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Working with Hoch Consulting, the Vallecitos Water District inspection project will take place through June. Photo: Vallecitos Water Distict

Vallecitos Water District Taps Tech for Pipeline Inspection

The Vallecitos Water District is using a specialized camera and sonar to evaluate the condition of a sewer pipeline between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

The Land Outfall West pipeline is a large sewer line that stretches from El Camino Real to the Encina Water Pollution Control Facility in Carlsbad. Originally installed in 1986, an evaluation of the pipeline’s current condition using closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and sonar will help the District identify and prioritize its ongoing pipeline renewal and maintenance activities.

Inspections help ensure system reliability

Field teams begin the inspection process, which is taking place at night to minimize disruption. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Field teams begin the inspection process, which is taking place at night to minimize disruption. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The pipeline ranges in size from 24-inches to 54-inches in diameter and is approximately 3.2 miles long. Project Manager Susan Bowman said today’s technology allows the District to perform thorough inspections without digging up streets and disrupting neighborhoods.

“We want to make sure the pipeline is still in good shape,” explained Bowman, who is the District’s asset management supervisor. “We’re going to be taking a look at the inside of the pipe using an advanced CCTV tool. It looks at all of the insides of the pipeline and identifies any flaws or maintenance issues that may need to be addressed.”

Bowman said the District regularly inspects manholes and performs routine inspection activities. Using cameras and sonar will provide more detailed information to help the District plan ongoing maintenance and repair to ensure the pipeline will continue to perform well.

District staff, consulting staff, pipeline inspectors, and environmental inspectors will be onsite during the work. Work started at the east end of the pipeline in Carlsbad, and will follow along Palomar Airport Road under Interstate 5, and end at the Encina Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Cost-effective and less disruptive

Map showing the 3.2 mile stretch of Vallectios Water District pipeline undergoing inspection in June. Photo: Vallecitos Water Diatrict

Map showing the 3.2 mile stretch of Vallecitos Water District pipeline undergoing inspection in June. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

To minimize traffic impacts and to take advantage of lower flow levels, all work is scheduled at night between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and will occur on weekdays through June 18. Bowman said most of the work should have limited impact on businesses and residents in the area, with minor compressor noise and limited street blocking along Palomar Airport Road.

Pipeline inspections tap tech

“We want to be good neighbors,” said Bowman. “But it is critical to ensure a pipeline is performing well, it is safe, and it is able to continue to do its job. It’s a cost-effective way to ensure the District’s assets are performing well. The technologies have really improved in the last 15 to 20 years.”

Previously, the only way to inspect a pipeline was to take it out of service and dig it up.

“If you’re going to dig something up to see what shape it’s in, you might as well be replacing it,” said Bowman. “We are definitely looking at a lot of these different noninvasive type of technologies. It helps the system perform better by reducing unplanned emergencies which are disruptive to all of us.”

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

The City of San Diego's aggressive maintenance program has resulted in fewer water main breaks in 2020. Photo: City of San Diego

Water Main Breaks Decline in San Diego for Fourth Year in a Row

Increased maintenance efforts by the City of San Diego of its water system infrastructure is paying off for ratepayers. For the fourth year in a row, the number of water main breaks has decreased in the City of San Diego. Thirty-three water main breaks were reported in 2020, the lowest total in more than 15 years.

The City credits its aggressive multi-year program to replace aging pipelines for bringing the numbers far below the peak of 131 breaks in 2010.

“The City’s Public Utilities Department has worked very hard to improve the reliability of our water system infrastructure,” said Shauna Lorance, director of public utilities. “Our citizens benefit greatly from fewer main breaks because it means less water loss and lower emergency repair costs.”

Fifty-five miles of pipeline replaced in next four years

Crews replace old cast iron pipe with new PVC pipe along Park Boulevard. Photo: City of San Diego

Crews replace old cast iron pipe with new PVC pipe along Park Boulevard. Photo: City of San Diego

San Diego’s continuing program to replace old cast iron water mains has played a major part in the decrease in breaks. Some cast-iron pipes had been in service for more than a century. Since 2013, the city has replaced approximately 180 miles of water pipelines. By 2025, the last 55 miles of cast iron water mains are scheduled to be replaced with water mains made of durable polyvinyl chloride.

Water infrastructure maintenance programs also deliver a benefit to our region’s overall economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, $188.4 billion spent on water infrastructure investments over five years would yield $265 billion in economic activity and create 1.9 million jobs.

