Commission Helps Secure Wholesale Water Rate Savings of $474 Per Acre Foot for San Diego County Growers
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved a Permanent Special Agricultural Water Rate (PSAWR) structure that will continue to provide lower water rates for farmers in exchange for lower water supply reliability. The Water Authority has provided lower-cost water to growers in exchange for lower reliability since October 2008, when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California began phasing out a similar program. The California Avocado Commission was instrumental in developing the initial program in 2008, known as the Transitional Agricultural Water Rate (TSAWR). Since that time, the TSAWR program continued with a series of extensions that were set to expire at the end of 2020.
During the last year Commission staff, in partnership with Hannah Gbeh, San Diego County Farm Bureau executive director, and Eric Larson, (retired) executive director, along with San Diego County agricultural water agencies (Valley Center, Rainbow, Fallbrook, Yuima) advocated about the need to make the TSAWR permanent to bring water price certainty to current and future farmers. Together the Commission worked with Water Authority staff and board members to demonstrate the value of agriculture to the region and the benefits farming provides.
Under the PSAWR program, which will take effect January 1, 2021, the Water Authority will provide a wholesale rate savings for agricultural participants of $474 per acre foot — a 27% savings. Actual savings at the retail level will vary among agencies based on their unique wholesale cost and retail rate structures.
Growers who transfer from the TSAWR or opt-in to the PSAWR will be exempt from fixed water storage and supply reliability charges in exchange for lower water supply reliability during water shortages or emergencies. One district’s general manager can only recall two instances since the inception of the TSAWR program in October 2008 where growers were forced to cut back their water use.
Over the next six months, the Water Authority will work with its 24 member agencies to verify existing customers’ eligibility for the new program. Growers who are currently participating in the existing TSAWR program will be allowed to take part in the new PSAWR program while being screened for eligibility.
The parameters of the PSAWR program will be reevaluated in five years to determine water demands and supplies. If you are a customer within the Water Authority service area stay tuned for information from your water agency on how to remain in or opt-in to the PSAWR program. The Commission also will share additional PSAWR program details, including qualifying criteria and the signup process, as they are made available.