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North County Students Make Splash in Water District Contests

Local students floated lots of good ideas in the 30th annual Water Awareness Poster Contest, sponsored by North County’s water agencies. This year’s theme was “Love Water, Save Water.”

The contest for fourth-graders aims to increase understanding and appreciation for conserving water and using it more efficiently. Students showed ways they love water, how they save water at home, or ways to save or recycle water in the future to help the Earth. Winning students artwork is printed in the 2022 North County Water Agency Calendar. Free copies are available at local water district offices, usually by mid-November.

Native Plants Garden Wins 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest

As California experiences another drought cycle, homeowners in the San Diego region continue to makeover their landscapes with native plants that need less water. An Escondido couple recently transformed their landscape to save water and won the City of Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest too.

Escondido homeowners Michael and Teresa Everett first learned about the 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest from Escondido family-owned El Pantio Nursery. It was the motivation they needed to makeover their landscaping with native plants.

Native plants-drought-City of Escondido-Landscape Makeover

Native Plants Garden Wins 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest

As California experiences another drought cycle, homeowners in the San Diego region continue to makeover their landscapes with native plants that need less water. An Escondido couple recently transformed their landscape to save water and won the City of Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest too.

Escondido homeowners Michael and Teresa Everett first learned about the 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest from Escondido family-owned El Pantio Nursery. It was the motivation they needed to makeover their landscaping with native plants.

“As concerned Californians, we wanted to do our part to lessen our impact on San Diego county’s water resources,” said Teresa Everett. “We decided to switch to a waterwise landscape using all California native plants. Landscaping with native plants can reduce water usage by 60% or more. There is also a reduction in one’s carbon footprint as there is no need for mowing or trimming lawns.”

The Everett home before their landscaping makeover. Photo: Courtesy Michael and Teresa Everett

Landscaping supports local ecosystem

The new garden provides habitat for native insects, birds, animals, and people too. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The new garden provides habitat for native insects, birds, animals, and people too. Photo: City of Escondido

The Everetts also reduced yard waste and the need for soil additives since California native plants are adapted to the lean clay soil in San Diego County.

While the environmental reasons were compelling, the Everetts also wanted to create a habitat garden that was both beautiful and supported the local ecosystem.

“California is in the top 25 most bio-diverse areas in the world,” the couple pointed out. “Our housing developments have crowded out native plants. Native plants have evolved to provide exactly the right food in exactly the right package to attract and feed the animals that are unique to our California environment.”

The Everetts' landscaping shows it's possible to have a lush yard and still be waterwise. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The Everetts’ landscaping shows how to create a lush yard and be waterwise. Photo: City of Escondido

The Everetts planted native trees, including Coastal live oak, Western sycamore, Western redbud, and Palo Verde Desert Museum. They added shrubs, including manzanitas, ceanothus, Mexican elderberry, salvias, desert mallow, and wooly bluecurls. California fuchsias, San Diego sunflowers, and Pacific irises add color. Grasses and vines round out the landscape palette.

“Ever since we re-landscaped, we have observed a huge increase in birds, lizards, butterflies, and other pollinators in our yard. Waterwise native gardens are also extremely beautiful,” said the couple.

Irrigation needs reduced using native plants

Salvias and poppies provide color in the landscaping plan. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

Salvias and poppies provide color in the landscaping plan. Photo: City of Escondido

After the makeover, the Everetts rarely need to irrigate their landscape between late fall and late spring. During drier months, the landscape is irrigated twice monthly. The homeowners also maintain a vegetable and herb garden using rainwater collected in two rain barrels with 260-gallon capacity and by hand when necessary.

“We now spend many hours relaxing and bird watching in our yard,” said the Everetts. “Our outdoor space is now a much more enriching experience that gives us a greater sense of our connection to nature and a sense of place.”

The landscaping plan includes features like this dry riverbed. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The landscaping plan includes features like this dry riverbed. Photo: City of Escondido

“By re-landscaping our small property, we hope to take one small step in restoring San Diego county’s rich biodiversity. Sharing the successes of our garden with others will hopefully encourage other homeowners to convert their gardens to water and habitat smart landscapes.”

