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Water Authority Board Endorses Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio

San Diego, Calif. –  The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today unanimously supported Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-10-19, directing development of a water resilience portfolio approach that meets the needs of California’s communities, economy and environment through the 21st century. That order also advanced a single-tunnel project to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, instead of the two-tunnel project favored by former Governor Jerry Brown.

The Water Authority Board made its backing of the single-tunnel proposal contingent on a project financing plan that treats San Diego County ratepayers fairly through the proper allocation of project costs by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Environment Report: The Earthquake Risk No One’s Talking About

San Diego faces a hidden earthquake threat — to its water supply. A quake, even one so far away that nobody in San Diego feels it, could cause an emergency and force mandatory water-use restrictions. That’s because most of San Diego’s water comes from hundreds of miles away through threads of metal and concrete that connect us to distant rivers and reservoirs.

MWD’s New Chair, Gloria Gray, Prioritizes Reliability of Supply & Affordability

Several major developments have altered the course of water management in California this year. First, Governor Newsom significantly modified the plan to bring water to the southern region through the Delta. Second, California forged a historic agreement with seven other states to cooperate in times of drought. And not least, industry veteran Gloria Gray took the helm at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. In this interview, Gray shares how she plans to steer the largest water supplier in the nation through changing political priorities and climate conditions to continue safeguarding the future of California’s water.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors celebrated the agency’s 75th anniversary.

Water Authority Celebrates 75 Years of Service to San Diego County

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors celebrated the agency’s 75th anniversary during today’s Board meeting, which included 20 proclamations honoring the agency for its service to the region dating back to 1944.

Cities across the region joined the state Assembly and Senate, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and other state and local leaders to formally mark the occasion. The San Diego City Council and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors even proclaimed today “San Diego County Water Authority Day” in honor of the agency’s legacy of water supply reliability.

75 years of service

“Starting with the historic first water deliveries in the 1940s, the Water Authority has partnered with our member agencies to build, operate and maintain the vital infrastructure that supports our region’s $231 billion economy and unparalleled quality of life,” said Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Our collective investments have created extraordinary advances in water supply reliability that are sustained by the daily vigilance necessary to operate and maintain such a complex system.

“While today we celebrate the past, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to focus on the future by fostering innovative solutions to ever-changing water resource challenges,” Madaffer said. “Together, we will supply the San Diego region with safe and reliable water supplies for generations to come.”

San Diego County Water Authority service sArea and 24 member agencies

Since 1991, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have deployed one of the most aggressive water supply diversification strategies in the nation to improve regional water supply reliability. In the years ahead, member agency projects will play an increasingly important role in continuing to ensure reliability for the San Diego region.

Forward thinking on water

The Water Authority’s current forward-thinking efforts include developing water storage capacity in Lake Mead to provide additional drought resilience for San Diego and the Southwest.

The agency also is working closely with the City of San Diego to assess a potential pumped storage project at San Vicente Reservoir that could help meet clean energy goals and benefit water ratepayers. In addition, the Water Authority is analyzing the costs and benefits of a regional water conveyance system that could help San Diego County and the entire Southwest to more effectively manage water resources.

Profound impact

During today’s ceremonies, water agency, civic and business leaders noted the Water Authority’s profound impact on the San Diego region and wider water issues over the past 75 years.

  • “A reliable water supply is critical for San Diego’s regional economy and for maintaining a competitive business climate. The business community applauds the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies for their leadership, and for increasing the county’s water supply reliability with investments that keep our economy growing.” — Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
  • “It is a pleasure to celebrate the San Diego County Water Authority’s 75th anniversary. We share a common history and a common vision for water supply reliability that has been essential to the economic vitality and prosperity to all San Diegans. We look forward to strengthening our relationship to meet the future needs of San Diegans.” — Gloria D. Gray, chair, Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors
  • “Farming is a foundational piece of our regional economy and quality of life – but it doesn’t happen without a reliable water supply. Our farmers are constantly innovating to use water more efficiently by adopting new technology and planting more-efficient crops.” — Eric Larson, executive director, San Diego County Farm Bureau
  • “On behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, I salute the San Diego County Water Authority on its 75th anniversary. Our two agencies are partners in the nation’s largest agriculture to urban transfer and in the process, we have forged a durable alliance at the Salton Sea. It is a relationship that the IID highly values.” — Erik Ortega, president, Imperial County Irrigation District Board of Directors
  • “By combining a diversified set of water supply sources with greatly enhanced storage capacity, we are developing a more robust safety net for San Diego County.” — Jerry Sanders, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

On June 9, 1944, San Diego voters approved the Water Authority’s formation under the County Water Authority Act. Imported water arrived three years later to slake the thirst of a growing population just weeks before local supplies would have run out.

