The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California adopted a program to provide incentives for replacing toilets at multi-family housing properties. MWD’s Oct. 13 board meeting included approving a $250 incentive to replace toilets with a flush volume of 3.5 gallons or greater and a $125 incentive to replace toilets with a flush volume of 1.6 gallons or greater.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted the social and economic realities of our communities, but also undermined some of the basic infrastructure we depend on. Our water infrastructure has been at the heart of this realization; its importance to health, hygiene, and safety has never been more obvious, yet millions of disadvantaged and vulnerable households still lack reliable and affordable access to water.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors has approved a new and Permanent Special Agricultural Water Rate structure that offers lower water rates to farmers in exchange for lower water supply reliability.
Unlike the current transitional program, the new program will allow new participants to join as a way to strengthen the region’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry. The program will take effect January 1, 2021, replacing the current program that ends December 31.
Ranking 19th in the nation, San Diego County boasts top crops in nursery, avocados, tomatoes, citrus, poultry, and strawberries, according to the San Diego County Farm Bureau.
Unique program benefits all water users
The Water Authority will be working closely with its 24 member agencies to implement the program for 2021 by providing program details, such as qualifying criteria and the signup process. Participants in the existing transitional program will be allowed to take part in the permanent program on a temporary basis while being screened for eligibility under the new program. Member agencies have six months, through June 30, 2021, to verify eligibility for existing customers for the new program.
“This unique program will benefit all regional water users and the county’s robust agricultural economy,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “It helps farmers sustain their operations – and thousands of jobs – while favoring residential and commercial water customers in the event of future water supply reductions.”
Special rates designed to support regional farm economy
Farmers and growers who participate in the Water Authority program will receive a lower level of water service during water shortages or emergencies. That allows the Water Authority to reallocate those supplies to commercial and industrial customers who pay for full reliability benefits. In exchange, participating farmers are exempt from fixed water storage and supply reliability charges.
Under the permanent program in 2021, participants will pay $1,295 per acre-foot for treated water, while municipal and industrial users will pay $1,769 per acre-foot.
San Diego County is unusual among major metropolitan areas in the United States because it includes one of the country’s most valuable and productive farm sectors adjacent to one of the nation’s largest cities.
The region sustains 3.3 million people and a $245 billion economy, thanks to decades of regional investments in water supply reliability projects, including the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant and the biggest conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history.
Permanent special agricultural water rate
The Water Authority has provided lower-cost water to growers in exchange for lower reliability since October 2008, when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California began phasing out a similar program. Since that time, the transitional Water Authority program continued with a series of extensions that expire at the end of 2020.
In June 2020, the Water Authority Board set calendar year 2021 rates and charges, including a rate category for the new ag program. Future rates will continue to reflect cost-of-service standards and be defined annually as part of the rate-setting process.
The new permanent special ag rate was recommended by the Water Authority’s Fiscal Sustainability Task Force, which is assessing a variety of issues to ensure the agency’s long-term financial health. Regional farming leaders provided input to the task force on the parameters of the new program, which will be reevaluated in five years to assess current and forecasted demands and supplies.
While health and safety of our water supply remains our top priority, reliable water service is an enabling force for economic growth and improves the quality of life for families. According to a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Value of Water, the United States needs to invest $109 billion per year in water infrastructure over the next 20 years to close the water infrastructure gap.
Growers of some of San Diego County’s most lucrative crops — flowers, nursery plants and exotic fruits — can now get federal cash to cover some coronavirus-related losses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s initial relief program left out these small farmers who contribute significantly to the county’s nearly $1.8 billion agricultural economy.
The department expanded the program to include more specialty crops in August and announced last week it would make an additional $14 billion available to farmers through mid-December. Growers could begin applying for the relief this week.
Hannah Gbeh, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, called the federal aid “the lifeline our producers need to help weather the economic challenges that came along with the pandemic.”
Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of uncertainty and anxiety, but also a time of compromise and collaboration. We have all been asked to make sacrifices both big and small for the greater good — face masks, changing business operations, remote work, outdoor dining and countless other accommodations.
Public agencies — especially those that deliver an essential commodity like water — should operate in the same collaborative spirit to protect ratepayers and offer relief during the continuing economic fallout.
The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have taken action to protect ratepayers by implementing strong cost-cutting strategies to limit rate increases without sacrificing a safe and reliable water supply or the ability to plan for the future.
It’s not quite on the level of tourism or biotech, but agriculture is a major contributor to San Diego County’s economy. The county’s annual crop report was released this week, and it shows agriculture contributed nearly two-billion dollars in 2019.
Statewide, agriculture in California contributes $50-billion a year, much of it coming from industrial-sized operations.
The United States is underinvesting in its drinking water and wastewater systems — putting American households and the economy at risk, according to a new report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers and Value of Water Campaign. The report, “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the U.S. Economy Recovery,” finds that as water infrastructure deteriorates and service disruptions increase, annual costs to American households due to water and wastewater failures will be seven times higher in 20 years than they are today — from $2 billion in 2019 to $14 billion by 2039.
Decades of inadequate investment in water infrastructure has exacerbated the economic challenges faced by water and wastewater utilities in the era of COVID-19, according to a new report released Aug. 26 by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the U.S. Water Alliance’s Value of Water Campaign.
Ever since it became clear the COVID-19 pandemic would send the U.S. economy into a tailspin, there’s been lots of talk about using government stimulus funds to create clean energy jobs rather than propping up fossil fuel companies whose business model is fueling the climate crisis.