Find tips on how to create a WaterSmart home and garden, including details on rebates: www.watersmartsd.org/

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

Water Awareness Artwork Wins Escondido Student Poster Contest

Twelve winning student artists from Escondido area elementary schools follow in a long tradition of fourth-graders entering the annual City of Escondido Student Poster Contest. Students were asked to depict the 2021 contest theme “Love Water, Save Water” to illustrate the value of water resources through creative, hand-drawn art.

Gracie Chillag of Heritage Charter School placed second in the 2021 Student Poster Contest. Photo: City of Escondido Water awareness Artwork

Water Awareness Artwork Wins Escondido Student Poster Contest

Twelve winning student artists from Escondido area elementary schools follow in a long tradition of fourth-graders entering the annual City of Escondido Student Poster Contest. Students were asked to depict the 2021 contest theme “Love Water, Save Water” to illustrate the value of water resources through creative, hand-drawn art.

The winning students and their teachers receive prizes. The top 12 posters are displayed on the City of Escondido website.  The first, second, and third place winners will be featured in the 2022 North County water agencies’ regional calendar.

The winners of the 2021 Student Poster Contest 

First Place: Adeleine Kobriger, Heritage Charter

First Place: Adeleine Kobriger, Heritage Charter

Second Place: Gracie Chillag, Heritage Charter

Second Place: Gracie Chillag, Heritage Charter

Third Place: Camille Gastelum, Grace Christian School

Nine additional students received Honorable Mentions for their work

Honorable Mention: Enzo Chung

Enzo Chung

Honorable Mention: Brooke Gamble

Brooke Gamble

Honorable Mention: Candelaria Juarez

Candelaria Juarez

Honorable Mention: Brendan O'Donnell

Brendan O’Donnell

Honorable Mention: Kathleen O'Neal

Kathleen O’Neal

Honorable Mention: Emma Rhett Water Awareness Artwork

Emma Rhett

Honorable Mention: Geraldiine Ricardo-Valdes

Geraldine Ricardo-Valdes

Honorable Mention: Geraldiine Damaris Saucedo Water Awareness Artwork

Damaris Saucedo

Honorable Mention: Delano Sutic

Delano Sutic

Contest part of comprehensive science education program

The poster contest is a fun activity with a serious goal: teaching children the value of water and the need for water conservation. The City of Escondido supports local public and private schools by providing the Water Science Education Program to elementary and afterschool programs.

The program teaches water science to raise awareness of Earth’s resources through interactive and collaborative activities supplementing each school’s science curriculum. The lessons help meet Next Generation Science Standards. The annual poster contest is part of this annual program.

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

Helix Water District Part of Countywide Landscape Contest That Runs Through May

Helix is one of a dozen local water agencies taking part in a countywide WaterSmart Landscape Contest this year.

Previously known as the California-Friendly Landscape Contest, the annual competition, now in its 17th year, rewards water-efficient landscapes created by customers of Helix and other participating agencies around San Diego County.

Construction Begins on New Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Treatment Facility

Construction of Escondido’s $65 million Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility for Agriculture commenced recently, marking a milestone in the City’s goal of providing agriculture growers a high-quality irrigation supply and easing the burden on its wastewater infrastructure.

Escondido to Get $1.75 M Rebate

The city of Escondido is being sent a rebate of $1,754,023 by the San Diego County Water Authority, of which Escondido is a member agency. The Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District, which also serves parts of Escondido, was sent a rebate of $630,781. This week the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest.

Teresa Chase helps load up donations from Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees. They are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Water Utility Workers Embrace Holiday Giving

The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have a long tradition of supporting holiday charitable giving to a wide array of nonprofit services. The tradition continues in 2020 with no slowdown despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Toys bring joy to kids in need

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to Helix's Toys for Tots toy drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East County. Photo: Helix Water District Holiday giving

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to the agency’s Toys for Tots drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East San Diego County. Photo: Helix Water District

For more than 15 years, Sweetwater Authority employees have been active participants in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, providing toys to children in its service area. Every year, employees take a tag that contains information about the recipient (age, gender, toy request). The employee shops for the item and brings them back unwrapped to the office. The Salvation Army pickups and delivers the donated toys.

With many employees working from home this year due to the pandemic, several made arrangements to have their gifts shipped directly to the office, or stopped by to drop off a gift.

