by Joe Kuebler
It’s never a good sign when a local agency responsible for delivering water decides instead to sling mud at a fellow agency as part of an unnecessary, costly lawsuit strategy. Yet that is the state of water affairs these days in the region.
Millions of ratepayer dollars are being expended on a lawsuit brought by the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA). The underlying issue is how to fairly charge local water districts throughout Southern California for supplies imported from the Colorado River and Northern California. SDCWA would like other communities to pay more so it can pay less. As part of its public relations campaign, it has established a web site to release “facts” about a “secret society” of conspiring agencies such as the neighboring Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD), putting water agencies in the uncomfortable position of responding to the mud and explaining what is really happening.
Water travels long distances from Northern California and the Colorado River to get here. The supplies are imported by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan), a regional government with 26 member agencies, including SDCWA and EMWD.
Metropolitan stores and delivers the supplies throughout a 5,500-square-mile service area to 19 million people. It operates one of the largest integrated water delivery systems on the planet. It is one system. Everyone pays the same charge for a treated supply. The same charge to run the vast transportation system. The same charge for electricity to move the water.
SDCWA, by its local choice, has purchased a costly, separate supply from the Colorado River. Metropolitan imports this separate Colorado supply and delivers to SDCWA a blend from all its sources. Metropolitan charges SDCWA the same rate for transportation that everyone else pays. But SDCWA doesn’t view the water system as integrated. They only want to pay for a portion of the transportation system – and if successful, the remaining portion is redistributed and your rates will increase. Hence the lawsuit, the PR campaign, the name calling and the mud.
We are all part of one integrated water system. We all must pay our fair share.
Joe Kuebler is the EMWD Board President.