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Oceanside Receives Second $1.5M Grant to Aid $19.5M Smart Water Meter Project

The City of Oceanside received its second $1.5 million award from a federal agency to aid its new smart water meter installation project, the city announced.

The city is in phase two of a three-phase project to replace all 45,000 existing water meters with advanced metering infrastructure smart meters, confirmed Lindsay Leahy, Principal Engineer for the project.

In total, all three phases will cost an estimated $19.5 million — the cost of phase two is about $4.5 million, Leahy said.

Contractors Get Reprieve in Effort to Block San Diego’s Pure Water Recycling System

Legal wrangling over San Diego’s proposed Pure Water sewage recycling system continued Friday, when a judge gave a temporary reprieve to a group of local contractors fighting for the ability of non-union workers to help build the system.

Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss gave the contractors two weeks to strengthen their case, that construction of the system should be blocked because of a dispute over the use of non-union workers to build some of it.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack Feb 27 2020 California DWR-WNN

California’s Winter: Wet Times, Dry Times and Water Supplies

After a wet and snowy start, California’s winter has gone bust. The 2019-2020 water year started off with robust precipitation after a series of storms in November and early December 2019.

But the new year has not been as bountiful. Dry conditions in January and February added little to the Sierra Nevada snowpack.

NASA-NWS-Sierra Snowpack Comparison - Water News Network Feb 2020

Left: 2019, Right: 2020. Sierra Nevada snowpack is below normal for this time of year, at about 58% statewide. Graphic: NASA/National Weather Service via NWS Sacramento

Drought-resilient water supplies through diversification

Due to California’s climatological variability, including periods of drought, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have diversified water supply sources. Those successful efforts ensure supply reliability for the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $245 billion regional economy.

“Based on current supply levels, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies will meet anticipated demands through a combination of drought-resilient local and regional water resources,” said Goldy Herbon, Water Authority senior water resources specialist.

Water supplies will meet demand

Herbon said the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, conserved agricultural water transfers, savings from canal lining projects and continued water-use efficiency measures are among the reasons the region’s water supply will meet demand.

The multi-decade water supply diversification plan, along with major infrastructure improvements and forward-thinking policies, also promote fiscal and environmental responsibility.

“A comparison of the snowpack across the Sierra-Cascade range over the past 6 years shows the true variability of a California wet season. While numbers are similar to the 2017-2018 winter, snow did extend into somewhat lower elevations back then.” NWS Sacramento, February 26, 2020

Dry times in Northern California

While rainfall totals have been closer to average in most of Northern California, downtown Sacramento and downtown San Francisco did not receive any precipitation in February, according to the National Weather Service. The last time San Francisco saw a dry February was in 1864, according to the NWS.

NWS Sacramento Dry February 2020

Rainfall above historical average in San Diego

Southern California is faring better, with rainfall at 125% of the historical average at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.

Most major California reservoirs are at or above the historical averages for late-February.

The state’s largest six reservoirs currently hold between 92% (Oroville) and 132% (Melones) of their historical averages for February 26. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is 107% of its historical average and sits at 78% of capacity, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Water Supply-Major Reservoirs-DWR-WNN Feb 2020

California’s largest six reservoirs hold between 92% and 132% of their historical averages for Feb. 27. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is at 107% of its historical average and is at 78% of capacity. Graphic: California Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources February 27 conducted the third manual snow survey of 2020 at Phillips Station. The manual survey recorded 29 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 11.5 inches, which is 47% of the March average for this location, according to a DWR news release. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack, which provides a more accurate forecast of spring runoff.

Spring storms could boost snowpack

“Right now, 2020 is on track to be a below-average year but we could still see large storms in March and April that will improve the current snowpack,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section. “While periods of dry conditions are expected in California, climate change has made them more unpredictable and extreme which is why we must always use the water we have wisely.”

March April May precipitation 20-Feb-2020 NWS CPC

The seasonal outlook for March, April, and May sees below-normal chances for a wet period across California and the Southwest U.S. while most areas are favored to be warmer than usual. Graphic: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Looking ahead, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecast favors above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation through May for most of California.

