John Aguilar says, ‘CVWD is a leader in the area of conservation.’
John Aguilar, a longtime public servant who was appointed to the Coachella Valley Water District board of directors to fill a vacancy in December 2020, is seeking election to a full four-year term on Nov. 8.
He served previously as Mayor and Councilperson of Cathedral City. He made history in 2019 as the first Latino mayor to lead the city.
Aguilar faces one challenger in his quest to retain his seat representing Division 1. Lewis Da Silva, an accountant and auditor, also qualified to be on the ballot.
CVWD is a special district established by the state legislature and certified by state officials on Jan. 16, 1918. CVWD is governed by a five-member Board of Directors, each of whom is elected to four-year terms by district voters, as required by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters. Each director lives in and represents one of five directorial divisions in the district and is elected by voters who also reside in that division.
District policies are regulated by several state and federal agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of Public Health and the California and United States Environmental Protection Agencies. Because the district is a government agency and not a private company, it is not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission.
Uken Report (UR) submitted identical questions to both candidates. Aguilar was the only one to respond.
The questions and Aguilar’s responses follow.
UR: Who or what motivated you to run for the Division 1 seat?
John Aguilar: Preserving our precious water! Not only preserving our water, but the quality of our water as well. Two years ago, following the conclusion of my term as Mayor of Cathedral City and having served as a former Councilman for several years, I was approached by several regional and local elected officials, including a member of the CVWD Board, who, because of my extensive public service career, felt I would be a good fit for the CVWD Board. To this end, following my unanimous appointment to the Board, I immersed myself in becoming educated, informed, and committed to the Water Districts’ Goals. I am excited to continue working on several critical issues with the District, including the Sewer Conversion Project in Cathedral City, additional conservation measures, and maintaining the District’s strong financial footing.
UR: If elected, what knowledge, experience and/or expertise would you bring to the role?
John Aguilar: I have more than 35 years of professional public and private sector experience which include public finance, economic development, community redevelopment, city management, public utility management, real estate development, and affordable housing. This blend of experience gives me a unique advantage and position in understanding, negotiating and resolving issues as they relate to the District’s business, particularly as we face the challenges of a worsening drought and climate environment.
UR: There are only two of you in race. What makes you a better fit than your opponent for the position?
John Aguilar: Not only do I have many years of experience in protecting and growing local communities, but I have also already joined forces with the Water Board and staff in building relationships with stakeholders. Since my appointment to the Board, I have become familiar with the complex array of water district’s responsibilities. I am also very proud of several important community endorsements I have received which affirm that our Valley leadership believe I am the right choice for this seat. I am proud to say that I have the endorsements of the entire CVWD Board of Directors, Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, the Mayor and City Council of Cathedral City, former mayors of Cathedral City Kathy DeRosa and Stan Henry as well as Rancho Mirage Councilwoman and former Mayor Iris Smotrich.
UR: Is the CVWD doing enough in the area of conservation? Why or why not? If not, what do you believe should be done?
John Aguilar: CVWD is a leader in the area of conservation. For example, our desert landscape plan development standard requirements have saved more than 500000-acre feet of water since 2007. Other conservation efforts include our tiered rate structure which inspire customers to pay close attention to the amount of water they are using. The District continues to offer 3$PSF turf conversion rebates which have now been matched by Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage and is expanding to others. Other conservation programs like smart water controller, appliance and toilet replacement rebates are having a significant impact in conserving our water. The recent signing of SB 1157 by the Governor which will reduce the water standard for indoor residential use of 55 gallons per capita per day to 47 beginning Jan. 2025 will also clearly have an impact on water supply.
UR: Safe, clean drinking water continues to be an issue in the Oasis Mobile Home Park. Does CVWD have a role here? If so, what? If not, why?
John Aguilar: Our Board has been actively working with District staff and Riverside County as well as other state and federal officials to find a long-term solution to the issues at Oasis Park. In the short term, the District has stepped up to provide free supplemental water to the residents while working on longer term permanent solutions. For example, CVWD’s Disadvantaged Communities Infrastructure Committee is focused on working to secure access to grants and loans to obtain needed funding for new water and sewer infrastructure for several farmworker mobile home parks that do not have safe drinking water, including Oasis Mobile Home Park.
UR: What is your No.1 priority if elected and how will you achieve it knowing you’re only one vote on the board?
John Aguilar: Water conservation, preserving the quality and quantity of our water sources, and maintaining the District’s infrastructure is all important. However, implementing a sewer conversion project in Cathedral City is my top priority. We have approximately 1000 residential units still on septic systems, primarily in our disadvantaged neighborhoods. Working with the City, their consultants, and staff at the Water District, we are in the first stages meeting with families who would benefit by connecting to the District’s system and getting them off of septic systems. These septic systems can contaminate the aquifer and create expensive maintenance issues. Potential funding assistance has been identified, grants for planning and design have been applied for, and neighborhood information meetings have commenced. I believe our full board is supportive if we can find the right mix of funding. I would hope this project can commence within the next couple of years.
- John Aguilar: John Aguilar