The Olivenhain Dram (left) and Lake Hodges in North San Diego County. Courtesy San Diego County Waster Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority board has trimmed a proposed 2021 rate increase by 30% because of concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the regional economy.

The board also directed staff to look for further opportunities to reduce the 2021 rate increase and provide recommendations by October before the new rates take effect Jan. 1.

As adopted on Thursday, the rates charged to the water authority’s 24 member agencies — including the San Diego Public Utilities Department — will increase by 4.8% for untreated water and 4.9% for treated water. The rate increases initially proposed were over 6%.

The water authority said its costs are increasing because of reduced water sales, higher rates charged by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District for water from the Colorado River, and continued investment in supply reliability.

“We’ve taken a series of strategic steps to minimize rate impacts during this pandemic-induced recession, despite numerous factors putting upward pressure on rates,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the water authority. “At the same time, the water authority is maintaining its long-term fiscal stability while ensuring a safe and reliable regional water supply for residents and businesses that will be the foundation of our economic recovery.”

In 2021, the water authority will charge its member agencies an all-in municipal and industrial rate of $1,474 per acre-foot for untreated water, or $68 more per acre-foot than they currently pay. Charges would be $1,769 per acre-foot for treated water, or $83 more per acre-foot than in 2020.

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.

Chris Jennewein

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