The modern era of the Water Authority started during deep, drought-induced water supply cuts in the early 1990s. Since then, Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have deployed one of the most aggressive water supply diversification strategies in the nation to improve regional water supply reliability.

At the same time, the agencies have aggressively helped to reduce per capita water use so that the total regional water use today is well below 1990 levels despite significant growth in the population and economy.

San Vicente Aqueduct

Officials commemorate installation of the first portion of pipe along the new Second Pipeline of the San Vicente Aqueduct in 1951. Photo: Water Authority

75th anniversary milestones

The Water Authority reached several major milestones over the past two decades. They include:

  • In 2003, Olivenhain Dam was the first major new dam built in San Diego in more than 50 years. At 318 feet, it was the tallest roller-compacted concrete dam at the time.
  • In 2008, the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant north of San Marcos began operations. It was the largest submerged membrane water treatment plant in the world when it was commissioned.
  • In 2011, the San Vicente Tunnel and Pipeline Project – an 11-mile long, 12-foot diameter tunnel with an 8-1/2-foot diameter pipeline – created a link from the City of San Diego’s San Vicente Reservoir to the Water Authority’s Second Aqueduct, greatly improving the Water Authority’s ability to distribute water and store water in the reservoir.

San Vicente Dam raise

  • In 2012, the Lake Hodges Hydropower Facility started serving the dual purposes of connecting the lake to the Water Authority’s aqueduct system and generating 40 megawatts of clean, on-demand electricity.
  • In 2014, the San Vicente Dam Raise Project, the tallest dam-raise project in U.S. history, expanded the reservoir’s capacity by more than 157,000 acre-feet.
  • In 2015, the $1 billion Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, distribution pipeline and related facilities started commercial operations as the largest seawater desalination project in North America.
  • The Water Authority’s Asset Management Program, which includes a multi-year project to reline 82 miles of large-diameter prestressed concrete cylinder pipelines with new steel liners, helps to prevent pipeline failure and extend their lifespans by 75 years or more at significantly less cost than traditional pipeline replacement programs.
San Diego regional water quality regulators issued a new permit for the development of permanent, stand-alone seawater intake and discharge facilities at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego regional water quality regulators issued a new permit in May 2019 for the development of permanent, stand-alone seawater intake and discharge facilities at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

Worldwide recognition

The Water Authority’s innovative efforts have been recognized nationally and internationally.

In 2017, for instance, the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project for winning ASCE’s top international engineering award.

The same year, Water Authority was honored by the Association of California Water Agencies – the nation’s largest statewide coalition of water agencies – for innovation and excellence in water resources management with its addition of supplies from the Carlsbad Desalination Project. And in 2016, the Water Authority received a top national award from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies for its commitment to improving the region’s water supply reliability in a manner that balances economic, social and environmental needs.

Agave attenuata is one of the plants available to qualified Fallbrook PUD customers in its new plant voucher program. Photo: Fallbrook PUD plant vouchers

Fallbrook PUD Offers Plant Vouchers For Sustainable Landscaping

The Fallbrook Public Utility District will offer residents in its service area free low-water or drought-tolerant plants beginning July 1. The district will give qualified residents vouchers redeemable for plants at Silverthorn Ranch Nursery in Fallbrook, which produces plants using recycled water.

“Customers will go through an application process and qualified applicants will receive free plants to install in their landscape,” said Mick Cothran, Fallbrook Public Utility District engineering technician. “We want to encourage and help our customers replace turf with plants that don’t require a lot of water, and show them drought tolerant plants can be beautiful additions to their landscaping.”

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies have encouraged homeowners to implement sustainable landscaping through free ‘WaterSmart’ landscaping classes, and through a variety of rebate programs.

Online application for plant vouchers posted starting July 1

A list of the plants being offered through FPUD’s program is included on its website. Choices include plants like this Beaked Yucca (Yucca rostrada). Photo: Fallbrook PUD

A list of the plants being offered through Fallbrook’s program is included on its website. Choices include plants like this Beaked Yucca (Yucca rostrata). Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

An online application will be posted on the FPUD website starting July 1, and submissions will be processed on a first-come, first served basis. Applicants will also be required to submit two photos of the area(s) to be planted, and a basic plan or sketch of the project.

