A water billing and service agreement between the Eastern Municipal Water District and the Fallbrook Public Utility District has been approved by both boards.
Eastern’s board voted 3-0 Jan. 3, with Jeff Armstrong and Randy Record absent, to approve the agreement for Eastern to be FPUD’s wholesale water provider. A Jan. 4 special meeting of the FPUD board had a 5-0 vote in favor of the agreement.
“This was a very important issue for the Fallbrook Public Utility District,” said FPUD general manager Jack Bebee.
On July 10, San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission approved a reorganization in which FPUD and the Rainbow Municipal Water District would detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and join the Eastern Municipal Water District contingent upon approval by the FPUD and Rainbow voters.
The voters of both districts overwhelmingly approved the reorganization Nov. 7. Although Riverside County’s LAFCO had delegated the reorganization process to San Diego County’s LAFCO, both LAFCO agencies filed a certificate of completion with their respective county recorder’s office. The San Diego LAFCO certificate of completion was recorded Dec. 28 and the Riverside County LAFCO certificate of completion was recorded Dec. 29.
“This is a big deal. We’re able to lower rates,” Bebee said.
FPUD had been part of the San Diego County Water Authority since the SDCWA was formed in 1944. Rainbow was formed in 1953 and received CWA membership in 1954. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California began delivering water to San Diego County in 1947.
MWD's San Diego Aqueduct conveys water to a delivery point six miles south of the Riverside County line, which allowed MWD and the CWA to provide equal contributions for the connection between MWD's Colorado River Aqueduct and the San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside.
The CWA northern boundary is the county line. All but one of FPUD's connections are from MWD pipelines rather than from CWA pipelines, and four of Rainbow's eight connections are to the MWD portion of the pipeline.
The CWA's supply rate is a melded rate which melds the cost of water delivered from MWD, water purchased from the Imperial Irrigation District under the Quantification Settlement Agreement, and water produced by the Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Carlsbad. The CWA also has transportation, storage, and customer service charges along with fees and charges for fixed expenditures which are incurred even when water use is reduced.
FPUD and Rainbow sought to reduce their cost of purchasing water – and thus their rates – by detaching from the CWA and joining Eastern.
The Western Municipal Water District is also a member of MWD and provides retail water sales of MWD supply to the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and to the Rancho California Water District. The status of FPUD and Rainbow will thus be similar to that of the two water districts which obtain MWD water from Western.
After the LAFCO decision, the CWA filed a lawsuit against LAFCO, FPUD, and Rainbow. The four agencies agreed to a settlement Dec. 21. FPUD’s detachment from the CWA and annexation to Eastern became effective Jan. 1. The Rainbow detachment will be completed after pump stations allow all Rainbow water to be taken from turnouts north of the MWD/CWA boundary.
“It was really this settlement that allowed this to happen,” Bebee said.
The CWA opposition to the reorganization made that a four-year process. Bebee told the EMWD board that FPUD normally isn’t prone to such lengthy and complicated situations. “We’re actually a pretty easy group to work with,” he said.
Six MWD pipelines carry water along the San Diego Aqueduct from the Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant in Temecula. Pipelines 1, 2, and 4 convey treated water while Pipelines 3, 5, and 6 deliver untreated supply. (Pipeline 6 currently carries untreated water for seven miles from Lake Skinner to Anza Road and De Portola Road; the southern portion which would serve San Diego County is not expected to be needed in the near future so that part of the project has been deferred.)
Eastern will provide FPUD with treated potable water from Pipeline 1 and Pipeline 4. Eastern will receive water delivery orders from FPUD and will communicate that demand to MWD.
The cost of the water will be based on MWD and EMWD rates including FPUD’s pro-rata share of MWD’s Readiness to Serve Charge and Capacity Charge. EMWD will also add an administrative overhead fee, which is currently $11 per acre-foot. “The administration charge is subject to reasonable annual adjustments,” said EMWD Deputy General Manager Nick Kanetis.
Eastern will not guarantee the reliability of MWD supply nor will Eastern guarantee water quality standards. “The Metropolitan system to Fallbrook is entirely Fallbrook’s responsibility. We have no control over that,” Kanetis said.
Eastern will take over administration of MWD programs for FPUD which had been administered from the CWA. That includes MWD’s Local Resources Program which provides financial incentives for the development of local supplies which increase supply reliability and reduce imported water demands. “We’ll work together with FPUD to provide programs,” Kanetis said.
FPUD will also be eligible for other EMWD programs.
The agreement did not cover representation on the EMWD board. As a retail agency of a wholesale agency, FPUD residents will be eligible to vote both for their FPUD division board seat and for their EMWD division seat.
Eventually the addition of FPUD and Rainbow will require realignment of EMWD division boundaries to accommodate the additional approximately 56,000 residents including approximately 35,000 in the FPUD service area.
However, FPUD and Rainbow are adjacent to Division 2 which is currently represented by Stephen Corona, and since that seat is not subject to election until November 2026, the redistricting will likely occur after Rainbow has joined Eastern so that only one boundary adjustment will be needed.