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Padre Dam Votes to Return Money to Customers

Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors has 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 CWA. This action will result in a direct benefit to customers by the reduction or potential elimination of a water pass through rate hike in 2022.

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

Local Water Agencies to Receive $44.4 Million Rebate

I’m so pleased report that yesterday 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.

The rebate 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.

This day has been a long time coming. 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.

MWD Overcharges-Rate Case-Rebates-Member Agencies

Water Authority to Split $44.4M Among Local Agencies After Win in Legal Battle With MWD

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.

MWD Overcharges-Rate Case Rebates-San Diego County Water Authority

$44.4 Million in MWD Overcharges Being Returned to Local Water Agencies

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.

MWD Overcharges-Rate Case-Rebates-Member Agencies

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.

SoCal Water Managers Want to Know Who – Exactly – is Sinking the California Aqueduct

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.

‘They Thought I Was So Low’: Women Say They Were Harassed, Bullied, Ignored at Powerful Water Agency

Miranda Grow loves the challenge of working with her hands. She’d had experience in carpentry and construction, and fulfilled a career dream when she was accepted as a mechanic apprentice at a large water district, relishing the behind-the-scenes work to deliver clean water to faucets and shower heads across Southern California.

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.

San Diego County Water Authority-Building at night-MWD

Water Authority Prevails in Rate Litigation

The San Francisco Superior Court has ruled the San Diego County Water Authority is the prevailing party in the agency’s first two lawsuits to be heard 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.

“San Diego prevailed, and the judgment not only benefits its own ratepayers but all of the nearly 19 million people in Metropolitan’s service area because enforcing cost-of-service principles serves the interests of all ratepayers,” said Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo in her Jan. 13 order, which can be appealed. The exact amount of recoverable fees will be decided later.

In light of the order, Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher reiterated the Water Authority Board’s longstanding desire to avoid litigation and find common ground with other MWD member agencies. “This ruling only enhances our determination to find an equitable resolution that will not only conclude the few issues that remain pending in court, but also help avoid future litigation as new rates and charges are being considered for 2023 and subsequent years,” he said.

Protecting water ratepayers

The Water Authority filed lawsuits between 2010 and 2018 challenging water rates and charges as they were set and imposed by MWD on San Diego County agencies and their ratepayers. After a favorable court ruling invalidating MWD’s Water Stewardship Rate on the Exchange Agreement, the Water Authority worked with MWD to try to resolve the remaining issues. The MWD Board promised to fund almost $500 million in local water supply projects in San Diego County and the Water Authority agreed to dismiss claims against MWD’s Water Stewardship Rate on supply, which is used to fund local projects under the MWD program.

“It is deeply gratifying that the court not only validated our claims but acknowledged the importance of protecting ratepayers by water agencies following the law,” Croucher said. “This week’s order makes it clear once and for all that our desire to protect San Diego ratepayers was never intended to harm MWD, its other member agencies or the ratepayers they serve. Rather, the litigation was necessary to address serious flaws in MWD’s rates that will, as the court said, ultimately benefit not only San Diego County ratepayers, but all Southern Californians.”

Rate litigation

The Water Authority’s first two rate cases – covering 2011 to 2014 rates – resulted in the court ordering an increase in the Water Authority’s preferential right to MWD water by as much as 100,000 acre-feet a year, equivalent to about twice the annual production of the $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project. MWD has already complied with this ruling and adjusted its records accordingly.

The court also determined that MWD must pay the Water Authority damages for illegal charges imposed on delivery of the Water Authority’s water under the Exchange Agreement. A Superior Court judge in August 2020 awarded the Water Authority $44,373,872.29 covering rates paid by San Diego County ratepayers during 2011-2014.

Water Stewardship Rate charges

San Diego County ratepayers have also avoided paying more than $45 million from 2018-2020 after MWD suspended its invalid Water Stewardship Rate charges on the Exchange Agreement. The improper charges would have cost local residents more than $500 million over the term of the Exchange Agreement. Currently, MWD owns the only pipeline that can deliver the Water Authority’s independent supply of Colorado River water to San Diego County and it sets the unregulated water rates which govern and control the delivery of water to San Diego County.

