Colorado River Aqueduct
The Colorado River Aqueduct brings water to Southern California. Courtesy Metropolitan Water District

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled the San Diego County Water Authority is the prevailing party in the first of two lawsuits challenging rates and charges set by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The order entitles the water authority to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs in those cases, in addition to a $44 million damage and interest award made earlier.

“San Diego prevailed, and the judgment not only benefits its own ratepayers but all of the nearly 19 million people in Metropolitan’s service area because enforcing cost-of-service principles serves the interests of all ratepayers,” said Judge Anne-Christine Massullo in her Jan. 13 order.

The exact amount of recoverable fees will be decided later.

In light of the order, water authority board Chair Gary Croucher reiterated the board’s longstanding desire to avoid litigation and find common ground with the MWD.

“This ruling only enhances our determination to find an equitable resolution that will not only conclude the few issues that remain pending in court, but also help avoid future litigation as new rates and charges are being considered for 2023 and subsequent years,” he said.

After an earlier court ruling in favor of the water authority, the MWD promised to fund almost $500 million in local water supply projects in San Diego County and the water authority agreed to dismiss some claims.

“This week’s order makes it clear once and for all that our desire to protect San Diego ratepayers was never intended to harm MWD, its other member agencies or the ratepayers they serve,” Croucher said. “Rather, the litigation was necessary to address serious flaws in MWD’s rates that will, as the court said, ultimately benefit not only San Diego County ratepayers, but all Southern Californians.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.