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Opinion: After COVID-19 Ends, Will Californians Go Thirsty?

In the midst of drought yet again, and two decades into the 21st century, California continues to operate with a water infrastructure engineered and constructed for 20th century climate conditions and populations. That’s true not only of the state’s physical network of dams and aqueducts, but of its legal and financial infrastructure as well — the pricing rules that allocate the state’s precious liquid resources among its 40 million thirsty people. The coronavirus emergency has highlighted some of the most serious stresses in the system.

Opinion: We Can Find Common Ground to Solve Challenging Water Issues

Despite a seemingly endless era of upheaval – a surging pandemic, contentious election cycle and racial strife – we still have the responsibility to address pressing issues that cannot wait for calmer times. The future of California’s water is one of those issues. While collaboration and relationship building have been made even more challenging due to distancing required by COVID-19, we believe that water is an issue where we can rise above party lines and entrenched perspectives.

Lake Jennings Trout Season Opening A Success

Lake Jennings, the Helix Water District reservoir in Lakeside, is one of San Diego County’s hot spots for trout fishing, ranked second in the county by SDFish.com. The 2020 fall trout fishing season got underway on November 20, with enthusiastic anglers enjoying safe outdoor recreation with pandemic precautions in place.

“It’s one of those family activities people can do right now,” said Kira Haley, Helix Water District recreation manager.

UC San Diego Detects Coronavirus in Wastewater Samples From Five Areas of Campus

UC San Diego says it detected traces of the novel coronavirus in five areas of campus over the weekend after it greatly expanded its search for the pathogen in wastewater samples drawn from dozens of buildings.

The positive tests could involve as many as 14 residential halls and two laundries. But school officials also said Tuesday the findings also could represent only a small number of sites and very few infections.

UCSD Detects COVID-19-Causing Virus in Multiple Wastewater Samples on Campus

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla on Tuesday alerted students, faculty and staff that the university’s wastewater monitoring system detected SARS CoV-2 — the virus which causes COVID-19 — in multiple sites on Sunday and Monday.

“Our early detection system identified active virus in the wastewater outflow in the five campus areas from 11 a.m. on Sunday, November 22 to 1 p.m. on Monday, November 23,” Khosla said.

A happy Lake Jennings angler shows off his rainbow trout prize during the fall season opening weekend. Photo: Lake Jennings trout season

Lake Jennings Trout Season Opening A Success

Lake Jennings, the Helix Water District reservoir in Lakeside, is one of San Diego County’s hot spots for trout fishing, ranked second in the county by SDFish.com. The 2020 fall trout fishing season got underway on November 20, with enthusiastic anglers enjoying safe outdoor recreation with pandemic precautions in place.

“It’s one of those family activities people can do right now,” said Kira Haley, Helix Water District recreation manager. “Kids need to get outside and spend time in the fresh air. It was a big weekend; it was really fun.”

Through the opening weekend, Lake Jennings issued 931 permits, including 161 for children, an increase of 10% over 2019.

Showing off a string of rainbow trout along with the beautiful Lake Jennings scenery. Photo: Lake Jennings trout season

Showing off a string of rainbow trout along with the beautiful Lake Jennings scenery. Photo: Lake Jennings

Haley said due to safety measures, the lake staff worked hard to keep lines to a minimum.

“We are only allowing one family into the bait and tackle shop at a time,” said Haley. “One of the first things we did was get a portable register. It allows us to go up and down the line of people selling permits to those who don’t need to come into the store itself.”

Trout arrived last week from Thatcher, Idaho. The 2,500 pounds of fish travel 913 miles in an oxygenated truck to stock the lake.

“The lake is so clear you can see the fish,” she said. “A lot of our fishermen are sight fishing. They can follow a school around the lake and cast before they get there. It becomes more of an exercise activity too.”

Fishing and social distancing go together

Catfish were also biting. This impressive 38-pound catfish was safely released back into the lake. Photo: Lake Jennings

Catfish were also biting. This impressive 38-pound catfish was safely released back into the lake. Photo: Lake Jennings

Fishing is a natural social distancing activity.

“We have five miles of shoreline there’s plenty of space to spread out,” said Haley. “When you’re working with hooks and big fishing poles, you want to stay away from other people.”

Haley praised visitors for their compliance with all safety precautions, which have been in place since July.

“People are being respectful,” she said. “They’re wearing their masks, which makes us so happy. This is allowing us to stay in business and stay in compliance.”

