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Student Artists Featured in 2020 ‘Water Is Life’ Calendar

Five talented San Diego County student artists from four elementary schools were among 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2020 “Water Is Life” calendar.

The five artists represent regional water agencies including Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam MWD, and Sweetwater Authority.

Sweetwater Authority General Manager Gets Raise

The Sweetwater Authority governing board last week approved a 2 percent raise for General Manager Tish Berge.

The raise sets Berge’s annual salary at $231,000, retroactive to July. It marks her second raise since she was hired in June 2017 to manage Sweetwater, which serves 190,000 customers in National City, Bonita and a large portion of Chula Vista.

Board chairman Steve Castaneda said the raise, which matches a 2 percent raise given to employees, represents a cost-of-living adjustment.

Helix Water District Taking Entries for High School Scholarship and Photo Contests

The Helix Water District has launched two contests for high school students in the East County district’s service area and both contests have a payoff.

The 2020 High School Photo Contest “Water in Everyday Life” offers $150 to the winner, $100 for second place and $50 for third place in both color and black & white categories.

Helix Water District Board Approves Fee Hikes, Other Changes

It will cost more next year to fish, rent boats and camp at Lake Jennings Park, the reservoir and outdoors destination in Lakeside overseen by the Helix Water District.

The hikes were approved unanimously by the Helix Water District board and will become effective Jan. 1.

The daily and annual entrance fees to the lake will remain the same ($2 and $50, respectively) but costs for fishing will be bumped from $9 to $10 for adults, $8 to $9 for seniors and $4 to $5 for children 8 to 15.

Calendar poster contest winner Maya Santana, a fifth grader from Wolf Canyon Elementary School in the Otay Water District, displays her winning artwork. Photo: Otay Water District Water Is Life Calendar

Student Artists Featured in 2020 ‘Water Is Life’ Calendar

Five talented San Diego County student artists from four elementary schools were among 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2020 “Water Is Life” calendar.

The five artists represent regional water agencies including Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam MWD, and Sweetwater Authority.

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative messages of water conservation and water resource stewardship. Students in grades K-6 submit artwork through participating member agencies after winning their local competition.

The five regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives were invited to attend an art exhibit and recognition luncheon at MWD’s Los Angeles office in December.

Winning students from the San Diego region include:

Maya Santana's winning artwork appears in August 2020. Photo: MWD
Maya Santana’s winning artwork appears in August. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Maya Santana, a fifth grader from Wolf Canyon Elementary School, which is in the Otay Water District’s service area. Her artwork  “Save Don’t Waste” appears in August 2020.
Artwork by Rencel Chiara Charifa is featured in October 2020.  Photo: MWD
Artwork by Rencel Chiara Charifa is featured in October. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Rencel Chiara Charifa, a fifth grader from Central Elementary School, which is served by the Sweetwater Authority. Her poster “Water Angel” appears in October. 
Valeria Ramirez has her artwork included in November 2020. Photo: MWD
Valeria Ramirez has her artwork included in November. Photo: Metropoltian Water District of Southern California

Valeria Ramirez, a fourth grader from St. John of the Cross Catholic School, within the Helix Water District service area. Her artwork “Take Care of Water, You’ll Have a Better Future” appears in November.

Violet Jacobson and Zoe Miles share the spotlight in December 2020. Photo: MWD
Violet Jacobson and Zoe Miles share the spotlight in December. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Violet Jacobson, is in the third grade at Hill Creek Elementary School, which is served by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. Her poster, “Water Is Life: Everything Needs Water” appears in December.

Zoe Miles, a sixth grader at Flying Hills Elementary School, which is served by the Helix Water District. Her entry, “Less Use = More  Water,” also appears in December.  

See the full calendar here.

Calendar contest provides educational opportunity

Original winning artwork was displayed as part of a recognition event on December 11. Photo: Otay Water District
Original winning artwork was displayed as part of a recognition event on December 11. Photo: Otay Water District

The “Water is Life” poster contest is one of many educational opportunities offered to students to demonstrate how water is a precious and essential resource. By creating water-related art, students enhance their understanding of the importance of water.

Chosen among hundreds of entries, the final selection of 36 art pieces is featured in the annual “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar with an annual distribution of 13,000 recipients.

Helix Water District Logo Square

Helix Board Elects Officers for 2020

At their December 18, 2019 meeting, Helix Water District’s board of directors unanimously elected Director Mark Gracyk to serve as board president in 2020 and Director DeAna Verbeke to serve as the board’s vice president.

