Water governance is weird, PVID-MWD democracy edition

How is it that residents of Southern California’s urbanized coastal plain (sort of) have voting rights in an irrigation district clear across the state? Pull up a chair….

At its Aug. 17 meeting, the Water Planning and Stewardship Committee of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California takes up this item:


Let’s follow the governance chain here. MWD, which wholesales water to some 20 million residents of the Los Angeles-San Diego metro areas, is made up of 26 member agencies. Some of them, like Pasadena and Los Angeles, directly serve retail water customers. Others are wholesalers in their own right, municipal water districts that in turn pass water along to more than 200 smaller retailers. The board is made up of representatives of each of the 26 member agencies with members’ voting rights proportional to property valuation.

The Palo Verde Irrigation District delivers irrigation water to farmland around Blythe, along the Colorado River. There, elections are held for a board, with voting rights allocated in proportion to property ownership.

MWD owns 22,000 acres of land in Palo Verde, about one sixth of the land. So MWD gets 22,000 acres worth of voting rights in Palo Verde. Thus the residents of California’s great coastal cities, in proportion to their pro rata share of MWD governance, get a corresponding pro rata share of PVID governance.

This makes my head hurt.