Who's really looking out for water users in Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow?
Last updated 4/27/2022 at 5:38pm
Dave Baxter and Hayden Hamilton
Special to the Village News
As you have probably heard, our two water agencies – the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District – are seeking to switch water suppliers in the wake of price increases from the San Diego County Water Authority that have averaged 8% per year over the past decade. Not surprisingly, this effort is opposed by the Water Authority.
As your local water representatives, we are charged with providing you – the people of Fallbrook, Bonsall, and Rainbow – a reliable supply of water at the lowest cost possible, whether you’re a residential, business or agricultural customer. We are accountable to you and only you.
The SDCWA, on the other hand, provides water to, and thus answers to, 24 member agencies throughout the county. The Water Authority’s top priority is not Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayers – it’s the Water Authority and its members.
Unfortunately, the Water Authority’s lawyers and lobbyists have been working hard to prevent us from leaving and buying our water from the Eastern Municipal Water District. By switching to Eastern, our customers would save approximately $7.6 million a year on water costs, according to an independent analysis.
Why doesn’t the Water Authority want us to leave? It’s simple: they want your money. They want your money so they can continue funding projects that largely benefit customers down south.
Unfortunately, ever since we announced our plans to change water suppliers, the Water Authority has been throwing up roadblocks at every turn and making false and misleading statements.
Among other things, the Water Authority contends that our two water districts’ customers have racked up obligations of $1.2 billion that should be paid to the Authority before we can leave, $1.2 billion! This so-called “exit fee” would equate to about $45,000 for each and every Fallbrook and Rainbow ratepayer. Not only is such a fee preposterous, imposing it on us would violate California law. The law is clear as to what our on-going obligations would be to leave, but the Water Authority is seeking to punish us for finding a better deal for our customers.
In addition, the Water Authority continues to make unfounded claims. Despite a San Diego newspaper’s report that suggests otherwise, the Water Authority contends that its water would eventually become less expensive than water provided by the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies the Eastern Municipal Water District. This, however, is not accurate. The Water Authority conjured up its rate comparison by factoring in additional cost impacts for Metropolitan, but conveniently forgot to apply these same impacts to its own rate projections.
When it comes to forecasting the future, the Water Authority doesn’t exactly have a strong track record. They failed miserably to predict the amount of water our region would need in future years and, as a result, financed billions of dollars for projects meant to increase the local water supply. However, our regional demand for water has actually plummeted over the years because San Diego County residents have answered the call to conserve.
Whether we can switch suppliers will be up to an organization known as the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, which is governed by local appointed and elected officials. If LAFCO approves our applications, then Fallbrook and Rainbow voters would have the final say in an election held in each of the two districts’ service areas.
Our proposal has received the support of the Fallbrook and Rainbow community planning groups and the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, who voted overwhelmingly to endorse the move after carefully considering the facts.
Facts are important and you can continue to count on our two water districts to provide you with nothing but the facts. And you can be sure that, as your locally-elected water representatives, we are looking out for you and your interests as we engage in this “David vs. Goliath” effort.
The bottom line is escalating water rates in San Diego County, which today are among the highest in America, have taken a huge toll on the people of Bonsall, Fallbrook and Rainbow, as well as our local economy. We firmly believe that switching water suppliers will bring much needed relief to you, our ratepayers, while ensuring a safe, reliable supply of water for many years to come.
If you’d like to learn more about our effort, please join us at a town hall meeting on Monday, May 2 at 6 p.m. at the offices of the Fallbrook Public Utility District, 900 East Mission Road. Supervisor Jim Desmond, who also serves as chairman of LAFCO, will attend to hear directly from the community.
We hope to see you there.
Dave Baxter is president of the Fallbrook Public Utility District Board of Directors.
Hayden Hamilton is president of the Rainbow Municipal Water District.