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Affordability-San Diego County Water Authority-Esquivel

Water Affordability Focus of Water Authority Roundtable

Water affordability for ratepayers was the topic of discussion during a legislative roundtable Thursday at the San Diego County Water Authority.

The Water Authority convened state, regional and local officials in search of winning strategies for enhancing water affordability for ratepayers across the county and the state.

Water agency managers, board members, elected officials and their representatives from throughout the county joined E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, to assess and address water affordability issues.

Esquivel was appointed to the Water Resources Control Board by Governor Jerry Brown in March 2017. In February 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom named Esquivel chair of that five-member board, to which he was reappointed in 2021.

During the roundtable, Esquivel said maintaining water affordability and access to safe water for Californians is challenged by pressures that include aging infrastructure and climate change.

“How to sustain our systems in the next 10, 20, 50 years is a complex issue, but we need to collectively expand access, while maintaining affordability and supply,” he said.

Water affordability and infrastructure projects

Esquivel said state loans to water projects statewide help water affordability and access to a safe, clean supply.

“Water has created the wealth of this state, and water supply investments made here are examples of what needs to be done,” said Esquivel, referring to successful supply diversification investments by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

He also discussed the need for additional water infrastructure projects – including desalination, groundwater recharge, and potable reuse, and an increase in funding sources for those projects – and the importance of federal funding to help ensure access to safe and affordable water for all communities.

Water Affordability-Joaquin Esquivel-San Diego County Water Authority

State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel and San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl discussed water affordability Sept. 29 in San Diego. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Water Authority commitment to affordability

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl detailed some of the agency’s affordability efforts in recent years.

“The Water Authority is committed to maintaining an affordable water supply and finding solutions to inherently complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments,” said Kerl. “Significant advances in affordability can only be achieved through the combined efforts of all four sectors that affect the cost of water for our region. Those sectors are the federal government, state government, wholesale water agencies and local water retailers.”

Reliable supply

Kerl said 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 $90 million over the past two years through successful litigation efforts and distributing that money directly to its 24 member agencies; avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs on water deliveries; and maintaining strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of infrastructure.

“Everything at the Water Authority is designed to deliver a safe and reliable water supply at an affordable cost, and the agency has taken numerous steps over the past three years to enhance affordability,” Kerl said. “Water affordability is imperative to equitable water access. This resource should be available to all regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level. Nobody should have to choose between safe, clean water and affordable water.”

Collaboration on solutions

Kerl said that the federal and state government, wholesale water agencies, and local water retailers can work together in finding solutions to the complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments.

A recent poll by the Water Authority found that more than half of the residents of San Diego County would support a hypothetical program that provided water discounts or an assistance program for low-income ratepayers – even if they had to pay a few dollars more a month to fund it.

The Water Authority holds periodic legislative roundtables to promote collaboration with the water industry, civic and business leaders, on critical water issues in the San Diego region.

Four in a Row: California Drought Likely to Continue

As California’s 2022 water year ends this week, the parched state is bracing for another dry year — its fourth in a row.

So far, in California’s recorded history, six previous droughts have lasted four or more years,  two of them in the past 35 years.

Despite some rain in September, weather watchers expect a hot and dry fall, and warn that this winter could bring warm temperatures and below-average precipitation.

Westlands Spearheaded Delta Restoration Project. Now, it Faces Puzzling ‘Greenlash.’

If California sees its environmental goals get met, does it really matter who contributed to the success?

Among certain environmental groups, the answer can be boiled down to a single word: “It depends.”

Boulevard Residents are Running Out of Water, It’s Not Because of the Drought

Residents living in Boulevard say they’re running out of water, and it’s not because of the drought.

They blame the lack of water on one of their neighbors, who they say is building a lake on his property.

Valley Farmer Calling on State to Increase Water Source

The devastating drought is continuing to ravage the Central Valley and is creating more of a water crisis for farmers.

Right along the edge of West Fresno County sits miles and miles of uprooted almond trees. Farmer Joe Del Bosque says he’s never seen it like this.

IID to Pay Off QSA JPA Agreement 13 Years Early

The Imperial Irrigation District board voted 3-0 Tuesday, Sept. 20 to save $24 million dollars by paying off the balance of the 2003 QSA JPA balance.

When the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) was signed in 2003, creating the largest rural to urban water transfer, another agreement came from that, the Joint Powers Authority Creation and Funding Agreement. The funds contributed to this second agreement would come from the three water districts involved in the QSA – the IID, the Coachella Valley Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority – along with the State of California.

