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San Diego Plans to Use Drones, Monitors to Reduce Water Main Breaks, Sewer Spills

San Diego sharply reduced the number of water main breaks and sewer spills across the city last year, saving ratepayers money and helping many neighborhoods avoid significant disruptions.

City officials credited the decreases to ramped-up maintenance and replacement efforts on water mains, sewer lines and pipes, particularly those made of cast iron.

And to further reduce breaks and spills, San Diego officials say they will soon begin using drones and other monitoring devices to look for early warning signs of potential problems.

The 12-inch SeeSnake inspection tool used by the Vallecitos Water District is designed to provide accurate pipeline assessments. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

New Inspection Tool Aids Vallecitos Pipeline Assessments

A new pipeline inspection tool being used by contractors working for the Vallecitos Water District to determine pipeline integrity could become a standard tool saving time and money.

After nearly completing construction in 2008, developers walked away from the 500-acre High Point subdivision in the City of Escondido. Water facilities installed for the subdivision were left unused for ten years.

Two developers CalWest and TrueLife Communities recently decided to complete the project. They approached Vallecitos to determine what is needed to complete water service.

The mains for the project, made of ductile iron pipe, had not been used for ten years. Vallecitos needed to determine the condition of the pipes. Infrastructure Engineering Corporation and subcontractor PICA Corporation are now testing and assessing the integrity of the water main including the pipeline appurtenance (blow-offs, air vacs, and fire hydrants) connections to the main pipeline.

Early damage detection prevents pipeline failures

Pipelines undergoing assessment to determine their condition before being put into service in the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

A pipeline’s condition is assessed to determine its condition before being put into service in the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Several processes are included in the High Point Pipeline Assessment project. Crews insert a tool developed by PICA Corporation called a “SeeSnake” into the pipeline, and data indicates the condition of the pipes. The SeeSnake uses an electromagnetic method on iron pipes, which can “see” past cement mortar, epoxy, or polyethylene lining to detect and size any corrosion damage to the iron structure of the pipe itself.

The SeeSnake tool is pulled through the pipe at 17 feet per minute, delivering data as the inspection is being performed in real-time. The technology helps expedite information, saving time and costs by accelerating the process without sacrificing attention to detail. Vallecitos is then able to assess the pipeline’s wall thickness, potential iron loss, and any other anomalies to determine the condition of the existing pipeline.

See video demonstrating the SeeSnake pipeline assessment.

“Good decisions start with good information,” said Kris Embry, PICA regional manager. “Our ultimate goal in testing this new system is to quickly and efficiently secure accurate condition assessment information, allowing the Vallecitos Water District to address any weak links and prevent potential pipeline failures long before they happen.”

When the inspection is completed, the repair process begins.

Two water pipelines are being inspected for the condition analysis, one running along Woodland Heights Glen starting at Briar Patch Glen, and one running along Elderwood Glen, totaling approximately 3,067 feet. The larger 2,300 feet section of pipe is near the District’s existing Palos Vista.

Preventive measures save water and costs

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. The result could be a pipeline break which could case other infrastructure damage, interruption to water service, a loss of water, or monetary losses.

When an inspection finds corrosion, the affected section of iron pipeline is isolated, removed, and replaced by PVC pipe. Because iron pipelines can be susceptible to corrosion from multiple causes, they are no longer installed in the Vallecitos Water District.

The inspection found two badly corroded areas of pipeline and excavations verified the accuracy of the data. The Vallecitos Water District continues testing the new process and the accuracy of the data to determine whether to adopt the new technology for future working pipeline assessments.

Atkins Receives Safe Drinking Water Champion Award

California State Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego on Monday received the 2019 Safe Drinking Water Champion Award from the California Municipal Utilities Association in Sacramento.

“The award recognizes Senator Atkins’ leadership to work collaboratively with her colleagues in the Senate, Assembly and Governor’s office in securing funding for communities that do not have access to safe drinking water,” said Danielle Blacet-Hyden, CMUA director for water, as she presented Senator Atkins with the award.

There’s No Water Under the Bridge in the Feud That Won’t End

Just days before Christmas, Mayor Kevin Faulconer became the first mayor since Jerry Sanders in 2012 to appear before the 36-member board of the San Diego County Water Authority. The city is the largest member agency of the Water Authority with 10 board members.

Faulconer was there to dip a toe into the decade-long courtroom fight between the Water Authority and Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

UCSD Scientists Will Ride Research Aircraft into Huge Storms to Study Atmospheric Rivers

UC San Diego will send airborne scientists into huge offshore storms to deepen their understanding of ”atmospheric rivers,” the plumes of moisture that can bring nourishing rains, and flooding, to the West Coast.

The second of up to 12 winter weather reconnaissance flights is scheduled to take off from Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento on Tuesday, carrying researchers from NOAA and the Air Force. UCSD will add its own researchers to the trips in about a week.

The university is partnering with the government and military on the project, which is being run out of the UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

San Diego County Water Authority Developing 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

SAN DIEGO, CA, JAN 27, 2020 – The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors authorized work on the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan last week. The Board approved a contract with the firm Woodard & Curran to provide support services for preparation of the plan, which documents the region’s approach to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

Opinion: California’s Water Department Must Face the Reality of Climate Change and Diverse Needs

As we enter a new decade, California faces increasing environmental challenges caused by climate change, creating an uncertain future for our water resources. We need bold leadership to address these impacts. It is time for California’s Department of Water Resources to implement water policy for the state that shores up our precious waterways and diversifies water supplies in the face of these imminent threats.

Atmospheric Rivers That Hit California Getting a Boost From Melting Arctic Ice

The fast-melting ice in the Arctic may be the primary cause of extreme weather across the globe, including some of the most violent, damaging storms to hit the Bay Area and California, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography study has found.

The Scripps paper, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first definitive study of the links between melting polar ice and changing climatic conditions reaching to the tropics, a cause-and-effect relationship that scientists had plenty of evidence for but had never precisely documented to this extent.

Why Action on ‘Forever Chemicals’ Is Taking So Long

What do you do about lab-made chemicals that are in 99% of people in the U.S. and have been linked to immune system problems and cancer? Whose bonds are so stable that they’re often called “forever chemicals“? Meet PFAS, a class of chemicals that some scientists call the next PCB or DDT. For consumers, they are best known in products like Scotchgard and Teflon.

Bill Would Block Transfers of Colorado River Water From Rural Areas to Growing Cities

A company’s proposal to take water from farmland along the Colorado River and sell it to a growing Phoenix suburb has provoked a heated debate, and some Arizona legislators are trying to block the deal with a bill that would prohibit the transfer.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Regina Cobb would bar landowners who hold “fourth-priority” water entitlements from transferring Colorado River water away from communities near the river.