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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.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

OMWD Announces Virtual Neighborhood Meeting on June 11 about Pipeline Project along Encinitas Boulevard and Manchester Avenue

Encinitas, Calif. — The public is invited to attend a virtual public meeting via Zoom on June 11 to learn about the potable water pipeline project that Olivenhain Municipal Water District will begin in fall 2020 at the intersection of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Encinitas Blvd.

Work is now underway on the El Camino Real Potable Water Pipeline Replacement and Green Bike Lane Striping Project. Construction is expected to last about one year. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District Water and traffic

Olivenhain MWD, City of Encinitas Work Together to Keep Water and Traffic Flowing

The City of Encinitas and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District are working together on a project that keeps water supply and traffic flowing.

To prevent water main breaks and ensure reliable service to its customers, Olivenhain Municipal Water District is proactive in its repair and replacement of aging water infrastructure.

Year-long construction project underway

Map of the 4,700 foot long stretch of improvements planned along North El Camino Real. Map: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Map shows the 4,700 foot long stretch of improvements planned along North El Camino Real. Graphic: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

In early April, OMWD began construction to replace aging water infrastructure along El Camino Real in Encinitas. The work marks the start of the El Camino Real Potable Water Pipeline Replacement and Green Bike Lane Striping Project. Construction is expected to last about one year.

During the project, OMWD will replace approximately 4,700 linear feet of existing 12-inch diameter potable water pipeline along North El Camino Real from Encinitas Boulevard to Garden View Road and approximately 650 linear feet of existing 12-inch diameter pipeline between Via Molena and Mountain Vista Drive. Water service lines and fire hydrant laterals served by the existing pipelines will also be replaced.

The two pipelines being replaced were originally installed in 1961 and 1974, and are approaching the end of their lifespan.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there more than 240,000 water main breaks in the United States every year. The main breaks waste over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water, but also interrupt water service to homes and businesses, and require costly and disruptive emergency repairs.

After OMWD’s pipeline work is complete, the City of Encinitas will implement traffic calming measures and improve safety and mobility for bicyclists along North El Camino Real from Encinitas Boulevard to Leucadia Boulevard by restriping and narrowing travel lanes.

The work will include adding bollards to existing bike lanes, applying green color to some areas on the bike lanes, and additional signage and pavement markings will also be installed.

OMWD will implement the lane restriping portion of the project on behalf of the City of Encinitas, which will take place concurrently with the pipeline replacement project.

Coordination minimizes impact on residents and businesses

The two agencies have combined efforts to maximize operational efficiencies and to reduce impacts to area residents and businesses.

Originally, OMWD’s project was scheduled to begin in 2021. Encinitas Council Member Joe Mosca and OMWD Board Treasurer Larry Watt identified the opportunity to streamline the two projects, maximizing efficiencies and minimizing impacts to the community. Because the City’s project had a deadline for grant funding, the two agencies ultimately decided it would be more efficient to advance the timeline of OMWD’s project.

“El Camino Real is a major thoroughfare and any work done there needs to be executed with maximum care and efficiency in mind to keep impacts to businesses and residents low,” said Larry Watt, OMWD board treasurer. “By coordinating the pipeline replacement project with the City’s project, the community can enjoy a continued safe and reliable water supply and improved road safety with the least disturbance possible.”

Environmental responsibility and safety

“The City of Encinitas is continuing its track record of environmental responsibility by making our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians through the Active Transportation Enhancing Project,” said Encinitas Councilmember Joe Mosca. “The City’s partnership with OMWD on this project highlights the benefits of collaboration between neighboring public agencies on critical infrastructure projects.”

Coronavirus pandemic helps minimize impact on traffic management

Instead of conducting two projects along the same stretch of road consecutively, the City of Encinitas and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are coordinating their work to minimize disruption to the community. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Instead of conducting two projects along the same stretch of road consecutively, the City of Encinitas and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are coordinating their work to minimize disruption to the community. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

In addition to the partnership, OMWD has taken steps to minimize the impact of the project on residents and businesses along North El Camino Real. A City-approved traffic management plan will be implemented during construction. All work was originally scheduled to be completed at night to minimize traffic impacts.

As a result of the reduced traffic from the statewide stay-at-home order, the agencies adapted hours in April to 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The change allows work to be completed more efficiently and safely.

