Portfolio Tour July 2019

California Agencies Release Draft Water Resilience Portfolio

Three California state agencies today released a draft water resilience portfolio intended to help the state manage more extreme droughts and floods, aging infrastructure, declining fish populations and other challenges.

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture developed the draft to fulfill Governor Gavin Newsom’s April 29, 2019 executive order calling for a portfolio of actions to ensure the state’s long-term water resilience and ecosystem health.

“The portfolio approach to water supply reliability is a significant advance in how our most precious resource is managed statewide, in line with our long-term strategy in San Diego County,” said Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “As we review the details of the new plan, we will continue collaborating with the state agencies and other partners to turn this vision into a reality that benefits our region.”

Water Portfolio Tour July 2019

State and Water Authority officials before aerial and ground tour of regional water infrastructure on July 18, 2019. Photo: Water Authority

State agency leaders tour water infrastructure in San Diego County

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel got a first-hand look at investments to diversify the region’s water supply, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

“San Diego is a great example of the challenges and complexities of managing water supply, as we look to supercharge water resiliency in California,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, Calif. State Water Resources Control Board, after the July tour of water infrastructure.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.”

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio encourages ‘collaboration within and across regions’

“This draft portfolio has been shaped to provide tools to local and regional entities to continue building resilience and to encourage collaboration within and across regions,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot in a news release from the three agencies. “At the same time, state government needs to invest in projects of statewide scale and importance and tackle challenges beyond the scope of any region. Taken together, the proposed actions aim to improve our capacity to prepare for disruptions, withstand and recover from shocks, and adapt from these experiences.”

The draft release comes after several months of public input, and listening sessions, including comments from the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio outlines more than 100 integrated actionable recommendations in four broad areas:

  • Maintain and diversify water supplies

    State government will continue to help regions reduce reliance on any one water source and diversify supplies to enable flexibility amidst changing conditions. Diversification will look different in each region based on available water resources, but the combined effect will strengthen resilience and reduce pressure on river systems.

  • Protect and enhance natural ecosystems

    State leadership is essential to restore the environmental health of key river systems to sustain fish and wildlife. This requires effective standard-setting, continued investments, and more adaptive, holistic environmental management.

  • Build connections

    State actions and investment will improve physical infrastructure to store, move, and share water more flexibly and integrate water management through shared use of science, data, and technology.

  • Be prepared

    Each region must prepare for new threats, including more extreme droughts and floods and hotter temperatures. State investments and guidance will enable preparation, protective actions, and adaptive management to weather these stresses.

Major Reser

Federal, state, and local governments have built separate systems of dams, reservoirs, and conveyance facilities to move water to cities and farms and provide flood protection. This map, from the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, shows the largest such facilities. Graphic: State of California

To develop the portfolio, state agencies conducted an inventory and assessment of key aspects of California water, soliciting broad input from tribes, agencies, individuals, groups, and leaders across the state.

“From Northern California to the Central Valley and the South, Californians from cities, farms, and other sectors are working together to develop innovative solutions to the climate-related water challenges that the state is already experiencing and that are expected to worsen,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “This draft portfolio is an important step toward building resilience to ensure the long-term health of our water supplies and ecosystems.”

Public comments on draft portfolio

The public will be able to submit written feedback on the draft portfolio through February 7. A final water resilience portfolio will be released soon after that.

“State agencies are only one set of water decision-makers in California,” California Secretary for Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said. “Continuing to improve our water systems relies on collaboration across all groups of water users and all stakeholders. Accordingly, feedback on this draft will be important to refining and finalizing our portfolio.”

Commentary: How San Diego Water Agency is Seeking to Protect Ratepayers

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors is committed to resolving litigation over rates and charges with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. After months of detailed, confidential settlement discussions with best efforts by both parties, no settlement has yet been reached. However, the Water Authority remains optimistic about finding a resolution — all the more so after the Metropolitan board voted on Tuesday to spend $285.6 million in support of the City of San Diego’s Pure Water project.

Cross-Border Water Issues Need Cross-Border Solutions

Regional collaboration and partnerships are needed to solve cross-border water issues, according to San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

“The Water Authority is exploring innovative solutions to increase water supply reliability for the San Diego region, but also Baja California and the Southwest,” said Madaffer during today’s opening ceremony of RE:BORDER 2019 at San Diego State University. “Those solutions include the possibility of a transborder water connection that can help both Mexico and the United States.”

