The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) has brought the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California to court, holding that MWD is overcharging the Water Authority by mischaracterizing certain water supply costs as water transportation costs. The Water Authority has hired a PR specialist to manage their image in the debate, and the Authority has accused MWD of corrupt decision-making tactics. The battle's become ugly, but could other factors be driving the soaring cost of water in San Diego County? The Planning Report sat down with UCSD's Steven Erie, a professor of political science and the Director of the Urban Studies Program, to discuss the dispute.
Erie contends that decades of aggressive mismanagement and failed policies by the SDCWA and the City of San Diego are to blame for rising water rates. A water transfer deal with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) in place since 2003 has led San Diego water rates to rise roughly 75%, with further steep hikes in the offing. The IID water costs more than MWD water, and in the future San Diego plans to buy more IID water and less MWD water.
According to Erie, "San Diego water officials are desperate, looking for a Hail Mary pass to deliver them from rate spikes and local revolt. Water rate hikes are big trouble in a town where taxes and rates are four letter words. Judging from the letters to the editor, local ratepayers are fed up. Hence the lawsuit and demonizing of MWD. What started as a business dispute has turned into a bitter family feud. Some would say it's verging on fratricide."
Thanks to Kevin Madden