“Improving and maintaining our water infrastructure is an important part of our commitment to serving our customers,” said Lorance. “We will continue to provide reliable water services our customers deserve.”

City of San Diego public utilities crew members replace an aging cast iron water pipe at 5th and Robinson in Hillcrest. Photo: City of San Diego water main breaks

City of San Diego public utilities crew members replace an aging cast iron water pipe at 5th and Robinson in Hillcrest. Photo: City of San Diego

City of San Diego public utilities crews routinely oversee preventative maintenance work to help determine potential leaks and breaks before they occur. Private contractors have completed the bulk of the pipeline replacement projects under the direction of the City’s Engineering and Capital Projects Department.

Regular valve maintenance prevents unanticipated shutdowns of water service to Vallecitos Water District customers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Valve Maintenance Program Ensures Reliable Service

Just as owners perform routine maintenance to keep their cars running smoothly, water systems need regular maintenance to provide reliable service. The Vallecitos Water District’s Valve Maintenance Program ensures these vital components in its water distribution remain in good working condition throughout the District. Valves left without proper maintenance for long periods can become a serious problem, especially in an emergency water shutdown.

VWD’s Construction Department manages the program. Two-person teams use maps to familiarize themselves with the location of the 4,959 valves in the system, not including fire hydrants and fire services. Critical valves serve hospitals and businesses. Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly, following American Water Works Association standards.

Small but vital parts monitored

Construction worker Justin Shutt explains valves are isolation and shutoff point for water mains along streets.

“If we have a main break, where a main ruptures, we need to be able to isolate those certain sections without taking too many people out of water” by shutting the valves, said Shutt.

Valve Maintenance Technician John Truppa runs the valve maintenance program. He trains crew members how to use the valve exerciser machine, read maps properly, and respond to customer calls. Customer service is a priority. When a customer reports a water line leak in their home, the valve maintenance crew helps by shutting off the water at the meter.

The Vallecitos Water District’s geographic information system provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Reliable recordkeeping is vital to ensure all valves receive regular maintenance and are replaced before coming to the end of their service life to reduce the percentage of failures and inoperable valves. The District monitors valve life span to replace them prior to failure. Areas prone to water main breaks and valves on mains serving large groups of customers get added attention.

Taking turns

 Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly by two person teams. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly by two-person teams. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Valve maintenance involves performing a prescribed number of turns to “exercise” or test the valve. Turns are calculated in part by the size of the main. Larger transmission water mains require more valve turns, both up and down. Turning speed is also important. If valves are closed too quickly, it creates “water hammer,” or sudden pressure forcing water down the line, potentially triggering water main breaks. You may have heard a water hammer in your house when you shut off a household valve suddenly.

Ounce of prevention

The District's geographic information system (GIS) provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Vallecitos Water District’s geographic information system provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Regular valve maintenance prevents unanticipated shutdowns of water service to Vallecitos customers.

“We want to take as few people out of water at a time as we possibly can,” said Shutt. “We keep up on the upgrades and make sure the valves are working the way they’re supposed to.”

The proactive approach by the Vallecitos Water District ensures the reliable delivery of quality water to its customers while ensuring all systems are working properly.

Lake Poway Water Level Temporarily Reduced for Maintenance

Lake Poway’s water level is lower today, but it isn’t due to the current heatwave. The lake is being temporarily reduced to complete a planned maintenance project to replace a transducer.

Lake Poway serves as the City of Poway’s main water storage reservoir, with a capacity to hold more than one billion gallons of water. A transducer measures the lake’s water level and remotely sends data to the city.

 

Insight: Computers in Our Sewers—Digitization of the Water Sector

Technology is revolutionizing wastewater systems, which require a lot of maintenance but are difficult to access under the surface. Ari Goldfarb and Itai Boneh of Kando, a wastewater solutions company, examine how technology is improving wastewater systems and how Covid-19 is having an impact.

The 12-inch SeeSnake inspection tool used by the Vallecitos Water District is designed to provide accurate pipeline assessments. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

New Inspection Tool Aids Vallecitos Pipeline Assessments

A new pipeline inspection tool being used by contractors working for the Vallecitos Water District to determine pipeline integrity could become a standard tool saving time and money.

After nearly completing construction in 2008, developers walked away from the 500-acre High Point subdivision in the City of Escondido. Water facilities installed for the subdivision were left unused for ten years.

Two developers CalWest and TrueLife Communities recently decided to complete the project. They approached Vallecitos to determine what is needed to complete water service.

