L to R: Water Authority Deputy General Manager Sandra Kerl, Poseidon Water CEO Carlos Riva, and former Senator Barbara Boxer share a toast at Thursday's third anniversary event at the Carlsbad desalination plant. Photo: Water Authority

Carlsbad Desalination Plant Celebrates 40 Billion Gallons Served

San Diego County marked a significant milestone in regional water supply reliability Thursday at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant – the delivery of 40 billion gallons of drinking water during its first three years of commercial operations.

This is enough water to fill 800 million bathtubs, or 1,820 Bellagio Las Vegas fountains.

The plant, which launched its commercial operations in December 2015, provides San Diego County with 50 million gallons of locally-controlled, climate-resilient and high-quality water a day, helping to minimize the region’s vulnerability to droughts.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant has delivered 40 billion gallons of fresh, clean drinking water during its three years of operation. Photo: Water Authority

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant has delivered 40 billion gallons of fresh, clean drinking water during its three years of operation. Photo: Water Authority

Former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a long-time champion for water reliability projects like the Carlsbad facility, spoke at the third anniversary event on Dec. 13.

“This facility has helped protect public health and safety and the economy during the worst recorded drought in California history,” according to Boxer’s prepared remarks. “Here in California, we need to have a multifaceted water plan that includes conservation, recycling, recharging underground aquifers, and catching water as it falls.

“The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is a model for how desalination should be done in California, and more facilities modeled after Carlsbad are certainly going to be needed,” said Boxer. Boxer said in arid regions like Southern California where most of the population lives along the coast, seawater desalination is the only way to ensure residents’ water needs are met under extreme conditions brought on by climate change.

Most advanced and efficient desalination plant worldwide

The Carlsbad desalination facility is the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation. It was made possible through an innovative public-private partnership between Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority. The plant enhances water supply reliability in the San Diego region by meeting nearly 10 percent of the region’s water demand – or about a quarter of all the water generated in the county.

“We’re just thrilled,” said Sandra Kerl, deputy general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “It’s hard to believe it’s been three years and that we’re on the 40 billionth gallon. To have been a part of a project that provides a service that all of us can’t live without is really quite gratifying.”

Desalination is a cornerstone of the Water Authority’s strategies. Regardless of weather conditions, the Carlsbad plant produces a core supply of water day-in and day-out.

Visitors tour the Carlsbad desalination plant during Thursday's anniversary event. Photo: Water Authority

Visitors tour the Carlsbad desalination plant during Thursday’s anniversary event. Photo: Water Authority

Since the plant opened, it has also proved to be an educational and inspiring tool for water innovation across the country and throughout the world. Tour groups visit the plant monthly to learn about the plant’s operation and the partnership between Poseidon Water and the Water Authority.

At the Dec. 13 event, participants toasted the success of the plan with glasses filled with fresh, desalinated water from the plant. “A toast to Pacific on Tap and continued water reliability in San Diego County thanks to desalinated water!” said Carlos Riva, CEO of Poseidon Water.

For more information, go to the project website, carlsbaddesal.com, or the Water Authority’s website, sdcwa.org.


CBS 8: Carlsbad desalination plant celebrates 40 billionth gallon of water

Fox 5 San Diego: County desalination plant celebrates 40 billion gallons of drinking water

KGTV 10 News: Carlsbad desalination plant celebrates milestone

NBC 7 San Diego: Carlsbad Desalination Plant Purifies 40 Billionth Gallon of Ocean Water

Times of San Diego: County Desalination Plant Celebrates 40 Billionth Gallon of Water

San Diego’s airport reported 3.98 inches of rain between the start of the 2019 water year on Oct. 1 and Dec. 7, according to the National Weather Service. Photo: James Arnott, Flickr/Creative Commons License Wat

Late-Fall Storms Improve Water Outlook Statewide

San Diego welcomed an unexpectedly large amount of rain since mid-November, surpassing last year’s rainfall total in just the first 10 weeks of the season.

Following the latest storm, two-day precipitation totals on Dec. 7 showed rainfall of 2.6 inches at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, San Diego’s official weather station. Regional readings ranged from a high of 3.23 inches in the University Heights area of San Diego, to 1.1 inches in Lakeside and less than an inch in the county’s desert areas.

San Diego’s airport reported 3.98 inches of rain between the start of the 2019 water year on Oct. 1 and Dec. 7, according to the National Weather Service.  Just over three inches of rain was recorded at Lindbergh Field between Oct. 1, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2018 – the second lowest total since 1850.

