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San Diego water officials protest proposed cutback rules

San Diego officials say proposed water rules would punish those that have reduced usage

San Diego County water officials are protesting the state water board's numerical formula for ordering local agencies to conserve water or face hefty fines.

The county Water Authority plans to file a formal complaint with the state Water Resources Control Board that issued the numerical targets this week in an attempt to help the state reach the 25% cutback ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Under the state water board's formula, the city of San Diego is ordered to reduce water usage by 20%. Reductions ordered for other water agencies in San Diego County range from 20% to 35%.

The state water board is set to take action on the proposed cuts May 5 or May 6, with the ordered cuts effective June 1.

San Diego officials said the board's numerical approach does not credit agencies with trying to find alternative sources of water and could undermine the local economy. They called for a "more refined approach.

The county authority, which acts as a wholesaler to 24 local agencies serving 3.1 million people, is purchasing water from the Imperial Irrigation District, a 2003 deal considered the largest farms-to-cities water transfer in the nation.

Also, the county authority has invested in the $1-billion desalination project now under construction in Carlsbad, designed to provide 50 million gallons of fresh water per day.

Using the year 2013 as the baseline for determining the percentage cuts is unfair to agencies that imposed conservation measures in previous years, reducing usage, officials said.

Use of potable water in the county has declined 12% since 1990 despite an increase of more than 700,000 residents, according to figures released by the San Diego County Water Authority.

The state water board has yet to propose regulations "that are equitable, protect our economy or advance sensible long-term water policies," said Mark Weston, chairman of the county water authority.

@LATsandiego

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