Conservancy weighs in on Amador Water Agency discussion at Local Agency Formation Commission

Every county has a Local Agency Formation Commission. The commission’s job is to help ensure the orderly development of lands within a county, avoid premature conversion of agricultural lands to other uses, and define each land use or public service entity’s “sphere of influence” to avoid overlaps and clarify responsibilities. LAFCO must also approve all annexation requests.

Earlier this summer, Foothill Conservancy weighed in on the Amador County LAFCO’s “municipal services review” of the Amador Water Agency, a first step toward defining the AWA’s geographic sphere of influence. We were primarily concerned that LAFCO was relying entirely on questionable, outdated water demand projections from the water agency.

In 2017, as the state’s Mokelumne River Wild and Scenic River Study were under development, AWA and Jackson Valley Irrigation District paid a consult to complete a long-term water demand study for Amador County. It was so flawed (in overestimating future demand) that we commissioned the respected water supply experts at Oakland’s Pacific Institute to analyze the study. Their analysis agreed that the local agency study overstated future water demand, in part by relying on faulty assumptions and past demand, and by ignoring modern water use trends (homes are using much less water now than in the past).

When LAFCO took up the AWA issue this year, we submitted a comment letter to make them aware of the issues with the AWA-JVID demand study. We also provided them with a copy of the Pacific Institute analysis. In addition, we also pointed out that since the 2017 agency study,  state law has changed to limit average indoor water use per household and require landscaping water budgets.

While the LAFCO board approved the municipal services review, it did so subject to Executive Officer Roseanne Chamberlain making technical corrections based on our comments. For example, assertions that the agency “will” need future water supplies will be changed to “may.”

“We’ve learned over the years that it’s important to make sure official, long-term documents are accurate,” said Foothill Conservancy then-President Katherine Evatt. “If you let long, shelf-life documents move forward without correction, the inaccurate information can be difficult to refute in the future.”

Click here for the Pacific Institute Review of Amador Water Agency

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.