of particular importance since populations throughout California are growing but our water resources are not.

Many of these people have joined together to form Claremont FLOW (Claremont Friends of Locally Owned Water), a grassroots group working to educate the public about the water issue and to support passage of Measure W, the revenue bond to fund the purchase. Claremont FLOW members are all volunteers and we need your support!

Please go to our website, www.claremontflow.org, for information about the bond and to learn why buying the water system is our best choice. While you are there, we hope you will add your name to the list of endorsers, volunteer to help and donate to support our efforts. But most of all, we hope you will explain the purpose of the bond when you talk to your friends and neighbors and, on November 4, that you will vote  “Yes” on Measure W. We can win our water if we work together!


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