Environmental group sues Water Authority

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego Coastkeeper is suing the San Diego County Water Authority, alleging its recently approved water supply plan failed to account for existing and future environmental impacts, although local water officials disputed the claim.

Water FaucetThe suit, which was filed in Superior Court on Friday, alleges the local water agency violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it overlooked environmental impacts and did not account for its used energy.

“We care about our water supply’s energy use because it produces greenhouse gas emissions, a primary driver of global climate change,” said Matt O’Malley of Coastkeeper.

“Water supply decisions based on this plan could jeopardize the health and economic viability of San Diego County by contributing to climate change impacts like sea level rise.”

Coastkeeper officials said they had repeatedly called on the water authority to prioritize conservation and recycling and to implement a greenhouse gas reduction plan, and claimed their suggestions were not incorporated into the plan.

“The water authority claims they approved only a couple minor amendments to their plans and operations and can therefore avoid any real scrutiny,” said Everett DeLano, an attorney representing San Diego Coastkeeper.

“In reality, the plans they approved will pose profound negative impacts to San Diego’s environment and ratepayers for years to come.”

Water authority officials said the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, adopted last month, would serve as a roadmap for future projects and responding to climate change as it relates to agency activities through 2035.

The development process involved about two dozen public workshops, meetings and hearings.

The water authority’s Director of Water Resources Ken Weinberg disputed the environmental group’s claim stating the documents in question did not only meet the letter of the law, but were good for both the environment and the region.

The plan update placed an increased emphasis on conservation and water supply development, including an reliability analysis that identified potable reuse as likely the next increment of water supply in the county.

“Already, prudent investments and regional conservation efforts allowed the water authority to defer several major projects, decrease the size of other projects and reduce projected capital improvement program costs by at least $653 million through 2025 in the most recent master plan update,” Weinberg said.

“These plans will continue to improve regional water supply reliability, integrate with other regional planning efforts, enhance environmental stewardship and build on San Diego County’s legacy of water conservation.”