The mains for the project, made of ductile iron pipe, had not been used for ten years. Vallecitos needed to determine the condition of the pipes. Infrastructure Engineering Corporation and subcontractor PICA Corporation are now testing and assessing the integrity of the water main including the pipeline appurtenance (blow-offs, air vacs, and fire hydrants) connections to the main pipeline.

Early damage detection prevents pipeline failures

Pipelines undergoing assessment to determine their condition before being put into service in the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

A pipeline’s condition is assessed to determine its condition before being put into service in the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Several processes are included in the High Point Pipeline Assessment project. Crews insert a tool developed by PICA Corporation called a “SeeSnake” into the pipeline, and data indicates the condition of the pipes. The SeeSnake uses an electromagnetic method on iron pipes, which can “see” past cement mortar, epoxy, or polyethylene lining to detect and size any corrosion damage to the iron structure of the pipe itself.

The SeeSnake tool is pulled through the pipe at 17 feet per minute, delivering data as the inspection is being performed in real-time. The technology helps expedite information, saving time and costs by accelerating the process without sacrificing attention to detail. Vallecitos is then able to assess the pipeline’s wall thickness, potential iron loss, and any other anomalies to determine the condition of the existing pipeline.

See video demonstrating the SeeSnake pipeline assessment.

“Good decisions start with good information,” said Kris Embry, PICA regional manager. “Our ultimate goal in testing this new system is to quickly and efficiently secure accurate condition assessment information, allowing the Vallecitos Water District to address any weak links and prevent potential pipeline failures long before they happen.”

When the inspection is completed, the repair process begins.

Two water pipelines are being inspected for the condition analysis, one running along Woodland Heights Glen starting at Briar Patch Glen, and one running along Elderwood Glen, totaling approximately 3,067 feet. The larger 2,300 feet section of pipe is near the District’s existing Palos Vista.

Preventive measures save water and costs

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Over time, pipelines are exposed to corrosion from aggressive soils, electrical currents, damage to coatings or linings, physical force, or other factors. The result could be a pipeline break which could case other infrastructure damage, interruption to water service, a loss of water, or monetary losses.

When an inspection finds corrosion, the affected section of iron pipeline is isolated, removed, and replaced by PVC pipe. Because iron pipelines can be susceptible to corrosion from multiple causes, they are no longer installed in the Vallecitos Water District.

The inspection found two badly corroded areas of pipeline and excavations verified the accuracy of the data. The Vallecitos Water District continues testing the new process and the accuracy of the data to determine whether to adopt the new technology for future working pipeline assessments.

Water Authority Maintenance Pro Scores Three-Peat in National Competition

San Diego County Water Authority maintenance professional Bobby Bond Jr. made it a three-peat, representing San Diego at the 2019 American Public Works Association’s National ROADEO Skills Competition in Seattle, Washington. Bond placed 13th among all 70 competitors nationwide. He secured the right to represent the San Diego region as the Master Skills Operator Champion by winning first place out of 20 competitors.

FPUD is embarking on a number of prevention, maintenance and improvement projects to safeguard and maintain its pipes and infrastructure. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

Fallbrook PUD Goes With the Maintenance Flow to Provide Reliable Service

Water pipeline blowouts like the one the day before Thanksgiving 2017 at the intersection of Stagecoach Road and Ranchwood Lane in Fallbrook provide periodic reminders about the realities of aging infrastructure.

Preventing these type of emergencies is the driving force behind planned shutdowns at water agencies such as the Fallbrook Public Utility District; investments today will avoid similar emergencies and unplanned water outages in the years ahead.

Many of FPUD’s pipes are more than 50 years old. A pipeline’s life can be 80 to 100 years, but many of the early lines that were installed were not put in at today’s standards and have shorter lives.

In fact, some of the early pipelines installed in the area were originally excavated from March Air Force Base in Riverside County and re-installed in Fallbrook, said FPUD general manager Jack Bebee. Many of these pipelines have reached the end of their useful lifespans.

That’s why FPUD is embarking on a number of prevention, maintenance and improvement projects to safeguard and maintain our pipes and infrastructure. Waiting to fix them after they break isn’t the most cost-effective and convenient way to operate.

“We’re trying to prevent a continued Band-Aid approach,” said Bebee.

Proactive approach prioritizes greatest need first

The shutdowns and retrofits are part of FPUD’s proactive approach to pipeline and valve replacement. By identifying pipes that are in the worst condition, the agency is prioritizing those needing to be replaced first, resulting in fewer pipe failures, blowouts and spills.

