San Diego

Water Rates Already Among Highest Nationwide to Rise in San Diego County

San Diegans pay roughly twice the national average for water rates, and that could get much worse in the next decade.

Water rates in San Diego County, which are already among the highest in the country, are about to go up again.

A typical household here pays more than twice the national average, according to the County Water Authority. While the average American family pays less than $40 a month, local residents pay about $80.

Next year's rates increase by the County Water Authority will be nearly four percent both for treated and untreated water. This marks the lowest increase in five years.

But the agency's rates have doubled in the last decade -- and could double again in the next ten years, said Water Authority officials.

The Water Authority is suing its main supplier, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, for overcharging.

After winning in Superior Court, the Water Authority hopes MWD's appeal is shot down.

NBC 7's media partner Voice of San Diego calls the contractual relationship "a bad marriage."

MWD water is still cheaper than what local residents get from Imperial County and the desalination plant in Carlsbad. The Voice cites "poor planning and bad luck" for the situation in San Diego.

The area pays higher water "transportation" costs partly because in the early 1900s, San Diego didn't build a pipeline system to tap faraway rivers.

Besides that, there are no major groundwater basins in this region.

If the Water Authority loses in court, county residents could wind up paying more than $2,000 on average, in extra water costs over the next few decades.

City officials say that within the next ten years San Diego residents will start getting purified, recycled water. Once that happens, residents in the City of San Diego will spend less than customers in the rest of the county.

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