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Once the liners are installed, they are welded together, grout is injected to fill the space between the liners and the original pipe, and cement mortar is applied on the inside of the steel liner. Photo: SDCWA

Innovative Relining Program Reduces Cost, Extends Pipeline Service Life

When the San Diego County Water Authority installed major sections of 66- to 96-inch diameter pipelines in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, the regional water wholesale agency used cost-saving pipeline material – a combination of steel wires, thin steel pipe, and concrete widely known as Pre-Stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP). Decades later, agencies around the globe realized that some pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe didn’t last as long as advertised and could fail catastrophically.

The Water Authority deployed a multi-faceted response, using high-tech asset management tools to identify pipeline sections with the greatest risk of failure and a targeted pipeline relining strategy that minimizes community impacts during construction. The agency’s relining program started in the 1980s and ramped up in the early 2000s.  Today, it is on track to complete more than 45 miles of relined pipeline in the next few months.

The current project is taking place deep below the urban streets of La Mesa, California, where the Water Authority and its contractor, L.H. Woods & Sons, Inc., are on schedule to conclude by summer. The delicate, 4.3-mile operation started in September 2017 after years of cross-departmental preparation to ensure the work on the $28.6 million contract could be completed in a cost-efficient fashion without impacting water deliveries. Instead of trenching and removing the old pipe, crews excavate 13 entry portals at strategic points, then insert steel liners into the pipeline using a specially designed cart. When the pipe installation work is done, the portals are backfilled, the streets are repaved, and the pipeline is put back in service for at least another 75 years – at about half the cost of a conventional pipeline replacement project.

Looking for weak spots in system

To identify sections of its 310-mile large-diameter pipeline system that require relining, the Water Authority relies on a suite of high-tech monitoring tools that are part of its pioneering asset management strategy.

Weak spots are often first detected with a “PING!” indicating a snapped steel wire in the PCCP. That sound is relayed through acoustic fiber optic cables – installed as an early warning system inside pipelines – so that Water Authority staff can be alerted by email and cell phone. Each ping is matched with results from Remote Field Eddy Current assessments and visual inspection data, then mapped using Google Earth.

With that information, pipeline segments are plotted on a risk matrix showing the condition and impact of failure. The sections with high risk and high consequence of failure are prioritized for upgrades. On occasion, emergency repairs are required where failure is imminent and the risks are significant. Other, less risky sections continue to be monitored and managed to maximize their service life. This risk-based approach has allowed the Water Authority to avoid more than $200 million in infrastructure spending.

Planning for success requires coordination

Planning for the current project started in 2011. The long lead time was necessary, in part, to coordinate with two of the Water Authority’s retail member agencies that would not be able to take water deliveries from the pipeline when it was down for upgrades. Local or stored supplies in surface water reservoirs could be used in case they were needed during the project.

Critical planning elements also included accounting for other utility assets, property lines and easement rights, environmental impacts, traffic flow and construction noise. Coordination with the local power utility, the regional transit agency and local city officials helped align schedules of concurrent projects, timely address unforeseen conditions and establish relationships to endure potential mid-course project revisions.

During the design phase, Water Authority staff also identified environmental resources requiring protection and mitigation measures. For instance, noise impacts need to be addressed during construction with the installation of large wooden sound walls around work sites. In addition, the plan included with silt fences, fiber rolls and street sweeping to protect nearby waterways from storm water runoff. In addition, an environmental monitor routinely assesses the contractor’s compliance with environmental commitments.

Pipeline relining program extends use 75 years

Relining is often an elegant solution to pipeline deterioration, but it’s not a simple one. The Water Authority’s solution is to use multiple portals, or entry points, to access sections of the pipeline at strategic spots. The footprint of each of the 13 portals for the current project is approximately 25 feet by 60 feet. Photo: SDCWA

Relining is often an elegant solution to pipeline deterioration, but it’s not a simple one. The Water Authority’s solution is to use multiple portals, or entry points, to access sections of the pipeline at strategic spots. The footprint of each of the 13 portals for the current project is approximately 25 feet by 60 feet. Photo: SDCWA

Relining is often an elegant solution to pipeline deterioration, but it’s not a simple one. Crews can’t just insert a single 4.3-mile-long steel liner, partly due to curves and changes in elevation along the route. The Water Authority’s solution is to use multiple portals, or entry points, to access sections of the pipeline at strategic spots. The footprint of each of the 13 portals for the current project is approximately 25 feet by 60 feet. When accounting for laydown, staging and other related work areas, the project encompasses 12.5 acres.

Each portal serves as ground zero for construction, including site excavation and removal of two 20-foot sections of existing pipe to make room for work crews operating the specially designed liner carts. The initial project design identified portals located roughly 2,000 feet apart. However, the contractor adapted its liner carts to better navigate curves and elevation changes. This innovative approach meant the project required fewer portals, saving money and significantly reducing impacts to nearby neighborhoods.

Once the liners are installed, they are welded together, grout is injected to fill the space between the liners and the original pipe, and cement mortar is applied on the inside of the steel liner. To complete the work, new 20-foot sections of the pipe are installed – reconnecting the pipeline through each portal. Then, the portal areas are backfilled, and the portals are returned to like-new condition.

