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Water Authority Developing 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

January 23, 2020 – The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday authorized work on the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan. The Board approved a contract with the firm Woodard & Curran to provide support services for preparation of the plan, which documents the region’s approach to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

For a video of how the Urban Water Management Plan works, go to:

Several sensitive species of small animals, such as this western spadefoot toad, live within Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo: Water Authority

Wildlife Protected for New Underground Reservoir Project

One by one, small mammals and amphibians living within a construction zone in Mission Trails Regional Park are being relocated to safe areas. Protecting sensitive species is one part of the Mission Trails Project.

A team of biologists from the San Diego County Water Authority, AECOM, and the San Diego Natural History Museum began surveying for and relocating the wildlife in preparation for a new underground reservoir. The reservoir will be constructed in the western portion of the park. The habitat surveys and wildlife relocation program span 15 acres of the park and are designed to protect sensitive species in the project area from construction activities.

Biologists move, monitor sensitive wildlife

Several sensitive species of small mammals and amphibians will be encountered and moved.

Biologists will focus on four sensitive species that are covered under the Water Authority’s Natural Communities Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan: northwestern San Diego pocket mouse, Dulzura pocket mouse, San Diego desert wood rat, and western spadefoot toad. Biologists will continue to monitor for these and other sensitive species during construction.

Biologists took special care to find burrows or covered areas for the small animals, such as this kangaroo rat, so that they could begin to build their new homes in the safe areas of the park. Photo: Water Authority

Biologists took special care to find burrows or covered areas for the small animals, such as this kangaroo rat, so that they could begin to build their new homes in the safe areas of the park. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Protecting sensitive species, environmental stewardship ‘paramount’

For about two weeks, more than 500 traps will be placed in a grid pattern in the evenings and the sensitive species will be moved one at a time to safe areas within the park early each morning. Special care is being taken to help the animals find new burrows or covered areas as quickly as possible. Each animal is carefully marked, and data is logged to track the relocated animals. This tracking process helps ensure that the wildlife is not returning to the construction zone.

“We are conducting sensitive species surveys and habitat management before the start of construction to allow the animals to find new habitat and build homes safely away from the upcoming work,” said Summer Adleberg, a principal water resources specialist at the Water Authority. “Environmental stewardship is paramount to the Water Authority, and we always aim to minimize impacts to the surrounding land and communities while we improve regional water infrastructure.”

New covered reservoir will improve regional water delivery system

The reservoir, also called a “flow regulatory structure,” will store up to 5 million gallons of water underground and help regulate untreated water flows in the regional water delivery system. When completed, the reservoir will be covered with soil and vegetation. Above-ground access hatches and vents will be constructed to allow air to move in and out of the reservoir.

Once the project is completed, the area will be restored to its original condition and monitored over the next several years.

Mission Trails Project protects wildlife

The structure is part of a suite of infrastructure improvements, called the Mission Trails Project. The underground reservoir, pipeline tunnel, and removal of existing blue vent stacks are part of the project.

A new concrete crossing over the San Diego River will also be constructed to allow Water Authority vehicles to access pipelines and other infrastructure more efficiently. The pipeline tunnel, river crossing, and removal of most above-ground vent stacks have already been completed.

Construction activities on the covered reservoir and removal of the last two vent stacks are scheduled to begin in March and last approximately two years.

For trail closures and more information about the project, go to

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Olivenhain Municipal Water District Continues to Go Green by Expanding Use of 100 Percent Renewable Energy 

Encinitas, CA—At its January board meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors approved a two-year contract extension with 3 Phases Renewables, ensuring that OMWD is on track to use 100 percent renewable power at its water system facilities.

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Water Districts Host Rain Barrel Sale

Encinitas, CA—To encourage water conservation and reduce runoff that can carry pollutants into local waterways and beaches, Olivenhain Municipal Water District has partnered with San Dieguito Water District and Santa Fe Irrigation District to offer discounted rain barrels to area residents.


