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Jack Bebee is the general manager of the Fallbrook Public Utility District. Tom Kennedy is the general manager of the Rainbow Municipal Water District.
It’s certainly no secret: water bills have been rising substantially across the San Diego region.
And our two districts, the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District, which serve much of our county’s important agricultural industry, continue to pay some of the highest water costs in the region.
In fact, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) charges more for its water than just about every water agency in America.
Once again, this year, the SDCWA’s rate structure imposes on our customers cost increases of 8 percent, more than any district in the county.
According to a September 2021 analysis by the Otay Water District, the average monthly water bill in Fallbrook is $130 (the highest in the region) based on a demand of 1,100 gallons a month, and Rainbow ratepayers pay nearly $121. By contrast, Lakeside ratepayers pay only $67 while San Diego customers pay $91.
The inequitable way in which the SDCWA cost structure impacts our agencies, as well as the costs of maintaining large rural infrastructure systems, is why our districts are looking to part ways with the SDCWA and instead purchase water from the Eastern Municipal Water District. As members of the SDCWA, we financially contribute to county-wide infrastructure even though we do not use it. By switching to Eastern, our two districts would no longer continue to pay for these costs, and would collectively save an estimated $7.6 million a year, according to an independent analysis by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO, which has jurisdiction over matters like this, is reviewing our applications to leave the SDCWA, and its governing commission is expected to vote on our applications this spring.
Unfortunately, due to pressure from the Water Authority and other local water agencies, LAFCO staff is proposing that our two districts pay an exit fee of $12.6 million a year over five years ($63 million total) to help reduce any water rate impact on the other water agencies.
However, there is clear language in California’s County Water Authority Act, which governs the SDCWA, that allows our agencies to leave the SDCWA after a vote of our ratepayers. This law spells out specific payment terms, and it does not require any continued payment for infrastructure we don’t use.
LAFCO’s proposed exit fee is surprising given that the SDCWA is not requiring an exit fee from the city of San Diego, which will significantly reduce its water purchases as it “rolls off” the SDCWA and implements its Pure Water program. Under the current SDCWA rate structure, San Diego will dramatically reduce its payments to the SDCWA, forcing other agencies to pick up the tab and offset the SDCWA’s loss of revenue. According to our calculations based on this LAFCO report, the annual revenue impact of San Diego’s roll off on the SDCWA will be approximately $32 million.
This amount is substantially greater than the estimated $10-$12.5 million impact our two districts’ departure will have on the SDCWA. If Fallbrook and Rainbow do not switch suppliers, the rate impact of San Diego’s Pure Water program on our ratepayers – who already pay the highest rates in the county – will have more than triple the financial impact our detachment would have on ratepayers in San Diego. Without an exit fee, our impact would be only $1.05 per month per household for their ratepayers, according to LAFCO.
If the LAFCO commission does not approve our request to let our ratepayers vote in accordance with the law, or if it imposes a substantial exit fee, the disparity between what Fallbrook and Rainbow customers pay for water today compared to the region’s other ratepayers will widen even more so over the next several years and likely continue to devastate the agriculture economy in North County.
This wouldn’t be fair. Under the state’s County Water Authority Act, water district ratepayers have a right to vote to purchase water from whoever they choose. And the Act identifies an equitable approach to assessing an exit fee.
In making its decision, we hope the LAFCO commissioners will hear the concerns of our agricultural community, as well as our residential and commercial ratepayers, and allow us to select our own water supplier without imposing any substantial on-going payment. Our customers, who already pay higher water rates, should not be required to subsidize other agencies any longer.
The study (based on 11 Units of water used and ¾” residential meter size) conducted by Otay Water District was not recent. That study was conducted in September 2021. Also, the City of San Diego published a rate study through its Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) on January 17, 2023 minutes. Their study is based on the average water user on a 3/4″ meter using 9HCF. Please contact the city for their study. If the VOSD publishes, additional articles on water rates and uses Otay’s study, please contact us first so you know you’re using the most recent study. Thank you.
I first went to the Riverside LAFCO board meeting to voice my concerns on the sphere of influence change of Eastern Municipal Water Company. I later learned that previously seated board of Riverside LAFCO credit your agency with the task of a final decision. I hope you will consider my objection as one of the stakeholders impacted by your decision to allow Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) AKA Eastern Municipal Water District Facilities Corporation (EMWDFC) to broaden their Boasted 555 square miles sphere of influence to include property in San Diego County.
I am a neighbor 150 foot away to EMWD and EMWDFC (Eastern) Sewer water processing facility, processed sewer water storage facility, Equipment stock yard, Corporate Campus, Waste soil stockpile dumping site, Transite pipe sorting stockpile, and Employee parking facility. This former low density residential and agricultural land was consumed via eminent domain to accommodate the wishes of Eastern corporate managers. The area was known as Romola Farms later to become known as Romoland. Romoland is an unincorporated city of Riverside County. Any expansion in Eastern sphere of influence will cause need for an increase in activity and construction in my neighborhood and further create urban sprawl. Re organizing boundaries must consider original boundary creation which gave consideration to the maximum need to growth of that Spere of Influences.
Eastern has not acted as a good neighbor and quite the bully with typical bully tactics. I believe Eastern will make little attempt to return our community to any resemblance of a residential agricultural area and only further condemn our right to live well. I believe Eastern will do the same to our neighbors in Fallbrook and Rainbow.
In a conversation with employee managers at Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD) and Fallbrook Public Utilities District (FPUD) I was told that the relationship will be only in the capacity of wholesale supplier reducing rates to resident rate payers. Several people involve offered that there will be absolutely no change in where the water was processed or originated. This may be the fact on surface but after reading Eastern Urban Water Management plan, each supplier is obligated to efficiency of wholesale customers usage under SBX7-7. One of Eastern great achievements in Western Riverside County is reuse of sewer water and desalination of ground water reserves otherwise unfit to use. Won’t be long before a flush in Romoland will causes solids removed, chemicals added then sent to a pipeline dug in San Diego property consumed by Eastern eminent domain acquisition rights you are poised to allow.
I can be contacted to give you many examples of how Eastern acts to the public they now hold a legal monopoly over. I plan to post some examples on our community website EMWDN.org
Here is hope you feel an obligation to research intention, influence, and ambition of EMWD quasi municipal organization and EMWDFC quasi corporate organization before you rely on a memorandum-of-understanding with a two year term dated 2019. Here is hope you research the impact this boundary SOI has on the existing boundary our Riverside LAFCO considered with respect to their attempt to avoid urban sprawl. Here is hope you refuse any changes in the Spere of Influence if you find immediate or future impact or find Riverside LAFCO and the newly seated board should have a bigger part in the obligation to the public of both counties.
Thank you for taking the time read this letter and for your anticipated investigation of the matters of concern.
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