Like rural residents everywhere, we who live on this remarkable coast mostly have at least one shared political value: We believe government works best when it is close to the people, when you can drive a few minutes and look somebody in the eye with questions about our zoning, utility bills or law enforcement.

This factor makes it an easy decision to support creation of the new North Beach Water District in the mail-in balloting now under way.

Water has been a controversial issue on the Peninsula for a long time, usually because there is too much of it pooling on people's septic drain fields, yards and area streets. Ill-considered (and possibly improperly permitted) building and paving still result in run-off damage to adjoining properties. Flooding may not be as bad as it was in the mid-1990s, but in an area with a lot of houses built above a shallow water table, conflicts between water wells and septic systems are almost guaranteed.

This isn't to suggest that wells are automatically bad or contaminated - many will probably be fine for generations to come. But public water systems make good sense in terms of health, while also providing a useful platform for guarding against too-rapid withdrawals from the precious "lens" of fresh water under the Peninsula. A U.S. Geological Survey study a dozen years ago found little sign of saltwater intrusion, but that was a lot of houses ago.

There is some natural unhappiness on the Peninsula's north half about water rates, which increased in concert with creation of the North Beach Public Development Authority, owner of the area's two formerly private water systems. But the unfortunate fact is that these private systems were barely keeping up with a growing area. Rates should never be raised without an excellent reason, but the area now is playing catch-up with its needs. The fact is that North Beach rates remain very low compared to many others in our region.

A yes vote in favor of water district formation will keep locally elected people in charge of these decisions, instead of a board appointed by the county. It will continue to operate on rates paid by those it serves, not on general taxes.

The North Beach Water District is an idea whose time has come.

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