South Bay Water District May Be Flushing Away Money

Grand jury report accuses officials of overspending millions

By Jessica Greene and Marianne Favro
|  Thursday, Jun 18, 2009  |  Updated 12:59 PM PDT
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South Bay Water in Deep Over Spending

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Are consumers conserving while officials overspend?

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South Bay Water in Deep Over Spending

A civil grand jury accuses the Santa Clara Valley Water District of overspending millions of taxpayer dollars.
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Conservation is the name of the game these days, especially when it comes to precious resources like water. But what if consumers are trying hard to conserve while officials are so wasteful with the money?

A grand jury report released Wednesday is putting that question on the front burner.

The report points to overspending and a lack of oversight in accusing the Santa Clara Valley Water District of overspending millions of taxpayer dollars.

"There seems to be quite a bit of excessive spending without much oversight," Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury foreman Don Kawashima.

The grand jury investigated similar complaints in 2000.

One of the spending complaints centers around the water district's new testing lab, which totaled $21 million -- $13 million over budget.

"If you look at the new building," Kawashima said, "it's 18,000 square feet and only has 18 people working in it."

But there are legitimate reasons for the facility's big price tag, according to the water district.

"This lab was built for the future and is supposed to take us into the next 50 years," Santa Clara Valley Water District spokeswoman Susan Siravo says, "so it had to be a state of the art."

The water district now has 90 days to review the accusations and come up with a plan on how to fix them.

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