Madaffer’s special presentation, “Stewarding a Shared Resource for the Bi-National Region,” was part of the two-day RE:BORDER 2019 conference. It continues Tuesday at the Universidad Autónoma De Baja California in Tijuana.

Water Authority Takes Actions to Advance Rate Case Settlement with MWD

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board officers today thanked the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for making a public offer to settle litigation over MWD’s rates, and directed staff to take the following actions:

  • Schedule special Board meetings in December and January to expedite the process in hopes of reaching a conclusion in early 2020; and
  • Draft a durable, public and mutually beneficial settlement offer for review by the Water Authority Board; and
  • Invite MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger to discuss settlement with the Water Authority Board and schedule a reciprocal visit by Water Authority General Manager Sandy Kerl to MWD’s Board.
Sandra L. Kerl is new General Manager of the San Diego County Water Authority

Sandra L. Kerl Appointed General Manager of San Diego County Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors approved a contract with Sandra L. Kerl to be the new general manager of the region’s wholesale water agency, following a months-long national search. The Board approved the contract in open session during its regular monthly meeting Nov. 21 at Water Authority headquarters.

Kerl fills the position vacated by longtime General Manager Maureen Stapleton, who retired in March. She has served as the agency’s acting general manager since Stapleton’s departure, working closely with the Board to lead a staff of approximately 250 employees at offices in Kearny Mesa, Escondido, the Imperial Valley and Sacramento.

New general manager brings leadership, vision, collaborative approach

“Sandy brings an ideal mix of leadership, experience and vision to guide the Water Authority into a new decade as the agency seeks innovative solutions that benefit San Diego County and the Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Her creativity and collaborative approach ushers in a new era of partnerships and progress that has marked her work over the past eight months.”

As acting general manager, Kerl has initiated increased engagement with the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies. She has taken a similar approach with staff, issuing the first agency-wide employee survey to help identify areas of improvement. Kerl has more than 25 years of progressively responsible experience in all aspects of municipal management, including the past decade at the Water Authority.

New era begins with Sandy Kerl as new general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority

Sandy Kerl was appointed as general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority by the Authority’s Board of Directors Nov. 21 during its regular monthly meeting. (L-to-R) San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer, General Manager Sandy Kerl, Board Secretary Christy Guerin, Board Vice Chair Gary Croucher. Photo: Water Authority

Critical work ahead to meet challenges

“I’m honored to lead an innovative, forward-thinking organization with a talented staff that continually develops creative, pioneering solutions for improving our operations and service to our 24 member agencies and their ratepayers,” said Kerl.

“We’ve made great progress diversifying our water supply portfolio to sustain our thriving regional economy, but we have critical work ahead to ensure reliability in the face of climate change and other factors,” she said. “Increasing partnerships, maintaining efficient operations and ensuring fiscal sustainability will help us meet future challenges while benefitting the region’s ratepayers.”

L to R: Water Authority Deputy General Manager Sandra Kerl, Poseidon Water CEO Carlos Riva, and former Senator Barbara Boxer share a toast at Thursday's third anniversary event at the Carlsbad desalination plant. Photo: Water Authority

L to R: Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl, Poseidon Water CEO Carlos Riva, and former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer share a toast on December 13, 2018 at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in celebration of the plant’s third anniversary. Photo: Water Authority

Kerl helped secure financing for Carlsbad Desalination Plant

During her years at the Water Authority, Kerl played a pivotal role in securing financing for the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, which started commercial operations in Carlsbad in 2015 and produces approximately 50 million gallons of water a day for the San Diego region.

Before joining the Water Authority as deputy general manager in November 2009, Kerl served as city manager of La Mesa. She received her Bachelor of Political Science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and her Master of Business Administration from the University of Redlands.

The Water Authority hired an executive search firm to manage the recruitment and selection process. During the nationwide search, thirty-two applications were received, and six candidates interviewed by a panel of civic, business, and community stakeholders. The process included a vetting of finalists by the Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors, representing 24 member agencies across San Diego County.

“We applaud the Water Authority for including public input during the recruitment and hiring process for this key position in our community,” said Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. “Giving stakeholders a voice in hiring Sandy Kerl is another example of the transparency and collaboration we look forward to as she leads the agency.”

Water Authority To Make Acting GM Sandra Kerl’s Position Permanent

The San Diego County Water Authority announced Friday that its officers are negotiating contract terms with acting general manager Sandra L. Kerl to make her role permanent following a national search.

