San Diego County Water Authority before meeting in Kearny Mesa on July 27, 2023.
San Diego County Water Authority before meeting in Kearny Mesa on July 27, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Small, rural water districts want more power.

This week on the VOSD Podcast, Voice of San Diego environment reporter MacKenzie Elmer joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña to dish on some of the drama that’s been bubbling up in the water world this year.

It all started when two farming communities tried to leave the San Diego County Water Authority, the agency that manages regional water and works to keep taps flowing.

If the farming folks did leave, all other county ratepayers would pay more, according to Authority leaders. It would also change the Authority’s voting influence with other water boards, they say. But chief among the concerns of the defection was the uncertainty it would sow for the future of big project investments like pipelines or water recycling.

As the divorce tangled up meetings, smaller districts saw an opportunity to earn leverage. They’re now pushing state lawmakers to change voting structure at the water authority to a two-chamber system — one chamber weighted to represent population sizes and one based on pure district numbers. They want to “take the power back.”

Elmer joined the crew this week to walk through the water drama and troubleshoot compost confusion.

Diamond District Booster Gets Fired

In Southeastern San Diego, an area known as the Diamond Business Improvement District was working to boost itself up.

With the help of a governance tool called a “business improvement district,” local areas can band together and pay fees to the city to improve the look, feel and function of a business district.

The linchpins of this process are nonprofits that specialize in business development. But this week, Lopez-Villafaña learned the nonprofit responsible for the Diamond District was canned by the city.

On the pod this week, Lopez-Villafaña explains how these districts work and how the nonprofit lost its community support to keep serving the area and lost its contract with the city of San Diego.

Listen Now

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Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at

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