Colorado River Aqueduct
Water for San Diego is transported by the Metropolitan Water District via the Colorado River Aqueduct. Courtesy MWD

The San Diego County Water Authority’s board offered Thursday to settle a long-running dispute over rates with the giant Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The offer, made following a special board meeting, asks MWD to make $140 million in payments to San Diego County water customers to cover claims from 2011 through 2020 and, in the future, follow new, transparent procedures in setting water rates.

“The Water Authority’s proposal would benefit residents across San Diego County, enhance understanding of how MWD’s rates are set, and provide more opportunities for our agencies to collaborate in ways that would benefit water management across the Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

He said the offer “reflects our board’s strong desire to work with MWD without being under a cloud of litigation, while protecting the interests of San Diego County residents.”

The MWD directly supplied a third of San Diego County’s water as recently as 2018, and controls pipelines and aqueducts carrying water from other sources, but local projects like the Carlsbad desalination plant and the City of San Diego’s ambitious water recycling project are reducing dependency on the Los Angeles-based agency.

The settlement offer specifies a fixed price of $450 per acre-foot with escalators over time for transporting the Water Authority’s independent supplies from the Colorado River.

During Thursday’s board meeting, the Water Authority board decided not to act on a November offer by the MWD to settle the dispute, arguing that it would negatively impact the San Diego region.

The Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 24 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base in San Diego County.

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Chris Jennewein

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