Providing Safe, Reliable, Affordable Water
Safe, reliable and affordable water is a fundamental public service provided by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. Everything at the Water Authority is designed to seek the lowest possible rates while maintaining a safe and reliable water system.
Water affordability requires coordinated efforts by all levels of government agencies – federal, state, wholesale and retail – because they all play a role in the investments and infrastructure that transports, treats and delivers water to homes and businesses. Historically, federal and state investments have helped cover costs for ratepayers; in recent decades, retail and wholesale agencies have borne more of the costs and that has hit ratepayers in the pocket book.
Current Budget and Rate Process
Water rates are rising across the state for a variety of reasons, including inflation that is driving up the cost of items like electricity, steel and chemicals needed for water delivery and treatment.
The Water Authority is not immune from those impacts; in fact, San Diego County’s strategic investments in supply reliability, coupled with work to maintain the aqueduct system, mean that residents and businesses will pay more for water in future years. The good news is that even in long dry spells, the Water Authority can meet the regional demand for water that sustains our economy and quality of life.
This year, the Water Authority’s budget and rates process started two months earlier than normal, adding uncertainty to the initial projections. However, the additional time allows for the Board and staff to assess strategies for lowering the preliminary rate increase projection of 14% for 2024.
The draft recommended budget for fiscal years 2024-2025 is 5% larger than the current two-year budget at $1.8 billion. Approximately 90% of the budget is for purchasing, treating, and delivering water, combined with debt service and Capital Improvement Projects to ensure water is available when and where it’s needed. As in years past, the Operating Departments – including all agency staff and day-to-day work functions – account for about 7% of the budget.
For more information about water rates, click here. To learn about the Board of Director’s meetings and budget workshops, click here.
Major Strides in Affordability
In recent years, the Water Authority has enhanced affordability while ensuring reliability during the worst drought in more than 1,200 years:
- $25 million secured from the State of California to pay water bills for San Diego County residents impacted by COVID-19
- $90 million secured through successful litigation efforts and distributed directly to 24 retail agencies in San Diego County
- Saved hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs of water deliveries
- Helped secure financial aid for low-income water customers
- Maintained strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of infrastructure
- Saved more than $250 million by refinancing debt
- Developed a best-in-class Asset Management Program to proactively address system upgrades and avoid costly failures
Looking to the Future
The Water Authority works closely with state and federal government, wholesale water agencies, and local water retailers to find solutions to the complex challenges related to water costs, rates, and investments. In addition to convening state and federal leaders on this issue, the Water Authority is pursuing several avenues to promote affordability:
- Ramping up advocacy for state and federal investments in water supply projects, which have declined significantly in recent decades
- Working collaboratively with local community organizations along with state and federal leaders to craft a low-income assistance program that meets the region’s diverse needs
- Working with retail member agencies to assess different rate structures for 2024 and beyond
- Hosting discussions with key federal, state, regional and local agencies to promote affordability
- Developing alternative revenue sources, such as the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility
- Attracting and retaining highly skilled staff to ensure the viability of the regional water delivery system for generations