Helix Continues to Evaluate Local Drinking Water Project

On Nov. 5, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, city of El Cajon and County of San Diego formed a Joint Powers Authority to serve as the governing body for the East County Advanced Water Purification project.

A Helix Water District representative will serve as an ex officio, nonvoting member of the JPA board. “The JPA board will be focused on the wastewater side of the project. Our role in the project if it moves forward, is on the drinking water side,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo.

Fall fishing season is in full swing at San Diego County's reservoirs and lakes, including Lake Jennings. Photo: Helix Water District

Freshwater Fishing Flourishes at San Diego Region’s Reservoirs and Lakes

San Diego County’s freshwater fishing in area reservoirs and lakes managed by the region’s water agencies attracts expert anglers and beginners alike.

Of San Diego County’s 24 reservoirs and lakes, 18 allow fishing. Bryan Norris, Reservoirs and Recreation Program Manager for the City of San Diego, oversees eight locations offering recreational opportunities, including fishing.

“We are the largest provider of recreation for the domestic water supply in California,” said Norris. “No other program provides recreation at eight different reservoirs. The City of San Diego is considered a pioneer in these offerings. It’s really something that gets overlooked.”

Bass and bluegill are biting at San Diego reservoirs

Bluegill are plentiful at El Capitan Reservoir in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Photo: City of San Diego

Bluegill are plentiful at El Capitan Reservoir in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Photo: City of San Diego

What people often call lakes in the City of San Diego are actually water supply storage reservoirs and part of the City’s municipal water supply system operated by the City’s Public Utilities Department. The nine reservoirs are Barrett, El Capitan, Hodges, Lower Otay, Miramar, Murray, San Vicente, Sutherland, and Upper Otay. Lake Hodges, Sutherland, and Barrett Lake close during winter months; the remaining five are open year-round.

Lake Murray in La Mesa and Miramar Lake in Scripps Ranch are stocked regularly with trout by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The remaining fish species are self-sustaining, such as bass, catfish, bluegill, and crappie.

“We’re so well known for our bass fisheries at the city lakes,” said Norris. “We have multiple tournaments at our reservoirs, it’s our top fishery. They are serious, it’s like any organized sport.”

Trout most popular at Lake Jennings

Brian Pierce of El Cajon caught his limit of trout at Lake Jennings in March, and planned to return for the opening of fall trout season 2019 last weekend. Photo: Helix Water District

Brian Pierce of El Cajon caught his limit of trout at Lake Jennings in March and planned to return for the opening of fall trout season this year. Photo: Helix Water District

Lake Jennings in Lakeside, operated by the Helix Water District, opened its popular trout season November 15. It stocks 20,000 pounds of trout annually on a biweekly schedule between November and April, and 10,000 pounds of catfish in the summer months. It recently received 2,500 pounds of rainbow trout stock from Wright’s Rainbows in Thatcher, Idaho.

Helix Recreation Manager Kira Haley said she works closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the correct timing for stocking the lake for eager fishing enthusiasts.

“If you don’t stock it, they won’t come,” said Haley. “We base the timing on water temperature for the trout, between November and April, when it’s low enough for trout to survive. When it’s not low enough, we stock catfish.”

In August, catfish were stocked at Lake Jennings. Photo: Helix Water DIstrict

In August, catfish were stocked at Lake Jennings. Photo: Helix Water District

In addition, large-mouth bass, red-ear sunfish, and bluegill, as well as channel and blue catfish live in Lake Jennings. Sign up for the Lake Jennings Fish Report online to see what fish are biting.

Haley says she enjoys her new role as a fisheries manager.

“I wouldn’t have called myself a fisherman before I got here,” said Haley. “I know more about fish than I ever thought I would know.

“It’s a very active community. They care so much about the lake and the health of the fish and the fisheries. It’s a great group of people to work with. Most fishermen are good stewards of the land itself. They see a piece of trash, they pick it up.”

Santee Lakes a popular family fishing stop

Santee Lakes, operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, also stocks 12,500 pounds of trout and 24,000 pounds of catfish annually in the fall months for its anglers.

The catfish have been biting big this season at Santee Lakes. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre MWD

The catfish have been biting big this season at Santee Lakes. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre MWD

San Diego County’s year-round lakes also offer hiking, walking, biking, and picnicking.

Three of San Diego’s reservoirs (Lake Hodges, San Vicente, and El Capitan) allow windsurfing, water skiing, and the use of personal watercraft. Stand up paddle boarding was added this year at Lake Hodges. Barrett Lake and Lake Sutherland offer bird hunting.

Santee Lakes is among the county's most popular family recreation spots. Photo: Santee Lakes/Padre Dam MWD

Santee Lakes is among the county’s most popular family recreation spots. Photo: Santee Lakes/Padre Dam MWD

Norris hopes more people will visit and enjoy an escape from everyday urban life.

“There are so many reservoirs around the county that provide recreational opportunities; it’s unfortunate. Everyone thinks of beaches when they think of San Diego,” said Norris.

Stand up paddle boarding is a new activity now permitted at Lake Hodges. Photo: City of San Diego

Stand up paddle boarding is a new activity permitted at Lake Hodges. Photo: City of San Diego

Easier access to recreation information on new website

As part of an ongoing effort on making it easier for the public to access recreation information, the City of San Diego reservoir lakes website has been revised and enhanced.

The website features fishing, hunting, and recreation information, an interactive map, and a photo gallery. New graphics help anglers determine the types of fish available at the City’s reservoirs. Expanded details provide users with access to the fish catch report and details about boating and permits as well as employment and volunteer opportunities.

Joint Powers Authority Formed To Oversee East County Water Purification Project

A government oversight group has been formed to help four local entities keep Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s recycled water treatment plans flowing smoothly.

Earlier this month, representatives from Padre Dam, the city of El Cajon and the County of San Diego took part in the initial formation meeting of the East County Advanced Water Purification Joint Powers Authority. The JPA will serve as the governing body for the recycled water project.

Jon Foreman of the San Diego band Switchfoot is among the many fans of The Water Conservation Garden in San Diego's East County. Photo: Water Authority

Water Conservation Garden Celebrates 20th Anniversary Nov. 16

Twenty years ago, people who saw a need to help people conserve water and preserve San Diego’s environment conceived the idea for a demonstration garden.

The Water Conservation Garden celebrates its 20th-anniversary Saturday, November 16 at 5 p.m. with a benefit concert featuring food and drink stations, dancing, auction items and live music provided by The Mighty Untouchables. More information and tickets are available on The Garden’s website.

Native San Diegan Jon Foreman of the Grammy-award winning band Switchfoot is among The Garden’s newest fans after a recent visit.

“It has been an amazing journey,” said CEO Jennifer Pillsbury. “We run six acres with educational exhibits for the public, but we also have a huge education program for the public. Last year we had 42,000 visitors and reached 88,000 kids. When we first opened, we were excited about 1,000 visitors.”

Water agencies and municipalities worked together to bring The Garden to life

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden's most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden’s most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

A task force of water agencies and municipalities conceived The Garden in response to six years of drought in San Diego County.

Otay Water District, Helix Water District, and Cuyamaca College kick-started the effort in 1990. By 1992, the San Diego County Water Authority, City of San Diego, and Padre Municipal Water District joined the effort, forming the original Water Conservation Authority.

The following year, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the establishment of a 4.5-acre Water Conservation Garden adjacent to Cuyamaca College. With $700,000 in donated services, products, and labor from local nurseries and members of the California Landscape Contractors Association, the Water Conservation Garden came to life. San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob presided over its grand opening in May 1999.

Over the past 20 years, The Garden has added its popular children’s exhibits, bird and butterfly gardens, the Dorcus Utter Memorial Sensory Garden, and the Dorcus Butterfly Pavilion.

“The Garden is here to inspire everyone to use all natural resources efficiently, not just water,” said Pillsbury. “When people see proper irrigation and the right plants in the right location with the right soil, having everything working together can be beautiful and efficient.”

Inspiring positive change in the living environment

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Water Conservation Garden has been governed as an independent nonprofit organization under its own Board of Directors since 2011. Memberships, donations, grants, facility rentals, gift shop sales, and water district dues fund operations.

With additional land donated by Cuyamaca College, The Water Conservation Garden now covers six acres of displays showcasing water conservation through its themed demonstration gardens and how-to displays on mulch and irrigation.

Students in the Cuyamaca College Ornamental Horticulture program benefit from hands-on education just steps away from their classrooms.

“Students come through and learn plant identification and experience lab learning,” said Pillsbury.

New smart classroom available soon at The Garden

The Garden's amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

The Garden’s amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th-anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Garden will open a new smart classroom available for business retreats, meetings, and seminars. Pillsbury also hopes to book more events in the 300-seat amphitheater.

Through its evolution and innovation, the mission of The Water Conservation Garden remains the same as it did on its opening day 20 years ago: to inspire positive change in the living environment through water conservation and the protection of natural resources.

“We’re here to educate the community on efficient water use, but we also want to be a spot where people can come learn and explore together in so many ways,” said Pillsbury.

Admission to The Garden is free. Docent-led tours take place on the first Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.