With sandwiches and salads in hand — as well as water to wash it all down — about 20 attendees heard about the goings-on of their local water supplier on Wednesday morning.
The occasion at the Costa Mesa Senior Center was Mesa Water District President Jim Fisler's annual "state of the district" speech.
For about 40 minutes, Fisler told attendees how the district has the highest triple-A bond rating and doesn't import water at a higher cost, but has the distinction of being the only district in Orange County that is 100% locally and reliably sourced.
About a year ago, Fisler said, the district unveiled its Mesa Water Reliability Facility on Gisler Avenue near the 405 Freeway. The $20-million facility takes water — as much as 8.6 million gallons a day — from an aquifer deep below the ground and rids it of its amber tint.
Even if the water wasn't made clear and colorless, Fisler said, it would still be safe to drink.
That fact was confirmed on the spot by Director Fred Bockmiller, who took a swig of the amber stuff and declared it "delicious."
"We're blessed that we're over that aquifer," Fisler said. "It ends right around the San Diego Freeway."
Fisler acknowledged that the district's rates are going up, and that Mesa Water isn't exempt from the rising costs everywhere of providing water.
"We're not immune to inflation," he said.
In December, a majority of the water district's board voted to increase rates by 15% over five years, beginning in July. The move will immediately increase the average Mesa Water bill by $2 a month, according to district projections.
Fisler said if ratepayers can decrease their water usage, they can potentially counteract the increase. The district offers free "water-wise house calls" to help ratepayers be more efficient, according to the district's website.
"You have more control over your bill, at least," Fisler said, adding that the district doesn't take money from property taxes.
Because Mesa Water's infrastructure is aging, it will need extensive work.
"We're doing what we need to do because of the $1 billion in pipe replacements coming up," Fisler said.
Stacy Taylor, Mesa Water's public and government affairs manager, said the district's March/April newsletter will be a special drought edition with conservation tips.