As California suffers through a fourth year of record drought, one city in the Golden State has a unique problem: too much water.
As most of the roughly 400 water agencies across the state clamor to meet mandatory water cutback targets imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, San Diego has had no trouble meeting its reduction requirements.
In fact, because the mandatory cutback orders apply to all California cities even if they don’t lack water, San Diego finds itself in a particularly peculiar situation: residents are paying higher prices for readily available water.
The higher water rates stem partially from a pricey new desalination plant set to come online next month in Carlsbad. The $1 billion plant near San Diego will ultimately provide San Diego County with 7 to 10 percent of its water needs.
But the desalinated water is reportedly more expensive than both treated and natural water, at least for now, and San Diego residents will likely pay a bit more on their water bills as a result.
“It’s really hard to tell [my constituents], ‘You have to let your grass die,’ and in the same breath you have to tell them, ‘We have more water than we can use,'” Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall told the Los Angeles Times.
According to the paper, San Diego already has 99 percent of the water it needs for normal use. The county reportedly currently has more than 13.7 billion gallons of water stored in the San Vicente reservoir, plenty of water for a dry day.
The water surplus has some critics of the desalination plant wondering whether it was wise for the city to make a deal to purchase a set amount of water from the plant each year, whether it needs it or not.
“We told you this was a boondoggle from the beginning,” attorney Marco Gonzalez, who fought against the desalination plant’s construction, told the Times. “We moved too fast into a giant corporate welfare scenario.”
The water surplus could increase if the El Niño set to hit California this winter follows predictions and becomes one of the biggest weather patterns of its kind in recorded history.
The storms are already beginning: forecasters predict up to 18 inches of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains as a massive storm strikes on Wednesday.