North San Diego County fire agencies teamed up in November with the Vallecitos Water District for confined space training drills. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Training Preps Firefighters for Wastewater Plant Emergencies

North San Diego County fire agencies teamed up in November with the Vallecitos Water District for confined space training drills. The drills, held over a two-week period, prepare firefighting professionals to respond to emergencies in facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and maintain their confined space certification.

The recent training took place at the Vallecitos Water District’s Meadowlark Reclamation Facility. Firefighters saw how the wastewater plant operates while getting a walk through of the facility. Fire personnel worked with Vallecitos staff and both groups benefited from the opportunity to understand each other’s equipment and protocols.

Meadowlark Wastewater Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle led the confined space training with North County firefighting agencies on behalf of the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Meadowlark Wastewater Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle led the confined space training with North County firefighting agencies on behalf of the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“The confined space training with the fire agencies has helped prepare us for future scenarios that could happen at the plant,” said Dawn McDougle, wastewater plant supervisor.

Video of the training drills conducted by the fire agencies and Vallecitos Water District.

The Meadowlark facility was chosen because it provided both vertical and horizontal confined spaces for training drills. McDougle suggested the facility storm wet well be used for the confined space exercise since it is relatively environmentally clean.

Collaboration results in more efficient response to emergencies

Firefighters are briefed on scene at the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Firefighters are briefed at the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Eight different fire agencies trained during morning or afternoon sessions, breaking up groups for various skill set station drills. Stations included an “Arizona vortex,” a new piece of equipment fire agencies use for rescues; a review of confined space rescue equipment; and training in confined space permit requirements. Confined space permits are required by OSHA before making any kind of confined space entry or rescue.

Meadowlark staff reviewed the conditions and possible actions within filter station space with fire crews. Staff also explained decision-making for confined space entry, and conditions they might encounter, such as chemical exposure, and lock-out/tag-out requirements.

A firefighter prepares to access the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

A firefighter prepares to access the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The training wrapped up with an all-hands mock confined space drill scenario at the Meadowlark storm wet well. Participants were required to respond to a simulated mechanical failure with a station pump, leaving Vallecitos staff “trapped” in a hole. First responders needed to “rescue” Vallecitos staff. Fire department personnel used the vortex system to rescue personnel trapped in the stormwater wet well. As part of the rescue scenario, fire teams incorporated Vallecitos staff involvement in the rescue mission.

Vallecitos wastewater collection crews also completed the confined space training with the firefighters.

Fire agencies were impressed with the staff and their operation of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility. As a result of training, fire agencies can now respond more efficiently and with confidence.

“We appreciate the collaboration with fire agencies and the time they took to explain their procedures to Vallecitos District staff,” said McDougle. “We look forward to future training with the fire agencies.” 

Firefighting agencies participating in the training included crews from the cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Del Mar, Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Valley Center, and crews from North County Fire (Fallbrook), San Pasqual and Rincon.

Portfolio Tour July 2019

California Agencies Release Draft Water Resilience Portfolio

Three California state agencies today released a draft water resilience portfolio intended to help the state manage more extreme droughts and floods, aging infrastructure, declining fish populations and other challenges.

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture developed the draft to fulfill Governor Gavin Newsom’s April 29, 2019 executive order calling for a portfolio of actions to ensure the state’s long-term water resilience and ecosystem health.

“The portfolio approach to water supply reliability is a significant advance in how our most precious resource is managed statewide, in line with our long-term strategy in San Diego County,” said Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “As we review the details of the new plan, we will continue collaborating with the state agencies and other partners to turn this vision into a reality that benefits our region.”

Water Portfolio Tour July 2019

State and Water Authority officials before aerial and ground tour of regional water infrastructure on July 18, 2019. Photo: Water Authority

State agency leaders tour water infrastructure in San Diego County

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel got a first-hand look at investments to diversify the region’s water supply, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

“San Diego is a great example of the challenges and complexities of managing water supply, as we look to supercharge water resiliency in California,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, Calif. State Water Resources Control Board, after the July tour of water infrastructure.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.”

