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Yuima is among the smallest water districts in the San Diego County metropolitan area, covering 13,460 acres. Its 10 largest water users are all agricultural customers, consuming approximately 70 percent of total district water deliveries annually. Photo: Yuima Municipal Water District Pauma Valley

Cooperation Preserves Pauma Valley Groundwater

Instead of waiting for Yuima Valley’s precious groundwater supplies to dry up, the Yuima Municipal Water District and local farmers are working cooperatively to create a sustainable long-term strategy for maintaining the region’s economy and quality of life by proactively managing the valley’s aquifer.

To the east in Borrego Springs, the chronically water-short community offers a warning about over-tapping groundwater. Borrego Springs expects to face a 75 percent reduction in water supplies by 2040. The current plan is to let 3,800 acres of agriculture go fallow because farms use 80 percent of the community’s groundwater.

Yuima farmers also have relied on groundwater supplies for decades. Crops such as citrus and avocado flourish in the valley, nestled between Palomar Mountain and Valley Center.

But Yuima farmers want a different kind of future than they see unfolding in other groundwater-dependent areas of arid West.

Working with growers to sustain agriculture

The Yuima Municipal Water District worked with farmers to find realistic, reliable, cost-effective strategies for his customers to keep their farms flourishing without 100 percent reliance on groundwater. Photo: Yuima Municipal Water District

The Yuima Municipal Water District worked with farmers to find realistic, reliable, cost-effective strategies for customers to keep their farms flourishing without 100 percent reliance on groundwater. Photo: Yuima Municipal Water District

Richard Williamson, general manager of the Yuima water district, is working with growers to sustain production and avoid groundwater depletion. When groundwater is pumped faster than it’s recharged, negative effects include reduced water quality, reduced surface water supplies, and land subsidence (or sinking).

“What we’ve tried to do is work on a program encouraging farmers to join our system,” Williamson said. “Many have been pumping wells on their property, and they know it will be curtailed in the future due to new laws protecting groundwater. They need to look to imported water to make up the difference.”

Yuima is among the smallest water districts in the region, covering 13,460 acres. Its 10 largest water users are all agricultural customers, consuming approximately 70 percent of total district water deliveries annually.

Facing increasing state regulations and increasingly hot summers, Williamson worked with farmers to find realistic, reliable, cost-effective strategies for his customers to keep their farms flourishing without 100 percent reliance on groundwater. Adopting a rate structure giving farmers lower pricing in exchange for flexible reliability is the key. The strategy allows the district to slow water deliveries to agricultural customers when imported water supplies are in high demand, similar to power companies offering reduced rates for interruptible service.

“There was a fair amount of discussion and education,” said Williamson. “Farming interests knew they had to come up with an alternative source of water to replace what they might not have in the future. They know it doesn’t serve anyone to draw the system down to nothing. They can look across this valley. All you see is green, citrus and horticulture being raised.”

Yuima agricultural water users try new program

Pauma Valley’s largest agricultural water user and a large avocado farm were the first to sign on. “It was a win-win situation,” said Williamson, “They still pump groundwater, but not as much as they used to. It will help everyone under the new groundwater regulations. Knowing it’s always available, they can set their watering patterns to meet the best efficiency from their water dollars as they possibly can.”

Now Yuima MWD is working to offer imported water supplies through the new program to additional farms by increasing system capacity.

“We currently have projects under way that will double our amount of imported water coming into the district,” said Williamson. “That will be done by 2020, so at that point it will coincide with these new regulations in place. We want to be ready with other agriculture interests. They are under the gun and need alternative sources of water.”

Williamson said so far, Yuima hasn’t faced water supply interruptions. “Because Pauma Valley is such a close-knit community, we will call our biggest users and warn them, ‘Things are a little tight, can you water at night or cut back watering time a little bit to get through this crunch?’ Everyone has been extremely cooperative with this idea.”

Williamson says the goal for his district is to remove the supply interruption provisions completely when capacity upgrades are completed in 2020.

