Posts

Water Authority Congratulates New MWD GM Adel Hagekhalil

On June 8, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board of Directors voted to approve Adel Hagekhalil as the next General Manager replacing Jeff Kightlinger, who announced his retirement. Hagekhalil is scheduled to meet with the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors at its June 24 board meeting.

The San Diego County Water Authority issued the following statement by Board Chair Gary Croucher:

“It is with great pleasure that I congratulate Chairwoman Gloria Gray and the MWD Board of Directors on the selection of Adel Hagekhalil to serve as the district’s next General Manager. Adel is exactly the kind of person and visionary leader Southern California needs, especially as we experience another period of sustained drought, to help guide MWD as it faces important near- and long-term planning decisions impacting its water supply resources and water rates and charges.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California-Adel Hagekhalil-GM

Water Authority Congratulates New MWD GM Adel Hagekhalil

On June 8, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board of Directors voted to approve Adel Hagekhalil as the next General Manager replacing Jeff Kightlinger, who announced his retirement. Hagekhalil is scheduled to meet with the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors at its June 24 board meeting

Adel Hagekhalil-MWD-General Manager

Adel Hagekhalil is the new general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Photo: Adel Hagekhalil

The San Diego County Water Authority issued the following statement by Board Chair Gary Croucher:

“It is with great pleasure that I congratulate Chairwoman Gloria Gray and the MWD Board of Directors on the selection of Adel Hagekhalil to serve as the district’s next General Manager. Adel is exactly the kind of person and visionary leader Southern California needs, especially as we experience another period of sustained drought, to help guide MWD as it faces important near- and long-term planning decisions impacting its water supply resources and water rates and charges.

“In addition to his demonstrated skills as an agency manager and water policy leader, Adel brings to the MWD table a highly collaborative style of leadership and commitment to meet the unique needs of each of the district’s 26 member agencies. He is also committed to continuing his advocacy to address equity and environmental and social justice issues impacting Southern California’s underserved communities.

“Adel’s selection sends an important signal that Southern California is planning to rely more on sustainable local water supplies in the future, while not abandoning our commitment to the Bay-Delta and Colorado River. These include Water Authority agency projects such as San Diego’s Pure Water Project, the East County Water Purification Project, and Oceanside’s Pure Water Project.

“Importantly, Adel received strong support from employees who have worked for him, as well as from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council, and other officials for whom he worked and to whom he reported. He is known by all to be an inclusive leader, a bridge-builder, and an advocate for the environment, social justice, and underserved communities. Numerous San Diego County elected officials, labor, business, and community groups joined in writing letters of support for Adel’s appointment.

“In short, Adel brings exactly the kind of experience and leadership we believe MWD needs at this time, and we look forward to continued collaboration with him.”

Local Water Districts Get Piece of $44.3M Settlement Refund

A settlement between the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District is delivering a windfall of refunds to local water districts.

The SDCWA filed suits between 2010 and 2018 challenging how Los Angeles-based MWD set rates and imposed charges. SDCWA won several “critical issues” from 2011-14 and was awarded $44.3 million by a state court in January to refund rates and repay overcharges, according to a press release.

SDCWA is also entitled to attorney’s fees and costs for those cases, although the exact amount is to be determined.

The money has been reallocated to its member agencies, with most securing more than $1 million in refunded money.

Water Authority Offers to Help Parched Areas of California with Stored Supply in Central Valley

The San Diego County Water Authority’s board has directed its staff to explore opportunities to help other water districts weather an emerging drought across California.

The authority said that because of three decades of investment in supply reliability, along with a continued emphasis on water-use efficiency, the San Diego region has sufficient water supplies for multiple dry years.

Those investments include high-priority Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley, seawater desalination, and access to the Semitropic Original Water Bank in Kern County, where the authority has stored about 16,000 acre-feet of water — enough to supply more than 30,000 homes for a full year.

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.

San Diego County Water Authority Completes First Aqueduct Project In North County

The San Diego County Water Authority has completed a major rehabilitation project on the historic First Aqueduct in North San Diego County, it was announced Thursday.

The project renovated and replaced dozens of structures on two large-diameter pipelines which delivered the first imported water to the San Diego region in 1947 and remains a part of the regional water delivery system. The construction contract for the project was worth approximately $30 million.

“The First Aqueduct delivered imported water to our region for the first time more than 70 years ago, and it remains critical to water supply reliability for our region to this day,” said Gary Croucher, chair of the authority’s board of directors. “Coordination across water authority departments and collaboration with our member agencies allowed us to complete this extraordinarily complex project and ensure these pipelines operate for generations to come.”

Water Authority Prevails in Two Rate Cases Against Los Angeles MWD

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled the San Diego County Water Authority is the prevailing party in the first of two lawsuits challenging rates and charges set by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The order entitles the Water Authority to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs in those cases, in addition to a $44 million damage and interest award made earlier.

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

Building a Collaborative Vision for San Diego County

We welcome the new year with heavy hearts about the recent events in our nation’s Capitol and a renewed commitment to civility and respect at every level of government.

At the same time, we are maintaining our concentration on our priorities for the year, which are numerous and significant. I’m focused on advancing San Diego County’s interests as we continue to fulfill our mission of making sure that our region has safe and reliable water supplies at an affordable price, which is critical to maintaining our economic competitiveness and sustaining our wonderful quality of life.

