Mutual water companies are a bedrock of California’s water system. The delivery of water services to places like present-day Los Angeles began in the 1800’s with a mutual water company whose shareholders constructed irrigation channels, and installed pumps as well as the basic plumbing that distributes the water to its shareholder-owned properties.

Today, these agencies are assisted by the California Association of Mutual Water Companies – or CalMutuals – who provide effective advocacy and facilitate operational and educational resources to ensure effective and compliant operation and governance for small systems.

Historically, as some places became urbanized in the mid-1900’s, mutual water companies gave way to cityowned water departments and investor-owned utilities that are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). 

Today, California’s mutual water companies provide water service in rural areas that have no alternative supplies, and in urban pockets where property owners continue to hold mutual water company shares and liability for the integrity of the water system.

Since 2013, CalMutuals has aggressively pursued legislation that helps mutual water companies while opposing any bills that would harm their members. They achieved a major milestone in 2015- 2016 with legislation that authorized creation of a Joint Powers Insurance Authority with risk-pooling and less expensive insurance for members.

Some mutual water companies are owned by several cities who share responsibility for maintaining the water system that delivers water, while others serve entire neighborhoods and have invested so that they also have access to imported water operated by regional public water suppliers.

Serving over 1.3 million Californians, mutual water companies are private not-for-profit organizations, providing clean, reliable, and cost-effective water solutions to hundreds-of-thousands of people, farms and small businesses. Mutual water companies also provide highquality jobs to Californians.

CalMutuals is lead by Board President, Lisa Yamashita-Lopez of the Rubio Cañon Land & Water Association while Executive Director Adán Ortega manages the day to day operational duties of the group.

Ortega explains that “California has enacted new safe drinking water regulations that will cost over $10 billion over next five years to bring all water agencies into compliance. CalMutuals is advocating for state resources for the smallest water systems and looks forward to assisting our members in this task by aggregating small water systems to share resources for which providers like ECA contractors can be of tremendous assistance.”

“CalMutuals is advocating for state resources for the smallest water systems…”

The organization’s major successes include:

  • Lobbied for successful passage of AB 656 (C. Garcia), allowing the formation of the California Association of Mutual Water Companies Joint Powers Insurance Authority beginning January 2016.
  • Successfully lobbied for changes to AB 1077 (Holden) in 2015 which would have required mutual water companies to telecast or webcast all meetings.
  • Supported provisions in legislation (SB13) that allows mutual water companies to participate in governance of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and Joint Powers Agreements.
  • Enhanced protections against service duplication once threatened by AB 2443 (Nestande) authored in 2014.
  • Successfully lobbied to ensure mutual water companies are eligible applicants for water bond funding under Proposition 1.
  • Helped raise awareness of small system needs including $700 billion drought emergency funds.
  • Assisted members with recovering over $1 million dollars in property tax rebates. 
  • Increased membership by more than double in less than a year.