As part of its ongoing maintenance program, FPUD has refurbished six of its eight steel tanks over the past several years. It is also working on systematic valve replacement covering the entire community area. Valves are a critical component of water and sewer system infrastructure to limit the size of any shutdown.

Annually, the district also replaces or relines sewer manholes and sewer lines. Some of the manholes date so far back they are made of brick. Only FPUD’s sewer customers pay for sewer improvements, and only water customers pay for water improvements.

All FPUD construction work will be on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with an exception for projects that disrupt businesses. Those projects may be scheduled overnight. FPUD customers will receive both a letter and phone call if the planned shutdown will affect their water service.

FPUD posts regular updates to its website at www.fpud.com and on its Twitter account, @Fallbrook water

Residents can also visit the FPUD Facebook page for other water-related updates.

 

Water Authority maintenance employees John Brown and Bobby Bond Jr. ready to compete at the National Skills Roadeo in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo: Courtesy Bobby Bond Jr.

Maintenance Men Bring Home the Hardware from National Contest

Two maintenance pros representing San Diego brought home awards from the 2018 American Public Works Association’s National Roadeo Skills Competition in Kansas City, Missouri , in late August.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Bobby Bond Jr. placed second in the backhoe/mini-excavator event, while John Brown, also of the Water Authority, placed third in the skid steer competition. They are the only winners from west of the Rockies, and the only two winners from a single agency nationwide.

A record number of 86 participants competed in three categories of competition: the backhoe/mini-excavator, skid steer, and mechanics. Each competition fielded 50 to 55 participants. Organizers ran through the rules and provided an orientation to the three categories of competition, as well as a tour of each course. Finally, all of the competitors drew numbers to determine their starting order.

Competition tests skills used to maintain vital infrastructure

Winners received engraved belt buckles as prizes. Photo: Courtesy Bobby Bond Jr. National Skills Roadeo

Winners received engraved belt buckles as prizes. Photo: Courtesy Bobby Bond Jr.

Bond competed in the skid steer category early, which served as a warm-up for the backhoe and the mini-excavator tests. Despite incurring a 25-second penalty for dropping a section of PVC pipe, Bond’s time through the course was 3 minutes, 3.2 seconds with minimal faults, earning him the second place finish.

It was Bond’s second year in the event, and his previous experience paid off. “This year, it was really competitive,” said Bond. “The course was really tight. They did a really good job making it fair for everyone. It was fun.”

John Brown placed third despite an unusual hiccup. While he was competing, his mini-excavator ran out of fuel on the second obstacle. He was allowed to restart on a replacement machine, earning Bond’s admiration for remaining cool under pressure. Brown’s final time was 1 minutes, 55.8 seconds, with no penalties assigned.

Both the national and regional competitions mimic skills that Bonds, Brown and thousands of other employees use each day on the job while maintaining water and wastewater systems, streets, and other vital infrastructure.

Jim Fisher, Director of Operations and Maintenance for the Water Authority, is proud of the results, but not surprised. “Bond and Brown are part of a team whose skills we count on every day to maintain our region’s water system. They exceed our expectations and both earned this well deserved recognition for their accomplishments.”

Bond says he intends to return for local and national competitions in coming years – and he aims to compete for the Water Authority when the National Roadeo Skills Competition returns to San Diego in 2022.

See the complete list of winners here.

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby Bond Jr. shows the skills that won him the title of "Master Opeartor" at the 2018 MSA San DIego/APWA Skills Competition. Poto: Courtesy MSA San DIego

Water Authority A Winner At Skills Competition

Two San Diego County Water Authority employees took home first place honors in the annual – and unusual – competition that tests the mettle of public works professionals with backhoes, wheelbarrows and other tools of the trade.

Bobby Bond Jr. of the San Diego County Water Authority wins the title of "Master Operator" at the MSA San Diego/APWA 2018 Skills Competition. Photo: Courtesy MSA San DIego

Bobby Bond Jr. of the San Diego County Water Authority wins the title of “Master Operator” at the MSA San Diego/APWA 2018 Skills Competition. Photo: Courtesy MSA San DIego

And one Water Authority veteran – Bobby Bond Jr. – earned the title of 2018 Master Operator for completing all the events in the lowest combined time.

Twelve teams of four crew members participated, and 24 operators vied for the title of Master Operator at the July event hosted by the San Diego Chapter of the Maintenance Supervisors Association and American Public Works Association in Chula Vista.

The City of Chula Vista won the team title for 2018, followed by the City of El Cajon and the Water Authority in third place. Representing the Water Authority was the four-man team of Bond, Patrick Barreiro, John Brown and Tony Cepeda.

