Cal Water, which has provided water utility service to the majority of Willows, Calif. since 1927, recently acquired the municipal water system assets of the City of Willows (Willows or City), which served the remainder of the city. The purchase, completed in late December 2023, was aided by California Assembly Bills 2339 and 850.
In 2018, the state enacted AB 2339, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson); it enabled select cities, including Willows, to more easily sell their municipal water systems when owning and operating the system was not economical or in the public interest. AB 850, authored by Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and enacted in 2021, extended the sunset date set in AB 2339 through the end of 2023. The legislation allowed the City of Willows to sell its municipal water system without incurring substantial costs that would have otherwise been required and burdened this small community in northern California.
Ahead of the sale, a new water main was installed to extend Cal Water’s existing service area to the City’s customers. Cal Water then installed individual service lines to connect its new customers to the new main. While the municipal water system served a small number of customers, the sale is significant because the legislation and cooperation between partners facilitated this mutually beneficial outcome for the City, customers, and Cal Water, according to Cal Water Chairman and CEO Martin A. Kropelnicki.
“At Cal Water, we are focused on providing a reliable supply of safe, clean water to our customers, and this transition enables the City to focus on its core responsibilities as well,” said Kropelnicki. “With the City and Cal Water serving Willows in our respective areas of expertise, local residents and businesses reap the benefit of high-quality service from both of us, and we look forward to serving our new City of Willows customers.”
“The consolidation of these water systems is a major milestone in the effort to ensure the entire Willows community has access to safe, clean water. I am proud of the collaboration between the state, City of Willows, California Water Service, and the community to make this deal happen,” said Gallagher. “Providing enough time to complete the process through AB 850 was a critical part of this process and I am honored to have been part of the effort.”
“I am pleased and excited of the news that the City of Willows has been able to complete the sale of their water system to California Water Service, with the help of my bill, AB 2339,” said Gipson. “When I authored AB 2339, I saw the need for small municipal public water systems to have the ability to consolidate these systems, to ease the burden of maintenance, treatment, and energy on these communities. This deal will help ensure that clean, safe drinking water is available to more California communities, especially in rural areas like the City of Willows. These small communities are absolutely essential to the success of this state, and I applaud the cooperation and collaboration of all parties in getting this deal done.”
“The project and acquisition will enhance future development in the area and relieves the City of Willows from the liabilities and costs of operating a small municipal system. At the same time, it allows our outstanding partner, Cal Water, to become the sole purveyor of water within the City and do what they do so very well: provide safe, reliable water to all of the residents and visitors to our City,” said Gary Hansen, City of Willows Mayor. “On behalf of the City of Willows, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Cal Water for their collaboration and willingness to effectively work together to better our community.”