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Opinion: Pipe Ocean Water to the Great Salt Lake? Tread Carefully with Big Ideas

‘’We think Utah will now be in control of its destiny.’’

That’s what Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter said in 1987, as he turned on the first of three pumps designed to drain the Great Salt Lake and save the Wasatch Front from flooding.

I’m not being overly critical of the late governor, who I covered as a reporter and still respect immensely. He had little choice. The state had just paid $60 million for a west-desert pumping project. He had to put a good face on it.

San Diegans on Notice: Water Rates Could Be Rising

Come 2023, San Diegans might be paying more every time they turn on their faucet, flush the toilet or water their lawns. That’s because San Diego’s city council unanimously approved a proposal to send out notices in September for a public hearing to adjust water rates. It’s the first step before an increase. Under this proposal the rate could go up by as much as 3%.

San Diego City Council Votes to Set Hearing for Potential Water Rate Increase

Correction: San Diego City Council did not vote to raise water rates Tuesday. It voted to send out a public notice and set a public hearing on a potential water rate increase. This story has been corrected.

The San Diego City Council has unanimously voted to set a public hearing to discuss the potential of a water rate hike.

In May, the San Diego County Water Authority proposed increasing its rates by about 5% for treated water and nearly 4% for untreated water, citing inflation, increased energy costs and rate hikes set by the Southern California Metropolitan Water District

Water Authority Adopts 2023 Rates and Charges

June 23, 2022 – Faced with the same inflationary pressures that are pushing up prices for residents and businesses, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors today adopted 2023 water rates using strategies to minimize increases for its 24 member agencies and their customers.

The rates and charges will increase by 3.7% for untreated water and 5.2% for treated water in calendar year 2023 for the Water Authority’s member agencies. The increases – adopted after a public hearing – are attributable to historically high inflation, significant energy cost increases from SDG&E, and continued cost increases by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir 2023 rates

Water Authority Proposes 2023 Rates and Charges for Member Agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority is taking strategic steps to minimize 2023 rate increases for its 24 member agencies and their customers while ensuring a safe, reliable, and affordable water supply as drought grips California for a third consecutive year.

FY 22&23 Adopted Budget ($1.7 million). Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

FY 22&23 Adopted Budget ($1.7 million). Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

Water Authority staff proposed increasing 2023 rates and charges for member agencies by 5.2% for treated water and 3.7% for untreated water. The increases are attributable to historically high inflation, significant energy cost increases from SDG&E, and continued cost increases by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The rate proposal for 2023 includes strategic withdrawals from the Water Authority’s Rate Stabilization Fund, which was created in 1990 to help avoid rate spikes, especially those driven by reduced water sales. To reduce 2023 rate increases by approximately $39 per acre-foot, the Water Authority plans to draw $14.2 million from that fund.

Public comment

The Water Authority Board is expected to vote on rates for next year at its regular meeting on June 23, following a public hearing. The public is invited to comment on the proposed rates and charges. Public comment may be submitted by either of these two methods:

Before the meeting, or before the public comment closes at the meeting, submit your telephone number by e-mail to the clerk at and the clerk will call you when the Board is ready to hear your public comment (three minutes or less); OR

Before the meeting, or before public comment closes at the meeting, email your comment to the Water Authority General Counsel at , and time allowing, it may be read aloud at the public comment period (three-minute limit).

If modifications or accommodations from individuals with disabilities are required, such persons should provide a request at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting by e-mail to the Water Authority General Counsel at

(Note: Per Governor Newsom’s executive orders and state legislation, the June 23 San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Meeting will not be held in person, but electronically. The public may access the meeting electronically by going to this web link: https://www.sdcwa.org/meetings-and-documents and then clicking the link listed below “Live Stream” on the right hand side of the page).

Focus on maintaining lowest possible 2023 rates

Desal plant-5th anniversary-Carlsbad-construction

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant under construction in December 2013 reflects a significant commitment to water supply diversification. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

“We recognize inflationary pressures are challenging for many residents, and we are working collaboratively with all levels of government to identify, advocate for, and improve water affordability,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “As our rate-setting process moves forward, we will remain focused on maintaining the lowest possible rates while delivering a safe and reliable water supply during the driest period in more than 1,200 years.”

The Water Authority’s commitment to affordability includes securing $25 million from the State of California to pay water bills for San Diego County residents impacted by COVID-19; securing $80 million through advocacy efforts in 2021 and distributing that money to member agencies; avoiding hundreds of millions in future costs on water deliveries; and maintaining strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of debt.

