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Court: MWD's Water Rates Violate State Law

Metropolitan Water District officials say the tentative ruling is an "initial step in a very long process."

A judge issued a tentative ruling in favor of the San Diego County Water Authority, declaring that the Metropolitan Water District's water rates violate state law. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo.
A judge issued a tentative ruling in favor of the San Diego County Water Authority, declaring that the Metropolitan Water District's water rates violate state law. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo.

The San Diego County Water Authority announced late today that a tentative ruling in its lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District found the MWD's rates violate state law.

Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow ruled that rates the MWD adopted and imposed in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 violate several state statutes as well as Proposition 26, which sets the conditions under which taxes and fees can be increased, according to the water authority.

MWD general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said "Metropolitan is confident that its structure of charging all agencies the same rates for the same services is both logical and legal. This is one initial step in a very long process.

"Metropolitan has prevailed in previous challenges, including SDCWA's last challenge to Metropolitan's rates, in which an adverse lower court decision was reversed on appeal.

"We look forward to the coming steps in the judicial process to demonstrate that a rate structure that fairly and equitably recovers all the cost of delivering safe, high-quality and reliable water is in the interest of all Southern Californians."

The MWD is the main water wholesaler in Southern California. It sells water to the San Diego CWA, which in turn distributes it to local water districts.

The local water authority first sued MWD in June 2010, and then filed another lawsuit in June 2012 because the 2010 case had not been resolved and MWD had adopted rates for 2013 and 2014 based on the same formula.

In both lawsuits, the CWA asserted that the MWD illegally assigned unrelated water supply costs -- including its costs of obtaining water from the state of California and its costs of subsidizing local water supply projects -- to its water transportation rates. The CWA has been working to diversify its water supply in recent years, some of which has to be sent through the MWD's equipment.

Water authority lawyers, during a five-day trial in December in San Francisco, alleged the MWD artificially inflated the transportation costs with unrelated expenses.

The CWA said the stakes in the litigation amount to more than $2 billion for San Diego County residents over 45 years.

--City News Service

Jay Berman February 26, 2014 at 11:51 AM
We should be pretty close to water independent here in SD county. We discharge highly treated waste water that in most cases is cleaner than what enters our drinking water system from the Colorado river and other sources, We should sanitize it and put it back into our potable water system. All the cities along most rivers in the country take their drinking water from the river and discharge the treated waste back into the river so the Colorado is already "toilet to tap" ... all the treated wastewater from Las Vegas goes into the Colorado. We should also build 3 more desal plants around the county .. We would have the highest quality water in southern CA ...
sheeple herder February 26, 2014 at 12:28 PM
What??? You mean to tells we are being ripped off? I thought the government always had our best interests in mind...
Ed Sorrels February 26, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Jay is right, We can no longer pump water offshore, Toilet to tap is inevitable if we want to continue to live here in the desert. And with the Sierra club shut down now would be a good time to apply for more permits to build De-Sal plants.
Jay Berman February 27, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Ed, I don't think it was Sierra Club .. it was Coastkeeper and Surfrider that doubled the cost of the desal .. the mitigation for dumping salt water into salt water ... we need major loser pays legislation to stop these illegitimate suits .. I also think it is totally inefficient to have so many water districts in the county, Encinitas has 2 districts within its borders, maybe 3 (Leucadia ?) They all have resources and duplicate each other ... We should have a single county authority with representatives from each community. The savings would be incredible.

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