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Board members Mark Gracyk and Joel Scalzitti, Board Vice President Don McMillan, Lily Martinez, and Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. Scholarship programs throughout San Diego County and California for 2024 are now open. Photo: Helix Water District 2024 scholarhip applications

2024 Scholarship Applications Open for Aspiring Water Professionals 

Water agencies across San Diego County and California water associations offer multiple college scholarship opportunities in 2024 to help candidates secure their education as water and wastewater professionals.

The acceleration of industry retirements, as well as the increasing need for a skilled workforce trained to implement new technologies, result in an increased effort to develop more skilled individuals for water and wastewater industry jobs, including in San Diego County. For more information, visit sandiegowaterworks.org.

Scholarships are available for community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and graduate-level programs. The following examples are due in the coming weeks for study in the 2023-2024 academic school year.

San Diego regional water scholarships

 Helix Water District will recognize two outstanding graduating high school seniors living within the district’s service area with $1,000 scholarships for university studies next fall.

The Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship and $1,000 Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship honor two past leaders of Helix Water District. Friedgen retired in 1998 after 19 years as the district’s general manager and Childs retired in 1999 after 20 years on the board of directors.

Applicants must graduate in spring 2024 and attend a four-year college or university starting in fall 2024. Students submit a two-page essay exploring potable reuse and the East County Advanced Water Purification project. The scholarship committee reviews each applicant’s grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, academic and career goals, and financial need.

Deadline: 5 p.m. on March 15, 2024. Learn more about eligibility and find the online application here.

Vista Irrigation District scholarship winners (left to right): Monica Lozada, Naia Riggenbach, Sarai Rojas, Samantha Harris, Colin Gastauer. (Not pictured: Riley Robbins) Photo: Vista Irrigation District. 2024 scholarship

Vista Irrigation District scholarship winners for 2023 (left to right): Monica Lozada, Naia Riggenbach, Sarai Rojas, Samantha Harris, Colin Gastauer. (Not pictured: Riley Robbins). 2024 scholarship applications are now open. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Vista Irrigation District invites local high school seniors to compete for up to six scholarships from the District in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. The purpose of the scholarship program is to increase knowledge and awareness of how water-related issues influence our daily activities.

Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a one-page personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service, and letters of recommendation from high school faculty.

Applications must be received via email or at the district’s office by 4 p.m. on Friday February 23, 2024. Eligible students must live or go to school within the Vista Irrigation District service area. Find the application link here.

Contact Brent Reyes at (760) 597-3107 ">or email Reyes with questions or to request application information.

Scholarships were issued to local students by the Vallecitos Water District to help them continue their higher education. (L to R): Board Vice President Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, scholarship winners Phlavia Oyrem, Caitlyn Hansen, and Julianna Stipica-Kelecic, Board President Jim Hernandez, scholarship winners Daniel Baza, Evan Fox, and Board Member Erik A. Groset. Not pictured: Board Members Craig Elitharp and Jim Pennock, scholarship winner Brook Sannella. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Scholarships were issued to local students by the Vallecitos Water District in 2023 to help them continue their higher education. (L to R): Board Vice President Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, scholarship winners Phlavia Oyrem, Caitlyn Hansen, and Julianna Stipica-Kelecic, Board President Jim Hernandez, scholarship winners Daniel Baza, Evan Fox, and Board Member Erik A. Groset. Not pictured: Board Members Craig Elitharp and Jim Pennock, scholarship winner Brook Sannella. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District invites local high school seniors and students at Palomar College and California State University San Marcos to compete for scholarships from the district. Up to six scholarships may be awarded in amounts up to $1,000 per scholarship. The purpose of the scholarship program is to encourage students to learn more about water-related issues impacting their community.

Eligible students must live or go to school within the Vallecitos Water District’s service area. Students must complete an essay and provide a personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service, a financial needs worksheet, and letters of recommendation from faculty or an associate.

">Email Chris Robbins for application materials. Applications for the 2024 scholarship must be emailed or delivered to the District office by the deadline*.  Note: The 2024 scholarship deadline has not yet been announced.

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board awarded the 2022 Work for Water Scholarship to two local students: David Inchaurregui Jr. of Chula Vista and Kassandra Beltran of National City. Photos: Sweetwater Authority 2024 scholarship applications

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board awarded the Work for Water Scholarship to two local students: David Inchaurregui Jr. of Chula Vista and Kassandra Beltran of National City. Photos: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority’s “Work for Water” scholarships are now open for applications.

Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to new or currently enrolled students at the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College or another accredited college, community college, or trade school with a career goal in the water industry.

The application deadline has not been determined. For questions regarding the scholarship, application, or uploading documentation, email or call Alessandra Angelone, Senior Public Affairs Representative, at (619) 409-6721.

The Mark Watton Scholarship Fund through the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges supports students attending the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College. It honors former Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton’s four decades of service to the district.

Applicants must be currently enrolled for at least six units at Cuyamaca College, verify financial need, and complete the general application and essay. Scholarships of $1,000 are available. Application dates are March 25 to May 4, 2024.

Students should ">contact scholarship specialist Shirley Hughes with questions.

In addition, National University partners with the San Diego County Water Authority to offer a 25% tuition reduction scholarship to employees and employees of all member water agencies. The San Diego County Water Authority Tuition Reduction Scholarship benefits working adults who want to reach specific educational goals but find it challenging to fit classes into their busy life. The tuition-reduction scholarship can be applied to most associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs. Click for more information.

Professional association scholarships

Statewide scholarships are available through several organizations. 2024 scholarship applications

Statewide scholarships are available through several organizations.

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) offers four undergraduate 2024 scholarships, one graduation 2024 scholarship and a fellowship opportunity to qualified applicants attending a University of California or California State University campus. Students must be juniors or seniors pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water-resources related field such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, or public administration. Criteria include scholastic achievement and motivation to the vocation of water-resources management.

ACWA began its scholarship programs in 1961 to motivate committed students to join the effort to ensure California’s water quality through sound management policies. The scholarship program is all about investing in future water leaders.

Deadline: March 1, 2024. Application Link. Questions? Call 916-441-4545 or email .

The California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) awards more than $20,000 in scholarships in support of students and professionals pursuing careers in a drinking water-related field. Two $5,000 graduate scholarships, four $2,500 undergraduate scholarships, and two $1,000 scholarships in support of training as a drinking water treatment/distribution operator are available.

Environmental and civil engineers; water, wastewater, and recycling treatment plant operators; distribution system operators; chemists; laboratory technicians; biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists; and others whose roles support safe and reliable drinking water are all suitable 2024 scholarship candidates.

Deadline: March 15, 2024. Application Link. For information, call 909-481-7200 or email 

The Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Canham Graduate Studies 2024 scholarship provides $25,000 for a graduate student in the water environment field. The scholarship is for education-related expenses such as room and board, tuition, and books. The scholarship may not be used to cover stipends or wages.

The applicant must be a WEF member, complete an online application, and be enrolled in a graduate program. Recipients must commit to working in the water industry for two years following graduation.

Deadline: March 31, 2024. Apply online here. For questions, email

 

Six San DIego County students will have their artwork featured in the annual "Water Is Life" calendar for 2024.

San Diego County Student Artwork Featured in 2024 Calendar

Six San Diego County student artists from four member water agencies are among the 37 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2024 “Being Water Wise Is… ” Student Art Calendar.

The “Being Water Wise Is… ” Student Art Calendar is produced annually by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It showcases student artwork illustrating important water conservation messages in a visual way. Water agencies submit artwork for consideration among the winners of their local competitions. This year, 26 Southern California water agencies submitted 234 entries.

The inspiring artwork and artists were recognized during a virtual awards event on Thursday, December 14. MWD Board Chairman Adán Ortega, Jr. thanked the students, their family and friends, and the many educators who support the annual contest.

Ortega Jr. told the winning students, “You are truly extraordinary and helping us to see water in new ways and bringing us greater appreciation for its value to our daily lives, and to our society overall.

“Thousands of people will see the calendar that will be published, celebrating winning entries, and learn from it as well.”

South Bay Represented by Otay and Sweetwater Winners

Student artwork from winners in the Otay Water District and Sweetwater Authority are featured on the August 2024 page.

Student artwork from winners in the Otay Water District and Sweetwater Authority are featured on the August 2024 page.

Artwork created by Sophia Garvida, a seventh-grade Bonita Vista Middle School student, was selected for the calendar. Sophia represents the Otay Water District and won first place in the middle school category in the district’s service area competition.

Fifth grader Sofia Cardenas Loera, who attends the STEAM Academy in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, will also have her winning artwork in the calendar after winning the local competition.

“These two talented students used their artistic skills to share an important conservation message and illustrate the value of using water wisely. All of us at the Otay Water District are proud to have their creativity represent the district,” said Eileen Salmeron, communications assistant and poster contest coordinator.

