West Basin and the Angeles Chapter

  • Posted on 30 April 2021
  • By Scott Houston
World Water Day may annually be recognized on March 22, but we must honor and respect water every day as we confront climate change in order to ensure we have adequate supplies of safe, affordable water to meet our needs.
The management and governance of water is complicated, particularly in California.  Do you know where your water comes from?  It can be confusing.  You may pay your bill to one agency, city, or water company when, in reality, there might be multiple partners involved that provide clean drinking water to your tap.
Across California, there are numerous water districts, large and small, charged with managing water supplies within their jurisdictions.  Most water districts are public agencies, or Special Districts, with governing boards elected by the people they serve.  This ensures direct accountability in the oversight of the agency.  
I serve as an elected member of the Board of Directors of West Basin Municipal Water District located along the coast of Los Angeles County.  West Basin is a wholesale water district that provides water to 17 cities and nearly 1 million residents across a 185-mile service area.  Our district was born out of necessity by a vote of the people in 1947 due to the over-pumping of groundwater that was causing saltwater intrusion into the coastal aquifer.  By forming a regional water district, the communities served by West Basin were able to access “imported water” supplied by the Colorado River Aqueduct from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in order to ensure a reliable supply of drinking water for the region’s growing populace after World War II.
Over time, West Basin has diversified its water supply sources and reduced its dependence on imported water.  A drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s led West Basin to become a leader in wastewater recycling, and the district continues to encourage conservation and efficient water use with programs such as educational training, free rain barrels, and rebates for replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes.
Working in partnership is vital and I am proud of West Basin’s collaborative relationship with the Angeles Chapter Water Committee on conservation and water reuse issues.  The Angeles Chapter also has participated in West Basin’s annual Water Harvest Festival at the Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility since 2009, providing valuable information to residents at this beloved community event.
While water governance is complicated, it should not be feared.  I believe it’s essential to understand not only where your water comes from, but who makes decisions on your behalf and how you can participate to affect change.
Board members at public water districts are charged with governance and policymaking.  Their decisions impact you, including setting water rates, building infrastructure, and participating in regional, state, and national policy decisions that pertain to water and the environment.
It is more important than ever to have representation that reflects the communities we serve and to do everything we can to remove the barriers to participation.  Serving on a water commission or water board is important and rewarding.  We need leaders who are engaged, have a genuine interest in water governance, and will work hard representing their neighbors and communities.  This leads to better decisions, authentic representation, and new ideas.
There’s an expression, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”  That’s why I encourage you to be involved when it comes to your water.  Volunteer, make comments at public meetings, serve on a commission, or even run for public office.  There are many ways to serve and each is important as we collectively confront the global water crisis and work to ensure we have safe, clean, and affordable water for generations to come.

Scott Houston represents Division 4 on the Board of Directors of the West Basin Municipal Water District.  The views expressed here are the opinion of Director Houston and do not represent official positions of West Basin or its Board of Directors.


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