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City of San Diego Receives High Grades for Sewer Revenue Bonds

San Diego, Calif. – Two credit ratings agencies have given the City of San Diego’s sewer revenue bonds high grades, a positive sign as the City moves forward on making important upgrades and rehabilitating its sewer system infrastructure.

 

Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings have both assigned ‘AA’ ratings to approximately $158 million subordinate sewer revenue bonds, issued by the City’s Public Facilities Financing Authority. 

Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Water Authority Credit Ratings Remain Strong, Saving Ratepayers Money

We received some welcome news from the three major U.S. rating agencies last week, when they reported strong credit ratings and credit quality for the San Diego County Water Authority.

While that might not seem like a big deal, it really is. The newly released analysis by Fitch Ratings, S&P Global, and Moody’s allow the Water Authority to optimize its debt portfolio and minimize the cost of financing vital water reliability projects. In addition, S&P changed its long-term outlook for the Water Authority to stable from negative due to actions by the agency’s Board of Directors and staff leaders.

Ultimately, that means saving ratepayer money.

Investments in water supply diversification

All three rating agencies highlighted the strength of the Water Authority’s significant investments in supply diversification, which allow the agency to meet demands in its service area despite ongoing drought conditions. The Water Authority’s credit quality is deemed strong, in part because the agency adopted its Long-Range Financing Plan in 2021. S&P said, “the LRFP reflects strong management of the authority’s financial and capital needs balanced with long-term affordability for its member agencies.”

Strong credit ratings

The rating services also cited the Water Authority’s financial leadership, including prudent strategies to manage issues related to COVID-19, its success diversifying water supply sources, its commitment to infrastructure maintenance, and its financial reserves for managing contingencies.

Bond sale

We plan a $170 million bond sale this week, and these ratings will help us get the best rates. That’s just one part of our strategy at the Water Authority to promote affordability in everything we do – from maintaining our extensive water supply system to distributing tens of millions of dollars to our member agencies to investing in conserved water sources.

I look forward to sharing more of our affordability strategy as we move into 2022.

Credit Agencies Cite Water Authority Diversification, Reliability for Strong Ratings

The three major U.S. rating agencies reported strong credit ratings and credit quality for the San Diego County Water Authority kicking off 2022. Newly released analysis by Fitch Ratings, S&P Global, and Moody’s allow the Water Authority to optimize its debt portfolio and minimize the cost of financing vital water reliability projects.

Credit ratings-strong credit ratings-water supply diversity-Carlsbad Desalination Plant

Credit Agencies Cite Water Authority Diversification, Reliability for Strong Ratings

The three major U.S. rating agencies reported strong credit ratings and credit quality for the San Diego County Water Authority kicking off 2022. Newly released analysis by Fitch Ratings, S&P Global, and Moody’s allow the Water Authority to optimize its debt portfolio and minimize the cost of financing vital water reliability projects.

The ratings reports were issued Jan. 27 in anticipation of Water Authority plans to sell $170 million of bonds the week of Feb. 7. Proceeds will be used to finance a portion of the design, acquisition, and construction of various capital projects.

Strong credit ratings

All three rating agencies highlighted the strength of the Water Authority’s significant investments in supply diversification, which allow the agency to meet demands in its service area despite ongoing drought conditions. The Water Authority’s credit quality is deemed strong, in part because the agency adopted its Long-Range Financing Plan in 2021. S&P said, “the LRFP reflects strong management of the authority’s financial and capital needs balanced with long-term affordability for its member agencies.”

Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl said, “These credit ratings reflect the importance of the Water Authority’s successful effort to diversify the San Diego region’s water supply portfolio combined with strategic financial practices. Consistent investments are protecting the region’s ratepayers from persistent drought conditions while maintaining a safe and affordable water supply.”

Financial leadership, diversified water supply sources

In affirming their credit ratings, the services cited the Water Authority’s financial leadership, including prudent strategies to manage issues related to COVID-19, its success diversifying water supply sources, its commitment to infrastructure maintenance, and its financial reserves for managing contingencies, among other factors.

  • Fitch Ratings affirmed its AA+ rating and gave a stable outlook. Fitch cited the Water Authority’s “strong purchaser credit quality” and “very low” operating costs, as well as a moderate life cycle ratio “reflecting sustained capital investment.” Fitch noted the Water Authority is through the peak of its capital program but retains price risks related to factors such as costs of future water infrastructure investments.
  • S&P Global Ratings revised its long-term outlook to stable from negative for the Water Authority. At the same time, S&P Global Ratings assigned its AAA long-term rating to the agency’s anticipated $170 million series 2022A water revenue bonds. S&P Global noted Water Authority management has “demonstrated an ability to navigate volatile hydrological cycles through adopting rate increases as needed and building prudent financial reserves and storage to mitigate variability.”
  • Moody’s Investors Service reaffirmed its Aa2 rating and stable outlook. Moody’s said, “The stable outlook reflects the likelihood that the Authority’s satisfactory operating performance will remain stable, supported by strong management practices despite challenges associated with ongoing drought conditions, rising costs, and required capital investments.”