In 2023, the Water Authority proposes charging its 24 member agencies the equivalent to an all-in rate of $1,579 per acre-foot for untreated water, or $56 more per acre-foot than they currently pay. Charges would be $1,929 per acre-foot for treated water, or $96 more per acre-foot than in 2022. (Note: An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to serve the annual needs of 2.5 typical four-person households in San Diego County).

Actual figures will vary by member agency, and each member agency will incorporate costs from the Water Authority into the retail rates it charges to residents, businesses, and institutions.

Rising costs for treatment, supplies, and energy

Water Facilities Master Plan Update-Infrastructure-Planning 2023 rates

A major rehabilitation project on the region’s historic First Aqueduct was completed in North San Diego County in January 2021. The Water Authority will continue to lead in preparing for an uncertain future by improving existing infrastructure with resiliency and flexibility at top of mind. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Water Authority’s overall rate increase is driven by multiple factors, such as rising costs for its water supplies, including increases in water treatment (driven by energy costs), conserved water supplies driven by inflation, and continued increases from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, including a 7% increase for untreated supplies.

Each year, the Water Authority’s rate proposal is developed in conjunction with an independent cost-of-service study to ensure rates and charges comply with state law, legal requirements, cost-of-service standards, and Board policies. For 2023, an additional third-party consultant hired to perform a cost-of-service review again affirmed the Water Authority’s process. Throughout the six-month rate-setting process, the Water Authority worked closely with its member agencies to keep the proposed rates and charges at the low end of earlier projections.

“Despite the current inflationary environment and the challenges of the pandemic, our strategic financial planning and management of debt allows us to keep the proposed rates at the low end of our projections,” said Water Authority Finance Director Lisa Marie Harris. “We continue to control rates while maintaining a complex water production, treatment, and delivery system that supports the region now and for decades to come.”

The rate proposal also includes strategic management of the Water Authority debt portfolio resulting in $130 million in net present value savings from several refundings.

The 2023 rate proposal ensures debt-coverage ratios that maintain the Water Authority’s strong credit ratings and minimize the cost of borrowing money for construction projects. This approach saves ratepayers money over the long run. The Water Authority has senior lien credit ratings of AAA from Standard & Poor’s, AA+ from Fitch ratings, and Aa2 from Moody’s.

For more information about the Water Authority’s proposed 2023 rates, go to the May Board packet starting on page 215.

San Diego County’s Water Supply is in a Good Spot, But it Comes at a Cost

Starting Wednesday, residents in much of Southern California will have to limit how much water they use. The Metropolitan Water District declared a water shortage emergency in April and took the unprecedented action of limiting outdoor watering for millions of residents in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernadino counties.

Right now, San Diego County is sitting in a really good spot. The San Diego County Water Authority has worked to diversify where our water supply comes from, like from the new water recycling plant in Santee.

Rising Water Rates Puts HOA at Crossroads

As San Diegans continue to battle soaring inflation, a proposed hike in water rates could drive the cost of living even higher next year.

Now, one group of homeowners could decide to pay for a big change now, to avoid more increases later. They’re the 192 owners at The Lakes at Carmel Del Mar, a condo complex that has five lakes and winding walkways surrounded by grass.

Water Rates Could Be on Rise Too – Board to Review Agency Call for Hikes of Up to 5.2%

The San Diego County Water Authority Thursday proposed increasing rates for its 24 member agencies by 5.2% for treated water and 3.7% for untreated water in 2023.

The agency cited inflation and increasing energy costs along with rising expenses from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“We recognize inflationary pressures are challenging for many residents and we are working collaboratively with all levels of government to identify, advocate for, and improve water affordability,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “As our rate-setting process moves forward, we will remain focused on maintaining the lowest possible rates while delivering a safe and reliable water supply during the driest period in more than 1,200 years.”

Water Authority Proposes 2023 Rates and Charges for Member Agencies

May 26, 2022 – The San Diego County Water Authority is taking strategic steps to minimize rate increases for its 24 member agencies and their customers, while ensuring a safe, reliable, and affordable water supply as drought grips California for a third consecutive year.

Water Authority staff today proposed increasing rates and charges for member agencies by 5.2% for treated water and 3.7% for untreated water in calendar year 2023. The increases are attributable to historically high inflation, significant energy cost increases from SDG&E, and continued cost increases by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The Water Authority Board is expected to vote on rates for next year at its regular meeting on June 23, following a public hearing.

State Tightens Drought Rules as S.D. Officials Fear Higher Water Rates

California approved new drought restrictions Tuesday, much to the chagrin of San Diego County’s top water managers, who fear increased conservation will further drive up the region’s soaring cost of water.

The new rules, called for by Gov. Gavin Newsom, require nearly all water suppliers in the state to ratchet down residential water consumption, while banning commercial water users from irrigating “non-functional” turf.