Accountability Lacking for Millions Spent on Turf Removal

OPPOSE:Programs funded with ratepayer dollars that lack accountability.

As delegates representing San Diego County at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, we will be casting our votes in opposition to spending hundreds of millions of dollars of ratepayer money subsidizing turf replacement. We oppose the proposal because:

Lack of accountability. In spite of repeated requests, MWD has not conducted studies to substantiate actual near‐term water savings resulting from the turf removal program. The water savings are based on estimates, and studies should be conducted to quantify the true value of these investments.

We believe that there should be more accountability as to the actual water savings realized before any additional authorization of funds.

Lack of transparency. MWD has not even provided an accounting of the participants who have received the more than $77 million of ratepayer money that has already been spent on the program. No further public funding should be allocated or spent without an accounting of past expenditures.

Lack of available funding to pay for this massive, unbudgeted program expansion. MWD is running this program as an “open checkbook,” but it has not planned or budgeted for these expenditures. Questionable reserve funding is being used to pay for the program expansion and it is likely that rate increases will be needed to pay for this spending.  MWD’s General Manager reported that every $100 million of MWD expenditures equates to 7 percent of its water rates.  These programs are not “free.”

The conservation program is being funded with rates the Superior Court has already ruled are illegal. MWD is continuing to collect fund this and other programs through its Water Stewardship Rate, even though the Superior Court has already ruled that it is an illegal tax.

The turf removal program is a regressive tax. Many low-income ratepayers allowed their lawns to die many months if not years ago due to the cost of water. Now, they are being forced to subsidize turf replacement by private golf clubs and other big commercial and residential water users.

Please join us in asking the MWD board to take these actions:

  • Immediate Audit: We support ordering an immediate audit of the $77 million that has already been spent subsidizing private golf courses and other big water users.
  • Release of Data to the Public: We support immediate release of data to the public and an analysis demonstrating the near‐term and long‐term benefit of these programs.
  • Budget Cap: We support a firm budget cap for any proposal to further expand MWD’s conservation programs.

Click here to read the letter.

Thank you for reading,

Michael Hogan
San Diego County Water Authority delegate to the MWD Board