Vista, Calif. — Vista Irrigation District board of directors voted to use $1.57 million received from the San Diego County Water Authority as part of a legal settlement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to offset the financial impact of Water Authority rate increases over the next five years.
Residents across San Jose can expect to see their water bills increase in the coming months no matter what company they get their water from — a trend that could continue year after year for the next decade.
Santa Clara Valley Water District, the region’s wholesale water provider, plans to raise its rates by up to 9.6% each year for the next eight years, followed by an 8.7% jump the following two years. The monthly rate increases would equate to an approximate $4.50 to $5.10 increase per month for customers, according to the water district.
The electronic payment the Rainbow Municipal Water District made to the San Diego County Water Authority didn’t process by the date it was due, so Rainbow was assessed a late penalty. The fault was in the electronic processing rather than Rainbow’s lack of a payment attempt, so March 25, the SDCWA board unanimously approved a waiver of the penalty.
San Diego officials have proposed a water and sewer rate hike to update city infrastructure as large changes are on the horizon, it was announced last week. The city is looking to increase wastewater rates by 5 percent starting January 2022, the first rate hike for that service in a decade. In addition, the city’s Public Utilities Department — which provides water and sewer services to customers, including Rancho Bernardans — is proposing to pass regional water cost increases to its customers in a 2 percent rate hike starting in 2022.
Two East County water agencies plan to reduce future water rates by using millions of dollars they received from the San Diego County Water Authority as part of a legal settlement. The Water Authority announced a plan Feb. 25 to distribute $44.4 million to its 24-member agencies — including the Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District — after receiving a check for that amount from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
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.
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.
Customers of Silicon Valley’s largest water company are in an uproar after receiving yet another proposal to substantially hike up their monthly water bills. Under a new proposal from San Jose Water, the monthly bill of a typical customer would increase nearly 30% over the next four years — and that’s on top of an about 60% rise in rates since 2015.
I have some important news for our region to share: The San Francisco Superior Court has ruled the San Diego County Water Authority is the prevailing party in the agency’s first two lawsuits 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 awardmade earlier.
“San Diego prevailed, and the judgment not only benefits its own ratepayers but all of thenearly 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. 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.
The 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.
This order is another major step toward achieving Water Authority board objectives and one of my key initiatives as Board Chair: to conclude the litigation and work together with other MWD member agencies to address MWD’s water resource and rate challenges. This is essential in order to ensure MWD’s fiscal sustainability—and that of its member agencies—now and in the future.
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