The controversial Delta Conveyance Project may have bigger problems than legal action over its recently approved environmental impact report. Who’s going to pay the estimated $16 billion price tag?
In its bid to become a water dealer across the West, the San Diego County Water Authority is exploring selling off some of its most expensive supplies to a small Orange County water district.
The American Water Works Association‘s (AWWA) Board of Directors has selected Heather Collins of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as the association’s next president-elect.
Officials from Northern California visited San Diego County this week as part of a tour focused on regional water use and reliability investments that have been touted as a national model of water management.
San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Dan Denham welcomed about two dozen leaders at the start of the event, explaining how San Diego County’s long-term investment strategy is fueling a new approach to water management. In 2022, drought created dire water shortages across Southern California, but San Diego had sufficient supplies due to a combination of conservation and investments.
Behind the scenes look at water management
“That got us to a point where we started thinking about how we can do things even more differently, and we started working on cooperative agreements with Metropolitan and Imperial Irrigation District and other Southern California water providers to share some of this water we have invested in,” said Denham.
The Water Authority was represented by Board Vice Chair Nick Serrano and Secretary Frank Hilliker, along with Board Member Lois Fong-Sakai and Gail Goldberg, two of the Water Authority’s delegates to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California organized the tour, in collaboration with the Water Authority for the San Diego portion. MWD was represented by Board Chair Adan Ortega and other Board members, along with General Manager Adel Hagekhalil.
The “inspection trip” was designed to give county officials from the Bay-Delta region a behind-the-scenes look at water management in Southern California, where water management, climate and infrastructure are very different than in the northern part of the state.
Tour highlights: Pure Water San Diego, FlorAbunda Nursery
The tour started with City of San Diego Utilities Director Juan Guerreiro at the City of San Diego’s Pure Water program – a phased, multi-year project that will provide nearly half of San Diego’s water supply locally by the end of 2035. Pure Water San Diego will use proven water purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. In addition, said Serrano, the city has year-round permanent mandatory water restrictions in place, designed to promote water conservation as a permanent way of life in San Diego.
“We are enormously proud of our citizens and our local water conservation efforts which have reduced City’s per capita water usage to 100 gpcd for the past five years,” Serrano said.
Next, visitors stopped at FlorAbunda Nursery in Escondido’s Elfin Forest. The nursery was founded by Dana Groot, a fifth-generation nurseryman whose ancestors founded the Sluis & Groot Seed Company in Holland in the 1870s. FlorAbunda focuses on the commercial production of premium poinsettias and hydrangeas, with five generations of flower and seed production experience and the best of modern genetics and growing techniques.
Groot, who serves as president of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, showcased the water efficiency of San Diego County’s farm industry. San Diego County is home to more farms – more than 5,500 – than any other county in the U.S., and it is the nation’s top producer of nursery plants and floriculture. Driven both by the cost of water and a conservation ethic, the region’s farmers are strong proponents of water stewardship.
At FlorAbunda, Groot’s five-acre farm is entirely on high-efficiency drip irrigation. “The goal is to keep the water on the targeted areas,” said Groot, who was joined for the tour by Farm Bureau Past President Enrico Ferro and Hilliker, who sits on the Farm Bureau Board. “It’s kind of been a company policy. Everything is going to be on drip. We thought it was the responsible thing to do.”
After leaving San Diego County, the tour group headed for MWD’s Diamond Valley Lake, and then points north, including the Grace Napolitano Pure Water Southern California Innovation Center.
Even as winter arrived in the East this week, with treacherous snow and an impending Arctic cold snap, much of the West and its major river basins are still entrenched in warm and dry conditions. It’s a sluggish start to what should be the region’s wet season and is raising concerns about the future of the water supplies that depend on it.
Three North San Diego County water districts have launched a combined effort to encourage residents to use rain barrels with a discount and rebate for their purchase Jan. 1 through Feb. 29.
Six San Diego County student artists from four member water agencies are among the 37 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2024 “Being Water Wise Is… ” Student Art Calendar.
The “Being Water Wise Is… ” Student Art Calendar is produced annually by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It showcases student artwork illustrating important water conservation messages in a visual way. Water agencies submit artwork for consideration among the winners of their local competitions. This year, 26 Southern California water agencies submitted 234 entries.
The inspiring artwork and artists were recognized during a virtual awards event on Thursday, December 14. MWD Board Chairman Adán Ortega, Jr. thanked the students, their family and friends, and the many educators who support the annual contest.
Ortega Jr. told the winning students, “You are truly extraordinary and helping us to see water in new ways and bringing us greater appreciation for its value to our daily lives, and to our society overall.
“Thousands of people will see the calendar that will be published, celebrating winning entries, and learn from it as well.”
South Bay Represented by Otay and Sweetwater Winners
Artwork created by Sophia Garvida, a seventh-grade Bonita Vista Middle School student, was selected for the calendar. Sophia represents the Otay Water District and won first place in the middle school category in the district’s service area competition.
