LOS ANGELES— A five-day trial began Dec. 17 in one of two lawsuits filed by the San Diego County Water Authority two years ago challenging rates set by its wholesale water provider.

SDCWA sued Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 2010 and again in 2012 alleging the water wholesaler had imposed illegal rates not based on the cost of providing the services.

Daniel Purcell, an attorney in the San Francisco office of Keker & Van Nest and special counsel for the water authority, claimed in a release that the lawsuit could have a major impact on the cost of water in Southern California.

The water authority is the only one of the cooperative's 26 cities and water agencies that has sued MWD over rates.

In both lawsuits, the water authority alleges that MWD illegally assigns water supply costs - including its cost of obtaining water from the state of California and its costs of subsidizing local water supply projects - to MWD's water transportation rates. San Diego County Water Authority officials said they are MWD's only customer that uses MWD's pipes to transport third party water supplies from the Colorado River.

Both sides have contended in court documents that the other party failed to provide sufficient discovery.

In court filings, MWD has stated it is exempt from the requirements of California statutes and the California Constitution requiring public agencies to tie the rates they charge to the actual cost of the services they provide.

The Triple-A rated MWD, a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties, has $4.5 billion in outstanding revenue bond debt.

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