The citizen volunteer committee known as IROC, and formed by Mayor Sanders to protect San Diego’s water rate payers, sent a letter to him and the City Council this week urging them to hold off on approving a deal between the County Water Authority and the for-profit venture, Poseidon Resources, the deal-maker of the proposed desalinated water project in Carlsbad.

Surfrider has been fighting this desalination project for many years because our policy on water management is conservation first, recycled water second, and then once those two water supply options have been exhausted we can discuss desalination. But then only desalination done right, with mitigation for energy used and the amount of marine life mortality minimized or eliminated. (BTW, a report earlier this month said we haven’t even scratched the surface on conservation in San Diego!)

We attended local hearings on the proposed desalination deal recently, and asked why the County is pushing ahead with this deal, when not enough due diligence has been done on the deal itself. Further, if cheaper options like recycled water can be implemented, why is the County Water Authority opting for the most expensive option of desalination? It also happens to be the most costly on our environment, and shouldn’t the folks entrusted to managed our natural resources be taking this into account?

The letter is quite embarrassing to the San Diego County Water Authority as IROC notes they are unable to say how they “will allocate the very substantial and recurring costs of this project to member agencies and their rate-payers.” Surfrider is as a grassroots organization made up of water users, so we wonder what our members think of an agency entrusted to manage our resources that chooses the most costly option both to our environment and the rate-payers of San Diego.

Regarding the water purchase agreement, IROC is wondering what the impacts are, and where the transparency is, and why the urgency? We are hopeful the San Diego City Council, and the Mayor, respect the advice of the IROC citizen volunteers, and request due diligence on this potential desalination deal, as it would it would certainly be bad precedent (and down-right insulting,) to ask these folks to volunteer their time and expertise acting as a rate-payer ombudsman group — only to ignore what seems like a pretty reasonable request. What better way to discourage future citizen volunteers?

For the record, we know when water prices go up, demand for it goes down. This is a well-established fact of water use. Surely this water deal will drive costs up. Clearly more information is needed, and an independent group should be evaluating the deal. Isn’t that in everyone’s best interests? Our elected officials owe us further investigation and some answers on why desalination would be prioritized over recycled water options – or even conservation, which is much less expensive.