Posts

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Threat Emerges to Reduce Water Supply Reliability, Fracture Region

Thank you for your support over the past two years. It’s been an honor to serve as the chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. While some may not realize it, this 36-member Board plays a critical role in sustaining San Diego County’s quality of life and economy.

And I’m pleased to say that this Board engages in the difficult discussions and decisions to make sure our children and grandchildren enjoy the same safe and secure water supplies that we enjoy today. Unfortunately, it’s also true that efforts are underway that would undermine decades of successful planning that has served our county well from Fallbrook to San Ysidro.

This week, the Water Authority filed a formal response to address a proposal by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to detach from the Water Authority and annex into Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. These proposals would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.

Our detailed filing with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) spells out how the Fallbrook and Rainbow detachment proposals contain significant areas of misleading or incomplete information that must be addressed before LAFCO and all of the interested parties countywide can understand the full scope of impacts that would be created by detachment. The LAFCO process is expected to take at least another year.

As proposed by Fallbrook and Rainbow, the detachments would allow Fallbrook and Rainbow 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.

Our agency’s analysis shows that detachment, as proposed, would reduce water reliability and increase risk for Rainbow and Fallbrook customers, create environmental impacts that haven’t been studied, and impair the successful long-term planning efforts that have served our county well. And it would give Riverside County water agencies more control over San Diego County’s water future, including water rate and property tax impacts. The Water Authority’s formal response to the Fallbrook/Rainbow reorganization proposals and related documents are at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-reorganization.

It’s critical that LAFCO and all the interested parties across San Diego County take the time to address the full scope of consequences created by these unprecedented proposals so we avoid unintended harm to our region. The Water Authority, its member agencies and regional planning agencies such as SANDAG have worked together for more than 75 years to provide this region with safe and reliable water supplies. Trying to turn back the clock now is a costly, difficult process with numerous impacts to Fallbrook and Rainbow customers and across the region.

As we transition to the new Board leadership in October, I trust that you will give incoming Chair Gary Croucher and Vice Chair Christy Guerin the same support that you’ve given to me over the past two years. And don’t forget that whatever the challenges, San Diego County is stronger together.

Water Agencies Plan to Abandon Costs, Reduce Supply Reliability

Analysis released today shows that proposals by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to leave the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.

Numerous financial, environmental and legal issues that affect property owners and water users across San Diego County are analyzed in the Water Authority’s formal response to the reorganization proposals filed today with the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO.

Climate Change Likely to Keep Hammering Colorado River’s Biggest Reservoirs, Model Shows

The Colorado River’s largest reservoirs are expected to keep struggling over the next five years due to climate change, according to the federal agency that oversees them.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s new modeling projections, which include this year’s record-breaking heat and dryness in some parts of the southwestern watershed, show an increasing likelihood of an official shortage declaration before 2026.

If dry conditions like the Colorado River Basin has seen since 2000 persist, the agency’s model shows an almost 80% chance of seeing an official shortage declaration by 2025. The chance of seeing the reservoir drop to a critically low level is about 20% in that same time period.

Recycled water-Olivenhain Municipal Water District-APWA-collaboration

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Recycled Water Expansion Project is Project of the Year

Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Recycled Water Pipeline Extension 153A was recognized September 10 as a 2020 Project of the Year by the San Diego and Imperial County Chapter of the American Public Works Association at its virtual awards event.

The pipeline extension connected the Surf Cup Sports youth soccer fields in San Diego to OMWD’s recycled water distribution system. By allowing Surf Cup to convert the irrigation of 55 acres of grass fields to recycled water, OMWD has reduced potable water demands for irrigation by up to 100 million gallons per year.

“OMWD’s board is honored to receive this award for a collaborative project, which expanded the use of recycled water while protecting the environment,” said OMWD Board Treasurer Larry Watt. “Additionally, state grant funding helped pay for the project, reducing costs for our ratepayers.”

Project of the Year will save up to 100 million gallons of potable water annually

The project involved the installation of 1,600 feet of 8-inch PVC pipeline that required specialized drilling and interagency cooperation to be completed. The pipeline needed to cross the San Dieguito River, causing design, permitting, and construction obstacles. OMWD’s design team used horizontal directional drilling to install the pipeline more than sixty feet below the river bottom.

Horizontal directional drilling reduces not only surface area damage, but also environmental impacts from construction site dust, making it less impactful to nearby habitat and communities than traditional excavation work.

Interagency cooperation benefits wildlife

OMWD worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on a streambed alteration agreement to ensure the protection of fish and wildlife habitat. OMWD also worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect nesting birds such as the federally listed clapper rail and barn owl.

By OMWD taking proactive steps, such as daily biological sweeps of the project and inspections of the trenchless process, there was no adverse impact to habitat or species in the project area.

City of San Diego, Santa Fe Irrigation District collaboration with OMWD

Interagency cooperation was also required for the project. The property is served water by Santa Fe Irrigation District and owned by the City of San Diego. While SFID did not have nearby recycled water infrastructure, it wanted to provide Surf Cup fields with a drought-resilient water supply. The OMWD pipeline project meets that need.  The San Diego City Council approved a permanent utility easement allowing crews to access the property.

