Water Agencies Explore Innovative Deal for Drought-Proof Water

March 01, 2024

Potential water transfer would benefit Orange and San Diego counties

The San Diego County Water Authority and the Moulton Niguel Water District are exploring a potential transfer of drought-resilient water supplies to South Orange County, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both agencies.

The MOU creates a three-year window for discussions expected to center on the Water Authority transferring water – including supplies from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant – to Moulton Niguel. The district serves more than 170,000 customers from Laguna Niguel to San Juan Capistrano. How and when that could happen will be the subject of talks between agency leaders.

This marks the second time in recent months the Water Authority has considered a water deal to combat increasing water rates for San Diegans while providing greater supply reliability for the broader Southern California region. A similar transaction was completed in December with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Imperial Irrigation District. That agreement is saving the Water Authority between $15 million and $20 million while helping to raise the level of Lake Mead.

“The San Diego region’s investments in water supply reliability are being used to protect local ratepayers from rising costs while offering solutions that benefit the entire Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz. “We appreciate Moulton Niguel’s vision to explore this concept and we look forward to fashioning a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Moulton Niguel’s 2020 Long -Range Water Reliability Plan and Water Reliability Policy prioritize the development and phased addition of new water supplies to sustain its service area during droughts, which have hit California with increasing frequency over the past three decades.

“Our Board is committed to making cost-effective investments to enhance water supplies that benefit our service area in dry years, and a potential partnership with the Water Authority is another piece of that plan. In the era of climate extremes, it’s in everyone’s best interest to find partnerships that maintain our economy and quality of life,” said Moulton Niguel Board President Duane D. Cave.

Over the past 20 years, the Water Authority has developed a nationally recognized portfolio of drought-resilient water supplies, including the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad. Completed in 2015, the facility produces up to 56,000 acre-feet of water a year, meeting about 10% of the region’s water demand.

At the same time, the San Diego region’s per capita water use has dropped by more than 50%, allowing the Water Authority to collaborate with other water providers on solutions to climate-induced supply challenges.

  • 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.

    Media Contact Information

    Grace Sevilla

    Phone: (619) 855-5135

    Email: GSevilla@sdcwa.org