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FPUD and Rainbow make brave move to save ratepayers money

 

Last updated 2/12/2020 at 3:12am



Over the holidays, I received a letter from the San Diego County Water Authority designed to make customers of Fallbrook Public Utility District and Rainbow Municipal Water District worry. The tone of the letter alluded that if the two districts de-annex from the Water Authority, the reliability of our water supply would be at risk and our water prices could go up.

Since I have been to several community meetings where this change was discussed, I knew this insinuation was not true. FPUD and Rainbow have researched this option specifically to keep water rates down for our districts. Reliability would be the same because FPUD would be getting the same water, off the same pipeline, as it currently does.

As wholesale water rates our districts pay to obtain water for us have gone up – the primary driver of increasing rates – FPUD and Rainbow have researched de-annexing from the San Diego County Water Authority and making future payments for the same exact water to the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County.

It is basically a paper change of the middleman. Our districts expect this change to save FPUD about $4 million per year which will help keep our rates down. Rainbow would save even more.

FPUD and Rainbow are unique among districts that are members of the San Diego County Water Authority. We are on the extreme north of end of the county above most of San Diego County Water Authority’s expensive infrastructure which we don’t use, and we are small rural districts with agriculture versus higher density city areas to our south.

Our districts comprise a tiny portion of the authority and have a correspondingly small say so on where money is spent. The Water Authority wants to keep it that way and have us continue to subsidize water systems in the rest of the county. They are even trying to make it a county wide vote versus leaving the decision to de-annex with LAFCO – the government regulatory agency designed to approve such changes.

Why would the rest of the county want to vote to let us go if we are subsidizing their costs? It’s the same trap that regularly befalls our area.

It’s a bold proposition for our little districts to take on the “big guns” at the Water Authority for our benefit. The Water Authority doesn’t want to lose the income from our small districts. It therefore wants to fight this and is wasting public funds to do so.

The start of that campaign was the cleverly crafted letter we received suggesting that our rates could go up, safety issues arise and reliability would be in question if our districts de-annexed. The next step will be the Water Authority trying to bury our little districts in paperwork, litigation, sophisticated PR tactics and politics to try to get our districts to give up fighting for what is best for local rate payers.

Thus, de-annexing will take real effort on our districts’ part. FPUD and Rainbow would not be considering moving wholesalers if they were at risk of paying more.

I applaud FPUD and Rainbow for looking for ways to save our districts money and being willing to take on a huge challenge to make it happen. FPUD and Rainbow leadership could be lazy, stay with the status quo and keep passing on higher rates to us – it would certainly be less work for them and they’d take less political heat.

The only time most people call or communicate with their water district is to complain about their bill. I think we should have their back as they go up against a well-oiled machine to keep our bills lower.

Contact our local water districts about ways we can support this: Noelle Denke, FPUD, noelle@fpud.com, 760-999-2706; Rainbow Water, Tom Kennedy, tkennedy@rainbowmwd.com, (760) 728-1178, ext. 130.

And, no, I’m not on any water district’s staff, a politician, or paid by a district in any way. I was just mad enough after reading the Water Authority’s spin letter to write this one.

Ann Wade

 

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