Just a few days ago, the Times of San Diego published a commentary that I wrote to explain how we are approaching the second phase of a study that looks at delivering our highly reliable, low-cost water supplies to San Diego County in the decades ahead.
The bottom line is: the Regional Conveyance System feasibility study now underway is an important part of the water planning and ratepayer protection efforts by the Water Authority that have served this region well for more than 75 years. The study is designed to do exactly what residents should expect – assess whether a new aqueduct can provide equal or greater benefits at an equal or lower cost. At the end of the day, San Diego ratepayers can rest assured that if it doesn't pencil out and meet all environmental review requirements, the project won't advance. As the regional water supplier, we are dutybound to think of better and more innovative solutions that have the potential to save money and address future challenges.
I encourage you to click here to read the entire commentary.
We also are actively working in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to seek protections for water ratepayers across the region and the state. Public water agencies have little discretion over their rates; they are required to set rates based on the cost of providing water. State law does not allow water agencies to take money from reserves and use it to pay off accrued debt by customers who are behind on their bills.
The Water Authority is in the forefront of seeking solutions that will help address the water bill debt problem created by the pandemic. While there are no silver bullets, we are working with Congress and state legislators to pass state and federal relief funds for water agencies to offset COVID-attributable delinquent bills for water ratepayers who cannot afford to pay them. We are also advocating for ratepayer relief at the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and working to minimize Water Authority rate increases for 2022. MWD charges continue to be the largest cost driver behind Water Authority rate increases.
I'll keep you posted on these efforts as they progress.
Gary Croucher, Board Chair
San Diego County Water Authority