“This valley is all about two things: agriculture, and Indian gaming. The tribes have indicated they don’t want to see agriculture hurt here. They feel it creates a really nice environment,” Williamson said. “This district takes a lot of pride being part of that environment. We want to be a positive influence, rather than wearing a black hat.”




FPUD is embarking on a number of prevention, maintenance and improvement projects to safeguard and maintain its pipes and infrastructure. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

Fallbrook PUD Goes With the Maintenance Flow to Provide Reliable Service

Water pipeline blowouts like the one the day before Thanksgiving 2017 at the intersection of Stagecoach Road and Ranchwood Lane in Fallbrook provide periodic reminders about the realities of aging infrastructure.

Preventing these type of emergencies is the driving force behind planned shutdowns at water agencies such as the Fallbrook Public Utility District; investments today will avoid similar emergencies and unplanned water outages in the years ahead.

Many of FPUD’s pipes are more than 50 years old. A pipeline’s life can be 80 to 100 years, but many of the early lines that were installed were not put in at today’s standards and have shorter lives.

In fact, some of the early pipelines installed in the area were originally excavated from March Air Force Base in Riverside County and re-installed in Fallbrook, said FPUD general manager Jack Bebee. Many of these pipelines have reached the end of their useful lifespans.

That’s why FPUD is embarking on a number of prevention, maintenance and improvement projects to safeguard and maintain our pipes and infrastructure. Waiting to fix them after they break isn’t the most cost-effective and convenient way to operate.

“We’re trying to prevent a continued Band-Aid approach,” said Bebee.

Proactive approach prioritizes greatest need first

The shutdowns and retrofits are part of FPUD’s proactive approach to pipeline and valve replacement. By identifying pipes that are in the worst condition, the agency is prioritizing those needing to be replaced first, resulting in fewer pipe failures, blowouts and spills.

As part of its ongoing maintenance program, FPUD has refurbished six of its eight steel tanks over the past several years. It is also working on systematic valve replacement covering the entire community area. Valves are a critical component of water and sewer system infrastructure to limit the size of any shutdown.

Annually, the district also replaces or relines sewer manholes and sewer lines. Some of the manholes date so far back they are made of brick. Only FPUD’s sewer customers pay for sewer improvements, and only water customers pay for water improvements.

All FPUD construction work will be on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with an exception for projects that disrupt businesses. Those projects may be scheduled overnight. FPUD customers will receive both a letter and phone call if the planned shutdown will affect their water service.

FPUD posts regular updates to its website at and on its Twitter account, @Fallbrook water

Residents can also visit the FPUD Facebook page for other water-related updates.


Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

OMWD and UC Riverside Joint Study Yields Reduction in Energy Use

Encinitas, Calif.—A collaborative study conducted by OMWD and UC Riverside shows that water agencies can reduce energy consumption and energy costs by closely analyzing trends and managing consumption. The energy optimization project was funded by a $3 million California Energy Commission grant, awarded in May 2015, with the purpose of bringing energy efficiency solutions to California’s water sector.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s 4S Ranch Water Reclamation Facility Named Recycled Water Plant of the Year in Statewide Competition

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s 4S Ranch Water Reclamation Facility was recognized today by California Water Environment Association as its 2019 Plant of the Year (Small). The award was presented during CWEA’s Annual Conference in Palm Springs and acknowledges OMWD’s efforts to increase water supply reliability by reducing imported water demand.

Water levels in Lake Mead have been declining due to a long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin. Photo: National Park Service

OPINION: San Diego Is Ready For Some Big Water Solutions

Back in the early 1990s — near the start of my career at San Diego City Hall — the San Diego County Water Authority launched a historic effort to sustain the region’s economy and quality of life by diversifying our water supplies so that we didn’t depend on one source for 95 percent of our water. That effort took many forms, many billions of dollars and more than two decades — but it paid off in spades. Even though we are at the literal end of the pipeline, today we have among the most diversified and secure water supply systems anywhere.

