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Local Leaders Discuss Impacts of Water Conservation Laws

Four elected officials representing area water districts expressed frustration with state laws aimed at water conservation during an American Liberty Forum of Ramona informational meeting Saturday, June 27.

Roughly 50 attendees gathered at Ramona Mainstage to hear the “Water Regulations Today and Tomorrow” presenters discuss the pending impacts of Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668, which were signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2018.

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomerys' blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Photo: Helix Water District

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

Compared to the previous lawn, the Montgomerys’ blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size. The thriving landscape creates privacy from the road, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Over the two-month billing period ending in May 2020, this home used 40% less water than the average Helix Water District customer.

Privacy and low-maintenance style took priority

The Montgomerys' new design incorporates a variety of native and low water use plants. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomerys’ new design incorporates a variety of blooming flowers and herbs. Photo: Helix Water District

They purchased their home in 2014. The couple were not happy with the existing lawn’s water consumption, or the lack of privacy it offered. The front window faces two streets. They made unsuccessful attempts on their own to reduce the lawn’s water use. In addition, the front yard sloped towards the house, causing moisture to form in the home’s basement during rainy weather.

The couple toured numerous gardens in East County with the California Native Plant Society’s native garden tours to collect design ideas. They hired a landscape designer in fall 2018, who worked to create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants, while still matching the charm and character of their 1950s cottage style home.

The Montgomerys worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants. Photo: Helix Water District

Tim and Brianna Montgomery worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring a green color palette. Photo: Helix Water District

“Our landscape designer gave us the design to meet our needs and created a plan so that we could do most of the work ourselves,” said Brianna Montgomery. “We only had to hire a contractor to do hardscape work and install the new water-efficient irrigation system. We did all of the other work ourselves, including grading the front, amending our soil with fresh compost, purchasing and installing the new plants, and adding mulch according to the design.”

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District La Mesa Landscaping

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District

The year-old landscape boasts a filled-in appearance and a wide variety of vibrant and colorful plants.

To offer privacy, create shade, and height, the landscape has a fruitless olive tree and a bright desert willow. Low water use daisies add lushness to the landscape. Shrubs and groundcover provide contrast with the home’s red brick front, including soft blue-greens from lavender, Mexican bush sage, and fescue grasses; emerald-colored rosemary; yellow-green rockrose; and splashes of purple, yellow, white, reds and pinks among the landscape’s many flowers.

Efficient new irrigation completes the transformation

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The efficient irrigation system includes micro sprays, drip irrigation, and a smart, weather-based irrigation controller. The landscape diverts and captures rainwater from the front roof and diverts the water to the back yard through a series of French drains. The new rainwater diversion prevents moisture from forming in the home’s basement and also provides additional water for the plants in the home’s backyard.

The new landscape is now more welcoming both to people and pollinators, birds, lizards, and other wildlife now calling the landscape home.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better landscape,” said Brianna Montgomery. “Our landscape fits the energy of our home and ourselves, and we loved being a part of the transformation every step of the way.”

Lavender and daisies brighten the winning landscape design. Photo: Helix Water District

Brianna and Tim Montgomery were recognized at the June 17 Helix Water District virtual board meeting. They received a $250 gift card, an award certificate, and a WaterSmart contest winner sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the winning landscape project will appear in the winner’s section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other participating local water agencies, and on the district’s website.

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Helix Announces 2020 Landscape Contest Winner

Helix Water District named Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa as the winner of its 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

Panelists Set to Explain Laws Limiting Water Consumption

Panelists from several water districts will give updates on new laws affecting water consumption in California during an American Liberty Forum of Ramona event set for Saturday, June 27.

The free forum on Water Regulations Today and Tomorrow will be held at Ramona Mainstage, 626 Main St. Doors open at 11 a.m. and a video program starts at 11:30 a.m.

The focus will be on Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668.

SB 606 is in response to mandates that California achieve a 20 percent reduction in urban per capita water use by Dec. 31, 2020. Existing law requires each urban retail water supplier to develop urban water use targets and an interim urban water use target.

AB 1668 would require the state Water Resources Control Board to adopt long-term standards for the efficient use of water and would establish specified standards for per capita daily indoor residential water use.

Helix Water District: New Video Helps You Program Your Controller And Water Efficiently

As we enter the summer season with its longer and hotter days, your landscape will require more water to stay healthy. Correctly programming your irrigation controller is key to keeping your plants thriving, and your water bill low.

Reservoirs Begin Reopening to Recreational Use Countywide

City of San Diego lakes and reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now in the process of reopening for public recreation.

El Capitan Reservoir and Upper Otay Reservoir reopened on June 6. San Vicente Reservoir will open to the public June 13.

Three reservoirs will re-open in July: Lake Hodges on July 1, Sutherland on July 3, and Barrett on July 8.

Miramar, Murray, and Lower Otay Reservoirs have opened in mid-May.

The San Vicente Reservoir boat dock will welcome visitors again starting June 13. Photo: City of San Diego reservoirs begin reopening

Reservoirs Begin Reopening to Recreational Use Countywide

City of San Diego lakes and reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now in the process of reopening for public recreation.

“A lot of San Diegans have a passion for fishing and boating, and we’ve been able to partner with the County [of San Diego] to reopen all of our lakes and reservoirs to the public,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

El Capitan Reservoir and Upper Otay Reservoir reopened on June 6. San Vicente Reservoir will open to the public June 13.

Three reservoirs will re-open in July: Lake Hodges on July 1, Sutherland on July 3, and Barrett on July 8.

Miramar, Murray, and Lower Otay Reservoirs have opened in mid-May.

