The City of San Diego has agreed to return more than $3.7 million to the city’s sewer fund which it took to pay for a citywide conversion to wireless water meters. The refund was made in hopes of ending a lawsuit filed by a ratepayer who said the city was charging the 8,500 sewage customers who do not use city water in order to help pay for the $67 million conversion to Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI. The new meters will allow ratepayers to monitor their current water usage as well as make it easier to check for leaks. At the same time, the city’s water department would benefit in reducing meter reading errors and cut down on employee hours.
Daytime protests weren’t enough to stop the Poway City Council from approving a set of rate hikes on water and sewer services in the city. The proposal, which passed unanimously, calls for a 4.5-percent increase on the water commodity use rate, a 7.5-percent hike on the fixed water meter charge, and 3.25 percent increases on the sewer commodity rate and the sewer service charge. “What goes up never comes down in terms of taxes, or water,” Poway resident Jason Chynn said. “They just go up, up, up, and never come back down.”
A California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to Colorado River water is using its power to demand federal funds to restore the state’s largest lake, hoping to capitalize on one of its best opportunities to tackle a long-standing environmental and human health hazard. The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The money would help create habitat for migratory birds and suppress dust in communities with high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses.
To help make sure you stay informed on the most shared and talked about stories in San Diego County, each Saturday we’ll revisit five stories from the previous week and capsulize them in this digest with the most recent updates. A report released this week confirms that most of California is no longer in drought thanks to a series of winter storms that have walloped the state in February. San Diego County is part of the 33 percent of the state that remains in the abnormally dry category but it is a stark improvement from three months ago, when the entire state was in that category.
Recent rainfall is filling the pockets of some San Diego residents who partake in rebate programs for harvesting rainwater. The area is seeing an increase in rainfall this rainy season and many residents are thinking smart. Rainfall totals are up by 2.67 inches since the start of the rainy season in October, according to the NBC 7 First Alert weather team. San Diego International Airport’s rain tracker has seen 3.5 inches of rain since the start of this year alone.
The second of three winter storms wreaked havoc Saturday through San Diego County, causing flooding, downed trees and power outages. In Del Mar, there were reports of a bluff collapse on the train tracks. Train passengers were ferried between the Solana Beach and Sorrento Valley stations while train services were stopped. A track inspector said it was ice plants falling into the ocean and not the bluff. On the main street in Del Mar, there was flooding. A crew from the swift water rescue told NBC 7 it was on standby in case anyone got stuck in the water.
High levels of lead were found in drinking water on the campus of an elementary school in Mira Mesa and on Friday, parents will get more information from school officials on what’s being done to fix the issue. Principal Tobie Pace sent a letter to students’ homes detailing that lead levels higher than the standard set by the school district were found in the drinking water at Hickman Elementary School on Montongo Street. More than 400 children attend the school in grades transitional Kindergarten to 5th grade.
The San Diego County Water Authority is making local customers aware that lawn rebates are currently 175 percent higher than normal. The average rebate on participating lawns is usually $1 per sq. ft. in San Diego County. It is currently at $2.75 per sq. ft. There is no word on when the rebate will go back down to a buck, but it could happen in the coming weeks. Rebates are not just reserved for lawn to turf replacement. In fact, the Water Authority encourages people to have water-efficient shrubs and trees as part of their gardens.
Since 2015, San Diego’s Water Department has refunded water customers more than $8.3 million, according to new data obtained by NBC 7 Responds and media partner Voice of San Diego. The bulk of the $8.3 million refund total was paid to the U.S. Navy, which received $4.7 million in October 2017 for years of water overcharges at the Naval base facilities in Point Loma. A spokesperson for the city confirmed the refund was issued in late 2017 after it was discovered that water passing through the Navy’s water meter, tied to the Point Loma facility account, was delivered to water customers across the city. This resulted in the Navy paying for water it did not use.
San Diego’s Public Utilities Department is responding quickly to recent reports on the possibility of the city’s water lines being made out of lead. Last week, as reported by NBC 7, San Diego’s Water Department had informed California’s Water Board that it couldn’t identify the materials used to make two-thirds of its service lines. The city’s disclosure differed from statements it had made to NBC 7 and media partner Voice of San Diego last year. At that time, a senior water department chemist said there were no lead pipes in the city’s distribution system.