Board Supports County Water Authority Lawsuit

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution Tuesday to support a lawsuit accusing the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California of overcharging the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), and as a result, San Diego County ratepayers.  

The County joins the cities of Escondido, San Diego and Oceanside plus nine local water districts in supporting the Water Authority in its fight against Metropolitan.  The Imperial Irrigation District and the Utility Consumers’ Action Network are litigants supporting the Water Authority.

The Water Authority’s lawsuit argues that the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles overcharges San Diego County residents to “rent” its water-delivery pipelines to bring in water from the Colorado River and Imperial Valley. The suit also argues that Metropolitan — Southern California’s main water supplier — unfairly forces the Water Authority and local ratepayers to subsidize the water-supply costs of Metropolitan’s other 25 member agencies.

The Water Authority says Metropolitan’s overcharges could climb to $2.1 billion by 2047.  

Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis Cushman told the supervisors the overcharges were taking a toll on San Diego County’s economy.

 “The impact on our economy this year is $40 million,” Cushman said, “$40 million wrongly charged to ratepayers here in San Diego County.”  

Cushman said the money in dispute was being placed in an escrow account while the courts decide the issue. He said the account was expected to grow to $78 million by the end of 2012 and to $135 million by the end of 2013.

Cushman said if the court rules in favor of the Water Authority, San Diego County ratepayers would see the benefits.

“After we’ve deducted our cost of pursuing the cost of this litigation, Cushman said, “we’ll refund all of that money to those (who) paid it, the member agencies and their ratepayers and our 24 member agencies and cities here in San Diego County.”

At one time, Supervisor Pam Slater-Price was a non-voting member of the Water Authority and attended the meetings. Slater-Price talked about fighting Metropolitan on the issue Tuesday.

“Basically, we are their cash cow and when they get sick they come to San Diego to get well,” Slater Price said. “Our ratepayers are paying through the nose for absolutely no valid reason.”  

The next step in the lawsuit is a case management hearing  April 13. 

San Diego County Water Authority MWD Rate Challenge Information

Video of SDCWA presentation to Board of Supervisors (wmv)

View presentation PowerPoint