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Helix Water District Logo Square officers for 2021

Helix Recognized for Excellence in Financial Reporting

La Mesa, Calif. – The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA)  announced today that Helix Water District is the recipient of a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for our fiscal year 2022-23 budget document.

“This award shows the commitment by the district’s board of directors and staff to serving the public with integrity, fiscal accountability, and transparency.” Said Kathleen Hedberg, Helix Water District’s Board President. “Our budget is well organized and easy to read. We want customers to easily see what we are doing, how we are efficient, and how we keep our operating costs steady.”

Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir 2023 rates

Water Authority Proposes 2023 Rates and Charges for Member Agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority is taking strategic steps to minimize 2023 rate increases for its 24 member agencies and their customers while ensuring a safe, reliable, and affordable water supply as drought grips California for a third consecutive year.

FY 22&23 Adopted Budget ($1.7 million). Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

FY 22&23 Adopted Budget ($1.7 million). Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

Water Authority staff proposed increasing 2023 rates and charges for member agencies by 5.2% for treated water and 3.7% for untreated water. The increases are attributable to historically high inflation, significant energy cost increases from SDG&E, and continued cost increases by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The rate proposal for 2023 includes strategic withdrawals from the Water Authority’s Rate Stabilization Fund, which was created in 1990 to help avoid rate spikes, especially those driven by reduced water sales. To reduce 2023 rate increases by approximately $39 per acre-foot, the Water Authority plans to draw $14.2 million from that fund.

Public comment

The Water Authority Board is expected to vote on rates for next year at its regular meeting on June 23, following a public hearing. The public is invited to comment on the proposed rates and charges. Public comment may be submitted by either of these two methods:

Before the meeting, or before the public comment closes at the meeting, submit your telephone number by e-mail to the clerk at and the clerk will call you when the Board is ready to hear your public comment (three minutes or less); OR

Before the meeting, or before public comment closes at the meeting, email your comment to the Water Authority General Counsel at , and time allowing, it may be read aloud at the public comment period (three-minute limit).

If modifications or accommodations from individuals with disabilities are required, such persons should provide a request at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting by e-mail to the Water Authority General Counsel at

(Note: Per Governor Newsom’s executive orders and state legislation, the June 23 San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Meeting will not be held in person, but electronically. The public may access the meeting electronically by going to this web link: https://www.sdcwa.org/meetings-and-documents and then clicking the link listed below “Live Stream” on the right hand side of the page).

Focus on maintaining lowest possible 2023 rates

Desal plant-5th anniversary-Carlsbad-construction

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant under construction in December 2013 reflects a significant commitment to water supply diversification. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

“We recognize inflationary pressures are challenging for many residents, and we are working collaboratively with all levels of government to identify, advocate for, and improve water affordability,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “As our rate-setting process moves forward, we will remain focused on maintaining the lowest possible rates while delivering a safe and reliable water supply during the driest period in more than 1,200 years.”

The Water Authority’s commitment to affordability includes securing $25 million from the State of California to pay water bills for San Diego County residents impacted by COVID-19; securing $80 million through advocacy efforts in 2021 and distributing that money to member agencies; avoiding hundreds of millions in future costs on water deliveries; and maintaining strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of debt.

In 2023, the Water Authority proposes charging its 24 member agencies the equivalent to an all-in rate of $1,579 per acre-foot for untreated water, or $56 more per acre-foot than they currently pay. Charges would be $1,929 per acre-foot for treated water, or $96 more per acre-foot than in 2022. (Note: An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to serve the annual needs of 2.5 typical four-person households in San Diego County).

Actual figures will vary by member agency, and each member agency will incorporate costs from the Water Authority into the retail rates it charges to residents, businesses, and institutions.

Rising costs for treatment, supplies, and energy

Water Facilities Master Plan Update-Infrastructure-Planning 2023 rates

A major rehabilitation project on the region’s historic First Aqueduct was completed in North San Diego County in January 2021. The Water Authority will continue to lead in preparing for an uncertain future by improving existing infrastructure with resiliency and flexibility at top of mind. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Water Authority’s overall rate increase is driven by multiple factors, such as rising costs for its water supplies, including increases in water treatment (driven by energy costs), conserved water supplies driven by inflation, and continued increases from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, including a 7% increase for untreated supplies.

