In the world of water politics, there are few relationships as fraught as the one between the San Diego County Water Authority and its larger rival, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The groups, two of the country’s largest water agencies, fought each other again and again this year over policies that affect the water supplies of 19 million Californians.
San Diego relies on Metropolitan for most of its water, which Metropolitan brings into Southern California from Northern California and the Colorado River. San Diego is also Metropolitan’s biggest customer and has seats on Metropolitan’s board, which meets in Los Angeles.
The biggest round in the bout went to San Diego, which won $235 million from Metropolitan earlier this year. A judge ruled that Metropolitan charged too much to deliver some water to San Diego from the Colorado River. Metropolitan will appeal that ruling. So far, the two agencies have spent more than $30 million in legal fees on the case.
That case got a lot of attention, but some smaller fights did not, even though they also involve hundreds of millions of dollars and affect long-term relationships that may determine who has water and who does not.
According to the County Water Authority, its representatives to the Metropolitan Board of Directors did not support about a fifth of the 140 or so actions the board considered in 2015. Over the year, the San Diego delegation also sent 20 letters to the rest of Metropolitan’s board, expressing concerns about some of these actions. Sometimes, San Diego was able to win support from other Metropolitan board members. Often it was not.