Alondra Contreras Olvera, a third-grade student at Allen Elementary School, represents Sweetwater Authority in the calendar. The three South Bay student posters are on the August 2024 page.

East County Winners From Helix and Padre Dam

Catalina Jones is a second time winner.

Catalina Jones is a second-time winner.

Catalina Raquel Jones, is a talented seventh grade student at La Mesa Arts Academy whose artwork represents the Helix Water District in the 2024 calendar. Catalina is a second-time winner. Her artwork was also selected last year when she was a sixth-grade student at Lemon Avenue Elementary School.

Cameron Kovar is the second winner from the Helix Water District. student artwork

Cameron Kovar is the second winner from the Helix Water District.

Cameryn Kovar, who attends St. Martin of Tours Academy-La Mesa and is also in seventh grade, is the second Helix Water District student whose artwork will appear in the calendar. The Helix winners are on the July 2024 page.

Hayley Novotny's winning student artwork represents the Padre Dam Municipal Water District in the 2024 calendar.

Hayley Novotny’s winning student artwork represents the Padre Dam Municipal Water District in the 2024 calendar.

Hayley Novotny, a fifth-grade student at Cajon Park School in Santee, represents the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. Her artwork is on the December 2024 page of the calendar.

Conservation message delivered through artistic expression

The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar was created 35 years ago. It selects student art submitted from kindergarten through grade 12 to help convey water conservation messages. The annual calendar is distributed to 13,000 recipients each year.

Artwork from the student winners will remain on display at Metropolitan’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters in January. The traveling artwork will visit member agencies throughout the year. View the entire calendar here.

 

 

“Lights at the Lake” at the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve features 100,000 lights and three dozen displays nightly through December 28. Photo: Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve holiday activities

San Diego Regional Reservoirs Offer Holiday Activities

Several of San Diego County’s most popular reservoir recreation areas offer special holiday events through 2023 and host winter activities during the region’s cooler months.

Santee Lakes shows its holiday spirit

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve hosts the “Lights at the Lake” drive through holiday show through December 28. It features more than 100,000 lights and three dozen displays to brighten your holidays. Hours are 5:45 p.m. through 8:45 p.m. (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). You must buy tickets in advance at https://santeelakes.ticketspice.com/lights-at-the-lakes-2023.

See a video preview.

Santa Claus visits with kids on December 21, 22, and 23.

Trout fishing season is in full swing. Lakes 4 and 5 were recently stocked with 1,000 pounds of trout.

For the second year in a row, Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve was nationally recognized by the Outdoor Hospitality Industry (formerly ARVC) as its large/mega park Plan-it Green Park of the Year for its environmentally friendly practices across all areas of park operations and its commitment to sustainability. Judges make their decisions based on several criteria: guest experiences, all-around excellence in operations, professionalism, marketing, customer service, and industry involvement.

Originally opened to the public in 1961, today, Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve hosts over 760,000 visitors annually. The 190-acre park’s lakes are stocked with fish year-round. Other amenities include camping, cabin rentals, fishing, boating, playgrounds, walking trails, facility rentals, special events, and approximately 230 bird species.

Lake Jennings open for winter fun

A happy angler shows off his catch at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings/Facebook

A happy angler shows off his catch at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings/Facebook

Lake Jennings is open daily except on Christmas Day from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. through January 7. Trout fishing season is in full swing, with the lake fully stocked with 1,500 pounds of rainbow trout. It will be restocked again the week of December 25 and January 8 and 22.

The lake will be open for its New Moon Fishing event on Saturday, January 13, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking, sunset watching, star gazing, and firepit rentals. The lake will be freshly stocked with 1,500 lbs. of rainbow trout. The entrance gate closes at 8 p.m.; full-sized lanterns are required after sunset. Get more information about activities at https://lakejennings.org/

Lake Jennings is a popular destination for birding and viewing wildlife, like this red-tailed hawk. Photo: Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings is a popular destination for birding and viewing wildlife, like this red-tailed hawk. Photo: Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings is an exceptional destination during winter months for the serious and casual wildlife viewer and photographer. The rolling hills, the endless lake, the coastal sage, and the riparian areas provide a diverse habitat in a small area. Common sightings include deer, fox, and osprey. Bird watchers are drawn to Lake Jennings for its rich variety of bird species.

Free Fishing Sundays coming to an end at Sweetwater Reservoir

Just two Sundays are left to enjoy Sweetwater Reservoir’s “Free Fishing Sundays.”

