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The Sweetwater Authority will use innovative technology to flush all 400 miles of its system pipelines. Pnoto: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority Taps Innovative Technology to Ensure Water Quality

The Sweetwater Authority recently began a multiyear water main flushing program using innovative technology to clean all 400 miles of pipeline in its system. It’s part of Sweetwater Authority’s use of the latest technology to deliver a safe, reliable water supply to its South San Diego County customers.

Water main flushing cleans pipeline interiors by sending a rapid flow of water through them. Sweetwater’s program is the first in the region to use a new, innovative technology resulting in less environmental impact.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with high-quality water, ensuring that every drop meets safety standards and protects public health,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager. “We’re also dedicated to providing the safe, reliable water through the use of best available technology and sustainable practices.”

See the system in action in the following video. A Spanish language version is also available.

New method avoids storm drain discharge

Traditional flushing methods release water from fire hydrants at a high speed in order to flush out naturally occurring sediments accumulating in water pipes over time. Although the sediment itself is harmless, it can eventually affect water color and taste. The water used to clean the pipes often cannot be captured and ends up in the storm drain system.

The bulk of Sweetwater Authority‘s flushing program now eliminates the need to discharge water from fire hydrants during the cleaning process while delivering the same results.

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Crews identify all pipes, valves, and fire hydrants located in the area to be flushed. Next, crews connect one end of a hose to a hydrant and the other end of the hose to the no discharge, or NO-DES flushing unit. The process repeats, connecting a second hose to another hydrant and the other end back into the flushing unit, creating a temporary closed loop.

Once the NO-DES flushing unit is turned on and the hydrants are open, water will push through the loop at high pressure, disrupting any accumulated sediment on the inside of the pipes. The water is pushed through a series of sock-like filters, which remove those sediments and return clean, high-quality water back into the system.

Crews closely monitor the filtration system and water quality to determine when flushing of each pipeline segment is complete.

Innovative technology, efficient and environmentally responsible

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations.

In the National City area 75.8 miles of pipeline was recently flushed. Crews are now completing work in the Bonita area, and then will start work in Chula Vista.

Additional water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the innovative technology.

“Securing a local water supply to ensure the water delivered is of the highest quality through the best technology in our projects and programs helps to maximize value for our customers while also being sustainable,” said Berge.

For more information on the program, go to www.sweetwater.org/flushing.

Pure Water Oceanside Groundbreaking-February-2020-Pure Water-IRWM-Primary

San Diego Region on Track to Receive $15 Million for Water Projects

Several regional water supply projects in San Diego County are on track to receive a total of more than $15 million from the California Department of Water Resources, pending a final decision on the grants this summer.

Money for the projects has been recommended by DWR, which will make the awards after a public comment period.

In San Diego County, the grant funds would support local agencies to advance conservation, environmental enhancements, water purification and other initiatives.

Funding for regional water projects

The San Diego County Water Authority submitted the funding request on behalf of the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Region, or IRWM. The San Diego IRWM Program began in 2005 as an effort by water retailers, wastewater agencies, stormwater and flood managers, watershed groups, the business community, tribes, agriculture, and nonprofit stakeholders to improve water resources planning in the region.

“The IRWM funding will provide much-needed funding over the next several years to implement a variety of local water supply projects, water use efficiency measures, along with a disadvantaged community project in the City of National City,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl.

Kerl cited the “extraordinary effort” by the San Diego IRWM Regional Water Management Group and the Regional Advisory Committee for their work over the past year to make the $15,336,000 grant possible.

The statewide IRWM Program is supported by bond funding provided by the DWR to fund competitive grants for projects that improve water resources management.

Regional projects recommended for grant funds

  • San Diego Grant Administration, San Diego County Water Authority – Public Agency $920,180
  • 2020 Regional Water Use Efficiency Programs, San Diego County Water Authority – Public Agency Water Conservation $1,440,000
  • Paradise Valley Creek Water Quality and Community Enhancement, City of National City – Public Agency Flood Damage Reduction $3,681,056
  • North City Pure Water Facility Influent Pump Station and Conveyance Pipeline, City of San Diego, Public Agency Water Supply – Recycled Water $1,477,600
  • San Elijo Stormwater Capture & Reuse San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, Public Agency Water Supply – Recycled Water $1,195,000

Enhancing water stewardship

On November 4, 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

Proposition 1 authorized $510 million in IRWM funding. Funds are allocated to 12 hydrologic region-based funding areas, including the San Diego Region.

The Proposition 1 IRWM Grant Program, administered by DWR, provides funding for projects that help meet the long-term water needs of the state, including:

  • Assisting water infrastructure systems adapt to climate change;
  • Providing incentives throughout each watershed to collaborate in managing the region’s water resources and setting regional priorities for water infrastructure; and
  • Improving regional water self-reliance, while reducing reliance on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

National City Firefighters Get WaterSmart with Sweetwater Authority

The National City Fire Department is learning more about the water system it relies on, thanks to some specialized training for firefighters from Sweetwater Authority staff. Firefighters wanted to learn more about the water distribution system and where the city’s water originates. The department also wanted to review the location of Sweetwater Authority’s treatment facilities, pump stations, and learn about any areas of lower water pressure or dead-end hydrants. The design of water distribution system facilities such as pipes, tanks, and pumps is dictated by fire protection requirements.

Sweetwater Dam was constructed through the efforts of the Kimball Brothers, and spurred development of National City and Chula Vista. Photo: SDCWA Archives

1895: Sweetwater Dam Spurs South Bay Growth

As early as 1853, farmers in the San Diego region started making the transition from dry land farming and ranching to irrigated agriculture, specifically lucrative citrus crops. With the prospect of large profits looking, farmers scrambled to develop local water supplies for irrigation.

A pair of enterprising brothers stepped up to fill the need for water in the back country. They organized the Kimball Brothers Water Company. In 1869, it bought the rights to the Sweetwater River and then built a reservoir with a 90-foot high dam and distribution pipes. Their water supply spurred the development of National City and Chula Vista.