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colorado river aerial view

Water Authority Partners with MWD

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s (MWD) water comes from the Colorado River via the Colorado River Aqueduct and Northern California rivers via the State Water Project. The blend of the two sources fluctuates depending on hydrologic conditions and how MWD operates its system. 

The last year San Diego County had a sufficient local supply of water to meet the demands of its growing population was 1946. Lacking adequate local water resources, the Water Authority joined the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in late 1946 to gain a connection to the Colorado River to meet the needs of the post-war, booming San Diego region. As part of the requirements for annexation the San Diego region’s Colorado River water rights were transferred to MWD.  In 1960, MWD threw its support behind the new State Water Project and received its first deliveries from the project in 1972.

MWD Board

MWD is governed by a 38-member Board of Directors, representing each of the District’s 26 member agencies.  The Water Authority has four designated Delegates on MWD’s Board of Directors who represent the Water Authority’s interests at MWD and, as MWD Board members, govern the agency. In their capacity as MWD Board members, the Delegates host facility inspection tours.

The Water Authority’s Delegates

Lois Fong-Sakai

Date Seated on Board: November 2021

Current MWD Committee Appointments:

  • Engineering and Operations Committee
  • One Water (Conservation & Local Resources) Committee

Biography:
Director Fong-Sakai joined the Water Authority Board in April 2015 representing the City of San Diego. She serves as chair of the Engineering and Operations Committee of the Board, and as a member of Labor Negotiations Work Group and the Water Planning and Environmental Committee. Fong-Sakai served as vice chair of both the Engineering and Operations and Imported Water committees, and as a member of the Administrative and Finance and Water Planning committees.

Fong-Sakai is a licensed civil engineer with substantial experience in water planning and policy. She served as the project manager and engineer for major water-related projects including the Fiesta Island Replacement Project, the University City Subsystem, and the Reclaimed Water Program. Fong-Sakai also contributed to white papers for the City of San Diego that formed the basis for pursuing water reclamation, reuse, and purification. She is a long time San Diego community leader and an active member in many organizations, including Water for People, American Water Works Association, Society of Women Engineers, California Water Environment Association, Water Environment Association, and the Asian Business Association. Fong-Sakai received both her Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from University of California Berkeley.

Marty Miller

Date Seated on Board: November 2021

Current MWD Committee Appointments:

  • Water Planning and Stewardship committee
  • Integrated Resources Plan Special Committee

Biography:
Marty Miller was appointed to the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors in 2011 representing the Vista Irrigation District, where he will be board president in 2022. He serves as chair of the Water Authority’s Administrative and Finance and Labor Negotiations Work Group and as a member of the Engineering and Operations Committee and Financial Strategy Work Group. He previously served as chair of the Engineering & Operations Committee. He also has served on the Water Authority’s Imported Water, Legislation, Conservation and Outreach, and Water Planning committees, as well as its San Vicente Energy Task Force, San Vicente Project Negotiations Work Group, and Small Contractor Outreach and Opportunities Program (SCOOP).

Miller has owned a commercial construction company for the past 45 years. He is a member and former president of the Vista Optimist Club and a member of the Rancho Buena Vista Little League Board. Miller has a long coaching career that includes leading Vista’s Little League baseball team to second place at the Little League World Series in 2005. He graduated from the College of Southern Idaho with a degree in architectural drafting.

S. Gail Goldberg

Date Seated on Board: March 2019

Current MWD Committee Appointments:
• Member – Finance and Insurance Committee; Integrated Resources Plan Special Committee; Legal and Claims Committee; Water Planning and Stewardship Committee

Biography:
Director Goldberg does not serve on the Water Authority’s Board of Directors but was appointed by the Board to serve as one of its Delegates to MWD. She retired in 2018 after eight years as the executive director of Los Angeles’ Urban Land Institute and brings with her more than 20 years of city planning experience. Before joining Urban Land Institute, she was the director of the Los Angeles City Planning Department from 2006 to 2010, where she was responsible for directing policies and activities of the department, including the development, maintenance and implementation of the city’s General Plan and other special zoning plans.

