By Barbara Zaragoza
Water Board District Elections and Your Drinking Water
South Bay! Do you know where your drinking water comes from? Not from San Diego County, that’s for sure. This semi-arid, bone-dry environment has seen droughts since settlers came to the region in the early 1900s.
San Diego County must import about 85 percent of its water. Rainwater, in good years, only accounts for about 5-10 percent maximum of water supplies. As a consequence, water districts have been focusing on becoming more water independent while still keeping water rates low for customers. Instead of importing more water from the Sierra Mountains and the Colorado River, both of which are drying up, water districts are looking towards local recycling and desalination plants.
(See General November 2016 Election Results for the South Bay here.)
Do You Know Which Water District You’re In?
In today’s complicated government bureaucracy, when you look at a map, water districts look checkered. To figure out which water district you fall under, check your bill. Four districts cover the South Bay, each of which buy their water from different places and have their own reservoirs, pump stations and recycling facilities: Sweetwater Authority, City of San Diego, Cal-American and Otay Water District service the South Bay.
Today, I’ll only cover two:
- The Sweetwater Authority, which provides water service to 191,500 residents of National City, Bonita, and water & central Chula Vista. You can find their current board of directors here.
- The Otay Water District, which serves about 213,000 people in a 125 square mile range. It covers neighborhoods in Spring Valley, La Presa, Rancho San Diego, Jamul, eastern Chula Vista and eastern Otay Mesa along the international border with Mexico. You can find their current board of directors here.
Each water district has five divisions. Board members serve four year terms. This year, the Sweetwater Authority and Otay Water District have three seats up for election.
The Sweetwater Authority
The South Bay Irrigation District is building a groundwater desalination plant that should open in Spring 2017. Here’s a fact-sheet about the project that will generate 5 million gallons per day. Recently, the board also voted to keep your water rates the same, rather than raising them.
Between budgets, rates, contractors and securing new sources of water, there’s actually a lot to keep up on when it comes to your water. Here are the six people who want to represent you whenever you open a water valve:
Division No. 2
- José Cerda (incumbent) happens to be a member of the Southwest Civic Association alongside being a director at Sweetwater Authority. His election website is detailed and clear: he votes against rate increases. He is endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.
- John Vogel has a Facebook page that says he currently sits on the Otay Valley Region Park board and is chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. He lives in Southwest Chula Vista and has been employed in civil service for over 18 years, half that time in the water utilities industry.
Division No. 3
- Jose Preciado (incumbent) is extremely active within the South Bay community. As a freelance writer, I see him everywhere because he participates in so many community events and cares about people. He votes against water increases and recently voted to refinance Sweetwater Authority’s long-term bond debt. You can read more about him at his website. He is endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.
- Daniel Munoz is the retired editor of La Prensa — San Diego newspaper. He ran for South Bay Irrigation District back in 2012, according to a Star News editorial. It also looks like he started a blog where he talks a bit about his run for office.
Division No. 5
- Ernesto Zamudio (incumbent) also happens to be the principal of Olympian High School. He was the past principal of Hilltop High School and Montgomery Middle School as well. You can read his “Message from the Principal” from January 2015. He is endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.
- Josie Calderon Scott is the current President of the Mexican American Business Professional Association (MABPA). She is also Principal of JLC Consultants, which provides communication services to clients in energy, transportation, water, and community development. You can read her extensive qualifications here.
The Otay Water District
The Otay Water District is working out details for a potential U.S.-Mexico pipeline that transports water from the future Rosarito Desalination Plant, which could become the largest plant in the Western Hemisphere. They also run a large water recycling plant.
If you didn’t think water can get interesting, read the Voice of San Diego‘s muckraking report from back in 2011 when the Otay Water District faced all sorts of troubles. Even the title Death threats, Scandal and Sewage-Tainted Water tells us why we should keep our eyes on water issues, know your representatives and vote.