Here’s some good news about how the Water Authority is putting San Diego County first in 2021:

  • As part of our commitment to meeting some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world, the Water Authority and Poseidon Water have launched a state-of-the-art project evaluating intake screen technologies at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant, which has served more than 65 billion gallons of locally produced water over the past five years. Crews are testing both active screen and passive screen technologies in Agua Hedionda Lagoon to complete the full-scale project by the end of 2023.
  • We are updating our Urban Water Management Plan, which is a critical part of meeting the long-range water needs of the San Diego region for both normal years and dry years. This planning document is increasingly important given the increasingly unpredictable impact of climate change. The planning process is, of course, a collaborative effort with our 24 member agencies as we account for their local supplies and demand projections.
  • Our low-cost supplies of conserved water from the Imperial Valley are the foundation of our diversified supply portfolio. With Board direction, staff has launched the next phase of a study to explore a new system to deliver those supplies because initial studies show it could be most cost-effective than the current system and mutually beneficial for our partners in the valley. The study will only advance if it benefits the region by providing cost savings for ratepayers.
  • As the regional economy recovers, we are working hard to protect ratepayers by maintaining a focused and strategic budget. It’s a tough balance, but we are working hard to find the right combination of near-term and long-term funding priorities in these challenging times.
While I’m glad to put the old year behind us and welcome 2021, I’m certain there will be many challenges and opportunities ahead. I’m committed to keeping you informed along the way, and to working with our Board, member agencies, stakeholders, regional leaders and ratepayers to create innovative solutions. In my 20-plus years on the Water Authority Board, we’ve never shied away from big and bold ideas – and 2021 will be no exception.
Water Authority building-Mona Rios-primary

Mona Rios Elected Vice Chair of Water Authority Board

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday elected Mona Rios as vice chair to serve with Board Chair Gary Croucher and Secretary Jerry Butkiewicz. She is the first Latina to serve as a Board officer in the Water Authority’s 76-year history.

Rios joined the Water Authority Board in January 2020, and represents the City of National City, where she serves as the Vice Mayor. A fourth-generation National City resident, Rios has served on the National City Council since 2010. She is a member of the Water Authority Board’s Legislation and Public Outreach Committee and the Water Planning and Environmental Committee.

Mona Rios has a long history of public service

She served on the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Board of Directors, was Vice Chair of the San Diego MTS Board of Trustees 2017-2019, and is an alternate member of the San Diego Association of Governments board. Rios has served as the representative for National City on numerous regional and statewide governmental agencies.

“I look forward to building partnerships that ensure an affordable and reliable water supply that helps San Diego County thrive,” said Rios. “From Fallbrook to the South Bay, we are stronger together.”

“I look forward to building partnerships that ensure an affordable and reliable water supply that helps San Diego County thrive,” said Mona Rios, after she was elected Vice Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors December 10.

After more than six years of service on the Water Authority Board, outgoing Vice Chair Christy Guerin is retiring from the Board at the end of 2020. That created an opening for a new Board officer.

“We applaud Christy for all of her efforts to support the Water Authority and our region through her distinguished career,” said Chair Croucher. “And we welcome Mona Rios to help set a course for the future – a course that we will navigate together with teamwork and a commitment to the San Diego County community.”

The Water Authority’s 36-member board, representing 24 retail member water agencies, holds its regular meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month January through October. The November and December meetings are combined. Board meetings have been conducted online since April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and are live-streamed on the Water Authority’s website. Board documents and webcasts of Board meetings are at www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

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

Building a Vision of Regional Strength Through Collaboration

If more than three decades in the fire service taught me anything, it’s that we are always stronger together. This has never been more clear than over the past several months, as the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have worked together to ensure an affordable, safe and reliable water supply, as San Diego County works to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. I truly believe we are stronger when we roll up our sleeves and work together. As we used to say on the fire lines: You go, we go.

We know how to do this because we’ve been doing it for more than 75 years. Working together, the Water Authority and its member agencies have built a water supply that supports our economy and quality of life and protects us from shortages in times of drought and emergencies. Our diversified supply, including major conservation investments in the Imperial Valley, is held up as a statewide and nationwide model.

The Water Authority plays a critical role as the region’s long-term water planning agency and wholesale water provider for 3.3 million residents and our $245 billion economy. We take the long view because we’re responsible for ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for our children and grandchildren. That’s a challenging task in our semi-arid region with few natural water resources, requiring us to look decades ahead to weigh complex options that serve the region’s water ratepayers and taxpayers.

As the newly elected Chair of the Water Authority, my number one priority will be to support critical long-term planning initiatives to ensure that water and facilities are in place to support future generations at an affordable cost. I plan to do this working in collaboration not only with the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies, but also with other regional agencies such as the Imperial Irrigation District and Metropolitan Water District. The Water Authority will also be working with key stakeholders, including environmental, business and other civic and philanthropic groups.

In taking the helm, I also want to recognize the work by General Manager Sandy Kerl, including her leadership through the myriad challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. She is responsible for day-to-day operations at the Water Authority and for guiding a talented staff of about 250 employees, most of whom are now working and sheltering in place. Sandy and her leadership team worked especially hard to limit rate increases during the pandemic, and will be looking for new ways to protect ratepayers as we head toward 2021.

In closing, I want to assure you that you can count on me in the spirit of, “you go, we go!” The Water Authority stands behind our 24 member agencies and the commitment to providing an affordable, safe and reliable water supply now, and for future generations. At the end of the day, I am confident that San Diego County is, and will remain, stronger together.