Full story here:


There are new enhanced rebates for removing turf and replacing it with sustainable landscaping. Photo: Water Authority

Cash Rebates Increase for Grass Removal in San Diego Region

Removing grass can generate rebates of at least $2 per square foot for San Diego residents under new enhanced incentives that started this month.

As of April 1, the Metropolitan Water District is offering $2 per square foot for every square foot of grass removed from yards and replaced with sustainable landscaping.

Rebates may vary by water agency, but an online incentive calculator identifies the current rebate amounts.

New rules for turf rebates. Graphic:

New rules for turf rebates. Graphic:

To increase participation, MWD also updated program rules. The rules are listed at the application site.

All San Diego County residents are eligible for the $2 rebate.

But, that’s not all. The San Diego County Water Authority is offering an additional $1.75 per square foot to customers in its service area, with grant funds provided by the California Department of Water Resources.  And, the City of San Diego offers city residents $1.25 per square foot. That means some homeowners can earn as much as a $5 rebate for each square foot of turf removed.

Turf rebate programs have proven popular in Southern California, and funds could go quickly.

Water Authority offers free landscaping classes

While rebates can provide a big boost to landscaping makeover projects, it’s also important to start planning before you start planting.

That’s where the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program comes in. Free resources are available to upgrade turf yards.

For instance, the Water Authority offers free landscape makeover classes that help homeowners make smart choices to reduce outdoor water use by designing beautiful and climate-appropriate landscapes for our region.

Find additional water-saving programs, incentives, and classes for residents and businesses at:

“San Diego County homeowners and businesses know that sustainable landscapes are key to water reliability in our region,” said Joni German, who manages the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program. With the help of local landscape architects and designers, our WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program gives them the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. WaterSmart landscapes are an upgrade, not a compromise.”

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors supports a statewide solution to provide safe, reliable drinking water to all residents. Photo: Traphitho-Cesar-Augusto-Ramirez-VallejoPixabayCC

Water Authority Seeks Statewide Solution to Drinking Water Woes

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on March 28 threw its support behind a coordinated statewide approach to ensure that all communities in California have daily access to safe, reliable drinking water.

The California State Water Resources Control Board has identified 329 water systems statewide that serve contaminated drinking water or cannot provide reliable water service due to unsound infrastructure or lack of resources. Most of the systems are in rural areas and serve fewer than 10,000 people.

More than a half-dozen bills have been introduced in Sacramento this legislative session to provide safe and reliable water supplies for disadvantaged communities in the Central and Salinas Valleys.

The Water Authority Board supports a plan to combine several measures into a unified legislative package.

“By amending several components of the relevant bills and linking them in a modified single reform package, we would advance a more comprehensive fix to drinking water quality issues throughout the state,” said Glenn Farrel, government relations manager for the Water Authority.

Safe Drinking Water Trust Fund

In addition, the Water Authority Board voted to support Senate Bills 414 and 669, both of which provide alternatives to water tax proposals in the Legislature that the agency helped defeat last year.

  • SB 414 would establish the Small System Water Authority Act of 2019 and authorize the creation of small system water authorities that could absorb, improve and competently operate public water systems that are chronically out of compliance with drinking water standards.
  • SB 669 would create the Safe Drinking Water Trust Fund to collect federal contributions, voluntary contributions, gifts, grants, bequests, transfers by the Legislature from the General Fund and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, funding from authorized general obligation bond acts, and other sources. Revenues would help community water systems in disadvantaged communities that chronically fail to meet federal and state drinking water standards and do not have the money to pay for operation and maintenance costs to comply with those standards.

The Water Authority Board voted to oppose SB 200, unless it is amended to address numerous concerns that are outlined in the staff report to the Water Authority’s Board.

