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The Cavanah family's colorful, watersmart landscape is the winner of the 2022 Sweetwater Authority Landscape Makeover contest. Photo: Sweetwater Authority less water

More Beauty, Less Water Wins Sweetwater Authority’s 2022 Landscape Contest

The Sweetwater Authority named Nancy Cavanah of Chula Vista its 2022 winner of the WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Cavanah was recognized at the Authority’s June Governing Board meeting.

The Cavanah’s landscape was selected from a diverse pool of applicants as the best example of how to create a beautiful landscape using less water.

Clay Clifton, Sweetwater Authority Program Specialist, presents the Cavanahs their award. Their landscape was selected from a diverse pool of applicants as the best example of how to create a beautiful landscape using less water. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Clay Clifton, Sweetwater Authority Program Specialist, presents the Cavanahs with their award. Their landscape was selected from a diverse pool of applicants as the best example of how to create a beautiful landscape using less water. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Colorful plants replace thirsty turf

After years of watering to maintain a green front lawn, Cavanah and her husband decided to invest in making their yard more water-efficient. Using the Turf Replacement Rebate Program to help offset costs, the Cavanahs replaced their thirsty lawn with drought-tolerant landcover and colorful native plants to attract birds and bees. Plant choices include brightly colored Lantana, Haworth’s Aeonium, and Lion’s Tail (Leonotis leonurus).

Left to right: Lantana, Haworth's Aeonium, and Lion's Tail bright color to the award-winning landscape. Photo: Sweetwater Authority less waterLeft to right: Lantana, Haworth's Aeonium, and Lion's Tail bright color to the award-winning landscape. Photo: Sweetwater Authority less water

Left to right: Lantana, Haworth’s Aeonium, and Lion’s Tail bright color to the award-winning landscape. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The landscape’s low watering needs are supplemented by adding rain barrels.

The Cudahy home before its watersmart landscape makeover. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

“The Cavanah’s landscape is a shining example of how customers can save water and money while maintaining the beauty of their yard,” said Board Chair Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. “The Authority is here to assist customers to make these water-wise investments by offering rebates, resources, and support.

The Cavanahs replaced their thirsty lawn with drought-tolerant landcover and colorful native plants to attract birds and bees. Photo: Sweetwater Authority less water

The Cavanahs replaced their thirsty lawn with drought-tolerant landcover and colorful native plants to attract birds and bees. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest allows Authority customers an opportunity to showcase their best, water-wise landscapes – benefitting other residents with their winning examples. All customers who have transformed their yards to be more water-efficient are encouraged to enter the contest for the chance to win a $250 gift certificate. The contest runs from January through mid-May each year.

Find tips and resources on how to create a WaterSmart home and garden at www.watersmartsd.org/.

(Editor’s note: The Sweetwater Authority is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Major Energy Storage Project — Enough to Power 110,000 Homes for 2 Hours — Coming to San Diego

A portfolio of 44 battery storage systems across San Diego County aimed at adding more emissions-free energy to California’s electric grid is about to roll out, with one location in Chula Vista and another in El Cajon poised to break ground within the next month.

Otay Water District Celebrates 65 Years of Service to Southeast Communities

Sixty-five years ago in 1955, six South Bay community leaders met at Christie’s Restaurant in Chula Vista to discuss ways to import water into the southern part of San Diego County. The shared vision of a plumber, civil engineer, an attorney, a newspaper publisher, and two regional landowners created the framework and found seed funding for what became the Otay Water District.

State Legislature-Otay Water District-65th anniversary-Otay Building

Otay Water District Celebrates 65 Years of Service to Southeast Communities

Sixty-five years ago in 1955, six South Bay community leaders met at Christie’s Restaurant in Chula Vista to discuss ways to import water into the southern part of San Diego County. The shared vision of a plumber, civil engineer, an attorney, a newspaper publisher, and two regional landowners created the framework and found seed funding for what became the Otay Water District.

