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CW3E has numerous tools and technologies that affiliates can use to augment water research and improve on-the-ground decisions of water managers. Photo: NOAA

Water Authority Joins Scripps Institution of Oceanography to Optimize Water Management

The San Diego County Water Authority is partnering with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to better predict atmospheric rivers and improve water management before, during, and after those seasonal storms.

This month, Scripps’ Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) launched the Water Affiliates Group, which brings together cutting-edge science and hands-on water industry experience to enhance reservoir operations in light of the changing climate. The Water Authority has a long-running alliance with Scripps and is among six founding water agencies statewide.

CW3E and its partners will share and support best practices in forecast-informed reservoir operations, increase research around atmospheric rivers and droughts, and develop strategies for mitigating flood risk and increasing water supply reliability.

“This partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography underscores our commitment to strategic, science-based decision-making and long-term planning,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “By supporting advances in forecasting, we can more efficiently and effectively manage water resources both locally and statewide. This ultimately will benefit everyone in California by helping sustain our economy and quality of life.”

Addressing major climate challenges in the arid West

Atmospheric river storms cause 40% to 60% of annual precipitation and most of the flood damage on the West Coast. Graphic: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Atmospheric river storms cause 40% to 60% of annual precipitation and most of the flood damage on the West Coast. Graphic: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl said the collaboration aligns closely with Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio, which prioritizes voluntary agreements, smart water storage strategies and coordination of data collection.

“This is a great example of how water agencies are stronger together by addressing major climate challenges that affect everyone across the arid West,” Kerl said. “By combining forces with some of the leading scientists in the world, we will enhance our planning capacity and be ready to adapt to whatever the future brings.”

Atmospheric river storms cause 40% to 60% of annual precipitation and most of the flood damage on the West Coast. Managing reservoirs for both flood control and drinking water supply retention is challenging because 20th-century practices and regulations are decreasingly relevant due to changing patterns for snowmelt and rainfall.

SIO data will help manage water supplies

CW3E has numerous tools and technologies that affiliates can use to augment water research and improve on-the-ground decisions of water managers. Photo: Water Authority

CW3E has numerous tools and technologies that affiliates can use to augment water research and improve on-the-ground decisions of water managers. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

CW3E is a leader in Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations, which uses data from watershed monitoring and modern weather and water forecasting to help water managers determine the best strategies for retaining or releasing water from reservoirs. CW3E has numerous tools and technologies that affiliates can use to augment water research and improve on-the-ground decisions of water managers. The group’s research covers water supply reliability, flood management, greenhouse gas mitigation, groundwater recharge, public safety, observations, forecasting, decision support, climate outlooks, and hazard assessment.

The Water Authority is working with CW3E to assess how better near-term and long-term precipitation forecasts can improve reservoir planning and operational management in the San Diego region by maximizing local water supplies and the reliability of water resources through a mix of planning processes and real-time decisions.

Joining the Water Authority as founding partners are Sonoma Water, Orange County Water District, Yuba Water Agency, Turlock Irrigation District, and Irvine Ranch Water District.

California Fires: State Feds Agree to Thin Millions of Acres of Forests

The two dozen major fires burning across Northern California were sparked by more than 12,000 lightning strikes, a freak weather occurrence that turned what had been a relatively mild fire season into a devastating catastrophe

Officials Urge Water Conservation, Caution in Face of Raging Wildfires

With the North Bay’s LNU Complex Fire topping 124,000 acres Wednesday and new state evacuation orders emerging every few hours, local and state officials urged Bay Area residents to take a variety of precautions. The city of Healdsburg said Wednesday evening that all of its roughly 12,000 residents should be prepared to evacuate their homes “soon.”

California’s Delta Tunnel Project Inches Forward – and Just Got a $15.9 Billion Price Tag

When Gov. Gavin Newsom downsized the Delta tunnels water project last year, the idea was to save money and try to appease at least some of the project’s critics. Yet the project remains controversial — and still figures to be costly. After months of relative quiet, Newsom’s administration released a preliminary cost estimate for the scaled-back project Friday: $15.9 billion for a single tunnel running beneath the estuary just south of Sacramento.

Poor Planning Left California Short of Electricity in a Heat Wave

Everybody had known for days that a heat wave was about to wallop California. Yet a dashboard maintained by the organization that manages the state’s electric grid showed that scores of power plants were down or producing below peak strength, a stunning failure of planning, poor record keeping and sheer bad luck.

