Los Angeles County Boosts Investment in Sativa Water District

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas joins state lawmakers at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors voted to pour more resources into Sativa Water District after Los Angeles County Public Works identified the extent of challenges facing Sativa and the level of support required to stabilize the water system and begin providing a more reliable source of clean and clear water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton until a long-term service provider can take over.

Public Works is also determined to repair Sativa’s relationship with its 6,800 customers, and will host an open house at Sativa headquarters tomorrow, the latest in a series of events to keep the community up-to-date on the progress of their work.

The open house follows a visit today by several state lawmakers looking to Sativa as a model for how to address problems with small and mismanaged water systems across California that may pose a threat to public health.

“Having access to clean and clear water is a basic human right, and one that we are committed to providing Sativa’s customers,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for state officials to appoint Public Works as Sativa’s interim administrator in October after decades of mismanagement by the water district’s previous leadership caused episodes of brown water flowing from taps. “No one said this would be easy. But we are committed to course-correcting and making sure Sativa customers are in good hands for the long-term.”

“LA County has officially taken over the troubled Sativa Water District and is starting the hard work of fixing the broken infrastructure and finances that were left behind,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn. “As the interim administrator, we are committed to making every investment necessary to ensure the water coming out of residents’ taps is clean, clear, and safe to drink.”

Speaker Anthony Rendon and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“This has truly been a community effort and I want to recognize the Board of Supervisors for standing with me from the very beginning of this journey,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who championed the legislation required to transfer control of Sativa to the Los Angeles County. He and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Wendy Carrillo, Laura Friedman, Eduardo Garcia and Sydney Kamlager-Dove all participated in the tour of Sativa headquarters, which Speaker Anthony Rendon helped facilitate.

The Board approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn to establish a fund for continuing to operate Sativa, potentially through mid-2021. After conducting a comprehensive assessment of Sativa’s 70-year-old water system, Public Works estimated the cost of serving the water district until a permanent operator is in place could reach $13.8 million, of which $5.7 million will be offset by Sativa’s revenue and state grants.

Public Works expects to identify a long-term service provider early next year, but state regulators could take as long as two years to approve the transition. In the meantime, Public Works Director Mark Pestrella said, “LA County is committed to supplying safe, clean and reliable water to the residents of Willowbrook and Compton.”

Sativa customer Elizabeth Hicks is grateful, saying, “Sativa is improving under the supervision of the County’s Public Works agency. They accomplished within six months a major task that the previous administration couldn’t accomplish in 30 years – we are seeing clear water coming out of our faucets.”