Farmland in the Rainbow area
Farmland in the Rainbow area. Photo courtesy Rainbow Municipal Water District

An Assembly bill introduced late last week would require a countywide vote before two agricultural districts in north San Diego County could leave the San Diego County Water Authority.

Assembly Bill 530, introduced Thursday by Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas, would amend California’s Water Authority Act, to require a majority vote in both the separating district and the county to complete a detachment.

The Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District are seeking to join the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County in hopes of securing lower-cost water for farmers.

The Riverside district receives most of its water from the Colorado River Aqueduct and State Water Project and has not invested in expensive drought reliability projects like San Diego’s desalination plant and numerous recycling projects.

Fallbrook and Rainbow argue that as a practical matter their water comes via legacy pipelines from the north so they don’t benefit from the drought reliability investments elsewhere in San Diego County.

Their requests to leave the county authority are scheduled to be heard by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission on June 5, after which a vote could be scheduled.

“Because detachment would immediately raise the price of water for retail member agencies across San Diego County, it’s critical that every voter have the chance to weigh in,” said Mel Katz, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors.

“This is a simple matter of equity that follows the same principles LAFCO uses in similar situations to avoid disenfranchisement of voters,” he added.

The county authority has maintained that all voters in its service area would be impacted and therefore should also have the right to vote. The authority has also created special rates for customers in Fallbrook and Rainbow in response to their complaints.

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