NWS CPC Spring 2020 temperature forecast-WNN

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecast favors above-normal temperatures and below normal precipitation through May for most of California. Graphic: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Inspired by the San Diego County Water Authority's free landscape makeover classes, Vallecitos Water District employee Eileen Koonce transformed her own landscaping. Photo: Vallecitos Water District example watersmart landscaping

Vallecitos Water District Employee Leads By Example With WaterSmart Landscaping Makeover

Vallecitos Water District Development Services Coordinator Eileen Koonce transformed the front yard at her new home into a beautiful water-efficient design with help from the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscape Makeover Program.

As a new homeowner, when Koonce received her first water bill, she decided to figure out a way to reduce her water bill and her water usage. She realized the thirsty lawn covering the front yard had to go.

“As an employee of the District, we are always talking to customers about how they can reduce water use in their landscape, and what better time to put that theme to use than in my own yard,” said Koonce.

The Vallecitos Water District was hosting the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program at the time. After Koonce saw the great turnout, she decided she wanted to participate in the program.

Knowledgeable instructors guide participants

Homeowner Eileen Koonce discovered watersmart landscaping can be colorful and attractive. Photo: Vallecitos Water District example watersmart landscaping

Homeowner Eileen Koonce discovered watersmart landscaping can be colorful and attractive. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Koonce said she enjoyed working with the instructors.

“They bring the language down to the do-it-yourselfers,” she said. “They walk you through every part of it and if you have questions, they can help you out. You feel empowered because you can understand the process.”

Koonce tackled most of the design work herself with the help of instructors, who are licensed landscape architects. They also helped Koonce pick out the plants and choose an irrigation system.

She also applied for a turf rebate through the Metropolitan Water District’s Turf Rebate Program. Koonce said the application process was easy for her to follow, and she met all the criteria for acceptance into the program.

Video tour of Eileen Koonce’s new landscaping

New landscape a pollinators’ paradise

Koonce wanted a garden that would attract butterflies and birds, especially hummingbirds. She says her top takeaway from the WaterSmart course is how many attractive landscape options exist. Many beautiful, flowering plants do not require a lot of water.

“The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series is a great way to gather the skills needed to make your front yard transformation happen,” said Michelle Landis, course instructor and Registered Landscape Architect. “The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series also teaches the skills needed to tap into the new, local turf removal rebates. We invite you to join us for one of the sessions above to transform your front yard into money-saving, WaterSmart design.”

Koonce said she realizes a $70 per month savings on her water bill since her landscape makeover. And no longer spends time mowing a lawn.

Register now for workshops and class series

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The WaterSmart education program offers free three-hour workshops and a four-class landscaping makeover series. Three-hour workshops are scheduled on weeknights and Saturdays from March through October.

The four-class series is currently enrolling participants for March in Encinitas and in El Cajon. The series is also open in Oceanside and San Diego in April. Find participation requirements and register for the free series online at

MWD Grants SDG&E Permanent Easement in Pala

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California granted San Diego Gas and Electric an permanent easement on MWD property in Pala.

The MWD board vote Feb. 11 approves the granting of the easement including conditions. SDG&E will obtain a 12-foot wide easement along the northern edge of the MWD property in the 39000 block of Pala Temecula Road.

MWD’s Pipeline 6 currently conveys water from Lake Skinner to Anza Road at De Portola Road in Temecula. That 7-mile segment is considered the northern reach of Pipeline 6; the southern reach would extend from Anza Road at De Portola Road to the San Diego County Water Authority delivery point approximately 6 miles south of the Riverside County line.

Westlands Water District Gets Permanent U.S. Contract for Massive Irrigation Deliveries

The Interior Department on Friday awarded the nation’s largest farm water district a permanent entitlement to annual irrigation deliveries that amount to roughly twice as much water as the nearly 4 million residents of Los Angeles use in a year.

Gaining a permanent contract for so much cheap Central Valley Project water represents a major milestone for Westlands Water District, which supplies some of the state’s wealthiest growers and has long-standing ties to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

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.

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.

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its Feb. 26, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $33.2 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 41 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

What Would It Take to Get More Farmers Fighting Climate Change?

As signs of a new drought loom over California farm country and a potential return of last spring’s catastrophic floods haunts the Midwestern corn belt, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is out with a new plan to ready US agriculture for the insults of climate change. Called the Agriculture Resilience Act, the bill would enlist growers to help slow global warming by using their soil to sponge up carbon dioxide. Agriculture is responsible for nearly 10 percent of our country’s carbon emissions. Pingree’s plan would establish a “national goal” of net zero greenhouse emissions from agriculture by no later than 2040.