San Diego County's water rates will continue to go up over the next two years following a vote by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
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The MWD, which delivers water to 19 million Southern California residents, voted Tuesday to increase water rates 5 percent in 2013 and 5 percent in 2014.
More than a dozen San Diego water officials traveled to Los Angeles for the MWD's board meeting. They went to petition the board to consider capping the rate increase at 3 percent both years. The MWD was considering more than 7 percent in 2013 and 5 percent in 2014.
County Water Authority members argued the MWD already overcharges San Diego ratepayers to the tune of $40 million this year and any rate increase was unnecessary.
"And those overcharges with the rates approved today will only go up," said Dennis Cushman of the San Diego County Water Authority.
MWD Chief Financial Officer Gary Breaux said the rate increases are needed to continue delivering water.
"Well, it's a very large system we have to maintain," said Breaux. "It provides a very essential service to obviously a region of 19 million people."
Cushman argued the MWD should cut its own budget like many other businesses, governments and agencies.
"Metropolitan has been steadily cutting costs," countered Breaux. "We're down about 140 positions the last three years. It's about an eight percent reduction in staff."
The 5 percent rate increases will pass through the MWD to the County Water Authority's 24 member agencies, and eventually down to individual water users.
"They would have essentially doubled the water rates by Metropolitan to 19 million Southern Californians over the last nine years," said Cushman.
Last month, the County Water Authority accused the other agencies affiliated with the Metropolitan Water Authority of operating a "secret society" aimed at forcing San Diego ratepayers to carry the burden for the rest of Southern California financially.
They produced a 500-page binder with evidence of an anti-San Diego bias among the other agencies.
The MWD denied the allegations.
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