Olivenhain Dam
The new Olivenhain Dam (left) and Lake Hodges in North San Diego County. Courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

The Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts have pushed back on an Assembly bill that would require a countywide public vote to approve their exit from the San Diego County Water Authority, accusing the city of San Diego of attempting to increase its power.

The two rural districts said in a statement that the city is “trying to make it harder — if not impossible” — for other districts in the county get less expensive water.

San Diego is sponsoring AB 530, which would  change state law relating to water districts that seek to change water suppliers by requiring a countywide vote.

The districts want to join the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, which can supply water from the Colorado River and State Water Project. The districts say they don’t benefit from the San Diego authority’s investment in desalination, new dams, recycling and other reliability projects that have led to higher rates. 

And they say the city is already effectively moving away from the county authority by virtue of lower water purchases once the giant Pure Water recycling plant opens.

“The city of San Diego is trying to set one standard for themselves and another for  everyone else,” said Jack Bebee, general manager of the Fallbrook Public Utility  District.

“Our district became part of SDCWA because the rules established by the SDCWA members allowed water districts to purchase water from whomever they  choose if the move is supported by a vote of that district’s voters — and only that district’s voters. Changing the rules now is unfair,” he said.

“Our two districts have been subsidizing other water districts down south for  years, which has unfairly burdened our ratepayers,”  said Tom Kennedy, general manager of the Rainbow Municipal Water District.

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

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