Sustainable landscaping

A list of the plants being offered through FPUD’s program is included on its website. Choices range from five-gallon Dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and Beaked Yucca (Yucca rostrata) to Mini Elephant’s Food (Portulacaria afra ‘Mini’), Silver Dollar Jade (Crassula arborescens), and small succulents including assorted aloe, aeonium, and echeveria.

San Diego County residents have embraced sustainable landscaping practices as a result of increased attention to water conservation, due in part to recurring periods of drought over the past thirty years.

The FPUD program is made possible with grant funding provided by two Metropolitan Water District of Southern California grants through the Water Authority.

Metropolitan Water District And Member Agencies Offering Upgraded Turf Replacement Program

With summer and its accompanying heat, you may be asking if you really want to pay for your increased water bill thanks to your thirsty lawn. Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California and its member agencies understand your concern and have returned with an upgraded rebate program for customers who remove grass from their yards and replace it with sustainable landscaping. The upgraded turf replacement program now offers $2 per square foot for the grass removal/ sustainable landscaping program which is double the rebate amount that was most recently offered. The last time MWD and its agencies offered a $2-per-square-foot incentive was during the drought of 2014/2015.

There are new enhanced rebates for removing turf and replacing it with sustainable landscaping. Photo: Water Authority

Cash Rebates Increase for Grass Removal in San Diego Region

Removing grass can generate rebates of at least $2 per square foot for San Diego residents under new enhanced incentives that started this month.

As of April 1, the Metropolitan Water District is offering $2 per square foot for every square foot of grass removed from yards and replaced with sustainable landscaping.

Rebates may vary by water agency, but an online incentive calculator identifies the current rebate amounts.

New rules for turf rebates. Graphic: BeWaterSmart.com

New rules for turf rebates. Graphic: BeWaterSmart.com

To increase participation, MWD also updated program rules. The rules are listed at the application site.

All San Diego County residents are eligible for the $2 rebate.

But, that’s not all. The San Diego County Water Authority is offering an additional $1.75 per square foot to customers in its service area, with grant funds provided by the California Department of Water Resources.  And, the City of San Diego offers city residents $1.25 per square foot. That means some homeowners can earn as much as a $5 rebate for each square foot of turf removed.

Turf rebate programs have proven popular in Southern California, and funds could go quickly.

Water Authority offers free landscaping classes

While rebates can provide a big boost to landscaping makeover projects, it’s also important to start planning before you start planting.

That’s where the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program comes in. Free resources are available to upgrade turf yards.

For instance, the Water Authority offers free landscape makeover classes that help homeowners make smart choices to reduce outdoor water use by designing beautiful and climate-appropriate landscapes for our region.

Find additional water-saving programs, incentives, and classes for residents and businesses at: https://www.watersmartsd.org/

“San Diego County homeowners and businesses know that sustainable landscapes are key to water reliability in our region,” said Joni German, who manages the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program. With the help of local landscape architects and designers, our WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program gives them the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. WaterSmart landscapes are an upgrade, not a compromise.”

Sycuan Reservation Water Agreement Commemorated

A historic water agreement was celebrated today on the grounds of the Sycuan Indian Reservation. While Sycuan’s new hotel is getting most of the public attention, a reliable water supply for the reservation is an even bigger achievement. Everyone involved in Monday morning’s commemoration of a water delivery agreement, reached last August between Sycuan and the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District, noted it was 10 years in the making.

Metropolitan Water District Ready To Support Scaled-Down Delta Tunnel Plan

Ventura County’s main water supplier supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s scaled-down Delta tunnel project, even though it’s been cut in half. Newsom said Tuesday in his State of the State address that he wants the twin-tunnel project — designed to re-engineer the troubled Northern California estuary that’s the hub of the state’s water-delivery system — reduced to a single tunnel. “I do not support the WaterFix as currently configured,” Newsom said. “Meaning, I do not support the twin tunnels. We can build, however, on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”

Sites Reservoir Is Sacramento Valley’s Water Project. But L.A. Is Taking A Huge Role

As water projects go, Sites Reservoir has always been the Sacramento Valley’s baby – a multibillion-dollar reservoir conceived by Valley farmers, carved out of a ghost town an hour north of the Capitol. Around the Valley, “Build Sites Reservoir” signs dot the roads along mile after mile of orchards and rice fields. But a funny thing has happened as the Sites project, designed as the largest reservoir built in California since the 1970s, pulls together its financing: It’s becoming much less of a Sacramento Valley venture. Over the past two years, scared off by the anticipated costs of storing water there, Valley agricultural irrigation districts have steadily reduced their ownership shares of Sites, giving way to water agencies from Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.