Fifth grader Sofia Cardenas Loera, who attends the STEAM Academy in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, will also have her winning artwork in the calendar after winning the local competition.
“These two talented students used their artistic skills to share an important conservation message and illustrate the value of using water wisely. All of us at the Otay Water District are proud to have their creativity represent the district,” said Eileen Salmeron, communications assistant and poster contest coordinator.
Alondra Contreras Olvera, a third-grade student at Allen Elementary School, represents Sweetwater Authority in the calendar. The three South Bay student posters are on the August 2024 page.
East County Winners From Helix and Padre Dam
Catalina Raquel Jones, is a talented seventh grade student at La Mesa Arts Academy whose artwork represents the Helix Water District in the 2024 calendar. Catalina is a second-time winner. Her artwork was also selected last year when she was a sixth-grade student at Lemon Avenue Elementary School.
Cameryn Kovar, who attends St. Martin of Tours Academy-La Mesa and is also in seventh grade, is the second Helix Water District student whose artwork will appear in the calendar. The Helix winners are on the July 2024 page.
Hayley Novotny, a fifth-grade student at Cajon Park School in Santee, represents the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. Her artwork is on the December 2024 page of the calendar.
Conservation message delivered through artistic expression
The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar was created 35 years ago. It selects student art submitted from kindergarten through grade 12 to help convey water conservation messages. The annual calendar is distributed to 13,000 recipients each year.
Artwork from the student winners will remain on display at Metropolitan’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters in January. The traveling artwork will visit member agencies throughout the year. View the entire calendar here.
Climate change is wreaking havoc on the water systems that Californians rely on, from the Sierra Nevada to the Colorado River basin.
No one knows that better than Adel Hagekhalil, who as general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is at the epicenter of the state’s most intractable water woes.
California is no stranger to severe droughts. Eleven of the past 17 years have been in drought, with urban water shortages, barren farm fields, and a lack of water for fish and wildlife — the most recent ending just last winter when soaking rains finally returned.
A new landmark water exchange agreement will increase water levels in Lake Mead, fight upward pressure on wholesale water rates, and create a new template for water management in the arid West.
The one-year agreement was announced on Friday, December 1 by the San Diego County Water Authority. The agreement is supported by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and executed in coordination with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan). Funds to facilitate the deal are from the federal 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
The new agreement highlights ways water agencies can work together under existing laws and agreements to adapt to the changing climate.
“This is a great example of what happens when we collaborate and work together. Cooperation by all three water agencies and the Bureau of Reclamation produced a creative solution that helps sustain the Colorado River,” said Water Authority Chair Mel Katz. “Today’s announcement is an innovative win-win-win solution that helps us all meet the incredible challenges we face.”
Agreement Reduces Threat of Water Shortages
The agreement builds on the groundbreaking 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA). It achieves several goals by helping California meet conservation obligations under the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Basin conservation program, supporting financial viability for participating agencies, and reducing the chances for more shortages. The Colorado River system has suffered drought-induced decline for more than 20 years.
The new arrangement is expected to save the Water Authority a projected $15 million to $20 million (depending on hydrological variables), which will help offset the impact of inflation and other factors on water rates.
Water Agency Cooperation Builds on Original QSA Partnership
The Water Authority, Metropolitan, and IID have been working together for several months on ways to capitalize on current water supplies. Due to a historically wet year, the State Water Project is delivering full supplies to Metropolian, refilling reservoirs and reducing demand for imported Colorado River water. The Metropolitan Board of Directors approved the agreement in November, and the IID Board followed with its approval on December 1.
“This partnership between Metropolitan, Imperial Irrigation District, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the Bureau of Reclamation is another example of how solutions developed collaboratively can benefit everyone,” said Adán Ortega, Jr., chair of the Metropolitan Board of Directors. “Our individual efforts to reduce our reliance on the Colorado River can be magnified by our growing and mutual interdependence leading to creative and lasting solutions, where the people we all serve win, as does the environment.”
How the Water Exchange Works
The Water Authority will leave 50,000 acre-feet of conserved QSA water in the Colorado River. This helps raise the level of Lake Mead, which has dropped in recent years. The volume is equivalent to the amount of water used in a year by approximately 150,000 single-family homes.
The Water Authority agreed to buy 50,000 acre-feet from Metropolitan to meet current and future demands. The Water Authority’s cost savings result from the difference between the Metropolitan rate and the rate for IID’s conserved water through the QSA. The Bureau of Reclamation will cover the cost of the Water Authority’s QSA supplies left in the river.
“This transfer is an example of how Southern California water agencies are leading with creative water management,” said Water Authority General Manager Dan Denham. “This agreement is based on decades of working together through the QSA, and it makes good on our collective commitment to the river. While this is a one-year arrangement, it will open the door for additional talks between partnering agencies in 2024.”