Del Mar supports desal plant but won’t buy its water

DEL MAR — Although Del Mar won’t purchase desalinated water from a proposed plant in Carlsbad — at least not anytime soon — City Council at its Nov. 19 meeting voted to support a water purchase agreement between Poseidon Resources and the San Diego County Water Authority. 

In September, the water authority released a proposed 30-year agreement to purchase 48,000 acre-feet to 56,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

According to the agreement, risk is transferred to Poseidon for the design, construction and operation of the facility. It includes other protections for the water authority, such as monetary penalties if Poseidon doesn’t meet its supply obligations.

Staff recommended not buying water from the plant because of the high cost and the fact that the city must purchase treated water from the city of San Diego.

Also, the city would be obligated to buy a minimum of 1,000 acre-feet of water. Its current use is 1,100 acre-feet. If Del Mar consumption dropped below 1,000 acre-feet the city would have to pay for water it wasn’t using, according to Public Works Director Eric Minicilli.

“It really just doesn’t work for Del Mar,” he said.

However, as a member agency of the water authority, the city would be responsible for its share of the costs of the project. The estimated increase is $175,000 annually, which is a 12 percent increase in the city’s total current $1.4 million water purchase and treatment costs.

The money would come from an increase in Del Mar’s next sewer and water rate study, which will set new rates beginning in fiscal year 2015.

The water authority was set to vote on the purchase agreement Nov. 29.

On Nov. 20 the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, also lent support to the water authority for a lawsuit it filed against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California over pricing policies. That suit isn’t expected to reach a courtroom until at least 2014.

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