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Water Rates Enter San Diego Mayoral Race

Skyrocketing water rates seem to be a constant issue in San Diego. One of the mayoral candidates is pledging to stop the increases.

— San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio has released a "Bill of Rights" for city water users.

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In it, he pledges to overhaul the water rate system to provide more incentives for conservation, improve the city’s water infrastructure and expand San Diego’s water sources. On the controversial subject of recycling sewage to use as drinking water, DeMaio said he’s skeptical.

“That being said, I’m keeping an open mind and await the pilot study report,” he said. “And if it’s shown to work, I will support it as one of many strategies to ensure San Diego has a reliable supply of water.”

If elected mayor, DeMaio said he would require any rate increase be approved by two-thirds of the council. He said as mayor he would also work to amend the city charter to make the two-thirds council vote requirement permanent. That would require a public vote. In addition DeMaio said he would also "force" the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) to adopt the same reforms by showing the agencies how well they work in San Diego.

The other major mayoral candidates responded to DeMaio's plan and floated their own water ideas.

Nathan Fletcher's campaign spokesman Amy Thoma said in a statement: "This is another example of DeMaio’s inability to work with others to solve problems. Instead of building a coalition among Water Authority board members to contain rates, he’s proposing yet another ballot measure – along with the lawsuits and political battles they entail."

Fletcher has his own plan, which focuses on providing clean water and keeping the beaches safe.

DeMaio's campaign points out, if he's elected, DeMaio can implement the changes in his Bill of Rights without a ballot measure, though they wouldn't be part of the city charter.

In a statement, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said San Diego needs more water stability.

"We need to implement a long-term strategy in San Diego that protects ratepayers and provides a sustainable source of water well into the future. I applaud residents who have stepped up to the plate to conserve water and they should not be punished with continuing rate increases."

Congressman Bob Filner also replied to DeMaio's plan. Filner said DeMaio fails to point out that water rates are increasing because of how MWD is charging San Diego to transport water, which Filner calls extortion.

In a statement he said, "The San Diego County Water Authority is fighting this both in court and politically. The mayor should be fighting along side them. What LA Metropolitan District is doing is wrong and we should fight it on all fronts. But we should also have a policy in place which goes around them and makes them meaningless in the long run. That is, if we conserve, if we go to more reuse, what they call indirect potable reuse, if we look for new sources, like desalinization, but do it in an environmentally sound way, then we should get around what they've been doing to us.

"Most of (DeMaio's) stuff is OK, but it misses the major point and it does not put it in a context where the whole city can be involved in working with the mayor and the City Council in fighting what LA is doing."

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