Illustration by Adriana Heldiz

Two North County farming communities can divorce the San Diego County Water Authority and buy cheaper water elsewhere.

That’s what San Diego’s boundary referees, the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO, decided Monday. It was the eight-member board’s third try voting on this controversial breakup that powerful politicians from San Diego, Los Angeles and even the state Legislature tried to defeat. 

But a majority of the commission, led by Republican Supervisor Jim Desmond, agreed there was nothing in state or local law preventing the departures of the Rainbow Municipal Water District and the Fallbrook Public Utility District. 

“We would like to see (the Water Authority) stay whole,” Desmond said. “None of us want to see rate increases, but we have to work with the law and administrative code before us.”

The Water Authority, backed by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s administration, said Rainbow and Fallbrook are leaving the other 22 water districts on the hook for their share in growing water costs, an estimated $200 million. Staff at LAFCO say the price tag is more like $66 million minus some infrastructure the Water Authority never built for those two communities. 

The vote was 5 to 3 with Supervisor Joel Anderson, the deputy mayor of Solana Beach, Kristi Becker, and San Diego Councilmember Stephen Whitburn voting against the divorce. 

The divorce isn’t final until residents in both departing water districts approve it as well, however. And the Water Authority has already suggested it’s exploring legal action against the LAFCO decision. 

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