St. Helena advocates push for citizen involvement in water system

St. Helena, California
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October 4, 2023 — In California, St. Helena citizens are advocating for the city council to establish a permanent water and wastewater commission. This body would act as a council-appointed board, overseeing the operations, financing, and staffing of water and wastewater services.

This group, known as the Water Advocates St. Helena (or WASH), contends that active citizen participation in the financially-troubled water system can help ensure fair rates and consistent service. They will not decide water allocations. The St. Helena StarOpens in a new tab. notes, “St. Helena‚Äôs water enterprise and water rates have generated controversy for years. Critics have faulted the city for relying too heavily on consultants, failing to deliver on long-anticipated capital projects, and imposing water rates that put an undue burden on residential customers and failed to encourage conservation.”

In late September, the City Council agreed to establish a temporary working group. This group’s objective is to determine the best way citizens can support the water and sewer enterprises, potentially leading to the recommendation of a permanent advisory board.

There seems to be a growing trend of citizen involvement in water resource management. For instance, last November in southern Arizona, an “Active Management Area” designation was adopted through a citizen’s initiative, marking a first in the state’s history.

{Image licensed as public domain via Wikimedia CommonsOpens in a new tab..}


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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