Landowners Ralph W. Chapman and Fred J. Hansen led efforts along with Ray Coyle, vice chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority and publisher of the Chula Vista Star News, in search of a solution for the South Bay’s declining quality and quantity of well water. Photo: Otay Water District 65 years of service

Spring Valley landowners Ralph W. Chapman and Fred J. Hansen led efforts along with Ray Coyle, vice chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority and publisher of the Chula Vista Star-News, in search of a solution for the South Bay’s declining quality and quantity of well water. Photo: Otay Water District

The district was formally established in 1956. The population served at the time was less than 1,200 people. Today, the Otay Water District provides safe, reliable water and wastewater services to more than 226,000 customers within approximately 125 square miles of southeastern San Diego County, including the communities of eastern Chula Vista, Bonita, Jamul, Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa, and east Otay Mesa along the international border of Mexico.

Commitment to service

“Serving customers for 65 years is something we take seriously. We take pride in our commitment to our customers,” said Otay Water District Board President Tim Smith. “We also value our employees because without them we couldn’t provide the high-quality customer service that we do. Through excellence, integrity, teamwork, and innovation, the District, its board, and staff work daily toward the same goal of ensuring a reliable water supply and sewer system and continuing to enhance our operational practices.”

The communities receive imported water supplied by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the Helix Water District.

In 1995, both Boards of Directors voted unanimously to dissolve La Presa County Water District. Otay Municipal Water District took control of all La Presa’s assets and resources. Photo: Otay Water District

Key historic milestones

In 1969, the Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Filtration Plant begins delivering filtered water to Otay customers.

In 1979, the Ralph W. Chapman Water Recycling Facility was completed. Recycled water from the plant irrigates a portion of eastern Chula Vista. Photo: Otay Water District

In 1979, the Ralph W. Chapman Water Recycling Facility was completed. Recycled water from the plant irrigates a portion of eastern Chula Vista. It can produce up to 1.1 million gallons of recycled water per day. In 2017, the District invested in upgrades to the plant’s major service pipeline including advanced technology and monitoring software to preserve the life of the existing facility. This proactive maintenance is estimated to save ratepayers $8 million in repairs.

The Otay Water District signed an agreement in 2003 to purchase recycled water from the City of San Diego’s South Bay Water Reclamation Plant in San Ysidro. Twelve years later, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant begins operations including delivery of drinking water to Otay’s service area.

The District began taking advantage of manufacturer warranties to upgrade more than 49,600 automated meter reading registers originally installed between 2004 and 2012, saving ratepayers approximately $3.3 million in meter replacement costs. Using AMR meters reduces staff time and costs, improves safety, and makes use of historical water-use data to identify unexplained usage through leak, tamper, and back-flow detection alarms.

Alexander Schultz, Otay Water District geographic information systems technician, operates a drone in front of a district water storage tank. Photo: Otay Water District 65 Years

Alexander Schultz, Otay Water District geographic information systems technician, operates a drone in front of a district water storage tank. Photo: Otay Water District

In 2018, after a two-year study and evaluation period, Otay began using drones to assist with the preliminary inspection of water facilities, including 40 potable water reservoirs. Drone technology can provide time savings with initial inspections and allows for a safer examination process of the District’s assets.

Recruiting military veterans

Legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019, making it easier for military veterans to launch careers in the water industry. AB 1588, initiated by Otay Water District General Manager and U.S. Navy veteran Jose Martinez, updates the current water and wastewater certification system by giving military veterans credit for their experience and education that is applicable to the water industry. Veterans can enter the water workforce at a higher pay grade than was previously possible.

AB 1588 - ACWA - WNN

State legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates and business and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in San Diego Oct. 16, 2019 to celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 1588 by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (San Diego) and Adam Gray (Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (Oceanside). The San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District co-sponsored the bill to increase the number of military veterans entering the civilian water and wastewater industry at a time when many Baby Boomers are retiring. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Today, the Otay Water District is focused on reducing water waste and overall water use. San Diego County has been better prepared for drought than other parts of California in part due to the Otay Water District’s investment in conservation, water recycling, seawater desalination, and transitional storage over the past two decades.

“I’m proud to be part of and serve an agency like the District because as an organization, we strive to provide excellent water and wastewater service to our community, while at the same time managing operational efficiencies to minimize rates to our customers,” said Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez. “Throughout 65 years, we are one of the few water districts that still has room to grow; we have continued to ensure a reliable water supply to our increasing population, and we will continue to do so.”

