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San Diego County Water Authority Board Chairman Mark Muir. Photo: Water Authority Historic water deal

Historic Water Deal Provides Less Expensive, More Reliable Supplies

A historic achievement for the San Diego region passed almost unnoticed when the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors adopted new wholesale water rates in late June.

The rate-setting process highlighted how the Water Authority’s independent water supplies from the Colorado River are now both less expensive and more reliable than supplies from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It’s an accomplishment that the region’s water officials started working toward two decades ago, and one that will bear fruit for decades to come.

The value of our independent water supplies will grow in coming years given the rapid increases in MWD’s rates, which have risen far faster than the cost of the Water Authority’s Colorado River supplies secured in 2003 through a complex, multi-state pact known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement.

Historic agreeement secures San Diego economy and quality of life

From the start, that landmark deal helped secure our economy and quality of life by giving us a major new source of water with a higher priority – or legal right – to Colorado River water than MWD. The agreement allowed the Water Authority to transfer increasingly large amounts of conserved water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego, so that by 2020 it will meet about half of our region’s projected water demand.

That visionary agreement also minimized the impact of MWD’s water delivery cutbacks during the past two droughts. In 2015, for example, MWD reduced water deliveries by 15 percent, but the Water Authority’s independent supplies meant we had enough water to meet 99 percent of normal demand.

While the supply benefits of the conservation-and-transfer agreement have long been clear, the region is just now starting to feel the cost benefits as well.

Here’s why: At the start, our independent Colorado River supplies were more expensive than MWD water. However, the cost of the Water Authority’s independent Colorado River supplies is controlled by a contract linked to the rate of inflation, which means those costs are rising far more slowly than MWD’s rates and charges.

Millions in savings achieved

In addition, the Water Authority has benefited from lawsuits that forced MWD to drop illegal charges for delivering our independent Colorado River supplies. A 2017 appellate court ruling netted the Water Authority about $15 million in savings in 2019, with tens of millions of additional savings in years to come.

The combined effect is that the Water Authority’s independent Colorado River supplies are less expensive than MWD supplies by $44 per acre-foot this year. In 2019, the difference will grow to $68 per acre-foot, and in 2020 our independent supplies are projected to be less expensive by $121 per acre-foot.

That’s worth celebrating because it means regional wholesale water rate increases in 2019 are among the lowest in 15 years – a testament to the all those who have worked for decades to secure a safe, reliable and cost-effective water supply for everyone who calls this place home.

 

San Diego County Water Authority Board Chairman Mark Muir. Photo: Water Authority Historic water deal

Everything in San Diego County is Brought to You by Water

We’ve got a great thing going here in San Diego County, from the mountains to the coast and from the far northern reaches of our region to the international border.

Our economy is strong – one of the largest in the nation – with everything from global giants to startups trying to make a splash. We’ve got the most small farms of any county in the country and innovative industries that put us on the map.

And our quality of life is second to none. People come from all over the world to play here and stay here. They come for our attractions, our beer, our climate and everything else this great region offers.

That makes me proud to call this place home. And it reminds me that none of this would be possible without one key ingredient: a safe and reliable water supply.

Sufficient water supplies required for San Diego’s advanced economy

Think about it: We get just 10 inches of rain a year at Lindbergh Field. That’s not enough to sustain even a small fraction of what we do here day in and day out. In fact, the last time our natural water resources were sufficient for San Diego County was 1946.

At the time, San Diego was just at the start of its renaissance, first as a center of military operations, and later as one of the largest, most vibrant metropolitan areas in the nation.

Today, we boast an advanced economy that’s still a key military hub, and also a center of manufacturing, brewing, tourism, agriculture and so much else.

There are lots of reasons for our collective success, but none more foundational than steady and sufficient water supplies. Water is critical for developing new smart phone technology, next-generation medicines, high-tech military ships and world-class guitars and banjos. And the list goes on.

That’s where the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies come in. Together, we secure, treat and deliver this vital resource 24/7/365.

We do it in pioneering and innovative ways, like new and enlarged reservoirs and the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant. We also work the front lines of water-use efficiency with rebates and resources to stretch every drop, because we appreciate the value of the region’s investments in safe and reliable water supplies.

So, every time you slice an avocado on your salad, use your smartphone for directions to the Gaslamp, watch your kid hit a home run on a Little League field, or stroll the tree-lined trails of Balboa Park, remember that this San Diego life is Brought to You by Water.

For more on the Water Authority’s Brought to You by Water program, go to https://b2ubyh2o.org/.

