CA Supreme Court denies Water Authority appeal on preferential rights

July 14, 2004

The San Diego County Water Authority will continue to aggressively pursue a diversified water supply portfolio in light of today’s…

The San Diego County Water Authority will continue to aggressively pursue a diversified water supply portfolio in light of today’s State Supreme Court ruling denying its appeal on preferential rights. The courts action ends the Water Authority’s legal challenge of the Metropolitan Water District’s antiquated system of water supply allocations that places San Diego’s water reliability in jeopardy in times of water shortages.

“While disappointed that the court decided not to hear our appeal, today’s action brings closure and provides clarity to the Water Authority’s rights to Metropolitan water supplies – that amounts to only half the water it currently purchases from the MWD, “ said Bernie Rhinerson, chairman of the Water Authority’s board of directors. “The court’s decision makes it more important than ever for the Water Authority to continue its ongoing efforts to improve the region’s water reliability by diversifying our future water supplies and reducing our overdependence on MWD.”

The Water Authority’s lawsuit sought a final determination of the legality of MWD’s method of determining the preferential water rights of its member agencies. The Water Authority currently imports up to 85% of its water from MWD. By 2020, the Water Authority plans to reduce its purchases from MWD to between one-quarter and one-third of the county’s annual water supply demand.

Earlier this year, a court of appeals rejected the Water Authority’s challenge. Today’s court ruling by the Supreme Court means the court of appeals’ decision stands.

Key to the Water Authority’s water diversification efforts is the San Diego County Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water transfer agreement, a critical component of the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. The Water Authority-IID transfer will provide 200,000 acre-feet of water annually from IID to the Water Authority for up to 75 years. The Water Authority will receive an additional 77,700 acre-feet per year for 110 years when concrete-lining projects on the All-American and Coachella canals are completed by 2008.

Additional diversification projects by the Water Authority include the largest commitment to seawater desalination in the nation.

“It is very important that we remain focused on our seawater desalination program, which will provide up to 15% of San Diego County’s water needs by 2020,” said Rhinerson.

Other diversification efforts include increasing water supplies through conservation, water recycling and groundwater development.

On June 24, 2004, the Water Authority board of directors voted unanimously to add seawater desalination and 21 other major water supply diversification projects totaling $1.8473 billion to the agency’s Capital Improvement Program.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to support the region’s $130 billion economy and the quality of life of 3 million residents.

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  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

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    Grace Sevilla

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