Chula Vista, Calif. – The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board welcomed the Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, E. Joaquin Esquivel, at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility today for a tour.
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Water affordability for ratepayers was the topic of discussion during a legislative roundtable Thursday at the San Diego County Water Authority.
The Water Authority convened state, regional and local officials in search of winning strategies for enhancing water affordability for ratepayers across the county and the state.
Water agency managers, board members, elected officials and their representatives from throughout the county joined E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, to assess and address water affordability issues.
Esquivel was appointed to the Water Resources Control Board by Governor Jerry Brown in March 2017. In February 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom named Esquivel chair of that five-member board, to which he was reappointed in 2021.
During the roundtable, Esquivel said maintaining water affordability and access to safe water for Californians is challenged by pressures that include aging infrastructure and climate change.
“How to sustain our systems in the next 10, 20, 50 years is a complex issue, but we need to collectively expand access, while maintaining affordability and supply,” he said.
Water affordability and infrastructure projects
Esquivel said state loans to water projects statewide help water affordability and access to a safe, clean supply.
“Water has created the wealth of this state, and water supply investments made here are examples of what needs to be done,” said Esquivel, referring to successful supply diversification investments by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.
He also discussed the need for additional water infrastructure projects – including desalination, groundwater recharge, and potable reuse, and an increase in funding sources for those projects – and the importance of federal funding to help ensure access to safe and affordable water for all communities.
Water Authority commitment to affordability
Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl detailed some of the agency’s affordability efforts in recent years.
“The Water Authority is committed to maintaining an affordable water supply and finding solutions to inherently complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments,” said Kerl. “Significant advances in affordability can only be achieved through the combined efforts of all four sectors that affect the cost of water for our region. Those sectors are the federal government, state government, wholesale water agencies and local water retailers.”
Kerl said the Water Authority’s commitment to affordability includes securing $25 million from the State of California to pay water bills for San Diego County residents impacted by COVID-19; securing $90 million over the past two years through successful litigation efforts and distributing that money directly to its 24 member agencies; avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs on water deliveries; and maintaining strong credit ratings that reduce the cost of infrastructure.
“Everything at the Water Authority is designed to deliver a safe and reliable water supply at an affordable cost, and the agency has taken numerous steps over the past three years to enhance affordability,” Kerl said. “Water affordability is imperative to equitable water access. This resource should be available to all regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level. Nobody should have to choose between safe, clean water and affordable water.”
Collaboration on solutions
Kerl said that the federal and state government, wholesale water agencies, and local water retailers can work together in finding solutions to the complex challenges related to water costs, rates and investments.
A recent poll by the Water Authority found that more than half of the residents of San Diego County would support a hypothetical program that provided water discounts or an assistance program for low-income ratepayers – even if they had to pay a few dollars more a month to fund it.
The Water Authority holds periodic legislative roundtables to promote collaboration with the water industry, civic and business leaders, on critical water issues in the San Diego region.
Encinitas, Calif. — To encourage water conservation as drought conditions persist, Carlsbad Municipal Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District, and Santa Fe Irrigation District have partnered to offer discounted rain barrels to area residents this fall. Collecting rainwater for future use not only can save drinking water and money, but also reduces irrigation runoff that can carry pollutants into local waterways and beaches.
Although average rainfall in San Diego County is just under ten inches annually, even light rain can provide a sufficient amount of water for later use. For example, a roof with a 2,000‐square‐foot surface area can capture 300 gallons from only a quarter inch of rain.
Rain barrels at Solana Center
Fifty‐gallon barrels are on sale for $97, with a final cost of $62 after a $35 rebate from water wholesaler Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Rebates on rain barrels and other water‐saving measures are available at www.socalwatersmart.com.
Rain barrels ordered from October 1 to November 30 will be available for pick up at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation located at 137 North El Camino Real in Encinitas. Visit www.solanacenter.org/rain‐barrels for more information and to order rain barrels.
Catching rain in barrels not only saves water for use in gardening and landscaping but also prevents rainwater from draining to the ocean and picking up contaminants along the way.
(Editor’s note: The City of Carlsbad, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District and the Santa Fe Irrigation District are four of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)
New officers for the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors were elected today, with Mel Katz starting his two-year term as Board chair on Oct. 1. Katz, vice chair of the Board for the past six months as a representative for the City of Del Mar, will serve with incoming Vice Chair Nick Serrano, a Board representative from the City of San Diego, and incoming Secretary Frank Hilliker. Katz will serve as the 27th board chair since the Water Authority’s founding in 1944.
