Eastern will deliver a reliable supply of water to Fallbrook and Rainbow
Last updated 6/15/2022 at 3:57pm
Jack Bebee and Tom Kennedy
FPUD and RMWD
There’s been a lot of media coverage lately about water, especially here in California where Governor Newsom recently called on local water districts across the state to reduce their water use as we navigate through this latest drought.
As we work together to address this, the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District are also focused on reducing the rapidly rising water costs from the San Diego County Water Authority. Today, the cost of water in the San Diego area is among the highest in America, which you’ve surely noticed on your water bill.
To provide you with some relief, we’re currently seeking to switch water suppliers – from the SDCWA to the Eastern Municipal Water District – which is estimated to save our ratepayers about $7.6 million a year.
Unfortunately, the SDCWA is actively opposed to our leaving and is trying to mislead the people of Fallbrook and Rainbow on a variety of issues, including whether Eastern can provide our communities with a reliable supply of water.
Let us be clear: we’ve studied this issue exhaustively – and so have others – and we can say without question that Eastern has the wherewithal to meet our water needs.
For one, Eastern produces a significant amount of water locally (about 40%) through recycling and groundwater desalination, making it less dependent on less reliable imported water from the Colorado River and other sources. The Water Authority, on the other hand, is reliant on the troubled Colorado River – which is being increasingly tapped by states across the western United States – and other imported sources for much of its water.
“You look at the Colorado River, you look at the delta, you look at these stressed systems and it’s hard for anyone in the state to justify and say, ‘We’re good,’” said State Water Resources Control Board Chairman Joaquin Esquivel during a board meeting last month in reference to these diminishing imported water supplies. For the first time, the federal government last year declared a water shortage on the Colorado River.
The SDCWA’s reliance on the Colorado River is certainly worrisome. As CBS’s 60 Minutes reported last fall, “a big part of the problem is the law of the river itself, a hodgepodge of rules and regulations pieced together over the course of a century. For example, after all the litigation and negotiations, the law ends up allocating more water than actually flows down the Colorado.”
While on paper SDCWA has higher priority rights to water from the Colorado River than many others, it seems unlikely that, as conditions continue to deteriorate on the river, other regions will undergo massive cuts while outdoor watering will remain unrestricted in San Diego. The State Water Resources Control Board has already signaled that it will step in and curtail water use regardless of the paper priority in water rights way before this occurs.
“You can have the best water rights in the world, but if there’s no water in the system, it’s just a piece of paper,” said Tina Shields, a water manager with the Imperial Irrigation District, which has an agreement with the Water Authority to provide a significant amount of water from the Colorado River.
Regarding the reliability of Eastern’s water supply, independent experts have also looked at this and agree that Eastern is well positioned to meet our water needs.
This is all important information for you to know as we continue down the path to changing water suppliers. We’re hopeful that the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission will approve our applications to make this change, and if they do, you – the voters of Fallbrook and Rainbow – will have the final say in an election that could be held as early as next year.
In the meantime, we will continue to keep you updated on our efforts.
Bebee is general manager of the Fallbrook Public Utility District. Kennedy is general manager of the Rainbow Municipal Water District.