A fourth legislative measure, an Administration Budget Trailer Bill: Environmental Justice – Safe and Affordable Drinking Water and Exide Cleanup, would impose a tax on water and agricultural activities to finance safe drinking water efforts. The Board voted to oppose the budget trailer bill unless it is amended, among other things, to remove water tax provisions and instead appropriate $1 billion in budget surplus funds to the Safe Drinking Water Trust Fund.

An artist's rendering of the new Padre Dam Visitor Center at the East County Water Purification Treatment Center. Graphic: Gourtesy Padre Dam Municipal Water District water repurification water reliability

East County Advanced Water Purification Project on Track for 2025

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is moving forward toward its anticipated completion date after the Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors approved the required environmental report.

“The approval of the environmental report for this project brings us another step closer to producing a local water supply for East County and improving the reliability of the water service for our community,” said Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam CEO/General Manager. “We are on track for the project to begin providing water to the East San Diego communities by 2025.”

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is a collaborative partnership between the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, County of San Diego and City of El Cajon. The partnership’s purpose is bringing a new, local, sustainable and drought-proof water supply to the East County, using state-of-the-art technology.

Advanced technology improves water reliability for East County

The project will recycle East San Diego County’s wastewater locally, and then purify the recycled water at an advanced water treatment facility using four advanced water purification steps. The purified water will then be pumped into Lake Jennings, treated again at the Helix Levy Treatment Plant and then distributed into the drinking water supply.

The water recycling project will help diversify East County’s drinking water supply, reducing the region’s dependence on imported water. It also helps the region in achieving long-term compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA), the primary federal law in the U.S. helping to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s waters by addressing pollution and improving wastewater treatment. It is one of the United States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws.

Upon its completion, the East County Advanced Water Purification Project will produce up to 12,900 acre-feet per year, or 11.5 million gallons per day of new local drinking water supply.

“This project is forward-thinking, innovative and promises to give East County greater water independence and reliability,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents the East County region. “It will give us more local control over our most precious resource — and that’s great news for residents and businesses.”

Padre Dam offers tours of the East County Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Project. To schedule a tour or for more information on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, visit

Water Resources Engineer Sami Sweis holds the Nautilus in his right hand and a foam ball in his left hand that the high-tech device is placed in before it is inserted into a water pipeline to scan for potential leaks. Photo: Water Authority

High-Tech Tools Help Detect Possible Pipeline Problems

It’s a whole new ballgame for the San Diego County Water Authority when it comes to finding leaks in major pipelines with cutting-edge technology.

One new tech tool deployed for the first time in February actually looks like a tennis ball that floats through water-filled pipelines scanning for potential trouble.

Of course, the new device is much more complex inside than a tennis ball – in fact, the Nautilus is among the most advanced tools of its kind in the world.  It not only detects defects that are invisible to the human eye, it does so without requiring pipes to be drained, which saves a significant amount of water and disruption to customers.

Innovation Leader

The Nautilus is just the latest component of the Water Authority’s cutting-edge Asset Management Program that has been adopting and developing innovative tools for more than two decades. In fact, the Water Authority has been recognized by the American Water Works Association as a leader in the water industry for its focus on asset condition assessment, risk management, proactive pipeline replacement, and use of cutting-edge technology that saves ratepayers money.

“These high-tech tools are cost-effective and fit perfectly with our proactive approach to managing our infrastructure, including 310 miles of large diameter pipelines and 1,400 pipeline structures,” said Nathan Faber, an operations and maintenance manager with the Water Authority. “Our mission is to find potential failures in the system in advance, rather than react after a failure.”

‘Listening’ for leaks

The Nautilus uses acoustic feedback to detect leaks or abnormalities in active pipelines without causing any disruption to water service or supply, Faber said. About the size of a tennis ball, the Nautilus is placed inside a larger, sterilized foam ball, to float through operating pipelines.

For the First Aqueduct scan, 26 sensors, called synchronizers, were installed on various structures on the outside of the pipeline. Those sensors relayed information to the Nautilus as it floated between checkpoints. No leaks were discovered in the tested portions of the pipeline.