Gary Croucher, who represents the Otay Water District on the Water Authority’s Board, served as chair the past two years. His term ends on Sept. 30. Croucher has served on the Board since 2001.
Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District invites members of the public to attend a free water-wise landscape design workshop on Saturday, October 8 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event will be held at OMWD’s headquarters at 1966 Olivenhain Road in Encinitas. Drought survival kits will also be available free of charge, featuring water reuse buckets, hose nozzles, moisture sensors, and other water-saving tools.
OMWD Board President Larry Watt will lead a discussion about drought conditions. Steve Sherman of California Landscape Technologies will follow with an informative and interactive workshop that will feature methods to reduce outdoor water use and increase irrigation efficiencies. Registration for the workshop is available at www.olivenhain.com/events.
Water-wise and WaterSmart rebates
This public event is one of the first at OMWD’s newly improved headquarters. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore the new facilities, learn more about the ongoing drought, get advice on water conservation practices, and learn more about available rebate programs.
“Every drop of recycled water used on our landscapes replaces a drop of imported drinking water,” said OMWD Board Secretary Bob Topolavac, after the agency received a water recycling award recently. “With the state now in its third consecutive dry year, it is more critical than ever to be promoting the benefits of recycled water to new potential users to expand the use of this sustainable water supply.”
Ongoing repairs currently underway at Hodges Reservoir Dam have led the City of San Diego to determine more work is needed to address additional defects that were detected and to ensure the safety of the dam. This discovery will likely delay completion of this crucial repair project by several months.
Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District, in partnership with Hunter Industries, invites the public to attend a free workshop featuring practical tips to save water through an efficient irrigation system. This workshop is designed for individuals interested in the latest irrigation advances in reducing outdoor water use. The workshop will be held on October 13, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty, located at 8833 Harmony Grove Road in Escondido.
Chula Vista, Calif. – Yesterday, the Sweetwater Authority Governing Board gathered to see and celebrate the agency’s new electric vehicles (EVs). The purchase of these clean energy vehicles demonstrates the Authority’s commitment to sustainability.
Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors accepted at its September 14 meeting the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.
The award recognizes OMWD’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for the fiscal years ending June 30, 2020 and June 30, 2021. Providing an overview of OMWD’s fiscal management, the report contains details about budgetary controls, debt administration, and investment policies.
The Helix Water District has received an $18 million loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support the Drinking Water Reliability Project. Helix will use the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA loan, to increase the region’s drinking water resiliency by expanding water reuse opportunities and reducing the reliance on imported water.
The WIFIA loan will help fund infrastructure improvements for the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, pump station upgrades and cast-iron pipeline replacement throughout the district.
Developing new drought-proof water supply
“In California, we are purifying recycled water and ocean water to replace the water that nature used to provide,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “The only way we can afford to keep rates as low as we can and develop these new projects is through collaboration – multiple agencies working together and securing capital from multiple funding sources. We are partnering with neighboring agencies to develop a new, drought-proof water supply and we are so pleased that the EPA selected our project for funding.”
$18 million loan helps recycled water efforts
Specifically, Helix Water District will modernize existing pump stations, conveyance infrastructure, and distribution pipelines as well as install an aeration system in Lake Jennings to meet state surface water requirements.
By completing the project, Helix Water District will replace 30% of its water needs that are currently met by regional sources with an alternative source of purified water conveyed from the East County AWP, which received a separate WIFIA loan. This project also supports California’s Title 22 “Pure Water” objective to increase use of recycled water by at least 2 million-acre-feet per year by 2030.
Scheduled to be complete in 2026, the East County AWP will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County residents and businesses.
As a result of the WIFIA program’s flexibility and competitive rates, Helix Water District will save approximately $3.2 million by financing with a WIFIA loan. Construction and operation are estimated to create nearly 400 jobs.
“Future of water in the West”
“Helix Water District’s project represents the future of water in the West,” said EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Bruno Pigott. “EPA is proud to help finance these infrastructure upgrades that will increase water reuse and help secure reliable safe drinking water for generations to come.”
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. The WIFIA program’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.
(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District and the Padre Dam Municipal Water District are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region. Water agencies in north San Diego County also received federal funds recently to support water recycling projects.)