In addition, the court ruled that MWD had illegally barred the Water Authority from receiving money from MWD’s local water supply program, even though the Water Authority was still being forced to pay for it. MWD lifted the ban in response to the court’s order, and ultimately promised the nearly $500 million for water supply projects in San Diego County including the City of San Diego’s Pure Water North City Project Phase 1, East County Advanced Water Purification Project, Escondido Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility and Fallbrook Groundwater Desalter Project.

Vanderlaan Named LAFCO Chair, Reappointed to New Term

Bonsall resident Andy Vanderlaan will chair the 2021 meetings of San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission, and he was also reappointed for another four-year term on the LAFCO board.

One 8-0 LAFCO vote Dec. 7 reappointed Vanderlaan as LAFCO’s public member. A separate 8-0 vote elected Vanderlaan as the LAFCO board chair for 2021 while electing County Supervisor Jim Desmond as the vice-chair for the 2021 meetings.

The public member’s term actually expires in April 2021. LAFCO had the option of reappointing Vanderlaan or seeking additional applicants. The reappointment of Vanderlaan was contingent upon his willingness to serve a seventh term. “I’m inclined to do that,” he said.

Lucia Perez Valles is one of six San Diego regional winners whose artwork appears in the 2012 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: Otay Water District 2021 Calendar

San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Six San Diego region students were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: MWD

Six students from the San Diego region were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” calendar. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. Students in grades K-12 submitted artwork through participating member agencies, after winning their local competition.

This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements on Dec. 17.

Winning students from the San Diego region

Jose Sabedra's winning entry appears on the June 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Jose Sabedra’s winning entry appears on the June 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Art from Jose Sabedra, a fourth-grader from Bostonia Language Academy and Mina Saeed, also a fourth-grader at Lexington Elementary School, appear in the calendar. They won the Helix Water District competition. Sabedra’s teacher is Sara Meier, and Saeed’s teacher is Holly Hemming. June features Sabedra’s art and Saeed’s winning work covers September.

Mina Saeed's winning entries appear on the September 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Mina Saeed’s winning entry appears on the September 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“We are always impressed by the creativity and talent of the student artists from our district, and this year was no exception,” said Jennifer Bryant, Helix Water District director of administrative services. “Congratulations again to Jose Sabedra and Mina Saeed – we are proud to see your water conservation artwork represent Helix in MWD’s 2021 Water is Life calendar.”

Lucia Perez Valles' winning entry appears on the July 2021 page. Photo: MWD 2021 calendar

Lucia Perez Valles’ winning entry appears on the July 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Sisters Lucia Perez Valles and Sofia Perez Valles both have winning artwork from the Otay Water District in the 2021 calendar. Both attend Olympian High School. Lucia is a sophomore, and Sonia is a senior. Lucia’s art appears on the July page, and Sonia’s appears in November.

Sofia Perez Valles' and Sarah Bernier's winning entries appear on the November 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Sofia Perez Valles’ and Sarah Bernier’s winning entries appear on the November 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“It is important to provide this opportunity to students in our service area, especially during the pandemic because water education is always important,“ said Eileen Salmeron, Otay Water District communications assistant. “We’re proud of all the participants from Otay, including the Valles sisters, for demonstrating their awareness of how essential water is to our everyday quality of life.”

From the Padre Dam Municipal Water District competition, sixth graders Sarah Bernier at Joan MacQueen Middle School in Kim Asfazadour’s class, and Violet Jacobson at Hill Creek Elementary School in Mrs. Kelly’s class both have posters in the calendar. Bernier’s art appears on the November page, and Jacobson’s on the December page. This is the second year in a row Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears in the MWD regional calendar.

Violet Jacobson's artwork appears on the December 2021 page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: MWD

Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears on the December 2021 calendar page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“I am so proud of the talented students who are representing Padre Dam in the 2021 Water is Life Calendar,” said Emma Shea, Padre Dam Municipal Water District communications coordinator. “These young artists have done a fantastic job at portraying the importance of water conservation as a way of life.”

See the full calendar here

Artistic expression provides environmental education  

The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar curates student art submitted from grades K-12 that carry a conservation message. Hundreds of entries are judged and 36 are featured in the annual calendar, which is distributed to about 13,000 recipients each year.