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Pandemic Reigns as Top Concern for California Issuers

More than 18 months into the pandemic, COVID-19 still reigns as the most pressing concern for California issuers.

During a panel discussion Tuesday at The Bond Buyer’s California Public Finance virtual conference, every discussion involved the pandemic in some way.

Helix Water District Does About-Face with Shutoff Plan for Non-Paying Customers

Helix Water District customers who have had trouble paying their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic will be spared having their water turned off by the La Mesa-based water providers.

The five-member Helix Water District Board of Directors unanimously voted on Wednesday to delay the resumption of shutoffs for nonpayment until Jan. 1, to be consistent with Senate Bill 155, which was signed by Governor Newsom on Sept. 23. Among other things, the new law extends the moratorium on termination of water service for nonpayment until the end of the year.

Column: You Do Know That, in Most Cases, Bottled Water Is Just Tap Water?

Since the start of the pandemic, thirsty Americans have drowned their sorrow in bottled water. Even before the coronavirus blew into all our lives, bottled water was, and has been for years, the No. 1 beverage in the United States, surpassing soft drinks as the choice of increasingly health-conscious consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated things.

According to a recent report from the International Bottled Water Assn., sales of bottled water exploded last year “as consumers stocked up in order to stay home amid the coronavirus crisis.”

Opinion: Priced Out and Shut Off: Tackling Water Affordability

Right now, Congress is debating needed investments in our water system decades in the making. While the Senate’s compromise bill passed earlier this month includes billions for lead pipe replacement and helping communities prepare for future drought and floods, the bill falls short of ensuring all families can turn their tap on and access safe, affordable water.

Infrastructure spending isn’t enough. We must pair new water spending with bill assistance to ensure the water flowing through our upgraded pipes serves all households in America. This is especially true as the country faces another rise in COVID-19 cases.

Study Reveals Effects of Extreme Heat on Tens of Millions of Americans

The summer of 2020 brought fear of Covid-19, social distancing – and heat-related health problems that affects tens of millions of Americans.

During those months, more than a quarter of the US population suffered from the effects of extreme heat, according to a study released this week. People reported health symptoms like nausea and cramps, as well as a decreased ability to focus, and the effects hit low-income households the hardest.

The study focuses on last summer but given the brutal heatwaves that have hit the US in 2021, especially in western states, it raises the prospect that the impact of extreme heat is highly likely to be worse this year.

Padre Dam Resuming Late Fees and Water Shutoffs in an Effort to Protect Customers

July 13, 2021 — Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors voted (4-1) to resume billing late fees on utility bills for unpaid past due balances beginning August 1, 2021 after pausing fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the District will resume water service shutoffs for non-payment beginning on October 1, 2021. The District is returning to pre-pandemic policies set forth in its Rules and Regulations to ensure compliance with California State Laws.

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

Controlling the Budget and Water Rates in a Challenging Era

As we head into summer, we look forward to the continued retreat of COVID-19 and a full return to baseball games, barbeques, and graduation celebrations.

We also take a moment to remember that those things we cherish about San Diego County are all based on a reliable supply of water. It is the foundation of everything we do in our semi-arid climate. That’s why I’m so pleased to report that we have reliable supplies through at least 2045, even during multiple dry years like this one. That assurance was part of the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan that the Water Authority Board of Directors recently approved.

Water supply reliability

The Board is also considering the proposed 2022 water rates, along with the budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 – a challenging task to say the least. The proposed two-year budget is $1.7 billion, a 0% change from the current two-year budget due to our continuing commitment to cost control. As usual, more than 90% of the recommended budget is for buying and treating water or building and financing infrastructure. This reflects our long-term strategy to invest in supply reliability to meet current and future needs of the San Diego region – a strategy that is paying significant dividends during the current drought hitting most of California.

Water Authority staff also proposed increasing rates and charges for member agencies by 3.6% for treated water and 3.3% for untreated water in calendar year 2022, attributable to more rate increases by the Metropolitan Water District, continued payments for past investments in supply reliability, and inflationary pressures on energy, chemicals, and construction materials.

Rigorous review of budget and water rates

Each budget and rates package undergoes a rigorous review process, as we steward ratepayer funds to ensure continued water supply reliability in support of our $253 billion economy and quality of life. This year’s budget process started in fall 2020 with internal analyses, and it continued with meetings with our retail member agencies over the past several months. The process continued this week with the Board holding a third budget workshop. We expect to vote on the budget and rates package, following any revisions, on June 24.

A final note: I thought you might be interested in this letter that I recently sent to Gov. Newsom to share my appreciation for his leadership navigating the complexities of the current drought and outlining some of our key policy principles. It’s gratifying that the governor has avoided the kind of one-size-fits-all regulations we faced in the last drought – and I encouraged him to stay the course with regards to letting local leaders determine the appropriate response for their areas.

Urban Water Management Plan-2020-San Diego County Water Authority-San Vicente Dam

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors May 27 approved the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan highlighting a “water portfolio approach” that ensures reliable water supplies for the region through the 2045 planning horizon – even during multiple dry years. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

First Place, Color: Winner Kayla Rosenberg, a freshman at Hilltop High School, said her entry “Sunshine Shower” portrayed the family dog' sense of fun. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Student Photographers

Student Photographers Capture Water

Thirteen talented student photographers creatively captured the importance of water in their homes and in the context of the coronavirus pandemic in Sweetwater Authority’s 2021 High School Photo Contest.