The District remains as dedicated to community service as when it was founded. Responsible resource planning, sound fiscal management, respect for the environment, and paying close attention to its customers’ needs will ensure its future reflects its history.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Native Plants Highlight Sweetwater Landscape Contest Winner

Chula Vista resident Paul Rodriguez gave up struggling to maintain his thirsty green lawn in favor of a new landscape design featuring California native plants and shrubs. The Sweetwater Authority Board of Directors selected Rodriguez’s makeover as its 2021 Landscape Makeover winner.

South Bay Residents, Officials Call for Faster Action on Tijuana-San Diego Sewage Problem

Chula Vista resident and Imperial Beach lifeguard Lillian Burkhart still remembers the sting on her skin after surfing in Imperial Beach waters one day last summer. Within 24 hours, she fell ill with a gastrointestinal infection, she said.

“As the day went on after I left the water, I could really smell it. It was pungent. It smelled like sewage,” she said. “The next day I woke up feeling awful and I just threw up for 12 hours straight. I’ve never been that sick in my entire life.”

In a First, California Considers Allowing Housing Project on San Diego Ecological Reserve

Normally, sitting on the California Wildlife Conservation Board is a feel-good job, mostly consisting of unanimously approving millions in state dollars to protect natural habitats, from mountain meadows in Lassen County to lagoons in Newport Beach.

Living Coast Discovery Center Struggling to Survive During Pandemic

One of San Diego County’s treasures is in trouble.

As with many organizations, the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista is closed because of COVID-19. It has had to lay off workers, but care for the animals continues and the funds to keep things going are drying up.

San Diego, Chula Vista Among Cities Receiving Funds in Monsanto Settlement

A settlement reached over water contamination claims stemming from Monsanto Company’s use of toxic chemicals known as PCBs will send $550 million to several jurisdictions, including the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista, it was announced Wednesday.

The Sweetwater Authority will use innovative technology to flush all 400 miles of its system pipelines. Pnoto: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority Taps Innovative Technology to Ensure Water Quality

The Sweetwater Authority recently began a multiyear water main flushing program using innovative technology to clean all 400 miles of pipeline in its system. It’s part of Sweetwater Authority’s use of the latest technology to deliver a safe, reliable water supply to its South San Diego County customers.

Water main flushing cleans pipeline interiors by sending a rapid flow of water through them. Sweetwater’s program is the first in the region to use a new, innovative technology resulting in less environmental impact.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with high-quality water, ensuring that every drop meets safety standards and protects public health,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager. “We’re also dedicated to providing the safe, reliable water through the use of best available technology and sustainable practices.”

See the system in action in the following video. A Spanish language version is also available.

New method avoids storm drain discharge

Traditional flushing methods release water from fire hydrants at a high speed in order to flush out naturally occurring sediments accumulating in water pipes over time. Although the sediment itself is harmless, it can eventually affect water color and taste. The water used to clean the pipes often cannot be captured and ends up in the storm drain system.

The bulk of Sweetwater Authority‘s flushing program now eliminates the need to discharge water from fire hydrants during the cleaning process while delivering the same results.

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Crews identify all pipes, valves, and fire hydrants located in the area to be flushed. Next, crews connect one end of a hose to a hydrant and the other end of the hose to the no discharge, or NO-DES flushing unit. The process repeats, connecting a second hose to another hydrant and the other end back into the flushing unit, creating a temporary closed loop.

Once the NO-DES flushing unit is turned on and the hydrants are open, water will push through the loop at high pressure, disrupting any accumulated sediment on the inside of the pipes. The water is pushed through a series of sock-like filters, which remove those sediments and return clean, high-quality water back into the system.

Crews closely monitor the filtration system and water quality to determine when flushing of each pipeline segment is complete.

Innovative technology, efficient and environmentally responsible

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations.

In the National City area 75.8 miles of pipeline was recently flushed. Crews are now completing work in the Bonita area, and then will start work in Chula Vista.

Additional water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the innovative technology.

“Securing a local water supply to ensure the water delivered is of the highest quality through the best technology in our projects and programs helps to maximize value for our customers while also being sustainable,” said Berge.

For more information on the program, go to www.sweetwater.org/flushing.