Last week Escondido’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, Carrie Selby was featured as the Water Utility Hero of the Week by the San Diego County Water Authority SDCWA. Shelby was interviewed for the Water News Network and talked about her career and work life during the pandemic.
Two major water projects in San Diego County this week received a major financial boost to enhance the region’s water supply. The East County Advanced Water Purification Project was approved for up to $91.8 million and a project in the City of Escondido was approved for up to $23.4 million.
The San Diego County Water Authority has helped secure nearly $470 million for local supply projects in the past several months in collaboration with member agencies, including the total of $115 million for the East County and City of Escondido projects. Both projects will increase local water supply reliability and reduce future demands on imported water supplies.
Collaboration on water supply projects
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board of Directors approved entering into funding agreements from its Local Resources Program for both projects. The Water Authority and its member agencies are able to participate in the Local Resources Program after a final court ruling found MWD had illegally barred the Water Authority from receiving money from MWD’s local water supply program, even though the Water Authority was forced to pay for it.
“Kudos to our member agencies for their strong applications and to MWD’s Board of Directors for approving them,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “It is an affirmation of our ongoing efforts to collaborate with MWD and to address shared challenges.”
Potable reuse project in East San Diego County
The East County AWP will be one of the first potable reuse projects in California to use new reservoir augmentation regulations. The program will meet up to 30% of East County’s drinking water demands, almost 13,000 acre-feet of water per year, and eliminate the discharge of 15 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.
The AWP uses four advanced water purification steps to produce water that is near-distilled in quality. After treatment, purified water will be blended with water in Lake Jennings and treated again at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant before being distributed as drinking water.
Advanced water recycling in Escondido
The Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility in Escondido would provide up to 3,280 acre-feet per year of advanced treated recycled water to irrigate farms.
The project includes the construction of an advanced recycled water treatment facility with microfiltration and reverse osmosis, new pipelines, and a storage and blending tank to convey water for agricultural irrigation. Source water for the project is treated recycled water from the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility. Escondido will own and operate the project and plans to deliver water by 2023.
Regional water supply projects reduce reliance on imported water
In the past several months, the Water Authority has helped member agencies secure three other Local Resources Program agreements to fund water supply projects that increase local supply and reduce reliance on imported water. Those projects are:
On Wednesday, May 27 the San Diego County Water Authority welcomed Escondido Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez as its newest board member. The deputy mayor was sworn into the role via a Zoom call from her office.
The California Water Environment Association has named of Escondido Water Quality Lab Associate Chemist, Oyuna Jenkins as their Laboratory Person of the Year. Jenkins plays a key role in the lab’s safety processes, which ensures a safe and reliable water supply for City customers.
California’s 600 certified water quality testing labs will face strict new accreditation standards in the near future. While final hearings still need to take place on the draft regulations before adoption, the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab isn’t waiting. Escondido is working now to adopt the anticipated regulations.
Escondido is one of only two California labs already compliant with the draft regulations, which require more stringent quality controls.
It’s a tough gig being a western grebe during this water bird’s courtship season. To get noticed these birds must literally walk on water.
This elaborate courtship ritual, known as rushing, is now happening at Lake Hodges near Escondido where huge numbers of Clark’s and western grebes flock during the winter and spring breeding season.
North San Diego County fire agencies teamed up in November with the Vallecitos Water District for confined space training drills. The drills, held over a two-week period, prepare firefighting professionals to respond to emergencies in facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and maintain their confined space certification.
The recent training took place at the Vallecitos Water District’s Meadowlark Reclamation Facility. Firefighters saw how the wastewater plant operates while getting a walk through of the facility. Fire personnel worked with Vallecitos staff and both groups benefited from the opportunity to understand each other’s equipment and protocols.
“The confined space training with the fire agencies has helped prepare us for future scenarios that could happen at the plant,” said Dawn McDougle, wastewater plant supervisor.
Video of the training drills conducted by the fire agencies and Vallecitos Water District.