Located at the eastern edge of Bonita, Sweetwater Reservoir’s Recreation Program is easily accessible to Authority customers and offers outdoor activities, including 2.5 miles of shoreline fishing and a riding and hiking trail operated by the County of San Diego.

The entrance is at 3203 Summit Meadow Road in Bonita. A valid California Department of Fish and Wildlife Fishing License is required. Regular fishing fees remain in effect on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays. For information on current hours, fees, and safety, visit www.sweetwater.org/fishing.

The reservoir is primarily a local water supply for the Authority’s 200,000 customers in National City, Chula Vista, and Bonita. The Sweetwater Authority has created recreational opportunities, including fishing programs and a riding and hiking trail at Sweetwater operated by the County of San Diego through a license from the Authority.

 

 

 

Water Conservation Garden to Run Out of Money Soon; Executive Director Resigns Amid Financial Turmoil

The Water Conservation Garden will run out of money as early as mid-December, the nonprofit organization Friends of The Water Conservation Garden stated at an October 24 meeting of the Water Conservation Garden Joint Powers Authority,  the consortium of public utility and governmental entities that oversees the Friends.

(L to R) City of Escondido Environmental Programs team members Janin Rodarte, Emily Mixer, and Marielle Decker share the holiday spirit. Photo: City of Escondido holiday giving

Member Agencies Support Holiday Giving Programs

San Diego region’s water and wastewater agency employees pitched in to carry on a tradition of holiday giving in 2023 to benefit a wide array of nonprofit community services.

Helix and Otay Water District Employees Feed A Need

The Helix Water District's Peanut Butter Drive supports the San Diego Food Bank this holiday season. Photo: Helix Water District holiday giving

The Helix Water District’s Peanut Butter Drive supports the San Diego Food Bank this holiday season. Photo: Helix Water District

The Helix Water District employee volunteer program kicked off the giving season in October with a peanut butter drive for the San Diego Food Bank. Public Affairs Supervisor Addie Woodard explains that peanut butter is a nutrient-rich superfood popular with kids and is also shelf-stable. One jar can provide more than 12 sandwiches. But it’s expensive for the Food Bank to purchase, making it a valuable donation item.

Generous Helix employees contributed more than 100 pounds of peanut butter. Woodward offered a lighthearted “That’s nuts!” at the effort’s inaugural success.

Otay Water District employees offered generous support to the San Diego Food Bank. Photo: San Diego Food Bank

Otay Water District employees offered generous support to the San Diego Food Bank. Photo: San Diego Food Bank

Otay Water District employees also support the San Diego Food Bank by making giving simple through their virtual holiday food drive. The District encouraged its more than 240,000 customers, employees, and anyone in a position to join the fight against hunger by donating safely online at their convenience.

Through the Virtual Food Drive, donors select and purchase food items, such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, peanut butter, oatmeal, and cereal. Monetary donations are also accepted. For every $1 donation, the San Diego Food Bank can provide two meals to families in need.

Helping Hand For Kids From Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority employees support the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program every holiday season. Photo: Sweetwater Authority holiday giving

Sweetwater Authority employees support the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program every holiday season. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

For more than two decades, Sweetwater Authority employees have been active participants in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. Employees take a tag that contains information about their recipient (age, gender, and toy request). The employee shops for the item and brings them back unwrapped to the office. The Salvation Army picks up and delivers the donated toys. This year, employees donated enough toys to help make Christmas bright for 20 South County families and kids.

“Sweetwater Authority employees care about the community we serve,” said General Manager Carlos Quintero. “We’re happy to spread some holiday cheer through our participation in the Angel Tree Program.”

Generous Escondido Employees Brighten the Holidays

(L to R) City of Escondido Environmental Programs team members Marielle Decker, Emily Mixer, and Janin Rodarte share the holiday spirit. Photo: City of Escondido holiday giving

(L to R) City of Escondido Environmental Programs team members Emily Mixer, Marielle Decker, and Janin Rodarte share the holiday spirit. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido employees participated in a Holiday Stockings and Senior Pantry drive. Employees put together holiday stockings filled with personal care items, snacks, and fun surprises for the Escondido Senior Center. Food donations support a holiday pantry for seniors, who can choose items to stretch their food budget. City staff collectively put together a total of 134 stockings and contributed over 800 food items.

Olivenhain MWD Spreads The Joy

Gifts contributed by Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees benefited the Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Olivenhain Municipal Water District (OMWD) employees have three ongoing holiday giving traditions to help deserving recipients.

