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Trump Admin Fast-Tracks Colorado River Pipeline

The Trump administration has put one of the largest new water projects on the Colorado River on the fast track, raising concerns among environmentalists.

Utah first proposed building a 140-mile pipeline from Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border more than a decade ago. The plan, however, was waylaid by environmental and other reviews during the Obama administration.

But last fall, the Utah Division of Water Resources updated the proposal, removing a hydropower plant and cutting $100 million from its price tag.

The move also changed which federal agency had jurisdiction over it — from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Wildlife Protected for New Underground Reservoir Project

One by one, small mammals and amphibians living within a construction zone in Mission Trails Regional Park are being relocated to safe areas. Protecting sensitive species is one part of the Mission Trails Project.

A team of biologists from the San Diego County Water Authority, AECOM, and the San Diego Natural History Museum began surveying for and relocating the wildlife in preparation for a new underground reservoir. The reservoir will be constructed in the western portion of the park. The habitat surveys and wildlife relocation program span 15 acres of the park and are designed to protect sensitive species in the project area from construction activities.

Laboratory Superintendent Nicki Branch (far left) and employees of the Escondido Water Quality Lab, one of only two certified labs in California under new standards. Photo: City of Escondido

Escondido Water Quality Lab Leads By Example

California’s 600 certified water quality testing labs will face strict new accreditation standards in the near future. While final hearings still need to take place on the draft regulations before adoption, the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab isn’t waiting. Escondido is working now to adopt the anticipated regulations.

Escondido is one of only two California labs already compliant with the draft regulations, which require more stringent quality controls.

The laboratory is certified by the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program to conduct 155 different certified test methods to ensure Escondido water and wastewater safety, including reclaimed water samples, stormwater samples, drinking water samples, wastewater from various stages throughout the treatment process, and industrial wastewater collected from permitted industries.

As part of compliance with the new standards, Laboratory Technician Ken Brown was promoted to the lab's Quality Assurance Officer. Photo: City of Escondido

As part of compliance with the new standards, Laboratory Technician Ken Brown was promoted to the lab’s Quality Assurance Officer. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido Laboratory Superintendent Nicki Branch supervises the 13-person lab staff. She said the decision was made to work toward Environmental Lab Accreditation Program compliance right away rather than wait for formal implementation.

“We thought, this regulation is coming,” said Branch. “It’s going to be the law. Let’s just go ahead and comply with it now. Each water quality laboratory has to be certified by the state. Adding the [proposed] standards adds more quality assurance and quality control procedures for everything you do in the lab.”

Improved reporting of water quality testing

Damien Wong (left) and Michelle Sohn at work in the Escondido Water Quality Lab. Photo: City of Escondido

Damien Wong (left) and Michelle Sohn at work in the Escondido Water Quality Lab. Photo: City of Escondido

Branch said the standards implement more rigorous reporting, not new processes.

“It takes what we are doing now and makes the data more defensible,” she said. “We can show the chain of custody and verify our procedures, from sampling to analyzing to reporting. The process protects the integrity of the data.”

The proposed new requirements are based on 2016 standards developed by The NELAC Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting “the generation of environmental data of known and documented quality through an open, inclusive, and transparent process that is responsive to the needs of the community.”

Escondido staff share expertise with industry peers

Brett Kelley conducts a test in the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab. Photo: City of Escondido

Brett Kelley conducts a test in the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab. Photo: City of Escondido

Branch said it took a full year to implement the additional sampling and paperwork. Once the City of Escondido completed the process, she realized her team gained valuable insight other labs would need. She encouraged her staff to submit abstracts to speak on the proposed new regulations at the annual 2019 California Water Environment Association conference.

“We had five people speaking who had never made a presentation before,” said Branch. “I told them ‘You are now the experts.’”

Lab staff presentation at 2019 CWEA Tri-State Seminar

“We expect to give more presentations this year,” said Branch. “Labs will need to do this. We can help people, counsel them, and give them tips. People are apprehensive. It’s human nature. ‘No, not more regulation!’ But when you are a lab doing drinking water analysis, you want the lab to be that stringent and that accurate with quality assurance procedures.”

Personal pride in the achievement, improved teamwork, and sharing their new knowledge as subject matter experts were unexpected benefits.

Protecting California’s Water Assets: State Releases New Water Resilience Portfolio

Abundant and clean water supplies will be essential for California’s people, communities and economy to thrive in the future. Yet, the state faces significant challenges on the road to water security.

To address those difficulties, Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has released a draft “Water Resilience Portfolio” designed to ensure that California’s water systems, both natural and constructed, will adequately support our growing state in the future.

Governor’s Budget Seeks to Build Water Resilience

Earlier this month the Newsom administration laid out its vision for addressing the linked issues of water and climate in two key policy documents: the much-anticipated draft of its Water Resilience Portfolio (WRP) and the governor’s budget proposal. The WRP, which resulted from an April 2019 executive order, was developed with extensive input from state agencies and stakeholders from around California.

Not Sports Podcast: San Diego Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer

Darren Smith: Joining us now in studio is San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

Smith: “I think some of us we just turn on the shower in the morning and we use the faucet in our home and we never give a second thought as to what it’s coming and where it’s coming from, yet you have all the answers to these questions, don’t you?”

Jim Madaffer: “People do just turn on the faucet, the garden hose and they expect water to come out but yet a lot of folks don’t realize the incredible journey those molecules took to get to that faucet and what it takes to make sure they’re being delivered safe potable quality water and that it’s always reliable and at the best price possible.”

(“Not Sports” podcast with Darren Smith and Jack Cronin is a nightly look at stories that affect San Diego and the greater Southern California region.)

Rain Brings Urban Runoff to San Diego County Beaches

The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health issued a General Rain Advisory on Tuesday directing swimmers, surfers and others to avoid water contact at all beaches and bays following recent rainfall. The agency said swimming, surfing and diving should be avoided during rain and for 72 hours following rainfall.

The agency said with rain comes urban runoff that may contain large amounts of bacteria from sources such as animal waste, soil and decomposing vegetation. This runoff can cause bacteria levels to rise in ocean and bay waters especially near storm drains, creeks, rivers and lagoon outlets, according to the department.

History of Helix Water District on Tap Jan. 25

More than 130 years of local history will be shared as part of the Helix Water District’s behind-the-scenes “Water Talk” this month.

Helix customers will hear from the jurisdiction’s personnel how the need for a robust water infrastructure played in the development of East County and how the water district was formed in 1889 to meet that need.

‘Things Will Blow Up’ If You Ignore Climate Risks — CEO

Rich Sorkin, CEO of Jupiter Intelligence, sees more than raging fires, rising seas and damaging winds in a warming world.

He also sees a business opportunity.

Sorkin, a longtime technology entrepreneur who’s worked in financial services and energy, is leading Jupiter, a Silicon Valley startup that analyzes physical and financial risks tied to climate change.

Santa Fe Irrigation Approves Rate Increases, Protest Level Not Reached

The Santa Fe Irrigation District approved three percent water rate increases for the next three years at a Jan. 16 hearing. The first bills will go out to customers on April 1 using a new five-tier residential rate structure that differentiates between meter sizes in higher tiers.

The rate increases aim to help meet the district’s objectives to ensure equity across customer classes, encourage conservation and maintain financial stability as it faces challenges such as the rising costs of imported water.