In January, Liberty Utilities, a water, electric, and natural gas utility serving more than 560,000 customers across the United States, expanded its water distribution service into California with the acquisition of Park Water Company (Park Water) and subsidiary, Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company (Apple Valley). Collectively, Park Water and Apple Valley serve approximately 51,000 customer connections with more than 700 miles of distribution mains in southeast Los Angeles County, Apple Valley and Victorville. Liberty Utilities is an experienced owner and operator of water utilities in Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Texas and already operates an electric utility in California that serves the Lake Tahoe region.
Liberty Utilities has been working hard to ensure the change in ownership of Park Water and Apple Valley is as seamless as possible for its customers. The process started shortly after the initial acquisition agreement was announced in September 2014. In January, Liberty sent a welcome letter reassuring customers of its commitment to providing safe and reliable drinking water and to serving local communities. Rebranding the office and fleet was accomplished smoothly, while business locations, hours, phone numbers and website capabilities remained unchanged.
When asked about challenges Liberty has faced with the acquisition, Greg Sorensen, President of Liberty Utilities-California, said, “In recent years, operating a water utility in California has been challenging for all water utilities due to the drought. We’re looking forward to facing this challenge with the skills and expertise of our fantastic California employees. With an emphasis on safety, employees and customers, the transition has gone quite smoothly so far. We have a lot of great people in California, and they have taken on the change with a positive attitude.”
The biggest external obstacle to the transition has been the Town of Apple Valley’s condemnation activities aimed at acquiring the water system. Liberty continues to work through the legal process to defend its utility and support local employees, while striving to maintain a positive working relationship with the town and its staff.
Liberty’s membership in the California Water Association has helped the company align its business with state regulations and industry standards and keep abreast of the latest news. CWA provides Liberty with opportunities to interact with other California water utilities, sharing best practices and learning from one another. The association also provides a platform for promoting sound water policy through interaction with regulatory agencies and legislators as well as opportunities for educating the public on the protection and efficient use of precious water resources.
“Liberty Utilities is pleased to take our first step into the water industry in California,” said Sorensen. “We look forward to being a part of the California Water Association and working with our peers, regulators, and customers to strengthen the capabilities of California to meet its future water challenges.”