By Roz Rogoff
Set Zone 7 FreeUploaded: Apr 20, 2012
Zone 7 isn't a secret place in New Mexico where little green men from outer space are studied in hidden labs. Zone 7 is a water wholesaler for the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton, the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD), and the California Water Services Company.
Zone 7 began as part of the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, but it is the only one of 10 active zones that has its own elected seven-member board of directors. Residents of Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton vote in Zone 7 elections.
Zone 7 is not without political influence. John Marchand, the current Mayor of Livermore, started his political career on the Board of Directors of Zone 7 from 1990 to 2005, when he was elected to the Livermore City Council.
The Zone 7 website claims that Board Members, ". . . represent each and every water customer in the Livermore-Amador Valley." That may be true, but they don't represent each and every water customer of Zone 7.
Dougherty Valley water customers are not able to vote in Zone 7 elections because they are outside of Alameda County. Zone 7 is still part of the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District and therefore it isn't an independent, multi-county agency like DSRSD.
When I ran for DSRSD in 2010, I included this concern in my ballot statement: "Water users in Dougherty Valley cannot vote in Zone 7 elections because it is in Alameda County. I will represent Dougherty Valley residents in DSRSD's dealings with Zone 7."
Well I wasn't elected so I suppose that wasn't a high priority with voters in Dougherty Valley, but it is a high priority with the Board of Directors of DSRSD and even the General Manager of Zone 7. Jill Duerig, Zone 7's GM, attended the last DSRSD Board meeting on April 17th, when the Directors were considering writing a letter supporting State Senator, Mark DeSaulnier's bill SB 1337, separating Zone 7 from Alameda County so it can become an independent, regional water agency.
DSRSD Directors requested a change of wording in the definition of "water" in the bill and then unanimously approved a letter to send to Fran Pavley, Chair, Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, and Lois Wolk, Chair, Senate Committee on Governance and Finance.
The letter concludes with the following sentence, "Therefore, this letter is being sent to confirm that DSRSD supports SB 1337 which would allow the residents of Dougherty Valley to be able to vote for or serve on the board of Zone 7."
I spoke on that item at that DSRSD meeting and said I would ask the San Ramon City Council to send a letter supporting SB 1337 too. Sue Stephenson, DSRSD Community Affairs Supervisor, emailed me the next day asking if I could write something and send it to her list of State Senators and Assembly member Joan Buchanan, before 5 pm on Wednesday. I asked Sue why so soon, and she said DeSaulnier's staff is putting together a package for these committees and wants something by 5 pm on Wednesday.
So I wrote a hasty letter of support which began:
"Residents of Dougherty Valley have no representation on the Board of Directors of Zone 7. They have the opportunity to vote in DSRSD elections but not in Zone 7's. This amounts to taxation without representation, which as we know from history, is an unpopular idea. "
I then included my complete ballot statement from 2010 with the portion on Zone 7 in bold. Further down I said, (hey I was writing this a 2 pm and trying to get it faxed before 5 pm), "There are so many good reasons to make Zone 7 into a separate water agency that I won't try to list them all, but please, please, please support Senator DeSaulnier's bill SM 1337."
Actually I can list some of those good reasons here:
1. Consolidate regional water agencies into one to save duplication of expenses.
2. If rates could be consolidated, they wouldn't have to be raised as often.
3. Work together to improve water quality.
Water quality (or lack of it) was one of the major issues in the 2004 campaign and every candidate had "Work with Zone 7 to improve water quality," on his or her list of priorities.
I emailed Sue Stephenson to ask about the improvements made after 2004. They hired a consulting company to conduct a "taste test" and 63% have significant concerns about the quality of their tap water. . . . Also, 59% of customers said they would approve a small increase ($5-6 on their bi-monthly bill) to improve water quality."
Sue then went on to say, ". . . if my memory serves me right, we found that it would be too costly for the District to make the necessary changes to improve water quality and that it would be much more cost effective for Zone 7 to do so and improve water quality in the Tri Valley."
She attached the June 2011 (most recent) update of the Zone 7 Water Quality Management Program, which I linked to Google docs.
So far Zone 7 completed a Demineralization facility to remove salt and hardness from the water, but from comments I've seen from residents of Dublin and Dougherty Valley the water quality needs more improvement.
Residents from the rest of San Ramon get our water from East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which uses runoff from the winter snowpack so it is better tasting water than Zone 7's. We are also able to vote for our representative on the EBMUD Board of Directors.