San Diego County Water Authority Board Chairman Mark Muir. Photo: Water Authority Historic water deal

Water Tax Proposal Remains Poor Policy

Like a bad penny, a plan to tax water keeps turning up in Sacramento.

That’s right: under two proposals circulating in the Capitol, California would start taxing the most fundamental resource on the planet. Such taxes would needlessly drive up costs for families already struggling to make ends meet and undermine the very goals that proponents profess.

Senate Bill 623 by state Sen. William Monning (Carmel) and a budget trailer bill supported by Governor Brown would add a tax to local residential and business water bills in the name of providing safe, clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities, mostly in the Central Valley.

There’s no question that some Californians in low-income, rural areas don’t enjoy the same level of safe drinking water delivered by the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. That’s why the Water Authority and many other water agencies statewide have made it a priority to promote sensible funding strategies to address this important issue. We are committed to delivering safe and reliable water, and we wholeheartedly support the goal of ensuring the same for all Californians.

Water tax proposal hurts the people it is intended to help

But taxing water isn’t the right approach.

Among the many problems with this is strategy is that it sets a bad precedent. California currently does not tax water or essential food products. However, even before the first proposed water tax has been voted on, two additional water tax proposals have already emerged in Sacramento. Both of those taxes would drive up water bills by as much as $15 to $20 each month.

The cost of living in California is already high, and taxing drinking water works against the very people that the funds are intended to help.

Of course, Californians overwhelmingly object to legislation that would create a new tax on drinking water, according to a recent poll of likely 2018 voters. In all, 73 percent said they opposed the Senate legislation. Over half said they “strongly opposed” the measure, while just 8 percent said they “strongly supported” it.

Thankfully, there are better alternatives.

California appropriately uses its general fund to pay for other important programs and social issues identified as state priorities, including public health, education, housing and disability services. The public supports using the general fund to pay for programs that serve and protect residents and communities in need.

Dozens of local water agencies, chambers and other groups have joined together to advance more appropriate funding solutions – a package that includes federal safe drinking water funds, voter-approved general obligation bond dollars, cap-and-trade revenues, agricultural fees related to nitrate in drinking water, and general fund money. With this approach, we can address an important issue for our state without adding a tax on our most precious natural resource.

 

 

San Diego County Water Authority Board Chairman Mark Muir. Photo: Water Authority Historic water deal

Water Authority Seeks Bright Ideas

From California’s earliest days as a state, innovation has been king. We’ve collectively developed world-changing ways of mining gold, telling stories through film, farming, computing and communicating.

That same innovative DNA courses through the San Diego County Water Authority, which over the past year has expanded its efforts to advance pioneering solutions to water industry challenges.

Innovation is not a new concept for the Water Authority, which helped craft the largest water conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history 15 years ago and more recently helped launch the largest seawater desalination plant in the country.

But these days we are taking a particularly aggressive approach across the agency to identify cutting-edge technologies that will help us continue to manage the region’s diverse water supplies and improve long-term stewardship of the region’s most precious natural resource. We have created an internal Innovation Program to promote creative problem-solving by staff, and we have started more broadly publicizing our interest in bright ideas from entrepreneurs and others who can help us stay ahead of water management issues.

Submit your innovative product or concept

If you have a product or concept that you would like to tell us about, go to sdcwa.org/innovation-program and submit the online form. That will help us identify the appropriate team member to evaluate your idea and provide feedback. Our goal is to respond within seven business days and let you know whether we have additional questions; if your product or idea may be a good fit for another agency; or if it is not feasible within the scope of our operations.

At the same time, we are promoting innovation on a national level. We’ve partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to co-sponsor a nationwide contest to advance corrosion and leak-detection technologies for large-diameter pipelines. Corrosion and leaks are a major problem across the country, resulting in billions of gallons of water wasted annually, along with disruptions in water service and costly repairs.

Contest could help discover the next generation of water-saving tools

The competition runs through May 9 and includes a $75,000 purse provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the nation’s largest water provider and the operator of more than 20,000 miles of buried water pipelines. The Water Authority’s contribution includes helping to design the competition and providing judges to identify new approaches that can work effectively regardless of pipeline diameter or construction material.

There are numerous methods for finding leaks and flaws, and the Water Authority has pioneered some of them. However, none of them can efficiently assess the overall condition of pipelines while in operation. This contest could help us discover the next generation of condition assessment and water-saving tools, and it underscores one of our most important values – innovation. To learn more about the competition, go to www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/leakypipes.html.