Division No. 2
(No picture available for Paula Whitwell)
- Mitch Thompson (incumbent), current President of the Otay Water District. He was appointed to the board of directors in 2012 and also served an unexpired term on the Chula Vista City Council. You can see more of his service to our city here. He is endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.
- Paula Whitwell, small business owner. She is endorsed by the San Diego Republican Party.
Division No. 4
- Jose Lopez (incumbent) was first elected to the board of directors in November 2000, then re-elected in 2004, 2008 and 2012. He also served as President of the Otay Water District board. Lopez also happens to be the husband of Bertha Lopez, a former Sweetwater Union High School District trustee whose home was raided during the pay-to-play scandals. In a time of water conservation, the Voice of San Diego also reported in 2010 that Jose Lopez’s water usage had increased by 45% in the last four years. (They found many other board members’ had also increased their water usage.) He is endorsed by the San Diego Democratic Party.
- Hector Gastelum, a small business owner, ran as a candidate for Chula Vista Elementary School District in 2014 and lost. In that same year, he also ran for Chula Vista city council and lost. In 2012 he ran for California State Senate District 40 and lost to Ben Hueso. During his 2014 campaign, the San Diego Reader reported that he was fined $200 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for missing the May 22 due date for filing his pre-election disclosure.
Division No. 5
- David Charles, a retired water manager, wants to provide customers with safe and reliable water. His Facebook page also says he wants to find alternative water resources.
- Mark Robak (incumbent) is a current member of the Otay Water District Board of Directors. He is endorsed by the San Diego Republican Party.
David Charles and Mark Robak faced off in the District No. 5 elections during the 2012 elections as well. You can read answers to their questionnaire from East County Magazine here.
There’s a History of Water Districts
Have I now turned you into a die-hard water enthusiast? Good, because you can read all about South Bay Water District history thanks to the voluminous work of Steve Schoenherr at the South Bay Historical Society. (Of which I am a board member.)
In South Bay News
- A murder-suicide occurred last Sunday in Imperial Beach. Both victims were in their late sixties. (San Diego Union Tribune)
- The Imperial Beach city government’s passage of a Welcoming Cities Proclamation generated a ring-wing backlash — not only in Imperial Beach, but also in the comments section of the San Diego Reader.
- The Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce will hold their Candidates Forum on Wednesday, September 28th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Boys and Girls Club, 847 Encina Avenue, IB.
- Mario Chacon, a founding member of Galleria Aca in the Barrio Logan Arts District, has been contracted to design and paint a mural at Lincoln Acres Elementary school. (San Diego Union Tribune)
- Paradise Creek, National City’s new affordable housing complex, was featured at Our City: San Diego this week.
- National City’s First United Methodist Church will hold a City Council Candidate Forum at 242 E. 8th St. National City, on Monday, September 26, 2016. A meet-and-greet time will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the forum to follow at 7:00 p.m.
- Head down to the E Street Trolley Station in Chula Vista at 2pm on Saturday, Sept. 17th to see a 30-minute free Rossini Opera. Opera on Track has decided they’ll be in the South Bay to show off their new venture of providing opera in public venues.
- The Sweetwater Union High School District has decided to place attendance boundaries on their board agenda on September 26th. A large number of parents were upset when they received letters saying their children would not be going to Eastlake Middle/High School, but Bonita Midde/High School instead. They want the district to re-visit the attendance boundary changes. This will be their chance to speak out about their concerns to board members.
- Southwestern College students who don’t get enough food to eat can now pick up free food through a new partnership with the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank. (San Diego Union Tribune)
- Ballot Measure CC will impose hard term limits for trustees of the Sweetwater High School District. Currently, a board member can serve an unlimited number of consecutive terms. If passed, Measure CC would limit holding office to two four-year terms. (Chula Vista Star News)
- Finally, Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce held a candidates forum for two city council seats. Steve Padilla (D) and Jason Paguio (R) are running for District 3, which will include the future University. Rudy Ramirez (D) and Mike Diaz (R) are running for District 4, which is considered the most under-served part of Chula Vista. (Chula Vista Star News)