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Water Rates At Root Of San Diego's Case Against Metropolitan Water District

The latest development in a long-standing feud between the San Diego County Water Authority and the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is playing out in a San Francisco court beginning Tuesday.

The San Diego County Water Authority argues the Metropolitan Water District is overcharging for water transported from the Imperial irrigation District. MWD argues if it changed the price structure for delivering the water through its pipe lines, it would impact other water agencies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernadino unfairly.

KPBS Morning Edition anchor Deb Welsh spoke with the County Water Authority's assistant general manager Dennis Cushman about why CWA is investing in expensive alternative sources of water, such as desalination, that would not rely on importing water through MWD pipelines.


Cushman: For a couple of reasons. First, the biggest payoff is in water supply reliability. Desalinated sea water supplies will be the most reliable piece in our water supply portfolio. It's not subject to cutbacks during droughts or water shortages. But as to cost, while it starts out initially more expensive than imported water, our projections show that over time the cost of the sea water supplies will actually be less than imported water.

Welsh: Any idea when we might know what the judge's decision is in this case?

Cushman: The trial is going to go five days. It will last through Monday, the 23rd of December. Our expectation is that the judge will issue his statement of decision sometime after the first of the year.

Cushman said the Metropolitan Water District has overbilled the San Diego County Water Authority by $57 million this year and $150 million since 2011.

If the San Diego County Water Authority wins this case, Cushman said its member agencies will then decide whether to refund ratepayers.

Corrected: April 14, 2024 at 5:44 PM PDT
This story was corrected 12-18-13 to better reflect MWD's position in the lawsuit