While construction crews carry out that work, the asset management team stays on mission by using removed pipe to perform destructive load testing of pipe sections. On the current project, testing showed steel relining can withstand advanced deterioration of the outside pipe – helping to confirm that steel liners can last at least 75 years.

Reducing neighborhood impacts during construction activities

While the number of portals in the current project was reduced, construction activities remained significant for several months in the highly urbanized area. Four portals were in a four-lane road, temporarily reducing traffic to one lane in each direction. Additionally, two portals were adjacent to major retail parking lots, and six others were less than 100 feet from homes.

From design through construction, the Water Authority conducted significant public outreach, including open house events for neighbors to meet agency staff; distribution of postcards and doorhangers to thousands of neighbors; and the development of “Open During Construction” signs for retail centers. This proactive outreach kept stakeholders engaged with project activities, helping to reduce complaints and resolve issues quickly.

When the current relining project wraps up this summer, the Water Authority will have relined more than half of its pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipelines – a critical part of the agency’s commitment to ensure a safe and reliable water supply that sustains a $220 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents.

Don Billings receives the 'H2O Champion' Water Legacy Award from SDCWA Chairman Mark Muir and Vice Chairman Jim Madaffer. Photo: Water Authority

Five San Diegans Honored With Inaugural Water Legacy Awards

Five recipients of the first ever 2018 Water Legacy Awards received recognition in ceremonies at the Water Authority’s boardroom on May 2.

Bestowed by the Authority’s Board of Directors, the awards honor each recipient’s individual impact on the region’s water issues through their leadership, advocacy, and public communication.

Don Billings, recipient of the H2O Champion Award, remarked upon accepting, “I know it’s not the Academy Awards, but my favorite awards speech is when the actors says, ‘Saying the words is the easy part, writing the story is the hard part.’ All that we’re doing here is telling the phenomenal story written every day by the incredible leadership of the Water Authority who makes it possible.”

See video featuring highlights of the awards ceremony here.

Five recipients in four categories are:

Young Leader Award – Sophie Barnhorst

Barnhorst, a 2015 Water Academy graduate, leverages her deep understanding of our region’s water issues through public testimony against proposed water rate increases. She participates in Water Authority legislative roundtables, and also serves as co-chair of Leaders 2020, a network of young professionals committed to sustainable solutions for the San Diego region.

Social Influencer – Gabriela Dow

Dow shares news through engaging and informative social media posts with thousands of followers on social media, while writing about the Water Academy and water issues. Also a 2015 Water Academy alumna, her commitment to water goes back to her earliest days in San Diego, when she worked on water supply and sustainability projects. Dow remains active in sending comment letters to the State Water Resources Control Board, advocating for sensible water use policies.

Outstanding Advocacy – Jack Monger

Monger has been a strong supporter of prudent water legislation while meeting with legislators and policy makers in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Monger also keeps the region’s largest manufacturing companies up to date on water issues.  In addition, he encourages them to remain engaged in the region’s water future. Monger leverages his membership in key civic organizations to promote water education and informed policy decisions, including groups such as the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and San Diego Port Tenants Association.

There are two winners of the H2O Champion award in its first year.

H2O Champion Award – Don Billings

One of the most active and vocal alumni since the Water Academy was founded in 2014, Billings has attended numerous legislative roundtables, and alumni events and other forums. He authored a comment letter to the State Water Resources Control Board expressing his concerns about water use regulations. As former chair of the City of San Diego’s Independent Rates Oversight Committee, his informed opinions on water issues carry significant weight with our region’s thought leaders and journalists.


H2O Champion Award – Rorie Johnston

Johnston displays a Water Academy alumni license plate holder on her car, but her advocacy does not end there. As an alumna, Johnston attends and supports numerous alumni events. She wrote expressing opposition to the Metropolitan Water District’s controversial rate structure many years ago, as well as joining elected officials opposed to the water tax. She runs a local Chamber, using her post to keep local business leaders up to date on water issues, including newsletters.

The award-winning Citizens Water Academy is currently accepting nominations for its Fall 2018 class in the South County. The Citizens Water Academy is open to future and emerging leaders in the San Diego region who want to learn about critical projects and programs related to water.

Through the academy, the Water Authority is expanding and sustaining a diverse network of influencers who are willing to serve as outreach ambassadors on water issues and refer others to future academy classes. The selection process is competitive and acceptance is not guaranteed. The Water Authority typically receives many more applications than spots available.

Learn more about the upcoming Academy and submit a nomination here. The submission deadline is September 10, 2018.





Delta Middle River - Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Photo: Dale Kolke / California Department of Water Resources WaterFix rates

For the Record: San Diego County Residents Face Steep Water Bill Increases from MWD

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has repeatedly said that the proposed $16.7 billion WaterFix project will cost homeowners $2 to $5 a month.

