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San Diego County Water Authority Wins Legal Battle

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Metropolitan Water District Of Southern California

The Colorado River Aqueduct transports water from the Colorado River to Southern California.

A judge Friday affirmed his prior ruling that the San Diego County Water Authority is owed $188.3 million, plus interest, by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California because of illegal rates charged in 2011-14.

The ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow involved a lawsuit brought by the Water Authority in a dispute over rates for transporting water from the Colorado River to San Diego via the MWD's distribution system.

The MWD is the primary water wholesaler in California, but San Diego water officials have been trying to diversify their supply by acquiring Colorado River water, expanding the San Vicente Reservoir in the East County, and purchasing water from the Carlsbad desalination plant, which is scheduled to begin operating this fall.

"After five years in court, we have prevailed on the two main points of our lawsuit that MWD has systematically overcharged the San Diego region's ratepayers while shorting our rights to MWD water," said Mark Weston, chairman of the Water Authority's Board of Directors.

"Today's final ruling affirms our efforts to protect San Diego County ratepayers," Weston said. "We will continue to need support from civic and business groups as we fight MWD's expected appeals and new strategies to overcharge this region."

A spokesman for the MWD, Bob Muir, said the final ruling was not surprising and confirmed that his agency planned to appeal.

An MWD appeal would delay the Water Authority's plan to split the settlement money with the 24 local water districts in San Diego County, which would be proportional to their costs from the illegal rates, according to the SDCWA.

The Water Authority also said it will file a motion asking to recover attorneys' fees and other costs from the MWD.

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