San Lorenzo Valley Water District
San Lorenzo Valley Water District crews work to repair a water main break in downtown Boulder Creek that resulted in water outages on June 17. It was fully repaired the next day. (Courtesy of SLVWD)

Residents of Boulder Creek have been through hell and high water over the past several years, but the San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) is adding to the dismay of neighborhoods and small businesses in town with a decisive lack of communication about their ongoing infrastructure repair efforts.

Frankie Brenchley, owner of the Tree House Café, is completely frustrated by the process, but like all other businesses in town, she doesn’t fault the boots-on-the-ground employees who are working for the betterment of the community.

Beginning on May 30, SLVWD announced that there would be no water available in town as a third-party contractor was collaborating with district staff to update pipelines crisscrossing the area.

“The infrastructure in Boulder Creek has been long forgotten, and it’s nice to see attention being given to those necessary repairs,” Brenchley said. “The issue is when district personnel went around town on the 30th and put paper notices on businesses advising them that the water would be shut down for the day, meaning that any business that must have running water to operate (that includes all restaurants, coffee shops and deli departments of downtown markets) had to close for the day.

“The problem is, they never turned off the water and nobody from the district made any attempt to communicate that to downtown businesses, so shops like Boulder Creek Pizza & Pub, Jenna Sue’s Café and my own coffee shop could have opened but remained closed based on the initial information distributed by the water district,” continued Brenchley.

Several Boulder Creek businesses have lost thousands of dollars in revenue, leaving their staff without a guaranteed paycheck, and wondering when the madness will end.

Brenchley said that she brings in $1,500 to $1,600 on a weekday and losing that amount of money not only hurts her bottom line, but also impacts her employees as well.

“We have now been closed at least three times in the past three weeks,” said Brenchley, noting that her employees are feeling the brunt of the situation. “If we can’t open, that means no tips for our servers, no service for the community and no sales for vendors who supply our goods. In addition, if residents know that there is no water in town, they’ll go someplace else for their morning coffee or afternoon lunch, so all of the businesses in town suffer.”

She added, “I’m also concerned about being able to retain my employees. If they keep having their shifts canceled through no fault of their own, what’s to keep them from finding another job where that won’t happen?”

Dawn Harker, a director with the Boulder Creek Business Association and co-owner of Loch Dog Signs in downtown Boulder Creek, is equally frustrated with the lack of communication from the district.

“We lost water at our home near Boulder Creek Elementary School as well as at our business—it just shut down one day at 9am at the beginning of June with no notice,” Harker said.

For non-water-reliant businesses like Loch Dog, they can continue to serve customers, but when other nearby businesses are closed, customers go elsewhere to get their printing needs met.

“We don’t know when the water will be shut down, or if it will actually be off when the district says it will, and it doesn’t appear that there is any outreach or concern to local businesses who are impacted by these decisions,” said Harker, adding that SLVWD had posted a notice on their Facebook page regarding the water shutoffs. “They keep saying they’re going to let us know by 11am, but the Facebook page isn’t being updated, and by 11am, it’s too late for businesses who rely on heavy foot traffic in the morning.”

San Lorenzo Valley Water District
Brian Frus, interim general manager of San Lorenzo Valley Water District, says the district is willing to work with businesses and address concerns regarding the water shutoffs. (Courtesy of SLVWD)

According to Brian Frus, SLVWD interim general manager as of November 2023, this current project has been going on for over a year. The district has been laying a new pipeline that comes from the treatment plant and is connected to older parts of the water delivery system in Boulder Creek.

“We’ve had some issues with connecting the new infrastructure to old. Because it’s an old system, we don’t always have the best and most correct information, and our operators are doing their very best to isolate and solve the problem. Sometimes we turn valves, and we can’t always be 100% sure as to whose water is getting turned off due to the age of the system,” said Frus, who added that he is taking this issue very seriously and is working hard to avoid similar mishaps in the future.

While Frus believes that end users will appreciate the new 12-inch pipeline that is being installed—“It will greatly improve water flow in the area, particularly for firefighting”—he simultaneously downplays the financial impacts that the announced shutoffs (which became non-shutoffs) have on the community, particularly when it comes to small businesses.