WRDA 2020 May Have to Wait Until Lame Duck

A new Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, has made headway in Congress, most recently with House passage of a bill authorizing about $9 billion for Army Corps of Engineers flood and storm protection, environmental restoration and other projects.

Vallecitos WD Uses Innovative Technology to Monitor Water Quality

The Vallecitos Water District is known for its sustainable practices in water and wastewater treatment processes, without any compromise in water quality. The district is now using a new ultrasound technology to address water quality at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir with a reduced need for chemical treatment. Mahr Reservoir was completed in 1981. Originally called La Costa Storage No. 1 Dam and Reservoir, it was renamed after the district’s original founder 35-year board member Stanley A. Mahr.

Hurricane Genevieve May be Gone, but its ‘Ghost’ May Bring More Thunderstorms to Fire-Ravaged California

Hurricane Genevieve fizzled after hammering Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, but its remnant moisture and spin may boost thunderstorms in the Desert Southwest and fire-ravaged California through Monday.

Genevieve rapidly intensified to a Category 4 hurricane Tuesday, then grazed Mexico’s southern Baja California Peninsula as a weaker hurricane with flooding rain, high winds and high surf.

After that, as most hurricanes in this part of the eastern Pacific do when they move farther northwest over cooler water and more stable air, Genevieve fizzled rapidly into a remnant low west of the Baja Peninsula.

California’s Delta tunnel project inches forward – and just got a $15.9 billion price tag

When Gov. Gavin Newsom downsized the Delta tunnels water project last year, the idea was to save money and try to appease at least some of the project’s critics.

Yet the project remains controversial — and still figures to be costly.

After months of relative quiet, Newsom’s administration released a preliminary cost estimate for the scaled-back project Friday: $15.9 billion for a single tunnel running beneath the estuary just south of Sacramento.

LG Sonic’s specific low power ultrasonic transmitters emit signals which are not harmful to people, fish, plants or other wildlife. Photo: Vallecitos Water District water quality

Vallecitos WD Uses Innovative Technology to Monitor Water Quality

The Vallecitos Water District is known for its sustainable practices in water and wastewater treatment processes, without any compromise in water quality. The district is now using a new ultrasound technology to address water quality at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir with a reduced need for chemical treatment.

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Mahr Reservoir was completed in 1981. Originally called La Costa Storage No. 1 Dam and Reservoir, it was renamed after the district’s original founder 35-year board member Stanley A. Mahr. It stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. The district has contracts with the City of Carlsbad and Olivenhain Municipal Water District to provide water as needed, as much as five million gallons of recycled water daily.

Because the reservoir’s location receives intense sunlight with little rain, algal blooms can occur in the nutrient-rich recycled water. The most common method of treating algal blooms is with harmful chemicals. They are costly and labor-intensive.

The district instead uses technology developed by the international company LG Sonic, which provides a complete overview of the water quality allowing swift identification and treatment of algal blooms.

New ultrasound technology reduces cost and environmental harm

NOTE: Portions of this video were filmed in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and any mandatory face covering requirements.

Every 10 minutes, an MPC Buoy in the Mahr Reservoir measures and monitors green and blue-green algae population, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and water temperature. The data is collected in real time and uploaded to a web-based software. The software uses the data to predict algal blooms three to ten days in advance.

The LG Sonic buoy can create a sound barrier in the top water layer, which affects the buoyancy of the algae, preventing it from rising up where it can absorb sunlight for photosynthesis to grow. Without sunlight and nutrients, algae cells sink to deeper water where they degrade due to natural bacteria and do not release toxins into the water.

With overall algae levels reduced by this technology, the need for chemical treatment is also reduced, allowing the Vallecitos Water District to provide high quality reclaimed water to its customers.

LG Sonic’s specific low power ultrasonic transmitters emit signals which are not harmful to people, fish, plants or other wildlife.

Divers lend a hand at Mahr Reservoir

Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator II Ivan Murguia monitors water quality. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator II Ivan Murguia monitors water quality. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

After the initial installation, an unusual incident occurred. Electrical cords providing power to the reservoir’s water pumps became wrapped around the inlet/outlet pipes located underwater. Mahr’s algae meter needs water flow from the reservoir to be able to read the algae level.

Maintenance staff couldn’t untangle the power cords from above the water. Specialty divers were called in to address the problem. Vallecitos Pump and Motor Technician Dale Austin also had divers inspect pneumatic (air) and hydraulic (oil) lines to the motors (actuators) that open and close the inlet and outlet valves for leaks. Divers successfully untangled the electrical cords and they were secured to prevent future problems. Divers found no leaks on the lines.