She said all boats, lifejackets and seat cushions are disinfected after every use. Haley said only EPA approved disinfectants are used around the lake.

The lake’s 97 campground spaces are currently booked three weeks in advance for weekend dates.

Nothing tastes quite as good as freshly caught fish prepared on the grill at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

Nothing tastes quite as good as freshly caught fish prepared on the grill at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

The lake remains open for activities, including nature walks and birding from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Night fishing ended November 20 due to California’s 10 p.m. curfew order.  Haley said night fishing might return on a limited basis until 9 p.m. on future weekends. Check the lake’s website for the latest information.

Lake Jennings is more than just a great fishing spot. The lake is also where the Helix Water District stores imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California and local water from Lake Cuyamaca and El Capitan Reservoir to provide safe, reliable water to East County residents.

Padre Dam Named Utility of the Future Today

Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s leadership in the development of water reuse as well as its strong workplace culture received national recognition with a 2020 Utility of the Future Today award. The award honors substantial excellence in the operation of water sector services.

“We are honored to be recognized as a groundbreaking agency in the area of water reuse,” said Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam general manager and CEO. “This distinction highlights our ongoing commitment to innovative improvements in service of our customers.”

Here’s What the Water Sector Wants from Congress and President-Elect Biden

In a letter to President-elect Joe Biden last week, the American Water Works Association urged the incoming administration to prioritize COVID-19 relief for water utilities and investment for the overall water infrastructure sector.

The letter, authored by association president Melissa Elliott, cites AWWA research that revenue shortfalls at U.S. drinking water utilities may reduce economic activity by $32.7 billion and cost 75,000 to 90,000 private-sector jobs. Drinking water utilities are expected to see revenues from customer payments drop by nearly $14 billion, according to AWWA estimates. This is the result of the elimination of water shutoffs for non-payment, increased late payments due to high unemployment, reductions in non-residential water demands, and the addition of fewer new customers due to economic stagnation.

Sanitary Wipes Suspected Cause of $190K Damage to Water Treatment Plant

Cornwall City Council approved paying $187,273 from the Wastewater Works Reserve to cover damages to the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

On Saturday, May 16, 2020 alarms notified staff at the WWTP that a traveling bar screen was not operating. The lower screen had been blocked and began to back up, which lead to an excess of 2,000 cubic meters of raw sewage spilling out into the St. Lawrence River.

Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Building a Vision of Regional Strength Through Collaboration

If more than three decades in the fire service taught me anything, it’s that we are always stronger together. This has never been more clear than over the past several months, as the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have worked together to ensure an affordable, safe and reliable water supply, as San Diego County works to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. I truly believe we are stronger when we roll up our sleeves and work together. As we used to say on the fire lines: You go, we go.

We know how to do this because we’ve been doing it for more than 75 years. Working together, the Water Authority and its member agencies have built a water supply that supports our economy and quality of life and protects us from shortages in times of drought and emergencies. Our diversified supply, including major conservation investments in the Imperial Valley, is held up as a statewide and nationwide model.

The Water Authority plays a critical role as the region’s long-term water planning agency and wholesale water provider for 3.3 million residents and our $245 billion economy. We take the long view because we’re responsible for ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for our children and grandchildren. That’s a challenging task in our semi-arid region with few natural water resources, requiring us to look decades ahead to weigh complex options that serve the region’s water ratepayers and taxpayers.

As the newly elected Chair of the Water Authority, my number one priority will be to support critical long-term planning initiatives to ensure that water and facilities are in place to support future generations at an affordable cost. I plan to do this working in collaboration not only with the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies, but also with other regional agencies such as the Imperial Irrigation District and Metropolitan Water District. The Water Authority will also be working with key stakeholders, including environmental, business and other civic and philanthropic groups.

In taking the helm, I also want to recognize the work by General Manager Sandy Kerl, including her leadership through the myriad challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. She is responsible for day-to-day operations at the Water Authority and for guiding a talented staff of about 250 employees, most of whom are now working and sheltering in place. Sandy and her leadership team worked especially hard to limit rate increases during the pandemic, and will be looking for new ways to protect ratepayers as we head toward 2021.

In closing, I want to assure you that you can count on me in the spirit of, “you go, we go!” The Water Authority stands behind our 24 member agencies and the commitment to providing an affordable, safe and reliable water supply now, and for future generations. At the end of the day, I am confident that San Diego County is, and will remain, stronger together.