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Wenonah Hauter--One of Seven Women Working to Change the Food System

Food Tank: The Food Think Tank
November 4th, 2009

Montara, CA

“If we were the first domino, then good,” said Scott Boyd, who became president of Montara’s water board after leading the community effort for local control of water.

After suffering for years from high rates, poor service and neglect under private ownership, residents of this small town just south of San Francisco won local public control of their water system. The Montara Water & Sanitary purchased the system from California American Water (Cal-Am) in August 2003. The community had considered buying the water system for years, and in 1999, when the system was sold to New Jersey-based American Water, residents mobilized to bring the system under local public control.

There were community meetings, a door-to-door operation and a televised debate. Then, in 2001, residents voted by a 4-1 spread to borrow $19 million to buy the system from Cal-Am. At first, the company refused to sell, but the town got a boost from the California Public Utilities Commission. The company bowed down and Montara claimed victory.

A local voter-elected board now oversees the system. As a publicly owned utility, the district was able to improve the system and save the public money. “We don’t have to show a profit,” said Scott Boyd, then-president and current secretary of the board. “We get a bang for our buck by serving our citizens.”

 

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