When three guests from Israel visited the Talk Back program on Wednesday the topic was water, a precious resource in such an arid Middle Eastern country.

Eventually, the subject of the City of Missoula's effort to force the Carlyle Group to sell Mountain Water through the process of condemnation arose. The guests were familiar with municipal ownership of local water systems, but each system had a citizens advisory council, to ensure that all proceeds from the water system were only used to invest back into the system, not into the community's general fund.

Missoula City Councilor, Ward One's Bryan von Lossberg, said the idea has merit, although the specific idea has net yet been raised in the city council.

"I can't promise that there will be, though I think it is certainly an idea with a lot of merit," von Lossberg said. "Personally, it's an idea worth exploring because Missoula is an area that is rich with experts, folks with water experience, wildlife biology, the relationship of the water system up into the Rattlesnake Wilderness, climate change, as well. I think it would be a mistake not to try to engage the community's expertise regarding the water system."

Another focus of the discussion was to ensure that all proceeds of the system would be used for the system itself, and not as a 'piggy bank' for the city's general fund. Von Lossberg said that issue had already been addressed.

"It's already been established as an enterprise fund," he said. "The best way to think of that is to look at the sewer and wastewater treatment facilities. As it has been well documented through the condemnation trial over the years, the water system is in desperate need of capital investment to bring it to a condition that it needs to get into. So, what revenues that come from rates associated with the system will be funneled back into capital investment."

City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam remarked that the new water company won't need a citizens advisory committee, because they will already have one, the city council.

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