Each year, the Water Authority’s rate proposal is developed in conjunction with an independent cost-of-service study to ensure rates and charges comply with state law, legal requirements, cost-of-service standards, and Board policies. For 2023, an additional third-party consultant hired to perform a cost-of-service review again affirmed the Water Authority’s process. Throughout the six-month rate-setting process, the Water Authority worked closely with its member agencies to keep the proposed rates and charges at the low end of earlier projections.

“Despite the current inflationary environment and the challenges of the pandemic, our strategic financial planning and management of debt allows us to keep the proposed rates at the low end of our projections,” said Water Authority Finance Director Lisa Marie Harris. “We continue to control rates while maintaining a complex water production, treatment, and delivery system that supports the region now and for decades to come.”

The rate proposal also includes strategic management of the Water Authority debt portfolio resulting in $130 million in net present value savings from several refundings.

The 2023 rate proposal ensures debt-coverage ratios that maintain the Water Authority’s strong credit ratings and minimize the cost of borrowing money for construction projects. This approach saves ratepayers money over the long run. The Water Authority has senior lien credit ratings of AAA from Standard & Poor’s, AA+ from Fitch ratings, and Aa2 from Moody’s.

For more information about the Water Authority’s proposed 2023 rates, go to the May Board packet starting on page 215.

SWA Governing Board Approves $72.7M Budget For Fiscal Year 2022-23

Chula Vista, Calif. – The Sweetwater Authority (Authority) Governing Board approved the $72.7M budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022-23 at its June 8, 2022 meeting.

The FY 2022-23 Budget provides a balanced approach to maintaining the Authority’s financial condition. The Authority’s volumetric, or commodity rate used to fund operations, will increase by an inflationary index and will be offset by use of reserve funds to minimize the impact to rate payers.

Water Authority Finance Director Lisa Marie Harris Celebrated as CFO of the Year

March 25, 2022 – San Diego County Water Authority Finance Director Lisa Marie Harris has been named CFO of the Year in the Public Sector category by The San Diego Business Journal.

Omnibus Package Opens Spigots for Water Project Earmarks

A sprawling $1.5 trillion fiscal 2022 spending deal is awash in cash for water and natural resources projects, including a number of Republican proposals to gird coastal communities against the effects of climate change.

The omnibus package is the first in years to contain congressionally directed spending, also known as earmarks. Lawmakers revived them under tight rules and only for certain parts of the federal budget.

Newsom’s Budget Would Add Billions to Fight Drought, Fires and Boost California Farms

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will propose spending billions of additional dollars on drought response, wildfire suppression and rural workforce development programs, according to budget documents reviewed by The Sacramento Bee. The governor’s plan includes $750 million in one-time money to help communities affected by the drought, including for water conservation, water efficiency, replenishing groundwater supplies and helping small farmers.

 

Federal Drought Funding Includes $40 Million to ‘Stabilize’ Lake Mead Water

A federal plan to spend $210 million on water conservation programs includes $40 million for “conserving 500,000+ acre-feet of water over the next two years to stabilize the decline of Lake Mead.”

The plan also includes $10 million for efforts to suppress wildfires in the West.

Initiative Would Allocated Two Percent of State Budget to Water

There have been all kinds of efforts and money allocated to trying to solve California’s water woes. Now an organization states it has the solution — the 2 percent solution.

In what it’s calling the 2 percent solution More Water Now is working to place an initiative on the November 2022 ballot that would require 2 percent of the state budget to be allocated to the state’s water resources. If placed on the ballot and approved the water abundance ballot initiative would set aside 2 percent of the state budget to water.

There has been a great deal of water allocated toward dealing with California’s water issues, which includes a $7.5 billion bond measure that was passed by the state’s voters in 2014. But seven years later that bond has done little to place a dent in dealing with the state’s water woes.

Will Salton Sea Efforts Get Promised $220 Million in California Budget or Not?

Concerned that tens of millions of dollarspromised to help address woes at the Salton Sea could vanish from this year’s state budget, a chorus of Riverside and Imperial County officials this week wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot politely demanding that the funding stay on track.

“In May, we joined regional leaders in lauding your decision to include $220 million for the Salton Sea as part of a $5.1 billion dollar ‘California Roars Back’ plan,” wrote the president and vice president of the Salton Sea Authority, a joint powers agency comprising area water districts, both counties and the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians.

Sweetwater Authority Board Approves $68 Million Budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 and Ensures Customers Water Reliability in the Face of Drought

Chula Vista, Calif. – The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board approved the budget for fiscal year 2021-22 at its June 9, 2021 meeting with a net zero impact to customer rates.