FALLBROOK – In advance of a critical decision in June that will determine if voters in Fallbrook and Rainbow will be able to decide for themselves whether they want to switch water suppliers and save money, a special town hall meeting will be held on May 17 in Fallbrook to bring the public up to date on this important issue.
After years of excessive water rate hikes from the San Diego County Water Authority, the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District in 2020 filed applications with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to change water suppliers.
If their applications are approved by LAFCO, it could allow the districts – pending approval by voters in Fallbrook and Rainbow – to part ways with the Water Authority and begin purchasing water from the Eastern Municipal Water District. The switch to Eastern would save the districts an estimated $7.6 million a year on water costs, according to an independent analysis conducted for LAFCO.
The governing body of LAFCO, which is charged with overseeing boundary changes of cities and special districts, including water districts, is expected to vote on the applications at its meeting on Monday, June 5 in Downtown San Diego.
“We’re finally here,” said Jack Bebee, general manager of the Fallbrook Public Utility District. “This is a critical issue for our ratepayers. We are hopeful that LAFCO commissioners will hear our plea and allow us to leave the Water Authority, which has raised water costs on Fallbrook and Rainbow by an average of 8% a year over the past decade. Sadly, these costs will continue climbing – just last month, the Water Authority proposed an additional 14% increase for next year.”
“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy here, and the biggest threat to it is the rising cost of water,” said Tom Kennedy, general manager of the Rainbow Municipal Water District. “Buying our water from Eastern instead of the Water Authority will bring down water costs and help agriculture remain economically viable.”
LAFCO’s meeting on June 5 will take place at the County of San Diego Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, beginning at 8 a.m. Members of the public will be able to address the commissioners and make their voices heard.
The rising cost of water has long been a major concern in San Diego County.
A study conducted in 2020 by statista.com concluded that San Diego’s water rates are among the highest in the nation. Further, a 2017 report by the American Water Works Association found that San Diego area households pay more than twice the national average for water.
As for water reliability, an independent analysis commissioned by LAFCO concluded that Eastern has the wherewithal to meet the short and long-term water needs of Fallbrook and Rainbow.
If LAFCO commissioners approve the switch, then voters in Fallbrook and Rainbow will have the final say in an election that would likely be held next year.
The change to Eastern is endorsed by the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, Fallbrook Community Planning Group, Rainbow Planning Group and the Fallbrook Land Conservancy.
The town hall meeting on May 17 will begin at 6 p.m. at the Fallbrook Public Utility District, 990 East Mission Road.
Submitted by Fallbrook Public Utilities District.