FALLBROOK – Rainbow Municipal Water District celebrates 70 years of service to the community with a transition of leadership, a historic detachment vote and the introduction of a new brand. Recent years have been marked by progress for the local water district with improvements to infrastructure, grant awards and industry accolades.
Since its founding by a group of community members as a special district in December 1953, Rainbow Water has been delivering safe and reliable water to the unincorporated communities of Rainbow, Bonsall and portions of Fallbrook.
The success of Rainbow Water in recent years was led by general manager Tom Kennedy who retired in October after nine years of service. Kennedy turned the water district into a highly regarded public agency and assembled a well-respected team of managers and employees dedicated to serving the ratepayers by focusing on teamwork, responsibility, innovation, integrity and professionalism.
As general manager, Kennedy pioneered new procedures to streamline processes, integrated technology to ensure Rainbow Water was at the forefront of water industry standards and led through the application process with the Local Agency Formation Commission to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority.
Rainbow Water continued its mission to lead with excellence as it was recognized with several awards in recent years. The California Special Districts Association awarded Rainbow Water the 2022 Innovative Project of the Year Award for the Rapid Aerial Water Supply project, a collaboration between Rainbow Water, North County Fire and CalFIRE that allows immediate access to a clean source of water for firefighting helicopters that is controlled by the pilot.
In addition, Rainbow Water received the Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers Association in 2020 and the Top Workplace by the San Diego County by the San Diego Union-Tribune for the past three consecutive years based on feedback from employee surveys conducted by Energage LLC.
Rainbow Water expanded efforts to serve the community by hosting spring and fall field trips for Bonsall High School students to explore STEM careers in the water industry. Students toured the offices and viewed live presentations from construction, engineering, finance, operations, wastewater and career technical educational opportunities with Palomar College.
Further expansion of field trip programs will continue in 2024, as Rainbow Water received a $3,000 grant from the Community Partnering Program with the Metropolitan Water District.
Kennedy's retirement led to the board of directors' appointment of Jake Wiley as the new general manager. As a professional engineer, Wiley brought over 20 years of water leadership experience to continue the efforts set forth by previous leadership to improve service to the community. In recent months, Wiley has continued the three-year effort led by Kennedy to move forward with detachment.
In November, the community voted in favor of Measures A and B to approve Rainbow Water and Fallbrook Public Utility's detachment from the SDCWA and concurrent annexation into the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County.
Based on an independent analysis, the change in water wholesale suppliers is estimated to save Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts a combined $7.8 million per year. SDCWA initiated litigation with Rainbow Water and the Local Agency Formation Commission to prevent detachment; however, a settlement agreement was reached at the end of December to allow detachment to move forward.
"Rainbow Water's realization of savings from the detachment will not occur until mid-to-late 2024, as the transition to full wholesale supply by EMWD is more complex than FPUD's," Wiley said. "The development of an operations plan with SDCWA, including transfer of facilities and modifications to our distribution system, will take more time to prepare for the full transfer.
"Rainbow Water will be taking action to provide relief to our customers through lower fixed fees and potential reductions in future rate increases to account for the wholesale water savings as soon as the process is complete," he said.
The water provided to the community will be the same water, off the same pipelines. The water will be reliable, clean and safe and will continue to meet or exceed all state and federal water quality standards.
Rainbow Water ended 2023 with the 70th anniversary of its founding in 1953. To commemorate the seven decades of service to the community, new branding was designed by the Rainbow Water team in collaboration with the communications and customer service committee and the board of directors.
The Rainbow Water logo was inspired by the service area's unique topography and legacy of the agricultural community. The icon is an abstract representation of rural North San Diego County with curved lines indicative of the avocado green and lime hillsides, the warm golden sun rising over the horizon, and the cobalt blue San Luis Rey River flowing between the hillsides.
The brand update welcomes a new era for Rainbow Water, and the replacement of the former logo will be made in 2024 with the annual replenishment schedule to reduce unnecessary additional costs. Rainbow Water will continue to maintain and improve service for ratepayers and looks forward to building upon the legacy that began in 1953.
Submitted by Rainbow Municipal Water District.