To put the water season in perspective, average rainfall at this time of year is about 1.8 inches.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack off to a Fast Start

In Northern California, late-fall storm systems have dropped a generous amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, which had been very dry through mid-November. Many mountain areas are reporting twice the average snowpack for mid-December.

More than 60 percent of the state’s water supply comes from Sierra Nevada snowpack as it melts and releases water to lower elevations.  The more snow that falls each winter, the more protection the state builds against drought the following year. 

The news is also positive in the Rocky Mountains, though the Upper Colorado River Basin has been struggling with drought for nearly two decades. Rainfall was at 119 percent of average in mid-November.

San Diego Region has Sufficient Supplies for 2019

For San Diego County, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center’s three-month weather outlook for December through February predicts above-normal precipitation across all of California except the very northern tier. The agency also predicts above-normal temperatures for the western states, with a greater than 40 percent probability of above-normal temperatures this winter statewide.

Even if weather conditions were to dry out through September 2019, the Water Authority and its member agencies have enough water supplies to meet regional demands for the foreseeable future. This is possible due to a combination of drought-resilient local and regional water resources, including the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, conserved agricultural water transfers, savings from canal lining projects, and continued water-use efficiency measures.

A weak El Nino is expected to form and continue in the Northern Hemisphere this winter and into the spring. As a result, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released on Nov. 15 favors drought improvement or removal for California and the southern portion of the Southwest.

Meteorologist Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service San Diego office predicted near-average precipitation in the region in his 2018-2019 outlook, noting that “past precipitation events have been extreme” with extended dry periods between storm patterns that bring heavy rain.

Series Of Pacific Storms Raises Hopes For A Wet El Niño Season

Southern California was in the midst of its fourth rain event of the season this week and with another expected next week, some experts believe the arrival of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño could be imminent. While it may be too early to link the Pacific storms to El Niño, the federal Climate Prediction Center’s El Niño “diagnostics discussion” could make the call next week on Dec. 13.

A new emergency generator kept water servicie running during recent wildfires in the Fallbrook PUD service area. Photo: Fallbrook PUD emergency preparedness

Emergency preparedness pays off for Fallbrook PUD

When residents in De Luz were forced to evacuate about 100 homes during the Rock Fire in July, an emergency generator installed by the Fallbrook Public Utility District proved its value by providing water to help firefighters extinguish the blaze.

The generator was installed about a year ago at the Donnil Pump Station at a cost of about $140,000. Since then, several fires have sparked in the hilly backcountry community north of Fallbrook.

The quick-burning Rock Fire broke out mid-afternoon on July 28 near Sandia Creek and Rock Mountain just south of the Riverside County line. The blaze grew quickly to 74 acres within two hours. Nearby residents were advised to evacuate, affecting about 100 homes.

San Diego Gas & Electric shut off the power for safety to 530 residents in the area at 4:12 p.m., according to information on the SDG&E outage website. The outage cut power to the pump station. FPUD kept water running thanks to the new generator, which is among several recent district projects and upgrades designed to maintain water service during emergencies.

The fire grew to 225 acres, but by 7:30 p.m. the forward spread was stopped. Power was restored gradually through the night, and the evacuation order was lifted the next morning.

Important community safeguard now in place

“Now, we can cover nearly all of the De Luz area during a power outage,” said FPUD General Manager Jack Bebee. “Fire has the potential to quickly spread, so this is a very important safeguard to have in place.”

The Donnil Pump Station conveys water from the San Diego County Water Authority’s aqueduct to the high-pressure zone in De Luz. The station was built before FPUD merged with De Luz Heights Municipal Water District in 1990, and it serves as the principal pump station in that area.

The pump station was upgraded as part of the district’s capital improvement plan. Without an emergency generator, water supply to the area could be cut off during a power outage. If that occurs during a wildfire, it could reduce flows for firefighters when they need it most to protect the community.



Water reliability is vital to the region’s core industries including craft brewing. Photo: Water Authority Outreach program

Airport Ads Remind Travelers San Diego Is Brought To You By Water

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Brought to You by Water outreach and education program made its debut on advertising monitors at Lindbergh Field the day before Thanksgiving – just in time for the busy holiday travel season.

Through the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s community promotion program, the ads are expected to remain in the rotation indefinitely, reminding travelers about the importance of water reliability to the region’s quality of life. The electronic display ads are visible in multiple spots throughout baggage claim areas in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Ads underscore important message about importance of water reliability

Water reliability is vital to the region’s core industries including craft brewing. Photo: Water Authority

The partnership between the Airport Authority and the Water Authority helps educate the region’s residents and visitors on the impact of something many take for granted – a safe and reliable water supply that sustains the region’s $220 billion economy and the quality of life of 3.3 million people.

