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Helix Water District's R.M Levy Water Treatment Plant

Water Recycling Project to Expand San Diego Region’s Local Supply

A water recycling project that will purify treated wastewater into drinking water for East San Diego County is moving toward its completion date after the Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized the signing of water purchase agreements.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is a collaborative, regional effort to diversify the district’s water portfolio and provide a drought-proof supply. The  water reuse project will further enhance reliability by purifying treated wastewater using Lake Jennings and other facilities.

The Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification Project at a special meeting on May 27.

Water recycling project ‘investment in water supply reliability’

The $681 million project, led by the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority, will recycle daily wastewater flows from Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Winter Gardens and Alpine. Treated water will undergo membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

The purified water will be piped into Helix’s Lake Jennings before undergoing additional processing at the district’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant and then distributed as safe, clean drinking water.

“I’m looking forward to the development of this project and I believe it’s an investment that strengthens our district’s water supply reliability and security,” said Helix Water District Board President Mark Gracyk. “This is a great example of what can be accomplished by working with our neighboring agencies.”

Water reuse will reduce dependence on imported water

East County AWP project water will reduce east San Diego County’s dependence on imported water by almost 30% once full operations begin in 2026. The project will create a local supply for the East County at about the same cost as what Helix pays now for imported water, according to the Helix Water District.

San Diego County water agencies, including Helix, Padre Dam, and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside, are developing or expanding water recycling projects. Diversifying local supply sources remains a priority for the San Diego County Water Authority. Imported sources, including water from the Colorado River and State Water Project, can be cutback during times of drought.

“The project was conceived by JPA members as a way to reduce rising wastewater costs for their customers,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “For Helix to participate, the project had to make financial sense for our ratepayers as well. By expanding our local supply, the East County AWP project water will help ensure that we are better able to navigate future droughts.”

The 30-year purchase agreements establish the cost and quantity of water that Helix will purchase from the East County AWP JPA under the proposed project.

Agency collaboration on sustainability

East County Advanced Water Purification Project-Visitor Center rendering-June 2020-Helix

An artist’s rendering of the new East County Advanced Water Purification Facility. The water recycling project is a partnership between Padre Dam MWD, Helix Water District, San Diego County and the City of El Cajon Graphic: Courtesy Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Helix and the JPA members – Padre Dam Municipal Water District, San Diego County Sanitation District and the City of El Cajon – have been working together to evaluate the ECAWP plan since 2014. Each JPA member has until 2021 to make a final decision on the feasibility of the project and participation.

Helix has invested $850,000 and significant board and staff resources to study the feasibility of the project, including a tracer study with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to learn how water moves and mixes in Lake Jennings.

“We are committed to exploring sustainable projects that benefit our customers,” said Gracyk. “The ECAWP project will be a great complement to our other ongoing investments in regional water supply projects, such as the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, to ensure we have enough water to meet demand.”

SDCWA Twilight building-primary 845x450

Water Authority Board Supports Protections for Ratepayers and Property Owners

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors on May 28 voted to support a comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of detachment proposals by the Rainbow and Fallbrook water districts to ensure that ratepayers and property owners in those districts and the rest of the county are protected from potential impacts and given a meaningful opportunity to engage in the process.

That evaluation – under development by the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO – should cover financial, water supply reliability, governmental, and environmental impacts, and it should ensure that the public and all affected agencies across the region can weigh in, according to the Water Authority Board resolution.

Read the entire resolution and related documents at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-detachment.

Santee Lakes Supports City of Santee in COVID-19 Community Efforts

Santee, CA – Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve and Padre Dam Municipal Water District applaud the City of Santee’s “Support Our Santee” efforts to help the Santee residents and business community through the economic challenges due to the COVID-19 health emergency. The City’s plan allows for Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) deferral from the City’s hotels, which would include Santee Lakes. Santee Lakes and Padre Dam have made the decision to partner with the City in COVID-19 recovery efforts and will not defer TOT that is paid to the City.

Helix Water District Logo Square

Regional Collaboration on Water Purification Project Expands Local, Drought-Proof Supply of Drinking Water

The Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification project at a special meeting on May 27, 2020.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Sewer Customers Will Not Face Higher Rates in 2020

Encinitas, Calif. —Following a review of its sewer rates and charges, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors voted at its May 20 meeting to hold the line on current sewer rates and fees rather than increase rates as scheduled.

Pure Water Oceanside Groundbreaking-February-2020-Pure Water-IRWM-Primary

San Diego Region on Track to Receive $15 Million for Water Projects

Several regional water supply projects in San Diego County are on track to receive a total of more than $15 million from the California Department of Water Resources, pending a final decision on the grants this summer.

Money for the projects has been recommended by DWR, which will make the awards after a public comment period.

In San Diego County, the grant funds would support local agencies to advance conservation, environmental enhancements, water purification and other initiatives.

Funding for regional water projects

The San Diego County Water Authority submitted the funding request on behalf of the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Region, or IRWM. The San Diego IRWM Program began in 2005 as an effort by water retailers, wastewater agencies, stormwater and flood managers, watershed groups, the business community, tribes, agriculture, and nonprofit stakeholders to improve water resources planning in the region.

“The IRWM funding will provide much-needed funding over the next several years to implement a variety of local water supply projects, water use efficiency measures, along with a disadvantaged community project in the City of National City,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl.