Winners were selected from 50 students from South San Diego Bay high schools who submitted more than 100 entries in two categories: black and white, and color photography. In each photo, water plays a central part in favorite activities and quality of life.

The water agency acknowleged it was an unusual year and thanked students for their contributions during an unusual school year.

“This year’s contest was unique, in that we asked students to reflect on the meaning of water in their homes and in the context of the pandemic,” said Leslie Payne, Sweetwater Authority public affairs manager. “The entries we received and their accompanying essays reflected not only on the importance of water but also of the ability of art to uplift us all during difficult times.”

 Top Honors for student photographers

Color Photography

First Place, Color: Winner Kayla Rosenberg, a freshman at Hilltop High School, said her entry “Sunshine Shower” portrayed the family dog’s sense of fun. Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

First place winner Kayla Rosenberg, a freshman at Hilltop High School, said her entry “Sunshine Shower” shows how her family uses water to have fun. “During the long hot days, I usually turn on the hose to water the grass and plants. But, my biggest dog just can’t resist the shower of water.”

Second Place, Color: Chula Vista High School sophomore Araceli Romo portrayed her love for watercolor painting in “Watercolor Wonderland” Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

Chula Vista High School sophomore Araceli Romo portrayed her love for watercolor painting in “Watercolor Wonderland.” Her photo won second place.

Third Place, Color: Trinity Fuentecilla, Eastlake High School, “Water for Roots” Photo Courtesy: Sweetwater Authority

Alia Kircher, a senior at Bonita Vista High School, said her photo “Roots” depicting a plant’s roots growing in water “symbolizes how water keeps us alive.”

Black & White Photography 

First Place, Black and White: Mariah Journigan, Bonita Vista High School, “Shelter In Place” Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

Junior Mariah Journigan of Bonita Vista High School described her winning photo “Shelter In Place” in her entry essay: “Every drop of water in this picture represents two things: The chaos and uncertainty in the past year during COVID-19, and the daily lifeline it has been to us at home … Having water to wash our hands has been a lifeline and nothing less than an essential part of my daily life this past year.”

Second Place, Black and White: Airyl Van Dayrit, Sweetwater High School, said “Water’s Vibrant Shades” represents both the comfort of water as an essential element along with the realities of water pollution and scarcity. Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

Second Place winner Airyl Van Dayrit a senior at Sweetwater High School, said “Water’s Vibrant Shades” represents both the comfort of water as an essential element along with the realities of water pollution and scarcity.

Honorable Mention: Trinity Fuentecilla, 9th Grade, Eastlake High School – “Tree Branch View." Photo: Sweetwater Authority Student Photographers

Honorable Mention: Trinity Fuentecilla, 9th Grade, Eastlake High School – “Tree Branch View” Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

Trinity Fuentecilla, a freshman at Eastlake High School, won third place for her photo “Water for Roots,” celebrating a new love of plants developed during the pandemic.

Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention: Esteban Robledo, 11th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Let’s Take a Leap of Faith." Photo: Sweetwater Authority Student Photographers

Honorable Mention: Esteban Robledo, 11th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Let’s Take a Leap of Faith” Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

Color Category

  • Gregory Aguilar, 10th Grade, Chula Vista High School  “Afternoon at Morrison Pond”
  • Joaquin Angulo, 11th Grade, Hilltop High School  “Water + Plants = Happiness”
  • Mariah Journigan, 11th Grade, Bonita Vista High School – “Detox”
  • Ashley Marquez, 11th Grade, Chula Vista High School – “Spring Blossom”
  • Itzlamin Reta, 9th Grade, Sweetwater High School – “Flower Droplet”
  • Esteban Robledo, 11th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Let’s Take a Leap of Faith”
Honorable Mention: Kaitlyn Vu, 12th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Thirst Quencher." Photo: Sweetwater Authority Student Photographers

Honorable Mention: Kaitlyn Vu, 12th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Thirst Quencher” Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

Black and White Category

  • Mariah Journigan, 11th Grade, Bonita Vista High School – “Refresh From The Stress”
  • Trinity Fuentecilla, 9th Grade, Eastlake High School – “Tree Branch View”
  • Joaquin Angulo, 11th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Wash Your Hands”
  • Mayra Huezo, 11th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Water Uses”
  • Kaitlyn Vu, 12th Grade, Hilltop High School – “Thirst Quencher”

Judging was done through a blind selection process by Sweetwater Authority staff members and Bonita Museum & Cultural Center Director Wendy Wilson. First-place winners in each category were awarded $400; second place, $300; third place, $200; and $50 for Honorable Mention.

The winning photos are displayed in a slideshow. A special exhibit at the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center will showcase the winning photographs from May 15 through June 12.

(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.)

High School Photo Contest Winners Highlight Importance of Water at Home

Chula Vista, Calif. – Thirteen local high school students will be honored for their award-winning photographs at tomorrow night’s Sweetwater Authority Board Meeting. The winners were selected from a group of 50 students from high schools across South Bay who submitted over 100 entries for the Authority’s annual High School Photo Contest. This year’s contest challenged students to creatively showcase through photography the importance of water in their homes, and in the context of the pandemic.

Positioned for the Future: San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl

There have been many surprises and unanticipated outcomes in the long wake of the pandemic. Like most workplaces, the San Diego County Water Authority had to quickly adapt a year ago, and that process continues to evolve under the leadership of General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. In a conversation with California Water & Power, Kerl discusses how her organization has embraced change and continues to prepare for the future.