The Colorado River Aqueduct, which still provides a significant amount of San Diego County’s water. Courtesy Metropolitan Water District

The San Diego County Water Authority is considering rate increases for 2021 of 6.2% for treated water and 6.3% for untreated supplies as the COVID-19 pandemic puts pressure on operations.

The proposal that will be considered by the water authority’s board on May 28 calls for charging member agencies $1,790 per acre-foot for treated water and $1,495 for untreated. A public hearing will follow on June 25.

An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons — enough to serve the annual needs of 2.5 typical four-person households in San Diego County.

“The pandemic-induced recession, coupled with reduced demand and increased costs are among the many factors putting significant upward pressure on rates,” said General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “We’re recommending a series of strategic steps to minimize rate increases while maintaining our long-term fiscal stability and the integrity of the regional water supply system.”

Member agencies like the San Diego Water Department would face an overall increase of about 3% taking into account both the higher rates and lower water volume during the pandemic.

The region’s farmers will continue to pay less but accept possible supply interruptions. Their proposed rates are $1,072 per acre-foot for treated water and  $777 for untreated.

The water authority said the rate increases are necessary because of higher rates set by the Metropolitan Water District, higher costs for independent supplies from the Colorado River, and the need to spread the authority’s operating costs over a lower volume due to the pandemic.

“During this unprecedented time, staff has worked diligently to keep rate increases manageable despite severe challenges,” said Finance Director Lisa Marie Harris. “There are no simple solutions, but together we can sustain the water storage, treatment and delivery system that will help San Diego County move from pandemic response to economic recovery.”

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Chris Jennewein

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