Digital Resolution

A scan from the LIDAR device shows precise and highly-accurate digital measurements that pinpoint pipeline problems. Photo: Water Authority

A scan from the LIDAR device shows precise and highly-accurate digital measurements that pinpoint pipeline problems. Photo: Water Authority

Leveraging new technology to gather data and pinpoint pipeline problems saves water and money.

“Responding or reacting after failures can cost up to six times the cost of proactive repairs,” Faber said.

He pointed to a recent pipeline repair project in La Mesa, where a Light Detection and Ranging device, or LIDAR, was used inside a pipe to provide highly-accurate digital measurements.

“The LIDAR took 1,600 measurements in five seconds,” Faber said. “The high-resolution images showed stressed pipe and verified cracking issues that allowed crews to make an efficient, proactive repair.”


A $28.6 million project to rehabilitate more than four miles of large-diameter pipeline between Lake Murray and Sweetwater Reservoir was completed in June 2018. Photo: Water Authority

Water Authority Adapts to Overheated U.S. Construction Costs

Construction costs have surged across the nation over the past year as prices for materials used in construction have risen. At the same time, contractors are struggling to meet project deadlines due to a shortage of skilled workers, construction trade industry publication Constructive Dive reported on March 18.

Those higher construction costs are impacting local agencies, including the San Diego County Water Authority. Agency staff briefed the Board of Directors’ Engineering and Operations Committee in mid-March on how those market changes are driving up costs of infrastructure and maintenance projects.

“The Water Authority will monitor market trends and adjust individual project budgets as required,” said Gary Bousquet, the Water Authority’s deputy director of engineering. “Our planning process includes prioritizing projects, and evaluating the timing or need and scope of projects. We will adjust our project cost estimates to meet changing market conditions.”

Labor shortage adds to increasing costs

A labor shortage in the construction industry is one of several factors increasing costs.

“While construction hiring remained very widespread through January [2019], industry employment gains nationally slowed in February—possibly an indication that the pool of qualified workers has dried up in many markets,” Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America, said in a new report.

The report showed that construction employment declined by 1,300 jobs in the San Diego region from January 2018 to January 2019.

“There are many large-scale construction projects underway in Southern California, while at the same time, there is a shortage of skilled and unskilled labor, which means greater competition for those workers,” said Brent Fountain, a principal engineer with the Water Authority. “In addition, increasing prices for materials are impacting the costs for both maintenance and capital projects.”

Water Authority project bids from contractors in 2018 ranged from $200,000 to $6 million over the project costs estimated by the Water Authority, according to Fountain.

Contractors bid above estimates in 2018

: In 2018, the Water Authority received 2-to-5 bids for projects, and the bids were all well-above agency estimates. Graphic: Water Authority

In 2018, the Water Authority received 2-to-5 bids for projects, and the bids were all well-above agency estimates. Graphic: Water Authority

“We’ve received fewer bids at higher bid amounts from contractors for several projects in the past eight months,” he said. “The Water Authority generally had more bids and bid amounts closer to our project cost estimates, from 2014 through 2017.”

In previous years, bid amounts were typically closer to project cost estimates and sometimes the bids came in well below the estimates.

Contractors bid below estimates in prior years

From October 2014 through June 2017, the Water Authority received 3-to-7 bids for projects, and the bids were all below agency estimates. Graphic: Water Authority

From October 2014 through June 2017, the Water Authority received 3-to-7 bids for projects, and the bids were all below agency estimates. Graphic: Water Authority

Bousquet said the agency will monitor construction industry cost trends as it continues pioneering projects to serve the region.

“The Water Authority has made an array of innovative infrastructure investments over the past 25 years, including some of the largest projects in the history of the agency, to sustain the $231 billion regional economy,” said Bousquet. “We will continue to develop cost-effective projects to provide a safe and reliable wholesale water supply to San Diego residents.”