For years, the San Diego County Water Authority has been fighting an expensive battle to lower its dependence on water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Now the smaller agencies the Water Authority serves are waging their own effort to gain independence so they can control costs and their own water supply.
Water rates – like water itself – trickle down.
When power costs or building costs increase, Metropolitan raises rates on agencies that buy its water. The Water Authority, Metropolitan’s largest customer, pays those rates and passes along its costs to its customers.
Those customers are the two-dozen agencies that deliver water to most every home and businesses in the county. The agencies, in turn, raise their rates too – and then we all pay more.
Since a drought in the early-1990s, the Water Authority has paid – often handsomely – to lessen the region’s dependence on Metropolitan.
The Water Authority’s plan to distance itself from Metropolitan was expensive – it built a $1 billion desalination plant and entered into a deal to buy Colorado River water from farmers in Imperial County.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
As it is, local supplies, including surface water, groundwater, recycled water and conservation, currently meet about 20 percent of the region’s water demand.
There are lots of projects in the works around the County, with the City of San Diego Pure Water program being the most significant, with it planned to meet a third the City's future drinking water supply www.sandiego.gov/water/purewater/purewatersd/
Padre Dam in East County has an interesting project with their Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Facility, which could meet a quarter of Padre Dam’s water supply. https://vimeo.com/124383956
Both projects are using reclaimed wastewater, with the City planning on building a pipeline to San Vicente Reservoir and Padre Dam injecting it into the ground. Both are referred to as Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) as there is a step before the water is finally sent to water treatment plant for drinking water.
You will see more and more projects in San Diego, most being potable reuse. Hopefully we will see Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) as that will allow the treated water to be used after it is cleaned, without the interim step. We already have the technology to do it.
Ironic that after decades of trying to wean itself off MWD water imports, SDCWA finds local water agencies trying to wean themselves off CWA's imported water. As local CWA member agencies start re-purifying and reusing the water they buy from CWA, CWA's own revenues will start falling, making it harder to pay off the billions in bonds used to build giant water infrastructure projects CWA built around the county. It will be interesting to see if local water agencies and CWA become cost conscious enough to start reining in sky high executive salaries and benefits paid to their general manager and top staff. Increasing executive compensation is one key element of local water agency cost increases that can be managed. But most agency boards just rubber stamp executive salary increases and bonuses. That will have to stop.