After nearly a decade-long "water war," San Diego County's Water Authority is suing the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Metropolitan voted in April to raise San Diegans' water rates by 5 percent next year and 5 percent in 2014. The lawsuit challenges that increase, claiming Metropolitan has waited long enough in resolving a similar lawsuit from 2010, according to a statement from the County's water authority.
Tension between the two agencies has been high since 2003 when San Diego decided to buy a large portion of their water from the Imperial Valley, while still using Metropolitan's pipeline. Metropolitan enacted a separate transportation fee, which the Water Authority said included unnecessary expenses.
Among the recent lawsuits' allegations, SDCWA claims Metropolitan is misallocating those supply costs, disguising them as transportation fees. SDCWA says the facilities used by Metropolitan to transport water are owned and operated by the state.
Bob Muir, an MWD spokesman, told NBC San Diego the lawsuit was not unanticipated, since the water authority said it would file suit if the rates were approved.
At the time Metropolitan approved the rate hikes, officials with the water district said the increase was necessary to upgrade and repair their aging system. More than 40 percent of the agency's facilities are more than 60 years old, boardmembers said.
“[The increase] allows Metropolitan to meet key priorities to ensure reliable water supplies while keeping the cost of our wholesale supplies as low as possible,” said the board's chairman John V. Foley in the April 10 statement.
The San Diego County Water Authority said any increase will have a negative effect on the farming communities throughout the county.
Already, 7,500 local avocado farms were shut down due to high water prices, said Eric Larson with the county's Farm Bureau.
The rates will go into effect Janurary 2013 and January 2014 respectively. It will be several months until the San Diego Water Authority sets its prices for next year and local utilities as well.