Third generation Oceanside strawberry grower Neil Nagata of Nagata Brothers Farms is the 2021 San Diego County Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year. Photo: California Strawberry Commission

Neil Nagata is 2021 San Diego County Farmer of the Year

The San Diego County Farm Bureau named third-generation Oceanside farmer Neil Nagata its 2021 Farmer of the Year. The Farmer of the Year award is presented to an active or retired farmer who has had a positive impact on the agriculture industry, is active in the community beyond agriculture, and has represented the agricultural industry publicly on behalf of farming interests.

Nagata is the President of Nagata Brothers Farms. In 1902, Nagata’s grandfather immigrated to California from Japan and began farming strawberries in 1920. Nagata’s father George and his brothers formed Nagata Brothers Farms, and his son Neil took on the business 34 years ago. “From that point on, I’ve been farming strawberries ­– so three generations of California strawberry growers.”

Nagata joined the California Strawberry Commission in 1991 and served as a board member and past chairman of their organization. In a video produced by the California Strawberry Commission, Nagata talked about his life as a farmer alongside his 98-year-old father George, who retired just a few years ago and who still lives on the farm in Oceanside.

Facing the challenges of farming in a drought

Throughout his three decades in farming, Nagata says water management has always been a significant challenge.

“We’ve had to become very efficient and very conservative with our water. When I first started, (irrigation) technology was more rudimentary,” said Nagata.

Now, advances are helping California’s family farms survive.

“Electronic controls and electronic monitoring offer efficiency,” he said. “There is greater ease of application for field use. Costs have come down. The quality of materials has improved with advances in technology and materials. Things have become more efficient. We’re still here.”

In addition to his growing experience, Nagata is an expert in many aspects of agriculture and biological science, including field and commercial research and production. He says it takes a scientific mind and a lot of passion to be a good strawberry grower. Nagata says his father made a strong impression with his care of the land.

Neil Nagata says he still loves strawberries, especially when they are fresh from the fields. Photo: California Strawberry Commission

Neil Nagata says he still loves strawberries, especially when they are fresh from the fields. Photo: California Strawberry Commission

“All the strawberry farmers that I know including myself, really care about the land, the fruit that we produce, and the people that work for us,” said Nagata. “It’s really all-encompassing. We try to do what’s right for everybody.

“At the end of the day, we want to present something that is beneficial to our consumers and healthy and good for you, and tastes good. I still eat strawberries, and my favorite way is right out of the field,” he said. “My favorite thing about strawberry growing is being able to have people enjoy what I produce. It’s really rewarding when people just say, “You have the best strawberries.”’

Advocate, mentor, and philanthropist supporting farming

Neil Nagata served as San Diego County Farm Bureau President from 2017 – 2019, and has been a board member since 2008. He works with regulators and legislators to support fruit and vegetable production in the U.S. and Internationally. Nagata has also been involved with many other agricultural associations.

Nagata is the founding president of the non-profit California Strawberry Growers Scholarship Fund, providing scholarships for children of California strawberry farmworkers. During the past 26 years, over $2 million has been raised and gifted to farmworkers’ children.

Nagata will be the guest of honor at the County Farm Bureau’s annual Farmer of the Year event in October and celebrate his recognition among the agriculture community with family and friends.

(Editor’s note: The San Diego County Farm Bureau is a non-profit organization supporting the more than 5,700 farms within the county. The mission of the Farm Bureau is to foster San Diego agriculture through education, public relations, and public policy advocacy in order to promote the economic viability, sustainability, and community building of agriculture. For more information: www.sdfarmbureau.org.)

San Diego City Council Passes 3% Increase in Water Rates

The San Diego City Council met on Tuesday and passed a 3% increase in water rates to residents of the city.

The water rate increase comes after the San Diego County Water Authority, San Diego’s supplier of water, increased its rates by about 5% for treated water and nearly 4% for untreated water.

Marina Coast Water District Plans to Restart Desalination Plant Dormant Since 2003

The Marina Coast Water District (MCWD) announced at a meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors that it is going to restart its long-dormant desalination plant.

Remley Scherzinger, general manager for MCWD, told the supervisors that to augment their current water supply they’ll need to return to their already-built desal plant.

The desal facility was built in 1997 and was operated until 2003.

Opinion: California’s Water Usage was Built on a Historic Lie. The Cost is Now Apparent

It’s human nature to mark big-number anniversaries, but there’s a centennial looming just ahead that Californians — and other Westerners — might not want to celebrate.

It’s the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact, a seven-state agreement that was signed Nov. 24, 1922.