Are we being robbed? The Cost of Our Reliance on Imported Water

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What if the mafia owned our supply of water? As crazy as that might sound, people are insinuating that we are being robbed by our main supplier of water. Terms like illegal, extortion, racketeering, and even “secret society” are being used to describe this issue.

Water is a finite commodity and we are located in a desert-like area. This why San Diego must import a tremendous amount of its water. This imported water comes from hundreds of miles away from northern California and the Colorado river.

Obviously, when you import anything, it costs more. However there is a lawsuit claiming that we have been overcharged needlessly. This lawsuit claims that we have been overcharged by millions and millions of dollars over the last few years.

Our Water System: The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) is an agency in Los Angeles that imports water to Southern California. Then, another water agency called the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) brings that water to the San Diego region. That agency then delivers the water to our local water agencies. Our local water agencies have no choice and must buy this imported water to supplement local resources.

If the MWD raises the cost of delivering the water, the SDCWA must raise its prices. If the SDCWA raises its prices, the local agencies have to pass the cost to its consumers. In the last two years, the MWD and SDCWA have raised rates 18% and last month the MWD voted to raise water rates another 10% in 2013. That is almost a 30% increase in two years and over a 96% increase since 2006!

The Lawsuit: A lawsuit by the SDCWA claims that the MWD has illegally charged over $40 million this year alone for importing water from the Imperial Valley.

Councilmembers from San Diego city Council have called it “racketeering” – a term normally reserve for mafia-related crimes.

Some have even claimed that there is a “secret society” involved at the MWD.

No Choice: What can our local water agencies do? Over the years, they have had two choices: cut resources or raise the water rates that we pay.

The Sweetwater Authority will be holding a hearing on August 27 to let people know that they will raise water fees by 6.5%. Other local water agencies are also feeling the pinch.

What can we do to prevent these price hikes? Unfortunately, not much. Let’s hope that the SDCWA prevails in their lawsuit to tame these skyrocketing price hikes, but for now, the next time you let the water run freely realize that you are just making this supply get even more expensive.

Here are some tips on saving water.

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