Shortsidedness (November 2, 2015)

Across the top of the website, the Town of Apple Valley prominently displays a quote by Thomas Fuller (1654-1734): We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. This incongruous quote — apparently used without irony — encapsulates the problem with the Town’s proposed hostile takeover of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company: The Town isn’t using the editorial we, it is using the royal we.

Thomas Fuller -- We never know the worth of water till the well is dry

The Town had the opportunity to buy Ranchos in 1988 for $2.5 million. It passed up that opportunity, because the well wasn’t dry. That is to say, the Town didn’t appreciate the worth of water.

Ranchos did, though, and continued to build and improve our water system, as it had been doing long before the incorporation of the Town.

Fast forward to the current day, and we see that the Town still doesn’t appreciate the worth of water. Town officials can’t figure out why it was a bad idea to spend millions putting in a new well virtually on top of an existing well. In fact, they are trying to figure out how to do it again in a different location. But when Ranchos announced it was planning to retire some older wells that were approaching the end of their useful service life, replacing them with a single new well that is better situated and more efficient, Town officials were mystified by the reasoning. Likewise, the Town continues to fight Ranchos’ programs to replace aging infrastructure such as mains. And don’t even try to explain drought surcharges: The Town council will never understand that raising water rates for those who waste water is one method to get those water hogs to lower their consumption.

Time and again, Town officials express astonishing ignorance about water, and about what it takes successfully to run a water system. The Town hasn’t even learned from its past mistakes in this regard, but then, it’s not their money being wasted, it’s ours — the taxpayers’. The more you study our water supply, both in terms of the physical necessities and the regulatory demands, the more you will be amazed at both the magnitude of the endeavor the complexity. Given where Town representatives are on the learning curve, and their resistance to understanding even simple concepts after months of exposure to the information (So you’re saying the drought surcharge is all about my usage?), it is clear there is no way they will be able to gain sufficient knowledge about the subject in their lifetimes, let alone their terms in office. Right now, they don’t even know what they don’t know, yet they are agitating to seize the controls and start making decisions that will effect each of us.

To this day, the well-maintained water system we all enjoy is viewed by the Town as nothing more than an additional source of revenue. Compare and contrast that viewpoint with that of Ranchos, which over the decades has invested millions and millions of dollars, because all along, it realized water is important. In fact, water is so important you don’t want to let the well run dry.

Where water is concerned, Ranchos has an excellent track record of getting things done and doing them correctly. The Town, on the other hand, compounds its track record of miserable failure with ample evidence that it is incapable of improving.

That’s why Ranchos is the right choice for owning and operating our water system, not the Town.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.