Significant projects completed over the past two decades include the San Vicente Dam Raise, Olivenhain Dam, and Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant. The Carlsbad Desalination Plant has also been completed as a joint project of the Water Authority and Poseidon Water.

To read the most recent rating agency reports for the Water Authority, go to www.sdcwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Credit-Rating-Reports-2022.pdf.

(Editor’s Note: All three rating agencies cited ongoing uncertainty resulting from two member agencies’ applications to detach from the Water Authority. Moody’s said detachment could lead to a credit downgrade, which would increase borrowing costs for critical water reliability projects. S&P Global said detachment could challenge affordability and create long-term political risk for the agency, especially if the process sets a precedent that “members can easily detach from the authority.” Information about detachment is at www.sdcwa.org/member-agencies/lafco-reorganization/.)

Credit Agencies Cite Water Authority Diversification, Reliability for Strong Ratings

February 2, 2022 – The three major U.S. rating agencies reported strong credit ratings and credit quality for the San Diego County Water Authority kicking off 2022. Newly released analysis by Fitch Ratings, S&P Global, and Moody’s allow the Water Authority to optimize its debt portfolio and minimize the cost of financing vital water reliability projects.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

OMWD’s “AAA” Bond Rating Reaffirmed as Board Reduces Budget by 2.67 Percent

Encinitas, Calif. — At its meeting this evening, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors approved budget cuts following confirmation of OMWD’s exceptionally strong financial profile. The board was notified that Fitch Ratings, a global rating agency that offers independent credit opinions, has reaffirmed OMWD’s “AAA” bond rating with a stable outlook, the highest possible rating assigned by Fitch. The board also approved a revised budget for Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022 that saves over $1 million versus the originally approved budget.

Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Water Authority Credit Remains Strong as Risks Emerge

All three major rating agencies affirmed the San Diego County Water Authority’s strong credit ratings, which will help us minimize the cost of financing important water reliability projects.

It is particularly gratifying that the reports cited the Water Authority’s strategic management, our conservative approach to water sales projections, and the benefits of rate case litigation that recently resulted in $44.4 million being refunded to local retail water agencies, among many other factors. In affirming their credit ratings, the services also noted the Water Authority’s strong financial leadership (including prudent strategies to manage issues related to COVID-19), decades of success diversifying water supply sources, our commitment to infrastructure maintenance, and our financial reserves for managing contingencies.

Significant investments in supply diversification

Just one example: Fitch Ratings said that the Water Authority’s “operating costs are low” and that the Water Authority’s “significant investments in supply diversification (that) have allowed SDCWA to continue to meet water demands in its service area.” Fitch also accounted for the Water Authority’s current hiring freeze, spending cuts and deferral of $30 million in planned capital spending to proactively manage finances during the pandemic.

At the same time, rating agencies also noted significant challenges ahead, including efforts by Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District to “detach” from the Water Authority – a move that could negatively impact ratepayers countywide. If the two North County agencies leave per their plans, Water Authority analysis shows that the other 22 member agencies – who serve about 3.2 million residents – will have to pay $16 million to $46 million more per year to cover the cost of the departing agencies.

Detachment and credit ratings

Moody’s said detachment could lead to a credit downgrade, which would increase borrowing costs for critical water reliability projects. S&P Global affirmed its AAA rating for the Water Authority. However, it issued a negative outlook for the agency and called detachment uncertainty “an additional credit stressor” – “especially if an approved detachment sets a precedent if members can easily detach from the authority.” S&P added that, “this would be further exacerbated if the two members are not required to pay for their portion of the associated debt and infrastructure costs that the authority has undertaken to provide reliable water sources.”

In May 2020, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to oppose detachment unless four conditions can be met related to protecting Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayers, avoiding negative impacts for other member agencies, protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, and maintaining the Water Authority’s voting rights at MWD. The issue is under review by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO. The LAFCO process, which is designed to provide for an impartial analysis of these issues, will allow the Water Authority and all other affected parties to determine if these conditions are satisfied. If not, the Water Authority will oppose detachment.

Desalination plant-credit ratings-water supply

Credit Agencies Affirm Water Authority’s Strong Ratings Despite Headwinds

All three major rating agencies – S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch – have affirmed the San Diego County Water Authority’s strong credit ratings, which will help the Water Authority optimize its debt portfolio and minimize the cost of financing important water reliability projects.

