You are now in Achievements Features category.

Water Authority Board Honors Retiring Otay Water District GM Mark Watton

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday honored Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton for 37 years of public service in the water industry.

The Board issued a proclamation congratulating Watton on “his long and distinguished service to San Diego County upon his upcoming retirement from the Otay Water District” and commended him “for a lifetime of service that has improved the quality of life in our region.”

After 15 years leading the water agency that serves Southeastern San Diego County, and nearly four decades representing the water interests of the county and state, Watton plans to retire in late March. He first served on the Water Authority’s Board of Directors in 1985 and was Board Chair from 1995 through 1996.

“A wonderful career” — Mark Watton

Watton’s water industry career began in 1983, when he was elected to Otay’s Board of Directors. He served in that role for 18 years. Watton was then hired as Otay general manager in 2004.He currently manages the district’s $106 million annual operating budget and 138 employees.

“I’m completely satisfied. It’s been a wonderful career,” said soon-to-retire General Manager Mark Watton. “It’s so gratifying to retire in this industry, knowing there is a new generation coming in, like our new general manager, to continue doing a great job.”

Watton was referring to Otay’s Assistant Chief of Water Operations, Jose Martinez, a U.S. Navy veteran, who was recently hired to be Otay’s new general manager.

Watton also was instrumental in securing high-priority Colorado River water for San Diego County through the Quantification Settlement Agreement.

“Mark was a key player in diversifying the region’s water supply by securing highly reliable supplies from the Colorado River that will continue to benefit our region for decades,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “If we had a hall of fame for water pioneers in the San Diego region, Mark Watton would definitely be a member.”

Innovative leadership

The Otay Water District provides water, recycled water, and sewer service to approximately 224,000 customers within roughly 125 square miles of southeastern San Diego County, including the communities of Chula Vista, Jamul, Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, and unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa, as well as Otay Mesa along the international border with Mexico.

Under Watton’s leadership, Otay has enlisted the use of drones to modernize preliminary inspections of the district’s 40 potable water reservoirs, four recycled water reservoirs, 20 pump stations, and a recycled water treatment plant. Drone technology saves employee time, improves the safety of workers performing inspections, and ultimately delivers greater value to Otay’s customers.

Watton has also presided over Otay’s deployment of its state-of-the-art leak detection and repair program that has reduced water loss 43% over seven years. In 2018, a 3.3% reduction in water loss saved Otay customers $1.3 million, helping to keep rates low.

“Not only has Mark made a significant impact locally for Otay’s service area, but also regionally and statewide,” said Otay Board President Gary Croucher. “He is an influential thought leader in the water industry and his commitment to our region is unmatched.”

Prudent financial manager

Watton’s leadership has maintained Otay’s AA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s for more than a decade. While many public agencies struggle to keep up with their pension obligations, Watton’s prudent management of Otay’s finances made it possible to fully fund the District’s Other Post-Employment Benefit plan and substantially fund its pension plan in upcoming years.

An innovator throughout his career, he identified an opportunity for a binational solution to Otay’s continued need to diversify its water supplies. On May 16, 2017, the U.S. Department of State granted Otay a presidential permit to build a nearly four-mile potable water cross-border pipeline and associated facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border for the importation of desalinated seawater produced in Mexico. Although obtaining the presidential permit was a milestone accomplishment, Otay’s part of the project is no longer moving forward.

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors February 27 -MWD-WNN-Primary

Water Authority Board Votes to Dismiss Certain Legal Claims Against MWD

After securing more than $350 million in “Water Stewardship Rate” benefits for the San Diego region, the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today voted to dismiss certain related claims against the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The Water Authority Board’s decision represents a major step toward resolving the litigation, which has been pending for more than 10 years. The suits challenged water rates and charges imposed by MWD on San Diego County agencies and their ratepayers from 2010-2018. The Water Authority’s Board action will allow the parties to avoid a trial scheduled for June 2020 and clear the way for judgment to be entered in the older cases.

Dismissing claims

“Late last year, the MWD Board of Directors approved more than $350 million for water supply projects in San Diego County,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “That was a major development, and today’s action by our Board recognizes that fact, along with other actions the MWD Board has taken recently in response to the Water Authority’s claims and prior court rulings.”

Water Authority Board settlement offer

The Water Authority Board has worked for more than three years to try to settle the litigation. In the past few months, those efforts gained momentum as the two wholesale water agencies traded settlement offers. When those proposals didn’t produce an agreement, the Water Authority Board decided to take unilateral action consistent with its settlement offer.

“Our Board carefully weighed the options before them, including whether more settlement negotiations would be productive at this time,” said Water Authority Board Secretary Christy Guerin, who is leading settlement efforts for the Board.

“While we had hoped for a comprehensive settlement, our Board ultimately decided that the most efficient path forward was to unilaterally implement major elements of our last settlement offer, including dismissal of our Water Stewardship Rate on supply claims,” Guerin said. “We wanted to acknowledge MWD’s recent board actions, both approving funding for San Diego County and stating it will no longer impose its Water Stewardship Rate on the Water Authority’s Exchange Agreement.”

