Town Hall about changing water suppliers draws more than 100 residents
Fallbrook "Detachment" would save customers $7-10 million a year
Last updated 12/10/2021 at 8:49am
FALLBROOK – A town hall meeting Nov. 17 to discuss an effort by the Fallbrook Public Utility District and Rainbow Municipal Water District to change water suppliers and save millions of dollars drew a large crowd of more than 100 people.
The event, held at the Fallbrook Public Utility District, featured FPUD Board President Jennifer DeMeo, RMWD Board President Hayden Hamilton and included presentations by FPUD General Manager Jack Bebee, RMWD General Manager Tom Kennedy, and Keene Simonds, the executive officer of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, who was invited to brief attendees about the LAFCO review process.
LAFCO, which is governed by local appointed officials, is responsible for overseeing the establishment, expansion and boundary changes of cities and special districts, including water districts.
"We have made a tremendous amount of progress," Simonds told the audience, referring to the analysis that LAFCO consultant Dr. Michael Hanemann is conducting on the applications submitted by Fallbrook and Rainbow. "My guess is within the next 30-60 days, some substantive conclusions are going to be out there for the public to really digest as we start to pivot towards Andy (LAFCO Chair
Andy Vanderlaan) and the other seven voting members of LAFCO who will probably start taking this issue up in some substantive way as early as March or April."
"We appreciate Mr. Simonds for participating and everyone else who made time to attend this important meeting," said Bebee. "We remain strong in our belief that changing water suppliers from the Water Authority to Eastern Municipal Water District is in the best interest of our customers. The change will save Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayers between $7-10 million a year in water costs and reduce the
impacts these rising costs have had on our agricultural industry, which is critical to our economy and way of life here."
"For decades, the ratepayers of Rainbow and Fallbrook have been unfairly burdened by rapidly rising water costs," said Kennedy. "Just over the past decade, water costs have shot up an average of 8% per year and according to the Water Authority's long-range financing plan, these costs will rise another 50%
over the next five years. The way these costs are allocated to Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayers is unfair and unsustainable."
Among the issues being analyzed by LAFCO are water reliability and whether Fallbrook and Rainbow should have to pay the Water Authority an "exit fee."
With regard to water reliability, Hanemann stated in October that while there are benefits to the Water Authority's supplies, he also believes that there are future uncertainties with these supplies that make it difficult to quantify a difference in water reliability.
"I cannot quantify the difference at this time," he said at an October meeting of an advisory committee established by LAFCO. "My assessment is that I don't feel I can say that the difference in supply reliability is material. That's both because the hydrology is uncertain, but it's also because water marketing will play a bigger role on the stage, and it may turn out that water supply reliability morphs from not having enough quantity of water, to having to pay more dollars for water."
"We believe that Eastern has a more reliable supply of water than the Authority because Eastern is less dependent on imported water from the Colorado River, which also provides water to other California communities, and because Eastern produces a greater share of its water locally," said Kennedy, Rainbow's general manager. "In fact, Eastern produces 40% of its water locally through
recycling and desalination and with groundwater supplies, while the Water Authority generates only 13% of its supply locally and is reliant on the Colorado River and other imported sources for 87% of its water."
Nick Kanetis, Eastern deputy general manager, told committee members, "We have looked at this under every scenario that we can, and Eastern is confident that we will 100% be able to provide the water (to Fallbrook and Rainbow)."
Regarding whether or not the Fallbrook and Rainbow districts should have to compensate the Water Authority for any investments the agency has made, Hanemann has provided two possible options: an annual departure fee or a potential commitment by the Fallbrook and Rainbow districts to continue buying some amount of water from the Authority at a cost yet to be determined.
"Our district does not believe the departure fee option, which would require us to pay for water we wouldn't even receive and that the Water Authority could resell, is consistent with existing state laws," said Bebee, Fallbrook's general manager. "The other option is an interesting topic that deserves further discussion."
Eastern, which was established in 1950, provides water to more than 850,000 people living and working in Riverside County. It provides water within the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Perris, Menifee and several other cities and unincorporated communities.
Submitted by the Fallbrook Public Utility District.