CWA OKs rates for ag customers opting out of discount program

San Diego County Water Authority set transitional Special Agricultural Water Rates (SAWR) for customers who opt out of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Interim Agricultural Water Program.

The Dec. 18 action sets Calendar Year 2009 transitional SAWR at $412 per acre-foot for untreated water and $580 per acre-foot for treated water.  The total costs, including customer service and transportation charges, will average $503 per acre-foot for untreated water and $671 per acre-foot for treated water.

“This was just kind of turning up loose ends and finally adopting the rates,” said Dana Friehauf, the water authority’s principal water resources specialist.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has had an agricultural water program since 1958. In November 1990, the district adopted the Incremental Interruption and Conservation Program, and the agricultural program was incorporated into the IICP in 1991.  

MWD started the Interim Agricultural Water Program (IAWP) in 1994.  

The 12 participating MWD agencies have a maximum annual cap of 155,190 acre-feet, although agencies can use less than their allocation. San Diego County Water Authority (CWA) was allocated 100,459 acre-feet.  During Fiscal Year 2005-06, the 17 participating CWA agencies utilized 84,993 acre feet of IAWP supplies. Ramona Municipal Water District, a CWA member, has agricultural customers participating in the program.

On Oct.14 the MWD board approved changes to IAWP that will phase out the IAWP over a four-year period.  The IAWP provides surplus MWD water to agricultural customers at a discounted rate, with the condition that IAWP customers will be the first to receive cuts prior to implementing any mandatory reductions to other customers during a drought. An agricultural property may choose to pay the municipal and industrial (M&I) rate and not be subject to the IAWP cuts, although, when MWD adopted a 30 percent reduction program at the beginning of 2008, a participant obligation cutoff date of Dec. 31, 2006, was stipulated.  The phase-out of the IAWP program allows for customers to opt out, and be subject to municipal and industrial (M&I) rates, at the beginning of any calendar year during the four-year transition period.

Because IAWP customers will be cut back in a drought, they are not subject to certain CWA storage costs or supplemental supply costs.  The CWA’s Special Agricultural Water Rates program exempts SAWR customers from the melded supply and treatment charges from Imperial County water and from the CWA member agency’s proportional share of the fixed storage charge.

“The rate reflects that.  They’re paying for Met water.  They’re not paying for the water authority supplies,” Friehauf said.

On Oct. 23, the CWA board approved a two-year transitional program for customers opting out of the IAWP program that would provide the same discounts from storage and supply costs as continuing IAWP customers.  Customers choosing to participate in the transitional program are subject to the same allocation of water from the Emergency Storage Project and the future Carryover Storage Project as continuing IAWP customers and they are also subject to MWD regional cutbacks if CWA supplies are cut.  

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