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OMWD Receives 2023 Environmental Excellence Award from Industrial Environmental Association

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District was recognized today by the Industrial Environmental Association as one of three winners of the 2023 Environmental Excellence Awards. The awards event was held at the San Diego Convention Center during the 2023 Environmental Training Symposium and Conference, and recognizes OMWD’s Recycled Water Pipeline Extension 153A Project.

The project involved the installation of a 1,400-foot pipeline under the San Dieguito River which reduced the region’s potable water demand. This project has effectively provided environmentally friendly recycled water service to San Diego communities since 2019.

San Diego County Water Authority And its 24 Member Agencies

Assembly Bill Would Protect Water Ratepayers Across County

May 25, 2023 –  The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today voted to support Assembly Bill 530, which would ensure ratepayer protections when water districts separate.

The bill was authored by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner of Encinitas and sponsored by the City of San Diego. It seeks to amend California’s County Water Authority Act so that all voters within such a district can vote on proposed separations from an authority, actions that are also known as detachments. A majority vote in both the separating district and the County Water Authority would be necessary to complete a detachment.

California snowlines-Scripps Institution of Oceanography-study-Climate Change

California Snowlines On Track To Be 1,600 Feet Higher by Century’s End

This winter produced record snowfall in California, but a new study suggests the state should expect gradually declining snowpacks, even if punctuated with occasional epic snowfalls, in the future.

An analysis by Tamara Shulgina, Alexander Gershunov, and other climate scientists at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggest that in the face of unabated global warming, the snowlines marking where rainfall turns to snow have been rising significantly over the past 70 years. Projections by the researchers suggest the trend will continue with snowlines rising hundreds of meters higher by the second half of this century.

California snowlines and lower-elevation ski resorts

In the high Southern Sierra Nevada range, for instance, snowlines are projected to rise by more than 500 meters (1,600 feet) and even more when the mountains get precipitation from atmospheric rivers, jets of water vapor that are becoming an increasingly potent source of the state’s water supply.

“In an average year, the snowpack will be increasingly confined to the peak of winter and to the highest elevations,” the study says.

Diminished snowfall is a consequence of a changing climate in which places like California will get an increasing portion of their winter precipitation as rain instead of snow. The authors said this study and related research suggest water resource managers will need to adapt to a feast-or-famine future. California’s water supply will arrive less through the gradual melt of mountain snowpack that gets the state through hot summers and more via bursts of rain and runoff delivered by atmospheric rivers, which are boosted by warming and are associated with higher snowlines than other storms.

Warmer summers

Such events will further complicate the balancing act between protecting people and infrastructure from winter flooding and ensuring enough water supply during warmer summers.

“This work adds insight into the climate change narrative of more rain and less snow,” said California Department of Water Resources Climatologist Mike Anderson. “DWR appreciates our partnership with Scripps to help water managers develop, refine, and implement adaptation efforts as the world continues to warm and climate change impacts are realized.”

The study, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the DWR, appears in the journal Climate Dynamics today.

“This is the longest and most detailed account of snow accumulation in California,” said Gershunov, “resolving individual storms over 70 years of observed weather combined with projections out to 2100.”

Climate change impacts to ski industry

The authors make note of what this could mean for ski resorts around the state if climate change progresses unabated. For example, Mammoth Mountain, at an elevation between 2,400 and 3,300 meters (7,900 – 11,000 feet), is projected to receive 28 percent less snowfall in the latter half of the century. Lower elevation ski resorts such as Palisades and Northstar, both near Lake Tahoe, span elevational ranges of around 1,900 and 2,700 meters (6,200 – 8,900 feet). They are projected to lose more than 70 percent of their snow accumulation in an average winter.

“Snowlines will keep lifting”

“Observations and future climate projections show that already rising snowlines will keep lifting,” said Gershunov. “Epic winters will still be possible, though, and unprecedented snowfalls will ironically become more likely due to wetter atmospheric rivers, but they will be increasingly confined to the peak of winter and to the highest elevations of the Southern Sierra Nevada.”

