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What Fallbrook and Rainbow’s Revolt Says About San Diego’s Skyrocketing Water Rates

To understand why water agencies in Fallbrook and Rainbow are in revolt, consider the squeeze faced by Ismael Resendiz and the 250-acre cut-flower farm where he grows Protea, Pincushions and Banksia.

Resendiz said his flowers are barely getting the water they need to thrive. He said he’s had to cut irrigation in half over the last two years because of soaring rates. Over the last five years, his monthly bill has jumped from about $25,000 to $30,000 a month.

Now he’s considering dramatically shrinking his crop.

LAFCO Begins Public Review of Draft MSR Updates for FPUD, RMWD, NCFPD, CSA No. 81

San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission has released the draft municipal service review updates of Fallbrook special districts for public review. Discussion on updating the municipal service review information for the Fallbrook Public Utility District, the Rainbow Municipal Water District, the North County Fire Protection District, and County Service Area No. 81 was part of the Dec. 6 LAFCO board meeting although releasing the report for public review did not require a vote.

Drought-Tolerant Plant Giveaway Popular in Fallbrook

More than 130 people took advantage of a drought-tolerant plant giveaway program offered by the Fallbrook Public Utility District. Since picking up their free succulents in November, homeowners have started their drought-tolerant home garden projects.

Participants were provided empty flats and invited to select from an assortment of three-inch potted succulents to suit their needs. Each person took home approximately 28 plants.

Fallbrook homeowners select their free succulents thanks to a Fallbrook Public Utilities Department program. Photo: FPUD

Drought-Tolerant Plant Giveaway Popular in Fallbrook

More than 130 people took advantage of a drought-tolerant plant giveaway program offered by the Fallbrook Public Utility District. Since picking up their free succulents in November, homeowners have started their drought-tolerant home garden projects.

Participants were provided empty flats and invited to select from an assortment of three-inch potted succulents to suit their needs. Each person took home approximately 28 plants.

More than 130 Fallbrook residents could take advantage of the giveaway program. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

The hardy, brightly colored succulents help people transform their landscaping by replacing thirsty plants and turf. Drought-tolerant plants ease the workload of gardening and add beautiful color while also saving water.

The program was made possible thanks to grant funding from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The plants were sourced locally from Silverthorn Nursery, which uses FPUD’s recycled water to irrigate.

Fallbrook homeowners save water with succulents

Homeowner Peggy Hanne sent in a photo of her freshly planted succulents. Photo: FPUD

Homeowner Peggy Hanne sent in a photo of her freshly planted succulents. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

“Thank you for the plants. They are doing really well,” said homeowner Peggy Hanne, who proudly shared a photo of her transformed garden.

Maryanne Polyascko, a retired Fallbrook teacher, said she was so grateful for the plants and having less weed-pulling, watering, and gardening to do.

Maryanne Polyascko takes her free succulents home. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Other homeowners reported using the plants to protect their properties.

“I planted them to stabilize the ground behind my house from erosion,” said Mike Osborne. “I filled in all the areas that were devoid of vegetation.”

In addition to being drought-tolerant, succulents are also considered a smart choice in wildfire-prone areas. San Diego-based author and horticulturalist Debra Lee Baldwin is an expert on succulent gardens and recommends their use as a firebreak. While the plants alone won’t save a home from burning, “Surrounding a house with water-filled plants can serve as one more weapon in a homeowner’s arsenal against wildfire,” writes Baldwin.

The Fallbrook Public Utility District will be eligible again in two years to apply for more grant funding to offer another plant giveaway.

