SAN DIEGO — North County residents in the Fallbrook Public Utilities and Rainbow Municipal Water districts will soon vote on the controversial separation of the two utility agencies from the San Diego County Water Authority.

Registered voters in the rural communities will be able to cast a ballot to approve the long-planned detachment from the region’s biggest water seller in a special election on Nov. 7.

It will be one of three happening across the county next week, including the elections to fill vacant seats on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and in Chula Vista.

According to an election statement filed with the County Registrar of Voters Office, the ballot measure asks North County residents the following question:

“Shall the detachment of (the water districts) from San Diego County Water Authority, as approved by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission on July 10, 2023 by adoption of Resolution (No. 2023-11 and No. 2023-12) subject to the terms and conditions specified in the Resolution, which terms and conditions include payment of an exit fee … to San Diego County Water Authority, all as more particularly described and set forth in the Resolution, be confirmed?”

A “yes” vote for the measure would approve the separation of the two water districts.

The special election comes several months after the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted in favor of allowing the two water districts to leave the central water agency and switch to Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, moving the proposal to a customer vote.

The two largely agricultural water districts argued that the move would help save their customers about $7.6 million per year. Farmers and growers in the districts have said they are struggling to pay their bills amid county-wide water rate increases, while also losing crops.

However, the Water Authority, along with many county leaders, strongly opposed the detachment, claiming that it could increase how much other residents in the remaining 22 member districts pay for their water by nearly $200 million over the next decade.

The agency is also pursuing a lawsuit against the governing board that voted to let Rainbow Municipal and the Fallbrook Public Utilities District detach from the Water Authority.

According to a report from the Voice of San Diego, a vote by the Water Authority to initiate the litigation came just one day before the two water districts filed paperwork to secure a November ballot for the separation’s approval.

Early voting for the special election is already well underway for those registered in the impacted districts.

Official ballots were mailed out to registered voters during the week of Sunday, Oct. 8, county elected officials said. The deadline to cast a ballot will be on Nov. 7.

Voters can submit their ballot at the Registrar of Voters Office in Kearny Mesa, one of the county’s official drop boxes or select vote centers. To find an official ballot drop box or vote center nearby, voters can go to the Registrar of Voters’ website.

Unregistered voters who live in the districts can also be participate in the special election by conditionally registering in person at the Registrar’s office in Kearny Mesa or a vote center through Nov. 7.

Those who conditionally register will be able to submit a provisional ballot. Once the conditional registration is verified, the voter’s provisional ballot will be counted.