Before her Los Angeles position, she spent 17 years with the City of San Diego’s Planning Department, where she was planning director from 2000 to 2005 and oversaw a process to update the city’s 20-year-old general plan. Goldberg has a degree in urban studies and planning from the University of California, San Diego. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the University of Southern California’s Center for Sustainable Cities and USC Price’s School Master of Planning Program. She also served as a trustee of the Urban Land Institute and as Chair of the San Diego/Tijuana Urban Land Institute District Council.

Tim Smith

Date Seated on Board: August 2018

Current MWD Committee Appointments:
• Chair – Engineering and Operations Committee
• Member – Executive Committee; Audit and Ethics Committee; Communications and Legislation Committee; Finance and Insurance Committee; Legal and Claims Committee; Organization, Personnel and Technology Committee; Real Property and Asset Management Committee

Biography:
Director Smith has served as the Otay Water District’s Board of Directors representative on the Water Authority’s Board of Directors since 2017. Smith served as an adjunct professor at San Diego State University and taught water courses in the civil, construction, and environmental engineering department. He currently serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board.

He began his career as an engineer for Black & Veatch and Parsons Corp. before shifting to the public sector as senior civil engineer for the Water Authority. He then worked as a principal engineer for Helix Water District. Smith graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering from San Diego State University and is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and American Water Works Association.

Relationship With MWD

Delivery Agreement

To improve the region’s water reliability, the Water Authority launched its diversification effort in the late 1990s. In 2003, as part of the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the Water Authority began receiving its independently obtained Colorado River supplies through water conservation and transfer agreements. The Water Authority pays MWD to transport these independent supplies to San Diego County through a delivery agreement in addition to paying for its MWD supply purchases. While the Water Authority still purchases Colorado River and State Water Project water from MWD, the Water Authority launched its diversification effort in the late 1990s to improve the region’s water reliability.

Water Supply

The Metropolitan Water District Act legally entitles each member agency to a preferential right to purchase a certain amount of MWD’s supplies. Under Section 135, each MWD member agency has a preferential right to a percentage of MWD’s available water supplies based on the member’s past payments toward MWD’s capital and operating costs, excluding payments for water purchases.  As of June 30, 2020, the Water Authority has preferential right to 25.83 percent of MWD’s water supply. (Preferential rights are updated annually.)  For comparison, in fiscal year 2020, the Water Authority purchased about 6% of the water MWD sold.

As part of rulings on landmark litigation that was initiated in 2010, courts found that MWD under-calculated the Water Authority’s statutory water right, or preferential right to MWD water.  As a result of the recalculation, the Water Authority’s preferential right to MWD water increased by approximately 100,000 acre-feet of additional MWD water annually – about twice the production of the $1 billion Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Seawater Desalination Plant.  This same litigation also resulted in savings of $45 million since the court also found that MWD illegally charged “water stewardship” fees on its transportation rates from 2011-2014. Ultimately, this litigation has yielded several benefits for San Diego County ratepayers. “San Diego prevailed, and the judgment not only benefits its own ratepayers but all of the nearly 19 million people in Metropolitan’s service area because enforcing cost-of-service principles serves the interests of all ratepayers,” said Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo in her Jan. 13, 2021 order, which MWD is appealing.

Policy

As MWD’s largest financial contributor, the Water Authority promotes policies at MWD that embrace transparent governance and fiscal responsibility, create equity among MWD member agencies, and facilitate the efficient and optimal use of resources. The Water Authority’s MWD Program advises the agency’s Board officers and MWD Delegates in developing and implementing strategies to achieve the Water Authority’s water resiliency and fiscal goals at MWD.

The MWD Program staff works closely with other Water Authority departments to analyze MWD programs and policies and their impacts on the Water Authority’s management strategies and operations. Program staff also collaborates with MWD board members, MWD member agencies and other stakeholders to advance the Water Authority’s positions at MWD.