Headquarters of Eastern Municipal Water District
Headquarters of the Eastern Municipal Water District in Perris. Courtesy of the district

The San Diego County Water Authority wants county voters to weigh in on whether the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts can detach and join an agency serving Riverside County.

The Fallbrook Public Utility District and Rainbow Municipal Water District, which together serve around 50,000 customers in North County, are seeking to detach in hopes of paying less for water for their largely rural communities.

San Diego water rates are relatively high because of the water authority’s investments in desalination, new dam capacity and aqueduct improvements to avoid the effects of increasingly numerous droughts.

A document prepared for the Rainbow district’s Dec. 3 board meeting states that “…our ratepayers have received zero benefit from the vast majority of these facilities. In effect, the ratepayers of the district have subsidized the water costs of everyone located south of its boundaries over the years…”

The document argues that leaving the San Diego water network would only pose a supply risk in the unlikely event of a major earthquake along the Elsinore Fault Zone.

Both districts are seeking to join the Eastern Municipal Water District, which serves southwestern Riverside county.

The San Diego water authority has taken no official position, but believes the matter should be submitted to a countywide vote because it would affect rates throughout the region.

“To date, the agencies have made public a general proposal, but have not explained how detachment would affect water supply reliability, rates or infrastructure for the water authority and each of its 24 member agencies, including Fallbrook and Rainbow customers,” the water authority said in a statement.

The San Diego authority was created in 1944 by the state Legislature, which established a service area extending throughout San Diego County.

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