The Meadowlark facility was chosen because it provided both vertical and horizontal confined spaces for training drills. McDougle suggested the facility storm wet well be used for the confined space exercise since it is relatively environmentally clean.
Collaboration results in more efficient response to emergencies
Eight different fire agencies trained during morning or afternoon sessions, breaking up groups for various skill set station drills. Stations included an “Arizona vortex,” a new piece of equipment fire agencies use for rescues; a review of confined space rescue equipment; and training in confined space permit requirements. Confined space permits are required by OSHA before making any kind of confined space entry or rescue.
Meadowlark staff reviewed the conditions and possible actions within filter station space with fire crews. Staff also explained decision-making for confined space entry, and conditions they might encounter, such as chemical exposure, and lock-out/tag-out requirements.
The training wrapped up with an all-hands mock confined space drill scenario at the Meadowlark storm wet well. Participants were required to respond to a simulated mechanical failure with a station pump, leaving Vallecitos staff “trapped” in a hole. First responders needed to “rescue” Vallecitos staff. Fire department personnel used the vortex system to rescue personnel trapped in the stormwater wet well. As part of the rescue scenario, fire teams incorporated Vallecitos staff involvement in the rescue mission.
Vallecitos wastewater collection crews also completed the confined space training with the firefighters.
Fire agencies were impressed with the staff and their operation of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility. As a result of training, fire agencies can now respond more efficiently and with confidence.
“We appreciate the collaboration with fire agencies and the time they took to explain their procedures to Vallecitos District staff,” said McDougle. “We look forward to future training with the fire agencies.”
Firefighting agencies participating in the training included crews from the cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Del Mar, Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Valley Center, and crews from North County Fire (Fallbrook), San Pasqual and Rincon.
The Escondido Republican Club (TERC) will be holding its monthly lunchtime meeting on Monday, October 21, featuring guest speaker Jim Madaffer, board chairman for the San Diego County Water Authority.
Madaffer originally joined the Water Authority Board in November 2012. He is president of Madaffer Enterprises, which specializes in public policy and government relations.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors celebrated the agency’s 75th anniversary during today’s Board meeting, which included 20 proclamations honoring the agency for its service to the region dating back to 1944.
Cities across the region joined the state Assembly and Senate, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and other state and local leaders to formally mark the occasion. The San Diego City Council and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors even proclaimed today “San Diego County Water Authority Day” in honor of the agency’s legacy of water supply reliability.
75 years of service
“Starting with the historic first water deliveries in the 1940s, the Water Authority has partnered with our member agencies to build, operate and maintain the vital infrastructure that supports our region’s $231 billion economy and unparalleled quality of life,” said Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Our collective investments have created extraordinary advances in water supply reliability that are sustained by the daily vigilance necessary to operate and maintain such a complex system.
“While today we celebrate the past, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to focus on the future by fostering innovative solutions to ever-changing water resource challenges,” Madaffer said. “Together, we will supply the San Diego region with safe and reliable water supplies for generations to come.”
Forward thinking on water
The Water Authority’s current forward-thinking efforts include developing water storage capacity in Lake Mead to provide additional drought resilience for San Diego and the Southwest.
The agency also is working closely with the City of San Diego to assess a potential pumped storage project at San Vicente Reservoir that could help meet clean energy goals and benefit water ratepayers. In addition, the Water Authority is analyzing the costs and benefits of a regional water conveyance system that could help San Diego County and the entire Southwest to more effectively manage water resources.
During today’s ceremonies, water agency, civic and business leaders noted the Water Authority’s profound impact on the San Diego region and wider water issues over the past 75 years.