Grant funds support regional water management efforts

California’s Department of Water Resources awarded $202,300 for the project in Proposition 84 funding, which is administered by water wholesaler San Diego County Water Authority through the Integrated Regional Water Management program. The San Diego IRWM Program supports collaborative water management to increase regional self-reliance throughout California.

APWA is a professional association of public works agencies, private companies, and individuals dedicated to promoting public awareness through education, advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge. The APWA San Diego and Imperial County chapter annually recognizes the best public works projects and professionals in San Diego and Imperial Counties. The Project of the Year award is also intended to highlight the collaboration and cooperation between public and private agencies, contractors, and consultants, to complete public works projects.

Environment Report: State Throws Cold Water on Pricing Scheme

Water customers in Imperial Beach and Coronado were at risk of a suspect pricing mechanism, according to a ratepayer watchdog, until state regulators stepped in late last month. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s dive into one of the wonkier features of the state’s water market.

Opinion: Metropolitan Water District Can Do Better for Southern California Amid COVID

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of uncertainty and anxiety, but also a time of compromise and collaboration. We have all been asked to make sacrifices both big and small for the greater good — face masks, changing business operations, remote work, outdoor dining and countless other accommodations.

Public agencies — especially those that deliver an essential commodity like water — should operate in the same collaborative spirit to protect ratepayers and offer relief during the continuing economic fallout.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have taken action to protect ratepayers by implementing strong cost-cutting strategies to limit rate increases without sacrificing a safe and reliable water supply or the ability to plan for the future.

San Diego County Water Authority Seeks Rate Relief at MWD

With the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic causing economic havoc nationally and across Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority has adopted several cost-cutting strategies to reduce rate increases and it’s asking the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to do the same.

San Diego County Water Authority-Rate Relief-MWD-COVID-19

San Diego County Water Authority Seeks Rate Relief at MWD

With the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic causing economic havoc nationally and across Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority has adopted several cost-cutting strategies to reduce rate increases and it’s asking the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to do the same.

When the Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved its 2021 rates in June, it limited rate increases to 4.8-4.9% – and more than 60% of that rate increase is directly attributable to MWD. The Water Authority Board also directed staff to return this fall with any other cost savings, specifically, any pass-through savings from MWD.

Water rates and COVID-19

So far, MWD’s Board has directed agency staff to look for cost-cutting measures – but MWD staff is proposing not to offer further rate relief.  Even though MWD is proposing to initiate cost-containment efforts to save $11.7 million in FY2021 (less than 0.6% of its budget), MWD’s September rate review memo recommends not to incorporate the savings into its budget and not to offer rate relief because it found member agencies “have not experienced significant [financial] impacts attributable to COVID-19.”

Water agencies face financial pressure

In reality, San Diego County and the nation continue to face a recession and double-digit unemployment, and many water agencies across Southern California are facing financial pressure due to unpaid bills by residents and their own efforts to provide rate relief.

In response to those unprecedented pressures, the Water Authority froze hiring, limited travel and training, and delayed equipment replacement, among other efforts.

“The Water Authority Board believes that it is important for all water suppliers, including MWD, to be recognized as part of the solution for Southern California ratepayers during this difficult time,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “MWD has an opportunity to help millions of ratepayers by tightening its belt like the Water Authority and numerous other water agencies have already done.”

Nation’s largest water agency has opportunity to help ratepayers across Southern California

Madaffer wrote a letter to MWD’s Board chair this week encouraging the nation’s largest water agency to take additional cost-saving steps. One way MWD could benefit all member agencies would be to reduce its water transportation rates by $15 per acre-foot. This would trim MWD’s budget by about 1.3% and provide $24 million in savings to Southern California water agencies.

However, Madaffer said the Water Authority is open to other ways that MWD can cut costs and reduce rate increases.

“We want to be clear that it also is not our intention to impede in any way MWD’s ability to provide a safe and reliable water supply to its member agencies – to the contrary, we believe these cost savings may be achieved without having any material impact on service,” Madaffer said.

To read Madaffer’s letter and submit a letter of support for rate relief to MWD, go to www.sdcwa.org/support-rate-relief-mwd.

FPUD Approves Additional LAFCO Deposit

San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission requires a deposit to process applications to LAFCO for jurisdictional changes, and the Fallbrook Public Utility District will be providing an additional deposit to process the application for FPUD to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District.

A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Monday, Aug. 24, authorized an additional $62,220 deposit to LAFCO. The deposit is expected to cover an additional 510 hours of LAFCO staff time at LAFCO’s rate of $122 per hour.

San Diego Water Managers Seek Better Rain Forecast Information

San Diego water managers are working with local researchers to understand how atmospheric rivers bring water to the region.

The moisture-laden storm systems bring rain to Southern California, but too much rain can be damaging.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers are working to better understand atmospheric rivers, or ARs, so they can predict when and where the weather systems will hit.