“Every year, I enjoy seeing the collection of toys selected by our employees for the children of South Bay. I am always so proud of the generosity and kindness of our team – It is one of the joys of the holiday season,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager.

Helix Water District staff is donating to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, and encouraged its customers to participate. Each holiday season, the U.S. Marine Corps partners with local nonprofits and businesses to collect toys for distribution to children. Helix employees at all four of the district’s facilities collected new and unwrapped toys. “If there was ever a time to help families in need, this is it,” said Helix spokesperson Vince Dambrose.

San Diego County Water Authority employees enthusiastically support Toys for Tots through its Employee Association. President Angela Tomayko, administrative assistant to the Colorado River Program and MWD Program, said employees will donate $500 toward the purchase of toys for the program.

San Diego Food Bank virtual drives provide assistance 

The Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank holiday giving

The San Diego County Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank

Early in the pandemic, the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies launched a virtual food drive in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic.

The Otay Water District was an original partner in the virtual food drive and has continued its commitment along with its nearly 226,000 customers, employees, and any supporter able to donate. As a result of its holiday season efforts, the Otay Water District raised $5,400 in food and monetary donations for the Food Bank.

“Because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, demands for food and aid have skyrocketed across the county,” said Tenille Otero, Otay communications officer. “People are without jobs, without paychecks, and without money to feed and support their households. Through the food bank effort, the District, its employees, and customers can assist those affected by the pandemic.”

Helix Water District also partnered directly with the San Diego Food Bank early in the pandemic, raising more than $6,000 for the program. Both the food drive, and its Toys for Tots effort are run as part of the “Helix Helps” program created in 2017. Helix employees, families and friends volunteer their time to support the communities the district serves.

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. photo; city of Escondido Holiday giving

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido employees including the water and wastewater divisions put together “Souper Sacks,” bags of non-perishable food and fun surprises distributed through the city’s senior program at the Park Avenue Community Center. Last year, 341 Souper Sacks were donated.

In addition, employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Children receive a new set of pajamas to bring them comfort during their most challenging moments.

In previous years, items were delivered to the nonprofits with an escort by the Escondido Fire Department. “This year, distribution will be lower key, but participation in both of these longstanding programs has not waivered,” said Teresa Collins, Escondido communications manager.

Supporting clean water worldwide

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

For 15 years, Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees have enthusiastically supported fundraising for the nonprofit Water for People. It works with communities across the globe to install safe water and sanitation systems, educating local people on good health practices and saving thousands of lives. Olivenhain employees have volunteered abroad helping set up water and sewer systems with the full support of the agency.

During the holiday season, the San Diego chapter holds a competition to sell the most gift baskets donated by Wonderful Pistachios. Employees help assemble the baskets for sale. Olivenhain hoped for a “three-peat” win but settled for a close second place, selling 179 baskets.

Water Authority employees also purchased baskets. Employee Association President Angela Tomayko noted, “they sold out quickly!”

Olivenhain employees are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Employees also participate with paycheck deductions through the United Way.

“We like to cast a wide net to make the season brighter for as many as we can – seniors, children, vets, and even four-legged friends,” said Teresa Chase, administrative analyst.

“I enjoy shopping for the families and I like collecting for animals, too,” said district accountant Lisa Maxwell, who has worked at Olivenhain Municipal Water District for 23 years. “It’s just something that brings joy. We could use it, this year especially.”

Water Authority employees embrace philanthropy year-round

This year, the Water Authority established a new employee-driven Charitable Giving Committee to support nonprofits year-round. Chair John Kross, Engineering Department right of way manager, and committee member Liz Mendelson-Goossens, principal water resources specialist, MWD Program, said the committee has established new guidelines and surveyed employees to select recipients, the San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Humane Society, and Rady Children’s Hospital.

Without the ability to hold face-to-face events, the committee launches its first virtual fundraiser with a holiday theme. Through the end of the year, employees can compete in a holiday attire contest, donating to enter a photo in one of three categories: Ugliest, Most Creative, and Best Homemade. Fellow employees will vote on the winners.

Welcome to the Board: Consuelo Martinez, City of Escondido

Consuelo Martinez was seated on the Board of Directors on May 27, 2020, representing the City of Escondido. Director Martinez serves on the Imported Water and Legislation and Public Outreach committees for the Water Authority.