- “A reliable water supply is critical for San Diego’s regional economy and for maintaining a competitive business climate. The business community applauds the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies for their leadership, and for increasing the county’s water supply reliability with investments that keep our economy growing.” — Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
- “It is a pleasure to celebrate the San Diego County Water Authority’s 75th anniversary. We share a common history and a common vision for water supply reliability that has been essential to the economic vitality and prosperity to all San Diegans. We look forward to strengthening our relationship to meet the future needs of San Diegans.” — Gloria D. Gray, chair, Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors
- “Farming is a foundational piece of our regional economy and quality of life – but it doesn’t happen without a reliable water supply. Our farmers are constantly innovating to use water more efficiently by adopting new technology and planting more-efficient crops.” — Eric Larson, executive director, San Diego County Farm Bureau
- “On behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, I salute the San Diego County Water Authority on its 75th anniversary. Our two agencies are partners in the nation’s largest agriculture to urban transfer and in the process, we have forged a durable alliance at the Salton Sea. It is a relationship that the IID highly values.” — Erik Ortega, president, Imperial County Irrigation District Board of Directors
- “By combining a diversified set of water supply sources with greatly enhanced storage capacity, we are developing a more robust safety net for San Diego County.” — Jerry Sanders, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
On June 9, 1944, San Diego voters approved the Water Authority’s formation under the County Water Authority Act. Imported water arrived three years later to slake the thirst of a growing population just weeks before local supplies would have run out.
The modern era of the Water Authority started during deep, drought-induced water supply cuts in the early 1990s. Since then, Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have deployed one of the most aggressive water supply diversification strategies in the nation to improve regional water supply reliability.
At the same time, the agencies have aggressively helped to reduce per capita water use so that the total regional water use today is well below 1990 levels despite significant growth in the population and economy.
75th anniversary milestones
The Water Authority reached several major milestones over the past two decades. They include:
- In 2003, Olivenhain Dam was the first major new dam built in San Diego in more than 50 years. At 318 feet, it was the tallest roller-compacted concrete dam at the time.
- In 2008, the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant north of San Marcos began operations. It was the largest submerged membrane water treatment plant in the world when it was commissioned.
- In 2011, the San Vicente Tunnel and Pipeline Project – an 11-mile long, 12-foot diameter tunnel with an 8-1/2-foot diameter pipeline – created a link from the City of San Diego’s San Vicente Reservoir to the Water Authority’s Second Aqueduct, greatly improving the Water Authority’s ability to distribute water and store water in the reservoir.
San Vicente Dam raise
- In 2012, the Lake Hodges Hydropower Facility started serving the dual purposes of connecting the lake to the Water Authority’s aqueduct system and generating 40 megawatts of clean, on-demand electricity.
- In 2014, the San Vicente Dam Raise Project, the tallest dam-raise project in U.S. history, expanded the reservoir’s capacity by more than 157,000 acre-feet.
- In 2015, the $1 billion Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, distribution pipeline and related facilities started commercial operations as the largest seawater desalination project in North America.
- The Water Authority’s Asset Management Program, which includes a multi-year project to reline 82 miles of large-diameter prestressed concrete cylinder pipelines with new steel liners, helps to prevent pipeline failure and extend their lifespans by 75 years or more at significantly less cost than traditional pipeline replacement programs.
The Water Authority’s innovative efforts have been recognized nationally and internationally.
In 2017, for instance, the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project for winning ASCE’s top international engineering award.
The same year, Water Authority was honored by the Association of California Water Agencies – the nation’s largest statewide coalition of water agencies – for innovation and excellence in water resources management with its addition of supplies from the Carlsbad Desalination Project. And in 2016, the Water Authority received a top national award from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies for its commitment to improving the region’s water supply reliability in a manner that balances economic, social and environmental needs.
The Escondido City Council has decided to move forward with building a recycled water treatment plant off Washington Avenue, in the western part of the city in an industrial area where, unlike two other locations, there aren’t any residents nearby to complain. The council on Wednesday unanimously approved spending $3 million for initial engineering, design and pre-construction costs. Director of Utilities Chris McKinney said the expenditure signals the council’s acceptance of the location at 901 W. Washington Avenue near Interstate 15. The plant, which now has an estimated cost of $47 million, is needed to further treat already treated recycled water in order to desalinate it to a point where it can be used to irrigate avocado groves and other crops in the eastern and northern parts of the city.