The Water Authority is focusing on four core industries during the first phase of its Brought to You by Water program – manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and craft brewing. The initial airport ads highlight the craft beer industry, which has a $1.1 billion regional economic impact annually, and the tourism industry, which attracts 35 million visitors a year to the region.

Overall, access to reliable water supplies support $482 million per day in regional sales – the equivalent of nearly three Comic-Cons per day, according to a June report by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

In addition to the airport ads, the Brought to You by Water program has included the creation of the Water News Network, the inaugural Water Innovation and Efficiency Award, a partnership with the hotel-motel industry to promote water-use efficiency by guests, participation in numerous community outreach events, and many other efforts designed to enhance appreciation for the region’s most precious natural resource.

For more information about Brought to You by Water, go to B2UbyH2O.org.



A wooden dam helped allow Operations and Maintenance crews to make repairs to a leaking pipeline valve. Photo: Water Authority Dewatering project

Quick Solution Keeps Pipeline Repairs on Track

When Water Authority crews began dewatering part of the region’s pipeline system for a 10-day shutdown in mid-November, they discovered a leaking valve that threatened to disrupt the time-sensitive operation.

At issue was a six-foot diameter valve in the Second Aqueduct that was designed to isolate a section of pipeline so workers could safely make repairs inside a dry section of the massive pipe. Instead, the valve was seeping water, which made it impossible to start the welding work slated for the relining project in Bonsall and Fallbrook.

The leaking valve was installed in 1980 and is at the end of its useful service life. While valve failure wasn’t an immediate threat, staff had to find a quick solution to avoid delays that could have impacted water deliveries to customers.

Each winter, the Water Authority coordinates with its 24 member agencies to schedule pipeline shutdowns when water demands are low so crews can conduct routine inspections and make repairs. Timing is always critical to ensure water agencies have adequate supplies while pipes are offline.

Strategy devised to allow successful and swift repairs

Water Authority Operations and Maintenance workers made repairs to a leaky pipeline valve. Photo: Water Authority

Crews begin installing an isolation bulkhead after seepage stopped by repairs. Photo: Water Authority

The leaking valve threatened to disrupt this year’s refurbishing plan, forcing the Operations and Maintenance Department to quickly assess several potential solutions, including using absorbent materials such as rice or oats to soak up excess water. The team quickly settled on a strategy to construct temporary dams inside the pipeline and divert the seepage while repairs were made.

First, crews built a dam with 200 sandbags just upstream of the leaking valve, redirecting water into another pipeline and away from the contractor’s workspace. Then, they constructed a secondary wooden dam to collect the trickle of water seeping past the sandbags.

The solution was successfully deployed in less than 48 hours, allowing the welding project to begin on time.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

Local Water Districts Offer Free Workshops to Facilitate Conversion to Recycled Water

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District and Carlsbad Municipal Water District will host free workshops for local businesses and landscape professionals to promote the use and benefits of recycled water. The workshops will be held in Carlsbad on November 14 and in San Marcos on November 15.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

Robert Kephart Selected to Fill Division 4 Vacancy on OMWD Board of Directors

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors selected Robert Kephart at its November 7 meeting as the new director representing Division 4 of OMWD’s service area. Mr. Kephart fills the seat left vacant by the resignation of Jerry Varty.

Mr. Kephart has 20 years of service on the County of San Diego Service Area 107 Fire Advisory Board and currently serves on the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Foundation board. A volunteer firefighter for the Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove Fire Department for 19 years, he achieved the rank of Captain and chaired the department’s facilities committee.


Check irrigation systems when changing the clocks on Sunday November 4. Photo: Kelly M. Grow/ California Department of Water Resources daylight savinig time

Fall Back and Save Water As Clocks Change

Whether you are excited about an extra hour of sleep or dour about losing an hour of sunlight at the end of the day, daylight saving time ends Sunday, Nov. 4. The annual adjustment is a great reminder to perform several important household tasks, such as replacing smoke alarm batteries and restocking emergency preparedness kits.

The San Diego County Water Authority asks residents to add one more important task when changing the clocks: Adjust irrigation systems to save water in the months ahead.

“Adjusting irrigation is an easy way to conserve water, since landscapes need less irrigation as the days get shorter and cooler,” said Dana Friehauf, a water resources manager for the Water Authority. “Residents also should make sure their irrigation systems are working correctly, and are free of broken sprinkler heads or other leaks that waste water.”