Court rulings

Judgment in the 2010-2012 cases may now be entered promptly. In prior proceedings, the court ordered MWD to increase the Water Authority’s right to MWD water by approximately 100,000 acre-feet a year, equivalent to about twice the annual production of the $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project. MWD has already complied with this ruling and adjusted its records accordingly.

The court also determined that MWD must repay the Water Authority for illegal charges MWD imposed on delivery of the Water Authority’s water under the Exchange Agreement. This ruling is expected to ultimately result in recovery of about $80 million. In addition, San Diego ratepayers have avoided paying more than $80 million from 2018-2022 (when MWD suspended these charges), for a total recovery on this claim of more than $160 million. The improper charges on the Exchange Agreement would have cost local residents more than $500 million over the life of the Water Authority’s water delivery contract.

Water supply projects in San Diego County

In addition, the court ruled that MWD had illegally barred the Water Authority from receiving money from MWD’s local water supply program, even though the Water Authority was forced to pay for it. MWD lifted the ban in response to the court’s order, and ultimately approved funding for three water supply projects in San Diego County:

  • $285.6 million for the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Project
  • $23.6 million for the Fallbrook Groundwater Desalter Project
  • $42.7 million for the City of Oceanside Pure Water & Recycled Water Expansion Phase I

“While today’s Water Authority Board action does not resolve all of the issues, it is a major step forward toward that objective,” said Water Authority Board Vice Chair Gary Croucher. “This action positions us to resolve all cases as quickly as possible on terms that will continue to protect the long-term interests of San Diego County ratepayers.”

The Water Authority remains committed to work with MWD on important issues, including planned updates to MWD’s water resource and financing plans, as well as advancing other policies and programs to promote long-term water supply reliability for San Diego County and the rest of Southern California.

Click here for more information about the rate case litigation, including today’s letter from the Water Authority to MWD.

Water Authority Board Votes to Dismiss Certain Legal Claims Against MWD

February 27, 2020 – After securing more than $350 million in “Water Stewardship Rate” benefits for the San Diego region, the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today voted to dismiss certain related claims against the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

California Natural Resources Agency Lays Out Aggressive Salton Sea Mitigation Goals

The California Natural Resources Agency this week released its Salton Sea Management Program annual report, which trumpeted the first completed dust suppression project and set ambitious goals for upcoming mitigation efforts.

The report lays out an aggressive target of 3,800 acres on which the agency hopes to complete efforts to tamp down dust by the end of 2020 to catch up with its long-term benchmarks.

“We’re well-positioned and have identified a suite of projects that will help us accomplish that goal by the end of this year,” said Arturo Delgado, the agency’s assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy.

Water is Life. It’s Also a Battle. So What Does the Future Hold for California?

Water plays a lead role in the state’s political theater, with Democrats and Republicans polarized, farmers often fighting environmentalists and cities pitted against rural communities. Rivers are overallocated through sloppy water accounting. Groundwater has dwindled as farmers overdraw aquifers. Many communities lack safe drinking water. Native Americans want almost-extinct salmon runs revived. There is talk, too, of new water projects, including a massive new tunnel costing billions of dollars.

California Abnormally Dry After Low Precipitation Winter

A winter with little precipitation has left most of California abnormally dry and officials are bracing for the possibility of an early and more intense wildfire season amid record-breaking temperatures.

Drought has expanded to nearly a quarter of the state, mainly in central California, the heart of the state’s agricultural sector, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor map mad public Thursday. The map shows 70 percent of the state is abnormally dry.

Everything You Need to Know About California’s Historic Water Law

California began regulating surface water in rivers and streams in 1914, but it took the state another 100 years to look underground.

In 2014, for the first time in its history, California passed a law regulating the use of groundwater – the resource on which 85% of its population and much of its $50bn agriculture industry rely.

Carlsbad Flower Fields Prepped for Spring’s Arrival

The March through May wonderment that we know as The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch will once again explode with tissue-like petals of Tecolote ranunculus, Mother Nature’s sign that spring is on the way.

Seven million flowers — in hues of red, purple, orange, gold, rose, pink and white — will fill row upon row of the more than 50 acres of hillside that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

Opinion: Climate Change and Water Supply

California, as everyone knows, receives virtually all of its precipitation during a few fall and winter months and in 2019, some early rain and snow storms promised a bountiful water year.

This year, Mother Nature kept that promise in Southern California, where precipitation is running at or above the normal, but Northern California — far more important from a water supply standpoint — has been a different story.

The north has seen almost no precipitation since Christmas, the all-important Sierra snowpack is less than half of its average depth, and the region’s balmy, springlike weather shows no signs of ending.

California Drought: Northern California Having Driest February Since 1864

With unusually dry, hot weather continuing for weeks on end and the driest February in the Bay Area in 156 years, nearly a quarter of California’s land area now is under drought conditions, federal officials announced Thursday.

Altogether, 23.3% of the state is in “moderate drought” — up from 9.5% last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.