Their counterparts in Los Angeles have a different take.
"We're happy with the formula, even though on paper it would look better for Los Angeles with preferential rights," said James McDaniel, chief operating officer for water at the DWP. "We feel you'd have a real disconnect if you went down that road. There would be a lot of inequity among the systems."
Others say lower-income residents would fare poorly under the plan. Those consumers are already "paying very high rates and conserving the most that they can," said Miriam Torres of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water.
Residents in low-income areas may live in homes with older, inefficient appliances that neither they nor their water district can afford to replace, said Heather Cooley, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Oakland.
"I would urge the Metropolitan Water District to consider providing additional funding for water conservation to these communities so that they can meet the water allocation budget," Cooley wrote in an e-mail.
Even if the plan is approved next month, MWD officials say they may not have to use the allocation this year, or at all. That depends on a number of variables: how much snow falls in the Sierra, how much longer an eight-year drought continues in the Colorado River Basin and how a federal judge rules in a case brought by environmental groups to protect Central Valley salmon.
Critics said that barring an upset, they expect the plan to win approval. The chairwoman of the key committee that will review it Feb. 11 is Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles' deputy mayor for energy and the environment, and the vice chairman is Jim Barrett, director of the San Diego Water Department.
Representation on the 37-member board is determined not by population, but by the assessed property valuations of specific member cities and agencies. Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County each have four votes, and the Central Basin Municipal Water District, which covers many of the southeast L.A. County cities concerned about the plan, has two. Most other cities and agencies each have one. Then, each vote is weighted according to valuation.