The city and the San Diego County Water Authority did not immediately respond to the grand jury report, which said the City Council needs to “assume the mantle of leadership and provide funding for future water projects.”
Planning by the city’s Public Utilities Department and the water authority is meaningless if city officials won’t “pull the trigger” to implement their suggestions, the report says.
Among the recommendations are to junk a City Council-approved water recycling project demonstration project and get on with building actual plants; establish realistic funding timelines for water projects; support capital improvement projects that enhance water management; require dual plumbing systems in new construction for recycled water use; and creating a policy in which water rates are to go up when wholesale prices are increased by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The grand jury alleged “political posturing” on the part of City Council members for not passing along a wholesale rate hike to customers a couple of years ago, only to turn around recently and approve an increase of more than 7 percent for local residents and businesses over the next two years.
The grand jury contends the council is trying to recover its past losses with the new increase.
“Historically, requests for rate hikes were routinely voted down by the City Council in order to look better to the voters,” the report says. “What have resulted are the postponement of water infrastructure projects, Band-Aid repair jobs and an ever-increasing list of problems with water delivery and wastewater management. The city’s water decisions are guided more by political considerations than sound public policy that is in the best interest of the citizens of San Diego County.”
The grand jury said the only feasible ways to drastically increase the local water supply is through desalination and recycling.
The report also recommends that the water authority consider economic rewards for ratepayers who cut their usage, and be more transparent about how and why projects are prioritized and funded.
The grand jury said it reached its conclusions after interviewing water policy officials and reviewing reports from the City Council, city Engineering and Public Utilities departments, Metropolitan Water District and others.