Opinion: Move by Two Small Water Districts Could Have Impact Across Southern California

The Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts got the green light to, in effect, move north.

That will impact ratepayers in San Diego County, and it could alter the balance of power in water decisions far beyond.

Like so many contentious developments when it comes to water, this one might not be over for a while.

County Board Votes to Allow Fallbrook, Rainbow to Detach from Water Authority

The San Diego County Local Area Formation Commission voted 5-3 on Monday to allow two rural water districts in North San Diego County to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority.

LAFCO, which is responsible for forming special public districts, did not require a vote by ratepayers and did not set a timetable for detachment of the two districts, pending further study.

The Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District, with a total of 56,000 residents, are seeking to join the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County in hopes of securing lower-cost water for farmers.

County Leaders Consider Fallbrook, Rainbow Switch from San Diego County Water Authority

County leaders are considering allowing the cities of Fallbrook and Rainbow to switch from San Diego County Water Authority to a water district in Riverside County.

Water Authority Responds to LAFCO Commission Vote on Detachment

July 10, 2023 – Mel Katz, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors, issued the following statement in response to today’s decision by the San Diego County Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) regarding the proposed detachment of two water agencies from the Water Authority.

“Today’s unprecedented decision by San Diego LAFCO is very disappointing because it will raise water rates for disadvantaged communities, working families, 70% of agriculture in the county, small businesses, and everyone else across our region. We’re deeply concerned that LAFCO decided that water ratepayers across San Diego County don’t get a say in whether Fallbrook and Rainbow can walk away from their bills and shift their costs to the rest of the county.

“It’s also clear that LAFCO failed to study the environmental impacts of its decision, as required by state law – a serious breach of public confidence in a system that’s supposed to protect us all.”

— Mel Katz, Board Chair, San Diego County Water Authority



North County Farmers Desperate to Ditch Expensive Water Supplier. Will San Diego Leaders Stop Them?

Should two rural North County communities be allowed to purchase cheaper water from outside of the San Diego region in a desperate attempt to save farming — even if it could mean slightly higher bills for other ratepayers?

Fallbrook Students Won’t Let Pandemic Stop 2021 “Be WaterSmart” Poster Contest

The annual “Be WaterSmart” student poster contest is a favorite tradition in many San Diego County classrooms, including elementary schools in the Fallbrook Public Utility District. In most years, 250 students submit entries, with the top submissions selected for publication. But 2020 wasn’t a typical year.

FPUD Approves Final Change Order for Winter Haven Road Pipeline Replacement

Unforeseen conditions caused a change order to the Fallbrook Public Utility District contract to replace the pipeline along Winter Haven Road, but it was the only change order needed in the contract to replace approximately 2,570 feet of pipeline.

FPUD Amends Design Services Contract for CUP

The Fallbrook Public Utility District’s professional services contract for the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project has been amended.

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Threat Emerges to Reduce Water Supply Reliability, Fracture Region

Thank you for your support over the past two years. It’s been an honor to serve as the chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. While some may not realize it, this 36-member Board plays a critical role in sustaining San Diego County’s quality of life and economy.

And I’m pleased to say that this Board engages in the difficult discussions and decisions to make sure our children and grandchildren enjoy the same safe and secure water supplies that we enjoy today. Unfortunately, it’s also true that efforts are underway that would undermine decades of successful planning that has served our county well from Fallbrook to San Ysidro.

This week, the Water Authority filed a formal response to address a proposal by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to detach from the Water Authority and annex into Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. These proposals would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.

Our detailed filing with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) spells out how the Fallbrook and Rainbow detachment proposals contain significant areas of misleading or incomplete information that must be addressed before LAFCO and all of the interested parties countywide can understand the full scope of impacts that would be created by detachment. The LAFCO process is expected to take at least another year.

As proposed by Fallbrook and Rainbow, the detachments would allow Fallbrook and Rainbow to avoid paying for water supplies and infrastructure that have been developed in collaboration with those agencies and are currently being used by those agencies to meet their customers’ needs. Abandoning those cost obligations would force other ratepayers countywide to cover their portion of the bills already incurred for decades of investments in supply reliability.

Our agency’s analysis shows that detachment, as proposed, would reduce water reliability and increase risk for Rainbow and Fallbrook customers, create environmental impacts that haven’t been studied, and impair the successful long-term planning efforts that have served our county well. And it would give Riverside County water agencies more control over San Diego County’s water future, including water rate and property tax impacts. The Water Authority’s formal response to the Fallbrook/Rainbow reorganization proposals and related documents are at

It’s critical that LAFCO and all the interested parties across San Diego County take the time to address the full scope of consequences created by these unprecedented proposals so we avoid unintended harm to our region. The Water Authority, its member agencies and regional planning agencies such as SANDAG have worked together for more than 75 years to provide this region with safe and reliable water supplies. Trying to turn back the clock now is a costly, difficult process with numerous impacts to Fallbrook and Rainbow customers and across the region.

As we transition to the new Board leadership in October, I trust that you will give incoming Chair Gary Croucher and Vice Chair Christy Guerin the same support that you’ve given to me over the past two years. And don’t forget that whatever the challenges, San Diego County is stronger together.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.

FPUD Approves Letter of Support for Fallbrook Beautification Alliance Grant

The Fallbrook Beautification Alliance is seeking a $5,000 grant from the American Society of Landscape Architects to improve the South Mission Road medians, and the grant application requires two letters of support from community organizations. The Fallbrook Public Utility District board approved one of those letters of support.