Suit claims county residents are being overcharged $134M for water

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Water Authority is filing another lawsuit over rates charged by the Metropolitan Water District, a Los Angeles-based water wholesaler.

In its complaint filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles, the Water Authority contends that the rate structure approved Tuesday by the MWD board for 2017 and 2018 used the same methodology as costs from 2011-14 that were previously ruled illegal by a Superior Court judge.

MWD was ordered to pay $243 million in damages to the SDCWA, which takes in water from various local and imported sources, and distributes it to local water districts and cities.

The MWD is appealing the judge’s rulings.

The Water Authority estimated that the 2017-18 rates will overcharge San Diego by $134 million.

“We don’t relish the prospect of more litigation, but MWD’s repeated refusal to follow the law damages San Diego County ratepayers and cannot be allowed to stand,” said Mark Weston, chairman of the SDCWA Board of Directors.

“The Water Authority has prevailed on the merits of two similar cases and we intend to continue challenging MWD’s rates as long as MWD tries to operate outside the law,” he said.

MWD spokesman Bob Muir told City News Service that the water agency expects to ultimately prevail in the litigation.

“That case is under appeal,” Muir said. “We’re moving ahead with our rate structure, which we believe is valid.”

The legal dispute between the two agencies is based on charges for transporting water to San Diego County. Agencies are required to only charge for the cost of providing a service, but the Water Authority has contended that the MWD has overcharged.