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio encourages ‘collaboration within and across regions’

“This draft portfolio has been shaped to provide tools to local and regional entities to continue building resilience and to encourage collaboration within and across regions,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot in a news release from the three agencies. “At the same time, state government needs to invest in projects of statewide scale and importance and tackle challenges beyond the scope of any region. Taken together, the proposed actions aim to improve our capacity to prepare for disruptions, withstand and recover from shocks, and adapt from these experiences.”

The draft release comes after several months of public input, and listening sessions, including comments from the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio outlines more than 100 integrated actionable recommendations in four broad areas:

  • Maintain and diversify water supplies

    State government will continue to help regions reduce reliance on any one water source and diversify supplies to enable flexibility amidst changing conditions. Diversification will look different in each region based on available water resources, but the combined effect will strengthen resilience and reduce pressure on river systems.

  • Protect and enhance natural ecosystems

    State leadership is essential to restore the environmental health of key river systems to sustain fish and wildlife. This requires effective standard-setting, continued investments, and more adaptive, holistic environmental management.

  • Build connections

    State actions and investment will improve physical infrastructure to store, move, and share water more flexibly and integrate water management through shared use of science, data, and technology.

  • Be prepared

    Each region must prepare for new threats, including more extreme droughts and floods and hotter temperatures. State investments and guidance will enable preparation, protective actions, and adaptive management to weather these stresses.

Major Reser

Federal, state, and local governments have built separate systems of dams, reservoirs, and conveyance facilities to move water to cities and farms and provide flood protection. This map, from the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, shows the largest such facilities. Graphic: State of California

To develop the portfolio, state agencies conducted an inventory and assessment of key aspects of California water, soliciting broad input from tribes, agencies, individuals, groups, and leaders across the state.

“From Northern California to the Central Valley and the South, Californians from cities, farms, and other sectors are working together to develop innovative solutions to the climate-related water challenges that the state is already experiencing and that are expected to worsen,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “This draft portfolio is an important step toward building resilience to ensure the long-term health of our water supplies and ecosystems.”

Public comments on draft portfolio

The public will be able to submit written feedback on the draft portfolio through February 7. A final water resilience portfolio will be released soon after that.

“State agencies are only one set of water decision-makers in California,” California Secretary for Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said. “Continuing to improve our water systems relies on collaboration across all groups of water users and all stakeholders. Accordingly, feedback on this draft will be important to refining and finalizing our portfolio.”

Water Authority Offers Settlement to End MWD Litigation, Focus on Future

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today made a comprehensive settlement offer to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that would conclude every rate case between the two agencies, improve the transparency of MWD’s ratemaking process, and provide $140 million in payments for San Diego County water ratepayers in addition to benefits already secured in court. It also would provide certainty about how much MWD charges to transport the San Diego region’s independent water supplies.

“The Water Authority’s proposal would benefit residents across San Diego County, enhance understanding of how MWD’s rates are set, and provide more opportunities for our agencies to collaborate in ways that would benefit water management across the Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

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Helix Board Elects Officers for 2020

At their December 18, 2019 meeting, Helix Water District’s board of directors unanimously elected Director Mark Gracyk to serve as board president in 2020 and Director DeAna Verbeke to serve as the board’s vice president.

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Water District to Sponsor Scholarship Contest

Vista Irrigation District invites local high school seniors to compete for scholarships from the district. Up to six scholarships may be awarded; the minimum scholarship award amount is $1,000 and the maximum scholarship award amount is $3,000. The purpose of the scholarship program is to encourage students to learn more about water-related issues impacting their community.

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OMWD Named “Business of the Year” for its Protection of Escondido Creek Watershed

Encinitas, CA—Representatives from the Escondido Creek Conservancy presented Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors with the “Business of the Year” award at OMWD’s December 11 meeting. OMWD received the award for its support of the Conservancy’s education program. The program has become increasingly successful each year, and today brings thousands of local students annually to Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve to learn about water quality and habitat protection.