In reality, MWD’s own data and assumptions show the costs could be $21 a month for San Diego County homeowners when the project’s full debt payments are in effect. The costs would grow to more than $23 a month if MWD ends up paying more for the project – a real possibility given that the MWD board effectively gave the agency’s general manager a blank check for the project.

On April 10, MWD’s board committed $10.8 billion to the twin tunnels project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta to stabilize its supplies from the State Water Project. This authorization more than doubled its previous pledge. MWD’s own documents show there will be no increase in water supply compared to spending $5.2 billion for a single-tunnel project.

MWD’s costs will impact customers differently across Southern California, depending on how much water their local agencies purchase from MWD.

San Diego County bills also will be affected by how MWD decides to recover its costs through rates and charges. Traditionally, the state Department of Water Resources has characterized facilities like the WaterFix as supply costs, however, MWD’s planning documents suggest that it plans to recoup WaterFix costs through its transportation rates.

If WaterFix costs are allocated to MWD’s transportation rates, average monthly household bills in San Diego County could rise by $21 in coming years because the Water Authority uses MWD’s aqueduct to transport large volumes of non-MWD water from the Colorado River to San Diego County.

If MWD allocates its WaterFix costs as supplies, average monthly household bills in San Diego County would rise by 55 cents to 80 cents when the project is implemented because the Water Authority’s purchases of MWD supplies are expected to continue dropping significantly in coming decades.

All costs would rise if the overall project bill grows beyond current projections.

Commitment to cost-effective solutions

The Bay-Delta is the hub of the State Water Project, the nation’s largest state-built water conveyance system. That system has become less reliable in recent decades as the environment has deteriorated. San Diego County’s reliance on Bay-Delta supplies has decreased significantly in recent years due to the Water Authority’s successful strategy to develop locally controlled, drought-proof water supplies, and long-term water-use efficiency measures by homes and businesses across the region.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors has long supported the development of a cost effective and environmentally sustainable Bay-Delta solution, and it has actively engaged in long-running discussions about how to address region’s complex environmental and water supply challenges. The Water Authority’s Board has not taken a formal position on WaterFix because of key unanswered questions about who would pay project costs.

The current projected cost for WaterFix is $16.7 billion, and MWD’s Board voted April 10 to pay 64.6 percent. However, MWD Board left the agency’s actual WaterFix payment to the “reasonable discretion and judgment” of its general manager, to whom the Board also gave sole authority over determining the project’s final cost.

The Water Authority’s delegates to MWD’s Board voted against the funding proposal because MWD did not provide sufficient cost-benefit analysis of the options or enough time to fully evaluate the recommendations. Delegates from cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Fernando also voted against the proposal, which passed with 60.83 percent of the vote.


Phase Two Of Construction Begins At Oroville Dam

Crews went back to work again on the Oroville Dam at midnight on Tuesday for phase two of construction. This year, crews will be replacing the temporary walls with permanent structural concrete walls. Crews are removing the temporary roller-compacted concrete walls in the middle section of the main spillway.


OPINION: Hold Water District Board Accountable For Delta Tunnels Vote

It’s ludicrous for the Santa Clara Valley Water District board to believe it can steer Gov. Jerry Brown’s $16 billion Delta twin tunnels project by committing to help fund it. The board should stand up to pressure from the state and reject the project when it meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and instead work with California’s next governor on a plan to truly secure a reliable source of water for Silicon Valley while protecting the environmental health of the Delta.

California Considers Charge On Utility Bills To Create Safe Water Fund

Gaps in funding for water treatment are a major problem in California. Water providers operate independently, relying virtually entirely on customer fees to cover costs. For agencies with scale, money and access to quality water sources, this model works well. But absent those resources, contamination persists for years without resolution.

Separating Water And Politics Isn’t Easy In California

The 2014 water bond included a novel funding approach designed to take at least some of the politicking out of deciding which projects get public money. This week’s tortured deliberations by the California Water Commission showed just how tough it is to do that. By applying a complex procedure for grading proposals, the bond restricted state taxpayer spending to the pieces of a project that would provide measurable benefits to the public.

Is WaterFix Another Megaproject Gone Awry?

The 20th century was the century of the megaproject, and as usual, California pointed the way for the nation. Southern California’s freeway system and the State Water Project, both largely completed by the 1970s, were mighty testaments to the conceit that we could build our way out of any problem. That view, of course, has since been tempered by inconvenient realities.

California Lawmakers Want Expedited Action On Salton Sea Restoration

California leaders who represent the shrinking Salton Sea want the same kind of expedited action taken on restoring it as the Oroville spillway crisis had in 2017. After the spillway eroded millions of dollars were quickly allotted to fix the dam. A 10-year plan to restore California’s largest lake was adopted last year. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia questioned the agencies in charge of the project Tuesday at an oversight hearing over why it’s behind schedule.

San Jose Water Agency Approves Up To $650 Million For Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels Project

In a significant boost for Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Delta to more easily move water south, Silicon Valley’s largest water agency Tuesday endorsed the project and voted to commit up to $650 million to help pay for it. With a 4-3 vote after a packed four-hour meeting, the Santa Clara Valley Water District reversed a decision it made in October to oppose the two-tunnel project.