“We have already started to develop improved ways to handle communication, including notifying people of the probability of being out of water,” Frus said. “It’s a double-edged sword: it’s better to warn someone of the possibility instead of trying to work it the other way. Some people felt inconvenienced when they were told they would be out of water when they weren’t, and my goal is to better manage this process.”

Up until now, the process of notifying water district customers with accurate information has been spotty at best.

“Sometimes there are door hangers or posted notices; sometimes we’re directed to the district’s Facebook page for updates, and sometimes there is just no information at all,” said Justin Acton, owner of Boulder Creek Pizza & Pub. “I don’t fault the district employees who are working to improve our water infrastructure, but the lack of clear and consistent communication is really hurtful to our downtown water-reliant businesses.”

Acton, who has owned the restaurant since 2012, has seen his share of financial downturns and fought an uncertain future thanks to the CZU Fires and the spread of Covid.

“There has to be some accountability by district management when it comes to understanding the monetary impacts that businesses are facing as a result of their lack of communication,” he said.

Several Boulder Creek business owners alluded to the departure of District Manager Rick Rogers as part of SLVWD’s problem. Rogers, who had been with the district for nearly 50 years and retired in November 2023, was known as a no-nonsense leader who was well-respected and had a reputation for addressing issues and getting things done.

“I think Rick’s retirement definitely contributed to the situation we’re in now,” Acton said.

Visiting the district’s Facebook page gives viewers a rosy picture of an engaged agency: announcements about board meetings and vacancies; ways to determine leaks; collaborations with local fundraising efforts and notices regarding district transparency.

Conspicuously absent are updates regarding the impending water shutoffs, with the exception of a post on June 11 that states, “The San Lorenzo Valley Water District is in the final stages of the infrastructure mainline replacement project. Because of that, customers in the northern part of downtown Boulder creek will experience water service interruptions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 13. The District can’t identify every customer impacted by the shutdown.”

Fast forward to June 17, and there is a quick video announcing a water main break, followed by a post notifying customers of service restoration. Since then, no other informational notices have been posted to the district’s social media account, which as business owners point out, is part of the problem—especially when customers are directed to get their information from the district’s social media sites.

In terms of recompense for businesses that lost income due to the district’s arbitrary communication regarding water shutoffs, Frus is a little gun-shy to provide any blanket promises to business owners, although he celebrates the end result of more reliable water and better water pressure.

“The individual financial concerns will need to be addressed one at a time. I don’t think it would be correct to give a global answer; we have to look at individual cases. We are willing to work with businesses, and we are open to addressing concerns,” he said.

For now, addressing concerns is what business owners in Boulder Creek are looking for.

“We had one false notice of water not being potable with a 72-hour boil instruction, but it wasn’t true. I didn’t close because I called the district directly for clarification,” Acton said. “Then I was closed for two days due to a notice of no water being available, but water was on. There was just no communication, and that was followed by two to three days of additional closure when we actually lost water. The lack of collaboration with downtown businesses is really hurting us all.”

“How long would it take the administrative staff at the district to make phone calls or even go door-to-door to businesses to keep us updated about potential water shutoffs?” asked Brenchley. “When we lose power, I immediately get text notices from PG&E and Comcast about the outages and receive restoration notices just as quickly. If PG&E and Comcast can communicate to their thousands of customers about a service interference and keep their end users updated, why can’t water district personnel do the same thing for a handful of downtown businesses?”

In addition to monitoring this current hardship for customers, the SLVWD Board is also tasked with finding replacements for its departing directors.

The vacancy created by Gail Mahood’s resignation was filled by Bryan Largay, a Felton resident who was appointed to the Board during a special meeting on June 13.

Director Jayme Ackemann submitted her resignation effective June 21, and the Board is on the hunt to fill her vacant seat. Interested parties can submit their application to the District Secretary no later than Monday, July 1, at 3pm. Applications for the open seat may be found at the District Office (13060 Highway 9, Boulder Creek) or at

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


  1. I want to express my gratitude to Christine Wise for taking the time to listen to the Boulder Creek Down Town businesses as we navigated the difficulties regarding the water shutoffs affecting our town. It bought much relief to all of us just getting it out there. It is wonderful knowing others cared enough to let us vent. Thanks so very much for your time, and your kindness.

    With gratitude,

    Frankie Brenchley
    Boulder Creek Tree House

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