SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Thursday approved a $1.5 billion budget to cover the next two fiscal years, which includes rate increases for member agencies.

The spending in the budget will increase by 2 percent, mainly because of higher costs to acquire and treat water, according to the agency.

The SDCWA said its rates will rise a total of 6.6 percent for untreated water and 5.4 percent for treated water. Rates paid by the 24 water districts and cities in the region will vary based on individual circumstances.

Mark Weston, the water authority's board chairman, said the agency has trimmed staff and reduced its reliance on outside consultants in order to cut its costs.

"At the same time, we are investing in drought response efforts, purchasing desalinated seawater from the Carlsbad plant starting this fall, and preparing for reduced water sales due to drought-induced conservation," Weston said.

"The net result is a budget that will allow us to provide a reliable water supply at the least possible cost while maintaining our strong credit ratings and our solid financial footing," he said.

The desalination plant in Carlsbad is scheduled to begin operations this fall, he said.