The reports cited the Water Authority’s strategic management, its conservative approach to water sales projections, and the benefits of the Water Authority’s rate case litigation that recently resulted in $44.4 million being refunded to local retail water agencies – among many other factors.

Significant challenges

However, rating agencies also noted significant challenges ahead, including efforts by Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District to “detach” from the Water Authority – a move that could negatively impact ratepayers across San Diego County. If the two North County agencies leave per their plans, Water Authority analysis shows that the other 22 member agencies will have to pay $16 million to $46 million more per year to cover the cost of the departing agencies.

Moody’s said detachment could lead to a credit downgrade, which would increase borrowing costs for critical water reliability projects. S&P Global called detachment uncertainty “an additional credit stressor” – “especially if an approved detachment sets a precedent if members can easily detach from the authority.” S&P added that, “this would be further exacerbated if the two members are not required to pay for their portion of the associated debt and infrastructure costs that the authority has undertaken to provide reliable water sources.”

Solid financial position

Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl said, “The Water Authority maintains a solid financial position even in these difficult times, and the credit ratings reflect that. But the challenges are real as well, and they should unify the region to ensure that we continue to benefit from the safe, reliable water supplies we’ve invested in together for the past 30 years.”

In affirming their credit ratings, the services cited the Water Authority’s strong financial leadership, including prudent strategies to manage issues related to COVID-19, its success diversifying water supply sources, its commitment to infrastructure maintenance, and its financial reserves for managing contingencies, among other factors.

  • Fitch Ratings affirmed its AA+ rating and gave a stable outlook on March 15. Fitch noted the Water Authority’s “operating costs are low”  and credited the Water Authority for “significant investments in supply diversification (that) have allowed SDCWA to continue to meet water demands in its service area.” Fitch also accounted for the Water Authority’s current hiring freeze, spending cuts and deferral of $30 million in planned capital spending to proactively manage finances during the pandemic.
  • Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its Aa2 rating and stable outlook March 14. Moody’s said, “the stable outlook reflects our expectation that the Authority’s satisfactory operating performance will continue, supported by strong management practices in the face of challenges associated with variable water supplies, rising costs, and the coronavirus pandemic.” Moody’s added: “Liquidity, including a rate stabilization fund, remains sound serving to insulate the Authority from risks associated with variable water supplies, including California’s (Aa2 stable) current drought conditions, as well as unanticipated events such as the coronavirus pandemic.”
  • S&P affirmed its AAA rating on March 17 and issued a negative outlook based on “heightened business risks associated with potential projected declines in water sales.” On the plus side, S&P cited the Water Authority’s demonstrated ability to navigate highly variable demands and weather cycles. The agency also said, “management is taking important steps” to balance fixed and variable costs, and it praised the Water Authority’s “robust infrastructure maintenance and operational policies.”

Risks include detachment

All three agencies addressed risks, such as additional local supplies that reduce Water Authority sales and member agency detachment. As proposed by Fallbrook and Rainbow, the detachments would allow those agencies 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.

In May 2020, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to oppose detachment unless four conditions can be met related to protecting Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayers, avoiding negative impacts for other member agencies, protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, and maintaining the Water Authority’s voting rights at MWD.

The issue is under review by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO. The LAFCO process, which is designed to provide for an impartial analysis of these issues, will allow the Water Authority and all other affected parties to determine if these conditions are satisfied. If not, the Water Authority will oppose detachment.

For more information about the Water Authority’s finances go to: www.sdcwa.org/finance-investor-relations. Information about detachment is at https://www.sdcwa.org/member-agencies/lafco-reorganization/.

Credit Agencies Affirm Water Authority’s Strong Ratings Despite Headwinds

March 17, 2021 – All three major rating agencies – S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch – have affirmed the San Diego County Water Authority’s strong credit ratings, which will help the Water Authority optimize its debt portfolio and minimize the cost of financing important water reliability projects. The reports cited the Water Authority’s strategic management, its conservative approach to water sales projections, and the benefits of the Water Authority’s rate case litigation that recently resulted in $44.4 million being refunded to local retail water agencies – among many other factors.

San Diego County Water Authority Priced into a Market Eager for California Paper

The San Diego County Water Authority’s decision to do a forward delivery on one of two series for a $400 million refunding paid off with the water wholesaler realizing $67.4 million in savings.

The Water Authority decided to explore what has become a more frequent option used by issuers since tax-exempt advance refundings were eliminated by the 2017 federal tax bill with the aim of realizing greater savings for ratepayers, said Lisa Marie Harris, the water authority’s finance director.

Co-lead managers B of A Securities and Loop Capital Markets priced Wednesday a $283.5 million series and $117.7 million series of water revenue refunding bonds. Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is bond counsel. Montague DeRose and Associates LLC and Acacia Financial Group are co-municipal advisors.