Early in the holidays, donations were collected and dropped off at the San Diego Humane Society to support its efforts to rescue and re-home pets in need.

The District participates each year in the Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family program. In 2023, employees gathered donations for a single mom and her six children, two seniors, and two veterans.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District General Manager Kim Thorner and Education and Conservation Coordinator Teresa Chase with some of the 255 nut baskets sold, with $5,610 going to Water for People. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District General Manager Kim Thorner and Education and Conservation Coordinator Teresa Chase with some of the 255 nut baskets sold, with $5,610 going to Water for People. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

For 18 years, OMWD employees have enthusiastically supported fundraising for the nonprofit Water for People. It works with communities across the globe to install safe water and sanitation systems, educating local people on good health practices and saving thousands of lives.

During the holiday season, the San Diego chapter holds a competition to sell the most gift baskets donated by Wonderful Pistachios. Employees help assemble the baskets for sale. OMWD was the top donor again in 2023, with 255 baskets sold for a donation total of $5,610 going to Water for People.

 

 

 

 

Helix Water District Wins Golden Watchdog Award

Recently, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association honored Helix Water District with a Golden Watchdog Award in Municipal and Educational Services for the district’s Tunnel Hill tanks project that resulted in a $6.3 million cost savings for its customers. The association’s annual Golden Watchdog and Fleece Awards recognize the best and worst in local government decision-making, spending and efficiency.

Helix Water District Board Vice President Dan McMillan with the Golden Watchdog Award given to the District's Tunnel Hill Tanks project. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Helix Water District Receives Golden Watchdog Award for Tunnel Hill Tanks Project

The Helix Water District received the 2023 San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) Golden Watchdog Award in Municipal and Educational Services for the District’s Tunnel Hill tanks project. The project resulted in a $6.3 million cost savings for its customers.

“It’s a mindset at Helix,” said Helix Water District Board Vice President Dan McMillan. “From the board to our frontline workers, we all keep an eye on cost control. We are good stewards of public funds.”

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association bestows its Golden Watchdog award for cutting-edge resourceful solutions using public funds. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority Tunnel Hill Tanks

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association bestows its Golden Watchdog award for cutting-edge resourceful solutions using public funds. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

SDCTA’s annual Golden Watchdog and Fleece Awards recognize the best and worst in local government decision-making, public spending, and efficiency.

“The winner and finalists this year reflected creative and innovative tactics when dealing with ongoing challenges and our homelessness crisis,” said Haney Hong, president and CEO of the Association. “Ultimately, the Awards Committee applauded cutting-edge resourceful solutions while criticizing poor planning and use of taxpayer dollars.”

Project Extends Lifespan of Water Tanks, Reduces Maintenance Costs

The Helix Water District's Tunnel Hill storage tank rehabilitation project took approximately two years to complete. Photo: Helix Water District

The Helix Water District’s Tunnel Hill storage tank rehabilitation project took approximately two years to complete. Photo: Helix Water District

The original estimated cost to replace the Tunnel Hill tanks was $10 million. Rehabilitating the tanks instead was priced at $3.7 million. Alongside the cost savings, the project brought the Tunnel Hill tanks into compliance with new seismic standards. The improvements will extend the useful life of the tanks for another 50 to 60 years and reduce future maintenance costs.

The pair of tanks are located above Interstate 8 near the Los Coches freeway exit. These tanks play an important role in the water infrastructure system by storing and providing water to thousands of Helix Water District customers in Lakeside and El Cajon.

The larger steel Tunnel Hill water tank received a corrosion-resistant aluminum dome roof. Photo: Helix Water District

The larger steel Tunnel Hill water tank received a corrosion-resistant aluminum dome roof. Photo: Helix Water District

The project took two years to complete in several phases. The first phase of the project involved stripping the exterior of the smaller and newer, reinforced concrete tank. The new, natural concrete finish does not require paint and will reduce long-term maintenance costs.

Next, the larger steel tank received new paint and a corrosion-resistant aluminum dome roof. The height of the tank was extended by five feet to improve the tank’s performance and safety in an earthquake, especially to protect nearby neighborhoods. The exterior of the steel tank was recoated.

Both tanks received new interior coatings to prevent corrosion and were replumbed with flexible fittings to prevent breaks and keep the tanks connected during an earthquake.

Watch video of the Tunnel Hill Tank rehabilitation project in progress.

Vital Roles In Water Infrastructure

Tanks are the most visible parts of water infrastructure and play a vital role in supplying water for the daily needs of residents and businesses, as well as for emergencies. The Helix Water District operates and maintains 25 tanks across its 50-square-mile service area. Proactive rehabilitations are less expensive than the construction of a new tank.

Eight additional water storage tanks were inspected and repaired in 2022. In addition, as part of its proactive maintenance, crews replaced 11,560 feet of cast-iron pipeline and surveyed 14,728 feet of pipeline route for design.

“We are proud of our employees and the work we do every day. This (Tunnel Hill tanks) project is just one example,” Helix Water District Board Member Joel Scalzitti  said to community and business leaders and elected officials when accepting the award at the Golden Awards event on behalf of the district.

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

Helix Water District Demonstration Garden Wins Orchid Award

Helix Water District received an Orchid Award for Landscape Architecture from the San Diego Architectural Foundation at its 2023 annual Orchids and Onions architecture and design awards gala on October 5. The Orchid Award went to the district for its WaterSmart Demonstration Garden.

Native, water-wise plants thrive in one of the Helix Water District's demonstration gardens. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix Water District Demonstration Garden Wins Orchid Award

Helix Water District received an Orchid Award for Landscape Architecture from the San Diego Architectural Foundation at its 2023 annual Orchids and Onions architecture and design awards gala on October 5. The Orchid Award went to the district for its WaterSmart Demonstration Garden. The Demonstration Garden is located at the Helix administration office in La Mesa.

“We are honored to be recognized for our WaterSmart Demonstration Garden,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “This award is a testament to the fact that you can create thriving, sustainable gardens here in East San Diego County that are both beautiful and water efficient.”

Demonstration Garden provides inspiration

The Helix Water District demonstration garden includes interactive elements such as descriptive signs with QR codes that visitors can scan to learn more about specific plants. Photo: Helix Water District

The Helix Water District demonstration garden includes interactive elements such as descriptive signs with QR codes that visitors can scan to learn more about specific plants. Photo: Helix Water District

The District installed its WaterSmart Demonstration Garden to beautify the neighborhood and inspire others to install water-efficient landscapes. Outdoor water use typically accounts for half of a home’s water use. Through planning and a vision for the community, the district was able to transform its tired and overgrown landscape into the thriving, lush, and colorful gardens there today.

McCullough Landscape Architecture designed the garden to showcase three styles of landscapes that are adapted to the local climate and need half to a fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs. The Mediterranean, desert, and California-native gardens include plant markers with QR codes. Scan the code with your smartphone to see each plant’s name, sun and water needs, and mature size.

All plants chosen for the Helix Water District Demonstration Garden had to be accessible to the public at local nurseries. Photo: Helix Water District

All plants chosen for the Helix Water District Demonstration Garden had to be accessible to the public at local nurseries. Photo: Helix Water District

“Our demonstration landscape shows customers that water-efficient landscaping is not just one style,” said Helix Water District Director Mark Gracyk. “You can choose plants that compliment your home and personal taste – there is an option for everyone.”

A key requirement for the design of the gardens was that all of the plants selected had to be accessible to the public at local nurseries. The plants are grouped in hydrozones based on the amount of water they need and a drip irrigation system provides automatic watering based on daily weather conditions.

The garden is open to the public for self-tours and easily accessible from the sidewalk at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.

Orchid Award winners exemplify environmental innovation

McCullough Landscape Architecture designed the garden to showcase three styles of landscapes that are adapted to the local climate and need half to a fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs. Photo: Helix Water District Orchid Award

McCullough Landscape Architecture designed the garden to showcase three styles of landscapes that are adapted to the local climate and need half to a fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs. Photo: Helix Water District

Drawing on input from both the public and professionals, the San Diego Architectural Foundation recognizes both the best and the worst of San Diego’s built environment. The architecture projects recognized as Orchids and Onions each year are nominated by the public, then reviewed and selected for awards by architecture and design professionals.

Orchid award winners must exemplify good placemaking, add to the surrounding community’s character, be skillfully and thoughtfully crafted, environmentally innovative, and elicit a sense of civic pride.

The San Diego Architectural Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and promotion of outstanding architecture, planning, and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region. For residential, business and agricultural rebates, incentives and programs, go to: www.sdcwa.org/your-water/conservation/.)

Lake Jennings 2023 Spring Photo Contest Winners Announced

Scenic views, beautiful birds, and unusual weather are all featured in the winning photos in the Lake Jennings 2023 Photo Contest. The contest is held annually by the Helix Water District.