L.A. County Takes Over Troubled Water District

The County of Los Angeles has taken control over a local water district accused of serving filthy, brown water to residents in Compton.

The county’s special district monitor voted to disband the troubled Sativa Water District in July, saying it had failed in its promise to deliver clean and reliable water to its 1,600 customers. Then at the end of last month, the State Water Resources Control Board officially dissolved its board of directors, fired its manager, and temporarily put the county’s Department of Public Works in charge of the agency pending a merger with a larger provider.

“For far too long, our residents have had to endure the unacceptable — they had no idea what would flow when they turned on their tap,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “Enough is enough. Los Angeles County is ready to step in and step up … and immediately begin to triage the situation.”

County staff has already moved into Sativa’s offices.

“These are the changes I think they will see,” Paul Novak, head of the agency that monitors Sativa, told the Los Angeles Times. “They will see staff that’s more accessible, that is more transparent, that is communicating with the ratepayers on a regular basis. Instead of encountering a board and staff that are hostile to the ratepayers, they will have people they can come in and communicate with.”

County officials have cautioned that the fixes won’t be immediate. There is much work to be done.

In addition to the poor conditions of the water it was providing, the Sativa Water District had faced accusations of fiscal mismanagement, corruption, and nepotism for years. The latest move marks the first time state officials have used their power to compel the takeover of a water agency.