The Colorado River Aqueduct transports water destined for San Diego. Courtesy Metropolitan Water District

The San Diego County Water Authority‘s board voted to largely end a decade-long legal battle with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California after securing over $350 million in concessions.

“Late last year, the MWD board of directors approved more than $350 million for water supply projects in San Diego County,” said board Chair Jim Madaffer after Thursday’s action. “That was a major development, and today’s action by our board recognizes that fact, along with other actions the MWD board has taken recently in response to the water authority’s claims and prior court rulings.”

The water authority’s action represents a major step toward resolving suits that challenged water rates and charges imposed by MWD and paid by San Diego County water customers from 2010 to 2018. The parties can now avoid a trial scheduled for June.

“While we had hoped for a comprehensive settlement, our board ultimately decided that the most efficient path forward was to unilaterally implement major elements of our last settlement offer,” said board Secretary Christy Guerin, who represents the Olivenhain Municipal Water District and led negotiations with MWD.

The lawsuits stemmed from historic agreements the water authority signed a decade ago to secure independent sources of water from the Colorado River and reduce the San Diego region’s once near-total reliance on MWD. To transport these Colorado River water supplies to San Diego County, the water authority must use pipelines controlled by MWD.

The nearly $352 million in new funding  for water projects in San Diego County includes:

  • $285.6 million for San Diego’s Pure Water project
  • $23.6 million for the Fallbrook groundwater desalter project
  • $42.7 million for Oceanside’s Pure Water project

“While today’s water authority board action does not resolve all of the issues, it is a major step forward toward that objective,” said board Vice Chair Gary Croucher, who represents the Otay Water District. “This action positions us to resolve all cases as quickly as possible on terms that will continue to protect the long-term interests of San Diego County ratepayers.”

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Chris Jennewein

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