Olivenhain will work closely with the City to monitor the project’s impact on traffic on a week-by-week basis and modify the schedule as needed along with project contractor Teichert Energy and Utilities Group while still maintaining efficient operations.

OMWD anticipates a single shutdown of water service for most businesses/residences, kept as short as possible. Project updates are posted on its website. Email questions to or call 760-632-4235.

For questions specific to the City of Encinitas Active Transportation Enhancing Project, email or call 760-943-2211.

The 12-inch SeeSnake inspection tool used by the Vallecitos Water District is designed to provide accurate pipeline assessments. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

New Inspection Tool Aids Vallecitos Pipeline Assessments

A new pipeline inspection tool being used by contractors working for the Vallecitos Water District to determine pipeline integrity could become a standard tool saving time and money.

After nearly completing construction in 2008, developers walked away from the 500-acre High Point subdivision in the City of Escondido. Water facilities installed for the subdivision were left unused for ten years.

Two developers CalWest and TrueLife Communities recently decided to complete the project. They approached Vallecitos to determine what is needed to complete water service.

The mains for the project, made of ductile iron pipe, had not been used for ten years. Vallecitos needed to determine the condition of the pipes. Infrastructure Engineering Corporation and subcontractor PICA Corporation are now testing and assessing the integrity of the water main including the pipeline appurtenance (blow-offs, air vacs, and fire hydrants) connections to the main pipeline.

Early damage detection prevents pipeline failures

Pipelines undergoing assessment to determine their condition before being put into service in the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

A pipeline’s condition is assessed to determine its condition before being put into service in the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Several processes are included in the High Point Pipeline Assessment project. Crews insert a tool developed by PICA Corporation called a “SeeSnake” into the pipeline, and data indicates the condition of the pipes. The SeeSnake uses an electromagnetic method on iron pipes, which can “see” past cement mortar, epoxy, or polyethylene lining to detect and size any corrosion damage to the iron structure of the pipe itself.

The SeeSnake tool is pulled through the pipe at 17 feet per minute, delivering data as the inspection is being performed in real-time. The technology helps expedite information, saving time and costs by accelerating the process without sacrificing attention to detail. Vallecitos is then able to assess the pipeline’s wall thickness, potential iron loss, and any other anomalies to determine the condition of the existing pipeline.

See video demonstrating the SeeSnake pipeline assessment.

“Good decisions start with good information,” said Kris Embry, PICA regional manager. “Our ultimate goal in testing this new system is to quickly and efficiently secure accurate condition assessment information, allowing the Vallecitos Water District to address any weak links and prevent potential pipeline failures long before they happen.”

When the inspection is completed, the repair process begins.

Two water pipelines are being inspected for the condition analysis, one running along Woodland Heights Glen starting at Briar Patch Glen, and one running along Elderwood Glen, totaling approximately 3,067 feet. The larger 2,300 feet section of pipe is near the District’s existing Palos Vista.

Preventive measures save water and costs

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. The result could be a pipeline break which could case other infrastructure damage, interruption to water service, a loss of water, or monetary losses.

When an inspection finds corrosion, the affected section of iron pipeline is isolated, removed, and replaced by PVC pipe. Because iron pipelines can be susceptible to corrosion from multiple causes, they are no longer installed in the Vallecitos Water District.

The inspection found two badly corroded areas of pipeline and excavations verified the accuracy of the data. The Vallecitos Water District continues testing the new process and the accuracy of the data to determine whether to adopt the new technology for future working pipeline assessments.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Continues to Go Green by Expanding Use of 100 Percent Renewable Energy 

Encinitas, CA—At its January board meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors approved a two-year contract extension with 3 Phases Renewables, ensuring that OMWD is on track to use 100 percent renewable power at its water system facilities.

(L to R) Helix WD employees John Wilson, Eric Hughes, Dan Baker and Bryan Watte, and Padre Dam MWD workers Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley. Photo: Helix Water District Paradise Irrigation District

San Diego Water Pros Aid Paradise Irrigation District Following Camp Fire

Six water professionals from the Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District spent one week in August assisting the Paradise Irrigation District with disaster recovery in the wake of the devastating Camp Fire.

The Camp Fire burned through the town of Paradise, California in November 2018. CAL FIRE reported the fire burned 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures and resulted in 85 civilian fatalities and several firefighter injuries. The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, according to CAL FIRE.

