Water agencies across the region are seeking help from the County of San Diego and the 18 incorporated cities in the county to provide essential financial relief for households throughout the county that are facing growing water bill delinquencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hope this finds you safe and healthy despite the challenging circumstances that we face as a region, state and nation.
While our hearts are heavy, we continue working on several critical issues at the Water Authority this month, and I would like to share three of them with you briefly.
- The Water Authority’s Board of Directors on May 28 voted to support a comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of detachment proposals by the Rainbow and Fallbrook water districts to ensure that ratepayers and property owners in those districts and the rest of the county are protected from potential impacts and given a meaningful opportunity to engage in the process. That evaluation – under development by the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO – should cover financial, water supply reliability, governmental, and environmental impacts, and it should ensure that the public and all affected agencies across the region can weigh in, according to the Water Authority Board resolution. I encourage you to read the entire resolution at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-detachment.
- Our Board has set a public hearing on 2021 rates and charges on June 25. As you know, this has been a very rough stretch financially for almost every business and agency – and water utilities are no exception. Staff has proposed a strategy that would raise the rates we charge our member agencies by about 6 percent next year. That recommendation is the result of cost-cutting, using our Rate Stabilization Fund and other measures. It’s a thoughtful and careful proposal, and I’m expecting our Board will have robust discussion before voting on this issue that affects us all.
- On the financial front, we are also doing our part to attract more state and federal economic stimulus funds for a long list of shovel-ready water projects. The Water Authority has coordinated a letter from several water agencies asking Congress for COVID-19 financial relief for public water utilities and ratepayers. At the same time, I am pleased to announce that several regional water supply projects in San Diego County are on track to receive a total of more than $15 million in state grant funds, pending a final decision this summer. The money would help local agencies advance conservation, environmental enhancements, water purification and other initiatives.
As always, I will continue to update you on these critical issues and others in the weeks ahead.