Kerl cited the “extraordinary effort” by the San Diego IRWM Regional Water Management Group and the Regional Advisory Committee for their work over the past year to make the $15,336,000 grant possible.

The statewide IRWM Program is supported by bond funding provided by the DWR to fund competitive grants for projects that improve water resources management.

Regional projects recommended for grant funds

  • San Diego Grant Administration, San Diego County Water Authority – Public Agency $920,180
  • 2020 Regional Water Use Efficiency Programs, San Diego County Water Authority – Public Agency Water Conservation $1,440,000
  • Paradise Valley Creek Water Quality and Community Enhancement, City of National City – Public Agency Flood Damage Reduction $3,681,056
  • North City Pure Water Facility Influent Pump Station and Conveyance Pipeline, City of San Diego, Public Agency Water Supply – Recycled Water $1,477,600
  • San Elijo Stormwater Capture & Reuse San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, Public Agency Water Supply – Recycled Water $1,195,000

Enhancing water stewardship

On November 4, 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

Proposition 1 authorized $510 million in IRWM funding. Funds are allocated to 12 hydrologic region-based funding areas, including the San Diego Region.

The Proposition 1 IRWM Grant Program, administered by DWR, provides funding for projects that help meet the long-term water needs of the state, including:

  • Assisting water infrastructure systems adapt to climate change;
  • Providing incentives throughout each watershed to collaborate in managing the region’s water resources and setting regional priorities for water infrastructure; and
  • Improving regional water self-reliance, while reducing reliance on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
East County Advanced Water Purification Joint Powers Authority JPA Logo

East County Advanced Water Purification Program Moves Forward

May 22, 2020, Santee, CA – The East County Advanced Water Purification (AWP) Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board of Directors unanimously approved water and wastewater service agreements this week, moving this significant drinking water project one-step closer to reality. These water and wastewater agreements are critical to the JPA’s eligibility for key Program financing opportunities.

Water Authority Proposes Rates for 2021

The all-in rates charged to the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies would increase by 6.3% for untreated water and 6.2% for treated water in calendar year 2021, if the Board of Directors adopts a staff recommendation released this week. The recommended rate increase equates to a net of 3% for member agencies when adjusted for declining sales.

Chris Walter, Helix Water District Inspector II, works while wearing a mask as an essential employee. Photo: Helix Water District

National Public Works Week Recognizes Essential Employees

Every time you fill up a water bottle or give the kids a bath, it’s due to the people working as essential employees behind the operation of water and wastewater systems within the San Diego County region’s public works infrastructure.

National Public Works Week takes place the third week of May annually in recognition of the public works professionals who provide and maintain vital public works infrastructure for the key contribution they make every day.

Water industry professionals are committed to serving San Diego County year-round by ensuring the seamless delivery of a safe and reliable water supply. During the coronavirus pandemic, dedicated essential employees have demonstrated exceptional dedication and creativity, making 2020 National Public Works Week especially significant.

Essential workers keep the water flowing

Helix Water District crews remain on the job during the coronavirus pandemic as essential employees being honored during National Public Works Week. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix Water District crews remain on the job during the coronavirus pandemic as essential employees being honored during National Public Works Week. Photo: Helix Water District

“Our employees are essential workers and they don’t take that lightly,” said Eric Heidemann, City of Poway director of public works. “From our water treatment plant operators to our technicians out in the field, they care for our Poway community and are committed to keeping our water supply safe during this crisis.”

Most of the infrastructure responsible for delivering the water the public depends on every day is hidden. This can make it easy to take a safe and reliable water supply for granted.

Bernardo Separa represents thousands of essential employees in public works being recognized during National Public Works Week. Photo: Otay Water District

Bernardo Separa of the Otay Water District represents thousands of essential employees in public works being recognized during National Public Works Week. Photo: Otay Water District

“It is very rewarding to complete projects as a team,” said Bernardo Separa, engineering design technician with the Otay Water District. “Knowing that you contributed and made a difference as a team member is a tremendous feeling.”

Safe, reliable water supply

“Our dedicated Helix employees help keep East County communities running by providing a safe and reliable water supply, 24/7,” said Carlos Lugo, General Manager, Helix Water District. “During National Public Works Week, we want to say thank you to our Helix employees for keeping the water flowing.”

Career opportunities available in water and wastewater industry

(L to R): Terry Zaragoza, Chad Weigel and Vernon Fitzpatrick from the City of Poway perform routine maintenance on a wastewater pipeline as essential employees. Photo: City of Poway

(L to R): Terry Zaragoza, Chad Weigel and Vernon Fitzpatrick from the City of Poway perform routine maintenance on a wastewater pipeline as essential employees. Photo: City of Poway

Public agencies like the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies play an important role in the region, both in terms of employment and providing critical services to support 3.3 million residents.

With approximately 1,400 water and wastewater jobs expected to open up across San Diego County in the next five years due to the “silver tsunami” wave of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, career opportunities have never been more promising.

The Water Authority and its member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the “Silver Tsunami” of retirees. The task force reported that there are approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region.

Sweetwater Authority Recognized as “District of Distinction”

Sweetwater Authority (Authority) received the “District of Distinction” accreditation by the Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF) for its sound fiscal management policies and practices in district operations. This distinction, a prestigious title, is only possessed by two percent of the more than 4,000 Special Districts.