Study co-authors include Kristen Guirguis, Daniel Cayan, David Pierce, Michael Dettinger, and F. Martin Ralph of Scripps Oceanography, Benjamin Hatchett of the Desert Research Institute of Reno, Nev., Aneesh Subramanian of University of Colorado at Boulder, Steven Margulis and Yiwen Fang of UCLA, and Michael L. Anderson of the California Department of Water Resources.

(Editor’s Note: Story by Robert Monroe, at UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The San Diego County Water Authority has partnered 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.)

San Diego County Water Authority And its 24 Member Agencies

Thanks for Planting Me! ‘Spokesplants’ Promote Landscape Transformation

May 25, 2023 – The San Diego County Water Authority is launching a public outreach and education campaign this summer to encourage wider adoption of sustainable landscapes that are more suitable for the region’s Mediterranean climate.

The “Thanks for Planting Me!” campaign offers gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of San Diegans who are using water efficiently along with friendly encouragement to expand regenerative low-water landscapes as climate change stresses water supplies across the Southwest. It complements similar efforts to promote on-going water-use efficiency by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the State of California’s Save Our Water program.

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Otay Water District Announces New Theme for Annual Student Poster Contest

Spring Valley, Calif. – Students in kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to unleash their creativity in the Otay Water District’s annual Student Poster Contest. This year’s theme is “being water wise is…”

Otay’s annual educational program encourages students to create a poster demonstrating their water awareness. Water conservation or stewardship should be reflected in the artwork. Some examples include turning off the water while brushing your teeth, taking short showers, protecting water from pollution, or collecting rainwater in buckets and reusing it to water plants.

“This year’s theme ‘being water wise is…’ invites students to share the many ways they can use water efficiently inside and outside their homes or schools,” said Eileen Salmeron, communications assistant and poster contest coordinator for the Otay Water District. “Because our region and the state has faced many droughts, it is vital that younger generations start making water efficiency their way of life.”

San Diego County Water Authority And its 24 Member Agencies

Water Authority Issues Statement on Consensus-Based Plan for the Colorado River

May 22, 2023 – San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl today issued the following statement regarding a new consensus-based plan to conserve water on the Colorado River:

“Today, the Lower Colorado River Basin states, California, Arizona, and Nevada, provided the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation with a plan to conserve up to 3 million acre-feet on the river through 2026 to address long-term drought and protect elevations in Lakes Mead and Powell, the two critical reservoirs the Lower Basin depends on for its river supplies.

“This consensus-based plan was offered to replace alternatives Reclamation is considering under its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), released in April to consider changes to the river’s near-term operations. Those existing alternatives, one of which would bypass the Colorado River priority right system so important to California, would potentially mandate reductions to the Lower Basin.

“With the new proposal, Reclamation has announced it is temporarily suspending the SEIS process to allow more time to analyze the Lower Basin proposed plan. As a result, the May 30 deadline for comment letters on the draft SEIS is no longer in effect. As part of its announcement, Reclamation stated it plans to complete the SEIS process later this year.

“The Water Authority applauds the efforts of California, through the Colorado River Board of California, of which the Water Authority is a member, for working closely with the other Lower Basin states to develop a consensus proposal to submit to Reclamation. The Water Authority has been a long-time advocate of collaboration on the Colorado River, and today’s announcement appears to be a positive step in that direction.

“The Water Authority continues to review this proposal, which relies upon voluntary and federally compensated conservation as opposed to mandatory reductions, to make sure it best serves California, protects our region’s Colorado River supplies, and provides equitable, realistic solutions in the near term that will keep the river flowing for all users. If that end is achieved, we can then focus our attention on planning for the river’s long-term operations in a balanced Basin-wide approach.”

(Editor’s Note: Attached are two letters, including the Lower Basin proposal to Reclamation, and a letter from all seven Basin states calling on Reclamation to pause the SEIS process to review the Lower Basin proposed plan. To see the federal response, click the following link –

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

OMWD Recognizes Winners of the Annual Water Awareness Poster Contest

Encinitas, Calif. — At its May 17 meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors recognized the top three entries in the 2023 North County Water Agencies Water Awareness Poster Contest. Nearly 100 fourth graders who live or attend schools in OMWD’s service area participated in this year’s competition.