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

CWA Vote Entitlement Percentage Up for RMWD, Down for FPUD and Camp Pendleton

The weighted vote at 2022 San Diego County Water Authority board meetings will increase slightly for the Rainbow Municipal Water District while decreasing slightly for the Fallbrook Public Utility District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

The Nov. 18 SDCWA board meeting approved the 2022 weighted vote allocations for the CWA member agencies. RMWD will have 3.926% of the weighted vote, FPUD will have a weighted vote of 2.238%, and the Camp Pendleton weighted vote will be 0.081%. For the 2021 board meetings, RMWD had a weighted vote of 3.923%, FPUD’s share was 2.256%, and the Camp Pendleton weighted vote was 0.084%.

Fallbrook Fights for 70 Years to Use Water From Nearby River

The Santa Margarita River flows through town but Fallbrook had to fight for 70 years to finally use it.

The narrow river winds its way from Riverside County, through Fallbrook, and eventually onto Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego County where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. For the longest time, the military base did not want to share the river’s water with Fallbrook. The federal government filed a lawsuit against Fallbrook in 1951. Since then, Fallbrook Public Utility District General Manager Jack Bebee said they’ve battled, negotiated, and pleaded with all levels of government.

FPUD to Lease Indirect Potable Reuse Pilot Treatment Equipment from Intuitech

A pilot test will be conducted on the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s planned indirect potable reuse project, and Intuitech will be leasing the pilot treatment equipment to FPUD.

FPUD’s board voted 5-0 Oct. 25 to authorize a $370,450 agreement with Intuitech for the lease of the equipment. The pilot project will determine the best treatment process as well as the feasibility of utilizing reclaimed water to augment groundwater in the Lower Santa Margarita River basin.

Free, Drought-Tolerant Plants Available to FPUD Customers

The Fallbrook Public Utility District is now accepting applications for customers to receive free, drought-tolerant succulents. Approved applicants will receive the plants, free of charge, to transform their landscape and save water.

Class of 2022 Cheers New FPUD Rattlesnake Tank Artwork

Although the Fallbrook Public Utility District water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road has received a fresh set of painted numbers annually for 35 years, this week’s update was the most anticipated makeover ever.

FPUD crews change the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors will graduate at Fallbrook High School. A three-person team made up of district employees Matt Lian, Colter Shannon, and Toby Stoneburner recently painted over the “21,” changing it to “22” to welcome the graduating class of 2022.

Fallbrook PUD recently completed the annual painting of Rattlesnake Tank to salute the Class of 2022. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

Class of 2022 Cheers New FPUD Rattlesnake Tank Artwork

Although the Fallbrook Public Utility District water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road has received a fresh set of painted numbers annually for 35 years, this week’s update was the most anticipated makeover ever.

FPUD crews change the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors will graduate at Fallbrook High School. A three-person team made up of district employees Matt Lian, Colter Shannon, and Toby Stoneburner recently painted over the “21,” changing it to “22” to welcome the graduating class of 2022.

It took the team five hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank, compressed through the magic of time-lapse video to under 30 seconds.

“Parents and Fallbrook High seniors anxiously await the painting of the tank and begin calling the office early in June to find out when we’re doing it,” said Noelle Denke, FPUD public affairs officer. “This year, it’s especially exciting for them because they’re going back to campus and need something to look forward to.”

The reason for the annual external makeover dates back 35 years. Before the district started painting the tank, Fallbrook High seniors took on a longstanding dare. They would climb up the hill in the middle of the night, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.

Since it’s a long way down, FPUD staff became concerned for student safety. Workers installed a fence at the time to prevent access by the annual stealth painting crew.

But it didn’t deter the energetic students. Instead, they just began jumping the fence in the middle of the night. So district officials struck a deal with the students. If they would stop risking their safety for the dare, FPUD would safely paint the tank every year to commemorate them.

A 25-foot salute to Fallbrook High’s graduating seniors   

The annual painting for the Class of 2022 began due to safety concerns. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

The annual painting for the Class of 2022 began due to safety concerns. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

“We’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.

Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, Fallbrook Public Utility District makes arrangements to power down their towers. Then crews safely hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work painting.

Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of Fallbrook’s oldest and most visible water tanks.

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