Water rate trends
Water rate trends in Southern California. Courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

A recent commentary by the board presidents of the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts included incomplete and misleading information about increases in future water rates in San Diego County.

Contrary to their assertion of a 50% increase over five years, the San Diego County Water Authority’s board has not set rates for future years. At the wholesale level, rate setting is done one year at a time and the process is just starting for 2023.

As part of our financial due diligence that helps maintain strong credit ratings, we forecast a range of possible future rates while we work with our partners to maintain our infrastructure and minimize financial impacts on ratepayers.

The water rates that San Diegans pay vary throughout the county depending on the retail agency that delivers water to them. Wholesale water rates that these agencies pay to the Water Authority are impacted by rates set in Los Angeles by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — and those rates are projected to go up much faster than the Water Authority’s rates.

Using similar methodology, here are the rate forecasts for each agency over the next 16 years:

  • Metropolitan Water District: 7.1% to 9.0% per year increases 
  • San Diego County Water Authority: 2.8% to 4.2% per year increases 

Water Authority projections include passing through MWD rate increases. The reason our region’s rate increases are less than MWD’s increases is the result of our reduced dependence on MWD while it faces large new water investments.

Ratepayers in agencies that are 100% dependent on MWD water will bear higher costs compared to the Water Authority’s ratepayers.

Tish Berge is assistant general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority.