As you may have noticed, there have been more stories and blog entries about water agencies, water officials and water issues. Thats because I am now assigned to the water beat.
The stories that I would like to focus on are those of malfeasance. There are about 45 public water agencies in the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier areas, and about half of them have elected water officials. As weve seen from Dolores Holguin, Xavier Alvarez and Albert Robles,* elected water officials certainly have their share of legal troubles.
And these people are responsible for making decisions that affect nearly 2 million people, and are running budgets that are larger than those of many cities.
But there is more to water just like in government than corruption. Gasp. So, the Tribune will also be running stories covering the water crisis we are in now.
So far, it hasn’t been easy learning about water. The learning curve is extremely high. Last weekend, I went on a trip to a Metropolitan Water District of Southern California trip to the Colorado River Aqueduct with a bus full of people invited by director John Morris, who represents the small and affluent community of San Marino. San Marino is one of 26 member agencies of the MWD, and was part of the original 11 when the district formed in 1926.
During the two-day trip, we stopped at several reservoirs, dams and pumping stations. What I found amazing was that the technology in the 1930s and 1940s was enough to provide water to millions of residents, even until today.
During the trip, I asked everyone dozens of questions about water, the challenges of water, how we get our water and how we should prepare for future water problems. For each answer, I felt as though I had five more questions. The complexity of the water industry is one of the reasons that no one pays attention including the media to water. As one director put it, People go the faucet, water comes out, so the public doesnt think there is a problem.
As the water industry deals with increasing environmental pressures, that means that we will pay for it. Thats not just on our water bills. But just as it took a nearly $220 million bond measure approved by voters during the Depression, building new canals or developing new technology is going to come with a price to tax payers.
What Im hoping is that within the next six months, my stories on water will expose corruption, tell the story on water, and make it easier to understand how water works. That way, when were asked to pay for new water projects, well know what the issues are.
*Dolores Holguin is a former Valley County Water Director who is being investigated for misusing public funds. Valley County is out of Baldwin Park. Xavier Alvarez is a Three Valleys Municipal Water District director who is being investigated for lying about having received the Medal of Honor. There are also charges now that he lied about still being married to his wife, who has been receiving health benefits. Albert Robles, a director at the Water Replenishment District, is facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly distributing illegal mailers.