A California Superior Court judge has found that San Diego County water customers have been systematically overcharged by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). Back in 2010, the San Diego County Water Authority sought to challenge the water rates being charged by the MWD. At that time, the Water Authority asked for my help in challenging these rates and, after reviewing the facts, I agreed to join the fight. The litigation dragged on….and on….and on. Finally, after a five-day trial held Dec. 17-23, 2013, and untold numbers of motions, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge ruled that MWD’s rates artificially inflate the cost of its water transportation services by improperly including unrelated expenses. Specifically, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow ruled that: “San Diego has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that it was in fact damaged by paying conveyance rates that were higher than Met could have set pursuant to applicable law and regulation.”
The cornerstone of this diversification strategy is a set of historic agreements the Water Authority signed in 2003 to secure its own sources of water from the Colorado River. Under long-term agreements, ranging from 45 to 110 years, the Water Authority purchases water from the Imperial Irrigation District and receives other independent water supplies from relining the All-American and Coachella canals. In order to get this water to San Diego County, the Water Authority uses pipelines that are controlled by MWD.
The Water Authority is the only MWD member agency that uses the pipelines MWD controls to transport a large volume of third party water supplies each year. MWD’s illegal rates cause significant financial harm to the San Diego region. The overcharges may grow to as much as $217 million annually as the Water Authority’s independent Colorado River supplies reach their peak in 2021. Collectively, these overcharges amount to $2.1 billion over the life of the agreements. For more information about the tumultuous relationship between the MWD and San Diego County, read the Voice of San Diego story summarizing this case and its history.