Tag Archive for: Infrastructure

The Water Authority was quickly able to send the final pieces of the infrastructure puzzle to Calgary to speed the city’s pipeline repairs. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority pipeline failure

San Diego Region ‘Not Immune’ to Calgary Pipeline Failure

As soon as the Water Authority’s Martin Coghill heard about a catastrophic pipeline failure in Calgary two weeks ago, he knew how distressing it could be.

“When they’re in a situation where they call us for help from over 1,600 miles away, that’s a bad, bad day,” Coghill said.

The Water Authority was quickly able to send the final pieces of the infrastructure puzzle to Calgary to speed the city’s repairs. But Coghill, the Water Authority’s asset management manager, knows that similar problems could quickly impact San Diego County.

“In our aqueduct system, there are 80 miles of pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe,” Coghill said. “That’s the same type of pipe that suffered catastrophic failure in Calgary.”

See how the Water Authority helped keep the water flowing in Calgary.

Pipeline failure potential in San Diego

The Water Authority experienced the same kind of problem in 1979, when pre-stressed pipes failed in the region for the first time, impacting the county’s water supply.

In response to that failure, the Water Authority spent the past 42 years relining 48 miles of pre-stressed pipe – or 60% of that type of pipe in the system – through a process called steel relining. That ongoing investment has significantly decreased the risk to the region’s water supply.

The catastrophic break in Canada led many across North America to recognize the unique space that water infrastructure plays in their daily life. As Kerry Black, a civil engineering professor at the University of Calgary said in a CBC interview, “when it breaks, it’s the first thing you’ll complain about but it’s the last thing you want to pay for.”

Across the United States, the potential for pipeline failure is an ongoing weakness, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. It gave the nation’s water utilities a C- grade in its most recent national infrastructure report card in 2021. “Unfortunately, the system is aging and underfunded. There is a water main break every two minutes and an estimated six billion gallons of treated water lost each day in the U.S., enough to fill over 9,000 swimming pools,” said ASCE.

Investing in critical infrastructure upgrades in San Diego County

The Calgary pipeline failure provided a reminder about the unique space water infrastructure plays in daily life. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Calgary pipeline failure provided a reminder about the unique space water infrastructure plays in daily life. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Coghill knows that even with all the advancements and investments in inspection and monitoring technologies, there are still gaps in the Water Authority’s ability to see problems coming. “Despite these technologies, we only have tools to actively monitor about two-thirds of the things that can go wrong with pre-stressed pipe,” Coghill said. “We’re not immune from a failure.”

For the Water Authority, protecting against a break in San Diego County happens on two parallel tracks and involves investing in critical infrastructure upgrades and testing.

“There are two roads we go down,” Coghill said. “One is a proactive approach in which every two years we re-evaluate what sections of the pre-stressed pipe are the next priorities based on risk and consequence of failure. That is put into the recommendation for the upcoming budget cycle for rehabilitation using steel liners. The other one is a more reactive approach, which I call the ‘imminent failure watch.’”

Modern tools track down early warning signs

That’s where the Water Authority’s installation of acoustic fiber optic cable allows engineers to hear a localized problem starting in real time, allowing the Water Authority to shut things down to fix the problem, and ideally with enough time to prevent a break.

This parallel track methodology has served the organization well since 2006—the last time a major failure of a prestressed pipe occurred—and in 2022, in response to data recorded by the acoustic monitoring system, identified the need for an urgent repair in the Bonsall area.

Coghill summarized the risks for our region. “Provided that we maintain a commitment to steel relining our prestressed pipe, and we maximize the use of available technologies, we are doing everything we possibly can to manage this type of pipe.”

Infrastructure Experts Discuss LA’s Preparations for Olympics, World Cup

Construction experts and politicians gathered on May 17 at historic Union Station in Los Angeles to discuss the challenges of delivering major infrastructure projects in Southern California and the Western U.S. Led by United for Infrastructure (UFI), the event coincided with the end of Infrastructure Week 2024 and featured panels covering topics such as transportation and water projects, future energy needs and climate issues.

Rincon del Diablo Water District Launches Solar Power Generating Project

The Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District launched its first solar power generating project this week, it announced Thursday.

The project generates 40 kilowatts of solar power at the district’s Rockhoff pump station, which supplies water to 800 customers, Rincon Water said.

$123 Million Water Pipeline Project Near SeaWorld To Begin This Summer

Expect upcoming road closures and construction near SeaWorld — a $123 million project to update a water transmission system near the theme park and through Mission Valley begins this summer.

About 10 miles of water mains will be constructed between Interstate 805 and Sea World Drive, mainly on Friars Road, according to a city presentation. The city’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — made up of four city councilmembers — last week unanimously voted to move forward with hiring OHLA USA Inc. to begin construction.

New Wildfire Fighting Tool Unveiled in North County

A new water tank to help fight fires from the air was unveiled in San Marcos Tuesday.

Helicopters with capabilities to drop water onto fires aerially are one of the most crucial firefighting tools. The New HeloPod can be filled with 5,000 gallons of water in under three minutes.

Damage Found Inside Glen Canyon Dam Increases Water Risks On The Colorado River

Federal officials have discovered damage inside Glen Canyon Dam that could force limits on how much Colorado River water is released at low reservoir levels, raising risks the Southwest could face shortages that were previously unforeseen.

The damage was recently detected in four 8-foot-wide steel tubes — called the river outlet works — that allow water to pass through the dam in northern Arizona when Lake Powell reaches low levels. Dam managers spotted deterioration in the tubes after conducting an exercise last year that sent large flows from the dam into the Grand Canyon.

Violent Thunderstorms Saturate San Diego County, With More Rain to Come

The violent second wave of a massive Pacific storm lashed San Diego County on Tuesday, bringing enough rain to flood the San Diego River and thunderstorms that led to a brief — and rare — tornado warning.

Water Saving Solar Panels, Coming Soon To A Canal Near You

The upcoming COP28 climate conference has suddenly blown up in a wave of scandal, but the energy transition marches on. Exhibit A is the idea of shading irrigation canals with solar panels for a planet-saving win-win-win. The cooling effect of the water improves solar conversion efficiency, the shade prevents excess water loss from evaporation, and the use of built infrastructure preserves land from development. What’s not to like?

Feds Are Flooding California’s Water Market

WATER PRICE LINE RISING: Who could forget last May, when Arizona, California and Nevada made a three-year pact to conserve water from the Colorado River? Many thought it couldn’t be done, but with Lake Mead reservoir levels at a historic low, and the federal government poised to wrest control of the process, the states agreed to conserve 10 percent of their water — nearly a billion gallons — between now and 2026.

National Climate Assessment Predicts Growing Threats to Society, Economy

A long-awaited federal climate report, released Tuesday, delivers a blunt warning: Rapidly curb planet-warming emissions or face dire consequences to human health, infrastructure and the economy.

The fifth installment of the National Climate Assessment presents the most comprehensive evaluation to date of U.S. climate science, impacts and action. Dozens of authors, including representatives from multiple federal agencies, contributed to the congressionally mandated report.