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Water Wars Between San Diego And MWD Boil Up Again

Photo caption: The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in t...

Photo by Associated Press

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in the U.S., is shown in this aerial view, Sept. 4, 2015.

Water Wars Between San Diego And MWD Boil Up Again

GUESTS:

Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager, San Diego County Water Authority

Gary Breaux, chief financial officer, Metropolitan Water District

Twenty-five years ago, the San Diego County Water Authority, the organization that provides water to the region's 24 water districts, decided its water supplies had become a bit too iffy during a severe drought and set about diversifying its sources of supply.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the county water authority's main supplier, felt dissed when its largest customer publicly questioned the reliability of its services.

According to a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial, the water authority has been persona non grata with the MWD ever since.

The tension between the two agencies stems, in part, from the county authority's decision to go after additional water supplies — specifically a water deal with the Imperial Irrigation District and investment in the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Both actions have allowed San Diego County to weather the latest drought with ample supplies of water.

The MWD on Tuesday adopted a two-year budget that the agency says will raise its wholesale water rates an average of 4 percent for each year. The county water authority, however, says the MWD's budget means a 12 percent increase for untreated water and a 62 percent increase for treated water.

RELATED: San Diego County Files Lawsuit Against MWD

County water authority officials are crying foul because they say the MWD used a methodology that a state court ruled last year as both very flawed and very unfair to San Diego. The court said the MWD should refund San Diego $232 million, but the MWD is appealing the ruling.

"Because the case is on appeal, the rates we're using right now, the rate structure is still valid,” Gary Breaux of the MWD told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “We're optimistic that on appeal the ruling would be much more favorable to us.”

Dennis Cushman of the San Diego County Water Authority said that instead of changing its rates, the MWD ignored the judge’s ruling.

“Of course we're going to have to challenge that and get that money back for our ratepayers,” Cushman said.

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