As water costs rise, avocado production falls
Last updated 11/3/2022 at 4:10pm
For as long as anyone can remember, the avocado has been synonymous with the Fallbrook, Bonsall, and Rainbow areas.
The nearby stretch of Interstate 15 is named after the bumpy green fruit and, of course, Fallbrook hosts the popular Avocado Festival each spring, a tradition that dates back to the 1940s.
But a new report released by the County of San Diego earlier this month concludes that our region’s once thriving avocado industry – much of it concentrated in Fallbrook and Rainbow – is shriveling, due in large measure to the rising cost of water.
In 2007, avocado farmers harvested more than 26,000 acres. Last year, that number dropped to around 14,000 acres, according to the county’s annual Crop Report. During this span, water costs from the San Diego County Water Authority have risen exponentially, forcing many growers to scale back.
Not only has avocado production long been a staple of our economy, but it has also contributed to our quality of life as well as our scenic beauty.
The impact of rising water costs on our avocado industry and agriculture in general is one of the primary reasons our two water districts – the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District – are looking to make a change. Instead of continuing to purchase water from the Water Authority, we are seeking approval to buy it from the Eastern Municipal Water District in a move that will save our agricultural, residential and commercial customers approximately $7.6 million a year.
We simply cannot afford to continue as customers of the Water Authority, which has raised water costs on our two districts by an average of 8% per year over the past decade. These costs could jump another 50% over the next five years, which would have a devastating impact on both our ratepayers and the local economy.
The San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, is currently reviewing our two districts’ applications to switch water suppliers. LAFCO, which is governed by local appointed and elected officials and is responsible for overseeing the establishment, expansion and boundary changes of cities and special districts, is expected to decide early next year if our two districts can change suppliers.
If approved, Fallbrook and Rainbow voters would have the final say in an election held in each of the two districts’ service areas.
We will continue to keep you updated on this effort. For more information, go to http://www.ratepayersforwaterchoice.com.
Dave Baxter and Hayden Hamilton
Baxter is president of the Fallbrook Public Utility District board of directors. Hamilton is president of the Rainbow Municipal District board of directors.