On Saturday, March 26th, Las Virgenes Metropolitan Water District held it’s second community workshop to discuss it’s Backbone Upgrade program including the construction of a 5-million gallon storage tank (next to the 3 billion gallon reservoir above the Three Springs development in Westlake Village). The water district presented their information to make their case for why the proposed storage tank is necessary. The public was invited to speak. Comments were both in favor and against the proposed expansion of the system.

In short, the water district believes it has “made the case” for the tank. Several members of the public that have reviewed the materials closely do not agree with that assessment. Others simply do not want it near their neighborhood due to traffic or environmental issues.

Those interested in whether the water district has justified the $6-10 million tank project should read on and form their own opinion.

Water District’s Case

In addition to information already presented at earlier meetings, the water district staff added a number of new presentations and information about some of the alternative sites and justifications for the building of the tank. Included in the presentation by water district staff (for LVMWD PDFs and presentations, see were:

* Recent population estimates from the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan show current and projected estimates have dropped compared to the 2007 Potable Water Master Plan (by 6-10%). The projections are that population will increase by about 25% by 2030.
* Water usage has dropped significantly compared to a few years ago (2010 was about 30% lower than 2007 due to conservation and water allocations), but is starting to rise again. Estimates are to increase by 60+% by 2030 compared to 2010.
* The 2010 Plan has lowered the estimate for projected demand of water from 2007’s plan.
* In 2007, the water district had a small surplus as a whole system with some areas having surplus storage and some deficit (not including the reservoir). The district says it is currently experiencing a deficit of water storage (again, not including the reservoir).
* Based on the 2007 plan, LVMWD expects an even greater deficit as more development and use happens in the area. (The tank would handle current and future needs.)
* The water district does not believe that we are prepared for a large earthquake or multiple large fire emergency
* While not formally looked at, LVMWD’s general manager estimated that it would take a 50% reduction in water usage to avoid building the tank. It would be difficult to get the community to conserve at this rate. (The District has now said it will attempt to quantify this number.)

Public Response

Local area residents in opposition to the tank, brought up a number of points about the tank including:

* The payback period for financial savings for the tank is approximately 50 years
– According to LVMWD documentation, the tank has a “useful life” of 50 years
* Only some alternative sites and construction sites have been considered, not all those suggested
* LVMWD has not considered seriously that water conservation could solve the problem
* LVMWD repeatedly states conclusions as if they are facts
– but doesn’t communicate (well or at all) the substantiation of its conclusions
* LVMWD’s assumptions for justification are based on faulty and out of date data
– even LVMWD’s engineering firm seems to have distanced itself from the data
* LVMWD talks about increased fire protection, but there’s no information from LA County Fire
– there’s no information from LVMWD why we’re no longer prepared for fire but were before
* LVMWD has several backup connection deals with other water district to provide water during a MWD shutoff
* LVMWD could order a “boil order” at any time during an emergency if it wanted to use unfiltered reservoir water
* LVMWD talks about electrical costs as justification, but hasn’t discussed alternative power or solutions
* LVMWD has only seriously considered building additional facilities as the solution
– rather than looking at the overall problem to find the best solution.

In addition, LVMWD Director Steinhardt asked staff what amount of water conservation would be necessary to avoid building the storage tank and other backbone upgrades. Staff answered that they did not know what amount of reduction was necessary, but then made an off the cuff estimate of 50% reduction. It was clear from the answer that water conservation had not been seriously considered.

At least one local area resident commented that residents should trust the water experts to make the decision.

Residents of Three Springs voiced concern about construction traffic through Three Springs Drive. Residents of Oak Forest voiced opinion that they would prefer the traffic not be on Triunfo and should be through Three Springs. Some residents from other areas voiced environmental concerns over some of the alternative site proposals. Others voiced concerns over costs.