Approximately half of a typical California household’s water use is outdoors. Seasonal adjustments to irrigation controllers in preparation for winter weather not only reduce water waste, they benefit the health of landscape plants.

Cool-season water-saving practices can reduce use

Additional water-saving practices during the fall and winter months include:

  • Turning off irrigation systems when rainstorms are predicted.
  • Leaving irrigation systems off for at least a week after significant rainfall.
  • Installing rain barrels or cisterns to help capture stormwater from roofs and store it for future irrigation use.

Fall is also the ideal time for residents to upgrade thirsty turf yards to WaterSmart sustainable landscapes. Homeowners can take advantage of winter rains to help establish a new landscape. The Water Authority’s award-winning WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program offers a variety of free classes and how-to online videos to guide homeowners through the conversion process. More information is at WaterSmartSD.

In addition, there are a limited number of residential rebates available for homeowners who want to upgrade to sustainable landscaping at SoCal Water$mart.

The Water Authority offers additional water-saving resources for residents and businesses through its Live WaterSmart campaign. These include:

  • Free water-use surveys and irrigation checkups
  • Rebates for highly efficient irrigation equipment, washing machines and other devices
  • Water-efficiency training for professional landscapers
  • An online home water-use calculator and other tools

For a comprehensive list of tips, or to learn more about the Water Authority’s suite of water-saving resources, go to WaterSmartSD.org.


The $24 million Pipeline 5 Relining Project in Fallbrook is expected to conclude in summer 2019. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Pipeline 5 Upgrades Begin in Fallbrook

A $25.3 million Pipeline 5 relining project is under way in North County to improve the reliability of the San Diego region’s water delivery system. The project involves rehabilitating approximately 2.3 miles of one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s regional wholesale water pipelines in eight segments along a 9.5-mile stretch through the community of Fallbrook.

Construction work will be done in phases and completed in summer 2019. When finished, the Pipeline 5 Relining Project will help extend the service life of this vital piece of infrastructure for more than 75 years. Generally, relining construction rehabilitates segments of pipelines based on their age and the need for improvements.

Relining process advances in well-planned stages

Construction activities in Fallbrook began September 19 with the installation of protecting fencing, establishing an entrance to the construction area, and clearing the site of all vegetation and debris for safety. The relining itself will begin in November.

In broad terms, the relining process begins with dirt being excavated to create an access portal or work area. The construction crews will conduct most of the work underground, inside the pipe. They will access the pipe by excavating, establishing, and entering the pipeline through nine access sites, or portals. The portals will be 25-foot by 60-foot excavated pits, spaced approximately 525 to 2,500 feet apart. At each portal site, 40 feet of existing pipe is removed to permit access inside the pipe to install relining materials.

The work involves removing 20-foot sections of old concrete pipe at each portals. Then, new steel liners are inserted into the existing pipe using a specialized pipe cart. Liners are installed into the entire pipe section. Once installed, the joints of the liner pipe are welded together. Each new steel liner is coated with a cement mortar lining. Finally, portals are backfilled and — after pipeline disinfection — the pipe is ready to be put back into service.

Community kept informed about project’s progress

Much of the construction work associated with the project is in Water Authority rights-of-way. Some portals within the unincorporated San Diego County portion of the alignment will be in undeveloped areas.

As people living and working in the area begin to see the activity, project team members will be available to address questions or concerns. Contact information including 24-hour phone numbers, email contacts, and website links are posted on nine informational signs along the construction route. Construction workers on site will also have contact information to pass out on request.

For more information, residents can call the 24-hour project information line at (877) 682-9283, ext. 7009 or email . A representative from the project team will respond within one business day.

Pipeline upgrades ensure safe, reliable water supplies

The Water Authority’s large-diameter pipelines extend approximately 310 miles to convey water throughout western San Diego County. Approximately 82 miles of these pipelines were installed between the early 1960s and late 1980s with pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes, or PCCP, made from a combination of steel and concrete. First used during World War II to help minimize the use of precious steel, this pipeline type is used extensively around the world.

Numerous failures of similar pipes nationwide prompted the Water Authority to take proactive measures to reinforce its PCCP type pipelines with steel liners in an strategic, multi-decade program starting in 1991.

In addition, in 2003 the Water Authority started using an innovative carbon fiber technology to conduct urgent pipeline repairs, helping ensure a safe and reliable water supply to the region.

When the Fallbrook project is finished, the Water Authority will have rehabilitated approximately 47 miles of PCCP — more than half of the total in the Water Authority system.