The San Diego County Water Authority has upgraded the All-American Canal in the Imperial Valley to increase water supplies from sources other than the Metropolitan Water District. Photo courtesy water authority

The San Diego County Water Authority officially celebrated it 75th year at a board meeting Thursday, while also approving a record $1.7 billion, two-year budget.

On June 9, 1944, San Diego voters approved the Water Authority’s formation. Three years later, water from the Colorado River began arriving to support the growing post-war population of San Diego.

“It is a pleasure to celebrate the San Diego County Water Authority’s 75th anniversary. We share a common history and a common vision for water-supply reliability that has been essential to the economic vitality and prosperity to all San Diegans. We look forward to strengthening our relationship to meet the future needs of San Diegans,”said  Gloria D. Gray, chair of the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District, which provides most of that Colorado River water.

Now the Water Authority is focused on building independent supplies from sources such as farmers in the Imperial Valley, the desalination plant in Carlsbad and the enlarged San Vicente Reservoir.

“While today we celebrate the past, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to focus on the future by fostering innovative solutions to ever-changing water resource challenges,” said Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Together, we will supply the San Diego region with safe and reliable water supplies for generations to come.”

The budget approved at Thursday’s meeting covers fiscal years 2020 and 2021. It represents a 5 percent increase from the current two-year budget, due largely to increasing costs for water supply, supply reliability and infrastructure improvements.

Rates and charges for member agencies will increase by 4.3 percent for treated water and 4.8 percent for untreated water. The increases are primarily attributable to rate increases by the Metropolitan Water District.

In 2020, the Water Authority will charge its member agencies an all-in rate of $1,406 per acre-foot for untreated water, or $65 more per acre-foot than they currently pay. Charges will be $1,686 per acre-foot for treated water, or $69 more per acre-foot than in 2019.

To reduce 2020 rate increases by approximately $90 per acre-foot, the Water Authority plans to draw $38 million from its Rate Stabilization Fund. The fund was created in 1990 to help avoid rate spikes, especially those driven by reduced water sales. Water sales in the region are currently 10 percent below initial projections for fiscal year 2019.

“This budget and rates package reflects our commitment to cost-conscious stewardship of the region’s critical large-scale water supply system,” said Madaffer. “We’ve trimmed where we can, but inflation and other factors push costs higher as we maintain billions of dollars in assets while ensuring safe and reliable water supplies for future generations.”

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Chris Jennewein

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