A spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders just sent over answers to questions I posed several weeks ago when I was reporting on the city’s reclaimed water subsidy.

My story, which ran last week, noted that San Diegans are helping subsidize a small group of golf courses, homeowners associations and biotechs through their water bills. Those few customers buy water from the purple pipe system, which costs more to make than it sells for. The subsidy costs tap water customers San Diegans $10.6 million annually, according to a confidential city study we obtained.

The information the Mayor’s Office sent was specific, detailed and exact — tracking some costs down to the cent.

With one notable exception: When I asked about the subsidy and whether the city loses money selling the highly treated sewage that’s considered safe enough for irrigation but not drinking.

I asked how much of a subsidy the city provides for reclaimed water customers (it’s also called recycled water). The response says:

A: The cost of recycled water ($.80/ [unit]) has been set to incentivize customer conversion from potable to recycled water. A recycled water pricing study is currently underway to determine the degree to which this rate adequately supports the cost of recycled water operations. This study is expected to be completed within 6 months.

I asked the same question another way: Does the city lose money producing reclaimed water? Or does it recover costs? The response says:

A: The price of recycled water is set at $.80 per [unit] to encourage the maximum use of recycled water, thereby relieving demand from the potable water system. A recycled water pricing study is currently underway to determine the degree to which this price supports the existing operations of the recycled water system, where the various cost components are accounted for (sewer fund, or water fund) and to determine the degree to which the recycled water price should increase, if at all, in order to fund system requirements based upon expected future demands. This report will be completed in 6 months.

The city knows the answers to those questions — it just isn’t sharing. We obtained an earlier draft of the report that’s scheduled to be finished in six months. It’s what pinned the subsidy at $10.6 million annually.

The new report isn’t supposed to recalculate that subsidy — just figure out a pricing structure that won’t draw lawsuit threats as the draft did.


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