Billions at stake in water rate fight between County Water Authority, Metropolitan Water District

San Diego County ratepayers could see refund

SAN DIEGO - A lawsuit set to be heard next week claims the Metropolitan Water District is overcharging San Diego County ratepayers for water.

The San Diego County Water Authority is finalizing its court case against the MWD, and in their suit, the County Water Authority says the MWD will overcharge local ratepayers $57 million in 2013.

The lawsuit cites a disproportionate charge for water transportation.

"I know to the core of what I know that there's a good portion of that bill -- $5, $8 a month -- that doesn't belong on that bill," San Diego County Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis Cushman said. "Over the course of several decades it's billions of dollars at stake."

The MWD disputes claims that the agency overcharges for water. Both the County Water Authority and the MWD are only supposed to collect enough money to deliver public services, according to state law.

However, both agencies keep reserves on hand.

In 2012, elected officials from across San Diego County lobbied the Metropolitan Water District board to lower rates.

"Find ways to save money, just like we have done in the city of San Diego," San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said in open session.

Team 10 has previously questioned MWD financial habits, including why the CEO signs off on his own expense reports and why a high-level manager commutes from Phoenix and has MWD pay for his flights.

"It's not what drives the rates," Metropolitan CFO Gary Breaux said in a 2012 interview.

If Cushman and his team win the lawsuit, the overcharged money would be returned to San Diego County ratepayers.

The trial, which begins Dec. 17, is likely to face several appeals, according to Cushman.

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