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  • Felton: The Town That Took Back Its Water

    Felton is a small town in Northern California, not too far from the Santa Cruz Coast, but enough inland to have lots of big trees. I ran a foot race through the woods there once; the area is gorgeous.

    In 2002, American Water Works Company purchased the Felton Water District for 67% over book value. The local citizens were upset. Maintenance and upkeep of the water system was no longer local. Jobs were lost and citizens had no say in the operations.

    California American Water ended up running their water district. As FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water) says:

    "California American Water is a subsidiary of New Jersey-based American Water. Despite the patriotic-sounding names, Cal-Am and American Water are both subsidiaries of the German company Rheinisch-Westfsches Elektrizitwerk Aktiengesellschaft (RWE) - the third largest water supplier in the world. RWE's business model calls for purchasing small water districts, consolidating them to reduce costs and applying for rate increases to boost profits."

    After many years of fighting, Felton purchased back its water. They are a model for local control. They celebrate their independence each year with an event they call "Felton Remembers."

    The FLOW commemorative t-shirt sports two quotes:

    "Felton & San Lorenzo Valley Water District, Together We Did It !!"

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world" - Margaret Mead

    Water pulled the town together. It even inspired a poetry contest -- Poems About Water. I'll feature those tomorrow.