Ten months later, Paradise remains hard at work on recovery efforts.

The fire caused significant damage to the Paradise Irrigation District’s infrastructure. As a result, more than 10,500 customers fell under a “Do Not Drink” advisory due to contamination from several harmful volatile organic compounds in distribution pipelines.

Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles hard at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Austin Darley (kneeling) and Jesse Knowles hard at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Padre Dam employees Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles, and Helix employees John Wilson, Dan Baker, Eric Hughes and Bryan Watte, spent a week in Paradise working to help ensure water system safety. While most customers have water service restored, the water quality is being carefully monitored.

“The majority of the work we did revolved around keeping customers in water during a three-day testing period, and reestablishing water service through a plastic jumper after samples had been drawn,” said Darley.

State emergency assistance system activated to provide mutual aid

Helix and Padre Dam are among 14 member agencies and the Water Authority participating in the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or CalWARN, to support and promote statewide emergency preparedness, disaster response, and mutual assistance processes for public and private water and wastewater utilities.

Damage remaining from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Damage remaining from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“This program is like an insurance policy that can provide assistance when an emergency becomes larger than our internal resources can deal with,” said Melissa McChesney, Padre Dam Communications Manager. “The situation Paradise Irrigation District finds themselves in is a good example of this. We also have agreements with neighboring water agencies in which we call upon each other for equipment or staffing when needed.”

The agencies identified staff with the skills and experience to help the Paradise Irrigation District. All agreed to volunteer for the mutual aid mission. Padre Dam employees Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley were selected to help.

“Jesse and I feel very blessed to work for an organization that is passionate about helping those in need,” said Darley. “It was an important reminder that recovery efforts continue long after the disaster leaves the news. Paradise is still in need of our thoughts, prayers, and help.”

Recovery effort not over for Paradise Irrigation District

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Helix Water District crews at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Helix Water District crews at work in Paradise, California. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“There’s a lot of work up here but the town is healing,” wrote Helix employee Dan Baker while working in Paradise. “I think I speak for all four of us when I say I’m proud to be a part of this.”

Water service for burned lots will be replaced as recovery progresses and new homes are built.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to assist our fellow Californians with this recovery effort,” added Darley. “Although we exist 600 miles apart we all have the same goal, to deliver safe and reliable drinking water to our residents and communities.”

A wooden dam helped allow Operations and Maintenance crews to make repairs to a leaking pipeline valve. Photo: Water Authority Dewatering project

Quick Solution Keeps Pipeline Repairs on Track

When Water Authority crews began dewatering part of the region’s pipeline system for a 10-day shutdown in mid-November, they discovered a leaking valve that threatened to disrupt the time-sensitive operation.

At issue was a six-foot diameter valve in the Second Aqueduct that was designed to isolate a section of pipeline so workers could safely make repairs inside a dry section of the massive pipe. Instead, the valve was seeping water, which made it impossible to start the welding work slated for the relining project in Bonsall and Fallbrook.

The leaking valve was installed in 1980 and is at the end of its useful service life. While valve failure wasn’t an immediate threat, staff had to find a quick solution to avoid delays that could have impacted water deliveries to customers.

Each winter, the Water Authority coordinates with its 24 member agencies to schedule pipeline shutdowns when water demands are low so crews can conduct routine inspections and make repairs. Timing is always critical to ensure water agencies have adequate supplies while pipes are offline.

Strategy devised to allow successful and swift repairs

Water Authority Operations and Maintenance workers made repairs to a leaky pipeline valve. Photo: Water Authority

Crews begin installing an isolation bulkhead after seepage stopped by repairs. Photo: Water Authority

The leaking valve threatened to disrupt this year’s refurbishing plan, forcing the Operations and Maintenance Department to quickly assess several potential solutions, including using absorbent materials such as rice or oats to soak up excess water. The team quickly settled on a strategy to construct temporary dams inside the pipeline and divert the seepage while repairs were made.

First, crews built a dam with 200 sandbags just upstream of the leaking valve, redirecting water into another pipeline and away from the contractor’s workspace. Then, they constructed a secondary wooden dam to collect the trickle of water seeping past the sandbags.

The solution was successfully deployed in less than 48 hours, allowing the welding project to begin on time.