[Editor’s note: One in a series of five candidate Q&As for the Goleta Water District board of directors. Click here for the main story. Click here for Lauren Hanson’s Q&A. Click here for Jim Marino’s Q&A. Click here for Larry Mills’ Q&A. Click here for Bill Rosen’s Q&A.]
NOOZHAWK: Why are you running for the Goleta Water District board?
HARRY DeWITT: I have more than 45 years of experience with the water district, both as a staff member and as a board member. Because of this, I bring a unique perspective to the board in that I understand both the operations decisions and policy directives that must be made.
NOOZHAWK: What is the biggest issue facing the board and the district’s ratepayers, and what would you do about it?
HARRY DeWITT: Right now the biggest issue is to hire a well-qualified general manager. This person has a high degree of responsibility and accountability. That person not only needs to be responsive to the board but also must know how to work with staff, who are involved in the real mission of the district, and that is getting clean, safe water each day, every day, to every customer.
NOOZHAWK: Clean water is still a relatively cheap commodity, but it is becoming more precious with increased development and population. Do you see any future need to raise rates and why?
HARRY DeWITT: The district is not immune to the same inflationary pressures that face everyone else. While I have been on the board, water rates have increased at less than that of inflation. Ag rates have gone up by less than 1 percent per year, urban rates by about 2 percent. I see no reason why with continued good management, the future rate increase cannot be held to similar modest amounts.
NOOZHAWK: How do you reconcile the general need to use less water (conservation), with the district’s need to make profits? Can the district make money even as ratepayers use less water?
HARRY DeWITT: Conservation has been a consistent uniform message during my tenure on the board. Because of this, we are using less water. While other purveyors around us are experiencing increased water use, our water use has remained constant. Our customers have responded well to the conservation message, and we are leaders in the state in this area. The district rates and reserve policy are structures to provide the income we need.
NOOZHAWK: There’s a lot of disagreement over the SAFE ordinance, the policy that ensures a buffer in times of drought, and recent reports regarding groundwater levels — whether we have enough to satisfy SAFE and continue to plan for new allotments. Where do you stand on the issue of SAFE and the 1972 groundwater levels required by the ordinance to be reached before new allotments can be made?
HARRY DeWITT: The district’s groundwater experts have told us that the 1972 levels were reached in 2004. I have not heard any other groundwater experts disagree with this analysis.
NOOZHAWK: How would you clear up the confusion?
HARRY DeWITT: SAFE should be interpreted in such a way that the basin is managed in the best possible way to supply water to the community when needed. That is its original intent and the board has been doing this.
The board should consider an amendment to the SAFE ordinance to be placed before the voters to correct or clarify some of the perceived deficiencies and problems in the SAFE ordinance.
Click here for more information on Harry DeWitt.