“We are excited about what Sandy brings to the Water Authority — deep experience with water issues and her top-notch skills managing an agency that’s so critical to San Diego County,” said Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Sandy has the knowledge, temperament and vision to begin a new, collaborative era of extraordinary achievements for our agency and our region.”

Mark Watton, Who Helped Pioneer Historic Pact To Protect Region’s Water Supply, To Retire

Longtime Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton, regarded as one of the architects of the historic water-transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District, will retire next year.

Watton, who has represented the water interests of Otay, the county and the state for more than 30 years, said he intends to step down in late February.

“Looking back on my career, I’m fully satisfied,” he said.

Tijuana River Watershed and Imperial Beach. RE:BORDER 2019.

RE:BORDER 2019 Seeks Transborder Solutions For Water Issues

A two-day conference in San Diego and Tijuana seeks to forge regional solutions for cross-border water issues by breaking down academic, political and administrative boundaries.

The theme of RE:BORDER 2019 is “The Water We Share.” RE:BORDER is a new initiative from San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre that each year will examine a significant transborder issue of the California-Baja California border region in partnership with our Mexican university and community collaborators.

The binational conference kicks off at San Diego State University at 9 a.m. on November 25 and continues the next day at the Universidad Autónoma De Baja California (UABC) in Tijuana.

Water industry officials and elected leaders from the U.S. and Mexico will join university researchers for a series of panel discussions that explore how SDSU, UABC, and regional partners – including the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies – can contribute to innovative solutions for water-related challenges in the transborder region.


RE:BORDER 2019 is a two-day conference in San Diego and Tijuana that seeks to forge regional solutions for cross-border water issues. Graphic: San Diego State University

Water knows no borders

“When we think about water in every dimension, whether it’s the ocean, to the rivers, to the creeks across the Tijuana River Watershed, there are no borders,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre. “The conference is a first step toward creating solutions that allow both countries to be collaborative and learn from each other.”

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer will deliver opening remarks at SDSU followed by a special presentation by San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. California State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel is scheduled to deliver the keynote address. State Senator Juan Vargas will close the first day of the conference.

“Water issues and challenges require collaboration on both sides of the border to reach solutions that transcend political boundaries,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to develop local projects and explore opportunities that benefit the region, including Mexico and the Southwest.”

Tijuana River Watershed - RE:BORDER 2019 - San Diego

The Tijuana River Watershed covers 1,750 square miles – three-fourths lies in Mexico and includes the cities of Tijuana and Tecate. Graphic: USFWS/NOAA/California State Parks/Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Cross border water challenges and solutions

Water reuse, access to a safe water supply, and the political and administrative boundaries in the transborder region are among the topics for discussion at SDSU.

Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dan Denham is one of several panelists who will explore transborder water challenges from the perspectives of regional stakeholders such as farmers, local and state agencies and environmental groups.

Elsa Saxod, a Water Authority board member representing the City of San Diego, will participate in a panel session that looks at the binational management of the Tijuana River Watershed.

Climate change and the transborder region

Topics for Day 2 of the conference in Tijuana include climate change, water security and risks, water and food, and water and equity.

The sessions will examine how the transborder region will be affected by climate change – including greater risks of floods, landslides and wildfires – how reduced water for agriculture impacts the region, and on-going concerns about uneven access to water resources.

“Tijuana and San Diego form a region closely linked by their economies, societies and culture,” said Natanael Ramírez Angulo, director of the Faculty of Economics and International Relations at UABC. “Understanding the problems and challenges involved in the management and use of water, an essential natural resource, must be a priority not only for governments but also for society itself, and we believe that universities can provide valuable knowledge that can help generate programs and policies that help local and federal governments to be successful in addressing this issue.”

SDCWA Chairman Is TERC Speaker Oct. 21

The Escondido Republican Club (TERC) will be holding its monthly lunchtime meeting on Monday, October 21, featuring guest speaker Jim Madaffer, board chairman for the San Diego County Water Authority.

Madaffer originally joined the Water Authority Board in November 2012. He is president of Madaffer Enterprises, which specializes in public policy and government relations.

Credit Analysis Affirms Carlsbad Desalination Plant is Financially Strong

Carlsbad, Calif. – The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant maintains an investment grade rating in the latest report from Fitch Ratings, affirming the plant’s sound financial management and its ability to provide a stable, reliable source of drinking water to the San Diego region.  As the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant’s revenue stability stems from an effective collaboration between Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority.