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Water pipeline dreams revived in the desert

Mike Lee
UT San Diego

Eager to diversify its water supplies, the San Diego County Water Authority has resurrected a long-shot plan that could top $2 billion to build a pipeline for importing water directly from Imperial County. At the same time, it’s trying to cement a long-term deal for desalinating seawater in Carlsbad.

Both moves are part of an initiative to further reduce reliance on the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles, which once delivered nearly all of the county’s water but today provides less than half. The two titans are on increasingly bad terms, and the water authority is scouring every possibility for greater independence even though such efforts threaten to peel scabs off the wounds of past water wars.

“We are going to assess all of our options, even the ones that have previously been dismissed or ones that have previously been thought to be infeasible,” said Vincent Mudd, who represents San Diego city on the water authority board. “We are acting like a region that is in the mode of becoming self-sufficient. Now, we have to take the next step.”

That could mean gambling on more costly projects. The water authority recently decided to spend about $400,000 analyzing a concept that was last assessed a decade ago: delivering water from Imperial irrigators to San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside. The idea is to bypass Metropolitan’s pipes for part of the local supply, though San Diego still would rely on MWD to make deliveries from other sources.

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