Standup paddleboarding will return to Lake Hodges on Saturday, July 1. Photo: City of San Diego reservoirs begin reopening

Standup paddleboarding is available at Lake Hodges on Saturday, July 1. Photo: City of San Diego

New safety and cleaning protocols initiated with the re-openings in May will remain in place at all reservoirs. The reservoirs will be open during regular business hours for walking, jogging, cycling, fishing, and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply.

“As we have seen from the thousands of calls, emails, and letters to City Hall, fishing is more than a hobby, it’s a passion,” said San Diego City Councilmember Scott Sherman. “Our lakes and reservoirs are too important of a recreational asset to keep closed and I am thankful they will be opened soon.”

For more information, go to https://www.sandiego.gov/coronavirus

Lake Jennings reopens for recreation and fishing June 13

TCatfish are being restocked this week in Lakes 3 and 6 at Santee Lakes for happy fishermen. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre MWD

Catfish are being restocked this week in Lakes 3 and 6 at Santee Lakes for happy fishermen. Photo: Courtesy Santee Lakes/Padre Dam MWD

Lake Jennings in Lakeside, operated by the Helix Water District, will also reopen for recreation and day-use on Saturday, June 13. Hours are limited to weekends from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fishing and day-use visitors must wear masks and adhere to social distancing. The Bait and Tackle Shop will be open with restrictions. Shore fishing and private boat launching are available, but no boat rentals, night fishing, or fish stocking at this time.

In addition, Lake Jennings recently reopened for camping on June 5 with restrictions in place limiting use to every other campsite, and only by members of the same household. See the complete list of restrictions at the Lake Jennings website.

“We are thrilled to be able to reopen in compliance with the County regulations,” said Kira Haley, Lake Jennings recreation manager. “We really appreciate your understanding in this difficult time while we continue to work hard to keep our community safe.”

The public will be asked to observe COVID-19 preventative measures, including mandates requiring face coverings and physical distancing.

Santee Lakes, operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, expanded recreational use including fishing with some restrictions on May 16. All activities with physical distancing are allowed including jogging, bike riding, roller-skating. A facial covering is not required during physical activities but must be in your possession. Physical distancing and possession of a facial covering are required while fishing. The lake’s campsites have remained open throughout the pandemic, but campers must practice social and physical distancing while on site.

County of San Diego to help cover costs

The cost of reopening the City of San Diego’s additional reservoirs is approximately $1 million. Funding identified through a tentative cost-sharing agreement with the County of San Diego will be limited to covering enhanced staffing costs for ensuring public health is maintained in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the City Council and San Diego County Board of Supervisors will need to approve the agreement.

Water Recycling Project to Expand San Diego Region’s Local Supply

A water recycling project that will purify treated wastewater into drinking water for East San Diego County is moving toward its completion date after the Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized the signing of water purchase agreements.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is a collaborative, regional effort to diversify the district’s water portfolio and provide a drought-proof supply. The  water reuse project will further enhance reliability by purifying treated wastewater using Lake Jennings and other facilities.

The Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification Project at a special meeting on May 27.

Helix Water District's R.M Levy Water Treatment Plant

Water Recycling Project to Expand San Diego Region’s Local Supply

A water recycling project that will purify treated wastewater into drinking water for East San Diego County is moving toward its completion date after the Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized the signing of water purchase agreements.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is a collaborative, regional effort to diversify the district’s water portfolio and provide a drought-proof supply. The  water reuse project will further enhance reliability by purifying treated wastewater using Lake Jennings and other facilities.

The Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification Project at a special meeting on May 27.

Water recycling project ‘investment in water supply reliability’

The $681 million project, led by the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority, will recycle daily wastewater flows from Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Winter Gardens and Alpine. Treated water will undergo membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

The purified water will be piped into Helix’s Lake Jennings before undergoing additional processing at the district’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant and then distributed as safe, clean drinking water.

“I’m looking forward to the development of this project and I believe it’s an investment that strengthens our district’s water supply reliability and security,” said Helix Water District Board President Mark Gracyk. “This is a great example of what can be accomplished by working with our neighboring agencies.”

Water reuse will reduce dependence on imported water

East County AWP project water will reduce east San Diego County’s dependence on imported water by almost 30% once full operations begin in 2026. The project will create a local supply for the East County at about the same cost as what Helix pays now for imported water, according to the Helix Water District.

San Diego County water agencies, including Helix, Padre Dam, and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside, are developing or expanding water recycling projects. Diversifying local supply sources remains a priority for the San Diego County Water Authority. Imported sources, including water from the Colorado River and State Water Project, can be cutback during times of drought.

“The project was conceived by JPA members as a way to reduce rising wastewater costs for their customers,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “For Helix to participate, the project had to make financial sense for our ratepayers as well. By expanding our local supply, the East County AWP project water will help ensure that we are better able to navigate future droughts.”

The 30-year purchase agreements establish the cost and quantity of water that Helix will purchase from the East County AWP JPA under the proposed project.

Agency collaboration on sustainability

East County Advanced Water Purification Project-Visitor Center rendering-June 2020-Helix

An artist’s rendering of the new East County Advanced Water Purification Facility. The water recycling project is a partnership between Padre Dam MWD, Helix Water District, San Diego County and the City of El Cajon Graphic: Courtesy Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Helix and the JPA members – Padre Dam Municipal Water District, San Diego County Sanitation District and the City of El Cajon – have been working together to evaluate the ECAWP plan since 2014. Each JPA member has until 2021 to make a final decision on the feasibility of the project and participation.

Helix has invested $850,000 and significant board and staff resources to study the feasibility of the project, including a tracer study with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to learn how water moves and mixes in Lake Jennings.

“We are committed to exploring sustainable projects that benefit our customers,” said Gracyk. “The ECAWP project will be a great complement to our other ongoing investments in regional water supply projects, such as the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, to ensure we have enough water to meet demand.”