Brown took first in the backhoe operator category, and Cepeda won first place in the wheelbarrow skills. He said his co-workers have been supportive and happy with the Water Authority team’s third place finish.

“It’s fun, it’s teamwork building, and having a good time,” he said. “We work with each other every day, we are like a family here.”

Annual event tests same skills used maintaining vital infrastructure

The annual event tests the same skills participants use while maintaining water and wastewater systems, streets, and other vital infrastructure residents and businesses rely on every day. Tasks included Backhoe Skills, Skid Steer Skills, Mini-Excavator Skills, Sign Assembly, and Wheelbarrow Skills. The team with the best overall combined time won the perpetual trophy, along with bragging rights.

After winning the backhoe category in 2017, Bond captured the 2018 Master Operator title by completing tasks in the lowest overall combined time. He said the competition may be challenging, but it is child’s play compared to the work he and his colleagues perform every day for the Water Authority.

“I’ve dug around utilities including chemical lines, fiber optic lines, and around aqueducts,” said Bond. “I once dug a water line 200 feet and crossed 40 different utilities.”

Brown agrees. “Knocking a tennis ball off a cone (in competition) equals breaking a pipe potentially” on the job, he said.

Cepeda, a Maintenance Worker I who has been with the Water Authority just over a year, helps maintain roads along major Water Authority pipeline corridors and other major structures. “I went for it, gave it a shot, and out of luck I took first place,” said Cepeda. His strategy in maneuvering the wheelbarrow on the course against the clock? “Just run fast!”

Also winning honors was David Hernado of the Vallecitos Water District, who placed first in the Sign Assembly Skills Competition.

Brown and Bond Jr. will compete for Water Authority in upcoming national competition

John Brown of the San Diego County Water Authority wins the Backhoe Skills category at the MSA San Diego/APWA 2018 Skills Competition. Photo: Courtesy MSA San DIego

Along with the good-natured competition, the event’s main objective is to provide valuable training, and showcase the Maintenance Supervisors Association vendors who provide the materials, supplies, and equipment needed to keep regional public works functioning at their highest level. Three hundred members attended this year’s event.

APWA will sponsor the top two equipment operators including Brown and Bond Jr. to compete at the 2018 APWA PWX National APWA ROADEO in Kansas City, Missouri on August 28-29. “We’re real busy at work, we’re running every day,” said Bond, which will allow him and Brown to get in plenty of practice before heading to Kansas City.

The full list of results:

Wheel Barrow Skills Competition:

Tony Cepeda of the San Diego County Water Authority wins the Wheel Barrow Skills category at the MSA San Diego/APWA 2018 Skills Competition. Photo: Courtesy MSA San DIego

1st Place
Tony Cepeda, San Diego County Water Authority 1 minute, 1 second

2nd Place
Sean McRory, City of Encinitas, 1 minute, 2 seconds

3rd Place
Margarito Corado, City of Chula Vista, 1 minute, 4 Seconds
Mario Serrano, City of Vista, 1 minute, 4 Seconds

Sign Assembly Skills Competition:

1st Place – Tie
David Hernado, Vallecitos Water District. 2 minutes, 29 Seconds

2nd Place
Esteban Garcia, City of El Cajon, 2 minutes, 34 Seconds

3rd Place
Arturo Garcia, City of San Diego, 2 minutes, 38 Seconds

Backhoe Operator Competition:

1st Place
John Brown, San Diego County Water Authority, 1 minute, 35 Seconds

2nd Place
Bobby Bond, San Diego County Water Authority, 1 minutes, 36 Seconds

3rd Place
Bryce Greschke, City of Poway, 1 minute, 51 Seconds

Skid Steer Operator Competition:

1st Place
Brian Smith, City of La Mesa, 1 minutes, 40 Seconds

2nd Place
Derek Imoto, City of Encinitas, 2 minutes, 11 Seconds

3rd Place
John Brown, San Diego County Water Authority, 2 minutes, 33 Seconds

Mini Excavator Operator Competition:

1st Place
Geovanni Meza, City of El Cajon, 38 Seconds

2nd Place
John Collingwood, City of San Diego, 39 Seconds

3rd Place
Bobby Bond, San Diego County Water Authority, 47 Seconds

Overall “Roadeo” Competition Champions

1st Place
City of Chula Vista, 9 minutes, 56 Seconds

2nd Place
City of El Cajon, 10 minutes, 26 Seconds

3rd Place
San Diego County Water Authority, 11 minutes, 5 Seconds