The recognized entries were submitted by Lillian Cook from El Camino Creek Elementary School, Leo W. from Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School, and Talia Elizabeth Abordo from Stone Ranch Elementary School. Lillian’s poster depicts her creative interpretation of a sunset on an ocean horizon. Leo’s poster featured an ocean wave cresting over planet Earth as it floats on the ocean, and Talia’s artwork showcases an otter holding a sign advocating to “save water, save one of us!” next to a smiling planet Earth.

“This contest is a wonderful way to showcase the creativity and talent of students throughout the communities OMWD serves,” said OMWD Board Vice President Matthew Hahn. “By highlighting the importance of water use efficiency,  elementary school children illustrate through their artwork the importance of protecting this finite natural resource.”

This year marks the 30th year of the annual Water Awareness Poster Contest. The theme for this year’s contest was “Love Water, Save Water.” The contest teaches students the value of water as a limited resource and the importance of using it wisely, while providing OMWD with locally produced artwork to reinforce this message to its customers.

The recognized posters will be featured in a 2024 Water Awareness Calendar.


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OMWD Pipeline Named “Project of the Year”

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Manchester Avenue Potable Water Pipeline Replacement Project was recognized today as a 2023 Project of the Year by American Public Works Association’s San Diego and Imperial County Chapter at its awards event in Mission Valley.

“Everything is subject to the effects of aging, even critical water infrastructure,” said OMWD Board Secretary Larry Watt. “To help avoid emergency water outages and provide dependable service to customers, our preventative maintenance program includes replacement of infrastructure before it fails. Through these new pipelines, OMWD can continue to provide its customers with reliable water service for decades to come.”

Colorado River-river-Climate Change-Sandra L. Kerl-Water Authority

Water Authority Testifies on California’s Efforts to Support the Colorado River

During state Assembly testimony on Tuesday, May 2, San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl highlighted the steps taken by the Water Authority and partner water agencies across California to support the Colorado River in the era of climate change.

Kerl joined representatives from the Colorado River Board of California, the Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the environmental community. A theme throughout the hearing was that California is prepared to do more to help the river, but all seven Basin states must be involved in a consensus-based approach.

“When you ask how California is responding and preparing for the effects of climate change, I offer the San Diego region’s focus on a diversified water supply portfolio as an example of focusing on conservation and water management while also developing new drought-proof supplies,” Kerl told the committee.

Climate change and water supply

Tuesday’s hearing before the state Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife in Sacramento focused on the effects of climate change on the Colorado River and actions California water agencies have taken to address the river’s challenges.

More than 20 years of drought have led to record low elevation levels in lakes Mead and Powell, the two critical reservoirs California and the Lower Basin depend on for their river supplies. While heavy storms this winter and spring improved river conditions, concerns remain over the long-term effects of climate change. Efforts are underway to find lasting, durable solutions for the river.

Kerl highlighted the leadership California has shown in conservation through the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement or QSA, which has enabled California to live within its 4.4-million-acre-foot apportionment while helping the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manage river supplies. At the center of the QSA, is the conserved water transfer agreement between the Water Authority and the Imperial Irrigation District.

“In total, our QSA partnerships have conserved more than 3 million acre-feet of Colorado River water since 2003 and done so in a way that supports California’s critical agricultural economy, funds socio-economic needs, and addresses the environment, most importantly the Salton Sea,” Kerl said. She noted that the QSA is an example for other Basin states to follow in implementing conservation.

Collaboration on Colorado River Basin solutions

Kerl and others expressed hope that Basin states can collaborate to keep the water flowing for all river users.

“I am confident that we will find a shared solution that moves us forward to conserve the water we need to stabilize the system and then look forward to guideline updates,” said California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot.

His comments referenced upcoming discussions on the river’s future operating guidelines, which take effect in 2026.

Colorado River Board of California Chairman JB Hamby from the Imperial Irrigation District said, “California is working with our in-state stakeholders, tribes, and Mexico via the United States to be able to deal with this in the next short-term basis and the long term.”

Metropolitan Water District General Manager Adel Hagekhalil added, “Working together, we must develop equitable, realistic solutions that reduce our collective reliance on the river.”

During her testimony, Kerl told the committee that any solutions must uphold the Law of the River, the priority right system and California’s senior rights. “It’s critical that Reclamation consider both the near-term and future operations of the river by building on the foundation of the laws, court decisions, compacts and agreements that have come before,” she said.

Snow Surveys-DWR-Snowmelt-Flooding-May 1

Snow Surveys Help Plan Snowmelt Runoff Forecasts

The California Department of Water Resources May 1 conducted the fifth snow survey of the season at Phillips Station. The manual survey recorded 59 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 30 inches, which is 241% of average for this location on May 1. The last time there was measurable snow at the Phillips snow course on May 1 was 2020, when only 1.5 inches of snow and .5 inches of snow water equivalent was measured

DWR’s electronic readings from 130 snow sensors placed throughout the state indicate the statewide snowpack’s snow water equivalent is 49.2 inches, or 254% of average for May 1.

The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water still contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply run-off forecast.

“While providing a significant boost to California’s water supplies, this year’s massive snowpack is posing continued flood risks in the San Joaquin Valley,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The snowpack will not disappear in one week or one month but will lead to sustained high flows across the San Joaquin and Tulare Basins over the next several months and this data will help us inform water managers and ultimately help protect communities in these regions.”

Snowpack Surveys-Sierra Nevada-Reservoirs-Snow Water Equilvalent-Snowmelt

Snowmelt runoff forecasts

Snow surveys like the one at Phillips Station are critical to planning for impacts of the coming snowmelt runoff on communities. DWR uses the most updated technology to gather data from snow surveys, a network of 130 remote snow sensors, and airborne snow observatory data to gather information on current real-world conditions to create the most accurate snowmelt runoff forecasts possible. These runoff forecasts, published through DWR’s Bulletin 120, allow reservoir operators to plan for anticipated inflows and water managers downstream of reservoirs to plan and prepare for flood risks.

Despite a brief increase in temperatures in late April, the statewide snowpack overall melted at a slower pace than average over the month of April due to below average temperatures early in the month and increased cloud cover. An average of 12 inches of the snowpack’s snow water equivalent has melted in the past month and it now contains an average of 49.2 inches.

Water supply, flood control planning

“No matter how you look at the data, only a handful of years in the historical record compared to this year’s results,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “Survey results from our partners in the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program and other data, including data from Airborne Snow Observatory flights, allow us to incorporate these data into our models to provide the most accurate snowmelt runoff forecasts possible right now to inform water supply, flood control, and planning.”

Climate Change and snowpack averages

According to historical records, only the April 1 measurements from the years 1952, 1969, 1983 and this year were above 200 percent, although it is difficult to directly compare individual years across the decades due to changes in the number of snow courses measured over time.

Due to the impact of climate change on California’s snowpack, since 2021, snowpack averages have been calculated using a timeframe of 1991 through 2020 so that results better reflect the current climate conditions.

DWR is maximizing the amount of water that can be stored and diverted from this record snowpack.

In April, DWR announced a 100% allocation of requested supplies from the State Water Project, which delivers water to 29 public water agencies that serve 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. The last time the SWP allocated 100% was in 2006. DWR is also maximizing the amount of water that can be diverted towards recharging groundwater basins so more water is stored for future use in underground reservoirs.

Snowmelt-reservoirs-snow surveys-flooding

Flooding impacts in California

Last week, Governor Newsom visited the Tulare Basin to tour flood impacts first hand, met with community leaders and emphasized the state’s commitment to supporting and providing appropriate assistance to counties impacted by recent and anticipated flooding this spring and summer.

Snowmelt runoff forecasts are an instrumental part of the assistance provided by DWR’s State-Federal Flood Operations Center (FOC), which is supporting emergency response in the Tulare Lake Basin and Lower San Joaquin River by providing technical and materials assistance to support ongoing flood response activities.

Storms this year have caused impacts across the state including flooding in the community of Pajaro and communities in Sacramento, Tulare, and Merced counties. The FOC has helped Californians by providing more than 1.4 million sandbags, 1 million square feet of plastic sheeting, and 9,000 feet of reinforcing muscle wall, across the state since January.

(Editor’s  Note: Information in this story was provided by the California Department of Water Resources).