San Diego’s City Council is poised in the next two weeks to approve a $50,000 contract to study the $10.6 million annually subsidy that normal San Diegans are giving to golf courses, homeowners associations and biotechs that buy water from the city’s purple pipe system.

We highlighted the subsidy in a story earlier this week, which noted that customers who buy reclaimed water — sewage that’s clean enough for irrigation — are paying an exceptionally low price for the water. It costs more to make the reclaimed water than the city sells it for.

The $50,000 study was already in the works, so it’s not a reaction to my story. But a discussion at a council committee Wednesday was. Councilwoman Donna Frye passed out copies of the story and a subsequent post detailing the Mayor’s Office’s obfuscation on the topic.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said she’d been trying to get answers about the subsidy since October.

“Rob Davis didn’t take too long to get his information,” Lightner said, “but it took me until April 1.”

Alex Ruiz, the interim director of San Diego’s public utilities department, said he took exception to my characterization that the city was not being cooperative in sharing information.

“We don’t have information we’re trying to hide,” Ruiz said.

His department, though, still hasn’t answered questions that I posed more than three weeks ago.

Ruiz committed to Frye that he’d bring the next draft study to the City Council for review. Earlier drafts studying the subsidy were shared with other water districts but not the council.

“I won’t presume to answer for Mr. Davis,” Frye said, “but I find it more often than not difficult to obtain information without going through a lot of hoops and jumps.”

If the council approves it, the study’s expected to be complete in about four to five months, Ruiz said.


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