Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors unanimously voted at its April 14 meeting to utilize a $2 million refund to reduce future rate increases to OMWD ratepayers. The refund resulted from San Diego County Water Authority’s decade-long litigation with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California seeking legal rates and repayment of overcharges.
With California in the throes of a second year of drought conditions, the mega-water agency of Southern California served notice Tuesday that it’s prepared to spend up to $44 million to buy water from Northern California to shore up its supplies.
The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million urban residents, authorized its staff to begin negotiating deals with water agencies north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where supplies are generally more plentiful.
Helix Water District will use $2.8 million received from the San Diego County Water Authority as part of a legal settlement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to reduce future water rates for the district’s customers.
March 17, 2021, Santee, Calif. – Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors unanimously approved using the recently received $1,157,552 rebate from the San Diego County Water Authority to offset the District’s next pass‐through rate increase from the San Diego County Water Authority. This action will result in a direct benefit to customers by the reduction or potential elimination of a water pass through increase in 2022.
The city of Escondido is being sent a rebate of $1,754,023 by the San Diego County Water Authority, of which Escondido is a member agency. The Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District, which also serves parts of Escondido, was sent a rebate of $630,781. This week the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest.
What does sexual harassment have to do with our water supply? Far more than you might think.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California imports, stores and sells the drinking water used by nearly half of the people in this state. As a consequence, the MWD is at the center of the state’s battle with ongoing drought, the agricultural sector’s demands for irrigation water and the degrading natural environment’s inability to sustain iconic species such as migrating salmon.
On top of those challenges, the organization is in the midst of a rare leadership change, as a search to replace departing General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger moves closer to a conclusion and as the MWD approaches its second century.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors Thursday announced a plan to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region.
They did so after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest after a long legal battle.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today announced a plan to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest.
The money resulted from the Water Authority’s decade-long rate case litigation in state Superior Court seeking to compel MWD to set legal rates and repay overcharges. The Water Authority won several critical issues in cases covering 2011-2014 and was deemed the prevailing party, which means the agency is also owed legal fees and charges in addition to the recent damages and interest payment from MWD.
The court rulings will also help avoid future overcharges and thereby minimize future disputes over MWD’s unlawful Water Stewardship Rate for transporting the Water Authority’s independent water supplies through MWD facilities. Those charges – if they had continued – would have cost San Diego County residents more than $500 million over the life of the Water Authority’s water delivery contract with MWD.
“A long time coming”
“This day has been a long time coming,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “We never wanted to litigate these issues – but if we had not had the courage to do so, MWD would still be collecting the illegal fees and we would not have money to give back to local retail water agencies across the region.”
Per today’s decision by the Water Authority’s Board, the $44.4 million will be returned to member agencies in proportion to their overpayments between 2011-2014. The Water Authority does not have a say in how member agencies use the refunds. The amount of legal fees and costs owed to the Water Authority is yet to be determined.
In addition to damages and interest, the rate case lawsuits generated other substantial benefits, such as requiring an increase in the Water Authority’s preferential rights to MWD water by approximately 100,000 acre-feet a year, equivalent to about twice the annual production of the $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project.
In February 2020, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to dismiss certain issues from the litigation after securing more than $350 million in local project subsidy benefits for the San Diego region. In doing so, the Water Authority acknowledged the MWD Board action to stop imposing its Water Stewardship Rate for transporting the Water Authority’s independent supplies, thus resolving for now that issue in future rate years.
As the lawsuits wind down, the Water Authority is working collaboratively with MWD member agencies across Southern California to update MWD’s long-term water resource and financial plans. MWD’s Integrated Resources Plan, known as the IRP, will be the agency’s roadmap for the future. The Water Authority is advocating for inclusion of updated data and plans by many MWD member agencies to develop local water supplies such as the Water Authority and its member agencies have done over the past two decades and will continue to do in the future.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today unanimously approved a formal resolution reaffirming its longstanding support for potable reuse and water recycling projects developed by local member agencies across the region.
“Projects such as Pure Water San Diego, Pure Water Oceanside and the East County Advanced Water Purification Project are critical to the continued development of local water sources that help sustain the region’s 3.3 million residents and $245 billion economy,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “The Water Authority has long supported water reuse and recycling projects, and we will continue to collaborate with member agencies in developing these vital local resources.”
Water supply diversification
For more than two decades, the Water Authority has promoted the advancement of water recycling and reuse in San Diego County as part of the region’s water supply diversification and reliability strategy.
The agency has sponsored and supported legislation to speed the development of potable reuse regulations in California, and has worked as an active member of the WateReuse Association to help shape the statutory and regulatory framework for potable reuse in the state. And Water Authority investments in high-priority, highly reliable water from the Colorado River support the development of local resources by delivering a low-cost baseload of water that can be recycled and repurified.
Potable reuse project funding
In addition, the Water Authority has advocated for robust funding in state bond measures, including seeking the inclusion of up to $500 million to expedite potable reuse and advanced water treatment projects in a legislative bond measure targeted for the November 2022 ballot. The Water Authority also helped secure nearly $500 million for local projects from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 2019 and 2020, and most of that money was for potable reuse.
Potable reuse relies on advanced treatment technologies to produce a high-quality drinking water that is locally controlled, drought-resilient, and reduces wastewater ocean discharges. Every gallon of recycled or repurified water reduces the need to import or develop other supplies.
Recycled water, potable reuse projects under construction
Approximately 33,000 acre-feet of recycled water is expected to be reused within the Water Authority’s service area annually by 2025. The volume is expected to continue growing as new and expanded potable reuse plants come online. They are projected to produce more than 112,000 acre-feet per year of new drinking water supplies by 2045, enough to meet nearly 18% of the region’s future water demand.
Two of the first three potable reuse projects are now under construction in San Diego County:
- The City of San Diego’s large-scale water recycling project, Pure Water San Diego
- The City of Oceanside’s advanced water purification project, Pure Water Oceanside
A third project, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, a combined effort by the City of El Cajon, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the County of San Diego, and the Helix Water District, is in the design/pre-construction phase.
A state report released in December pinned blame for sinking along the California Aqueduct on excessive nearby groundwater pumping to irrigate vineyards and nut orchards.
That was a pretty pointed finger, but not pointed enough for some committee directors in the large and powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.