Tag Archive for: Olivenhain Reservoir

Trolls Under the Bridge: Century Old Dam Faces Bleak Future

Every day, more than 300,000 cars and trucks thunder across the wide concrete bridge which carries Interstate 15 over Lake Hodges south of Escondido. Perhaps just a handful of these daily commuters or big rig drivers are fully aware of what lies below. Under this bridge, an aluminum boat and fisherman could be bobbing among the treetops. On another day, it might be the peaceful scene of a mule deer lying perfectly still on dry ground among the reeds.

Pumped Energy Storage-Lake Hodges-Olivenhain

Water Agencies Help Address California Energy Shortages

Water agencies across San Diego County are doing their part to stabilize the state’s power grid during this week’s heatwave by generating hydropower and altering operations to trim electricity demands – and they are offering long-term solutions to reduce future energy shortages.

The California Independent System Operator issued a statewide Flex Alert from Sunday through Wednesday, calling for reduced electricity use in the afternoon and evening to limit power outages. Blackouts could affect hundreds of thousands of San Diego County residents, if extreme heat persists.

California ISO-heatwave-energy shortage-rolling blackouts

Producing and conserving power during energy shortages

At Lake Hodges, the Water Authority is running its pumped energy storage facility to meet peak demands. As water flows down the pipeline from Olivenhain Reservoir into Lake Hodges, it generates up to 40 megawatts of energy on demand, helping to manage temporary peak electrical demands or unplanned outages. Then, the water is pumped back to Olivenhain Reservoir when power demands are low to restart the cycle.

In addition, water agencies are taking numerous actions to conserve energy. For the Water Authority, the strategy includes temporarily reducing drinking water production at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant in collaboration with Poseidon Water.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation, and it has produced more than 62 billion gallons of drinking water for San Diego County since it began operations in December 2015.

Starting Monday, the plant ramped down operations, making an additional 8 megawatts of power available for other uses. If more load reductions are necessary over the next several days, additional curtailment may be considered at the plant. The power provided by the plant could help offset current energy shortages.

“This partnership by the Water Authority and Poseidon is another reminder of the value of the cutting-edge technology and local control at the Carlsbad plant,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Operations are flexible and the technology is nimble, so production can be ramped up and down in response to local needs.”

Water agencies respond to energy shortages

In addition, local and regional water agencies are temporarily shutting down or reducing flows at pump stations and turning off HVAC systems in the afternoons. Some agencies also have the ability to convert to less energy-intensive treatment, for instance, by replacing ozone with chlorine.

Local water agencies also are tapping their significant backup power generation capacity – at their own expense – to ease the strain on the energy grid, following Governor Newsom’s executive order that suspends some regulatory requirements for those units during this emergency event. Local agencies are also looking to work with the administration to ensure that their backup generation capacity can be used proactively to help avoid future energy shortages.


Pumped Energy Storage-WNN-June 2020-graphic

Pumped energy storage facilities are part of an integrated and sustainable energy system that
includes the production, storage and distribution of clean energy.

Environmentally friendly pumped storage project proposed

Beyond the immediate concerns, this week’s heat wave has highlighted the need to increase large-scale energy storage as the state moves toward a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. Put simply, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow enough to meet demands, so the state needs more capacity to store peak renewable energy production for peak demand periods.

The Water Authority has proposed building a large-scale pumped storage project at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside. Pumped energy storage projects are designed to store excess renewable energy from solar and wind when it’s available, and then discharge that energy when energy demands increase and renewable energy is scarce.

Solutions for long-term energy challenge

A 2019 white paper highlighted the importance of pumped energy storage to California’s future.

“Our current situation is the direct result insufficient planning; the state clearly needs additional energy storage now and will need much more in the future,” said Gary Bousquet, energy program manager for the Water Authority. “Environmentally friendly pumped storage projects should be started immediately to address this shortfall, or power reliability will get significantly worse. The San Vicente project can be started now at no cost to taxpayers – users only pay when the project comes online.”

Crews loaded the 130,000 pound stainless steel cone onto a barge and finished assembling it above water before lowering it into the reservoir. Image: Water Authority

New Oxygenation System to Improve Reservoir Water Quality

The City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department last week took a major step toward completing an innovative project to improve water quality in Lake Hodges. A newly installed oxygenation system, designed by city engineers, will introduce highly oxygenated water to the bottom of the reservoir to reduce the accumulation of excess nutrients and harmful algae growth.

The increase of nutrients and algae in the water has been caused by human activities in the watershed upstream of the reservoir, including residential and commercial development, agriculture, and land clearing. Degraded water quality can restrict the ability to move water in and out of the reservoir.

“The ‘Speece cone’ is a fairly unique method for adding oxygen to a reservoir – there are only a few of them in the world,” said Jeff Pasek, project manager at the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. “This project derived from a planning study that was done about five years ago, which identified oxygenation using the ‘Speece cone’ as being the most cost-effective way of addressing the water quality problems in Hodges.”

Last week, the 130,000 pound cone – named after the inventor of the technology, Richard Speece – was lowered eighty feet to the bottom of the reservoir.

Streamlined operation for maximum efficiency

The precisely coordinated operation involved lifting the 20-foot tall stainless steel cone with a large crane, while simultaneously driving a barge out from underneath. Once the cone was lowered into the water, divers headed to the bottom of the reservoir to unhook the cone from the crane, check to make sure it settled in the correct spot, and fasten it down.

In order to build a solid foundation underwater, crews excavated approximately 11 feet of silt from the bottom of the reservoir and constructed a concrete base. Before submerging the cone, crews installed and tested a pump that will move water through the cone. A large diffuser pipe was then lowered and connected to the cone by divers. The diffuser will distribute the oxygen-rich water throughout the reservoir.

Now underwater, the cone will distribute oxygen-rich water throughout the reservoir to reduce the accumulation of excess nutrients and prevent harmful algae growth. Image: Water Authority

Now underwater, the cone will distribute oxygen-rich water throughout the reservoir to reduce the accumulation of excess nutrients and prevent harmful algae growth. Photo: Water Authority

Local and regional benefits at Hodges Reservoir

Hodges Reservoir is owned and operated by the City of San Diego, and it serves the San Dieguito Water District and the Santa Fe Irrigation District. It is connected to the San Diego County Water Authority’s Olivenhain Reservoir as part of the Emergency & Carryover Storage Project, which is designed to ensure regional water reliability in case of emergencies or if the region is cut off from imported water supplies.

“There are multiple benefits to this project – first and foremost being the water quality improvements for Hodges Reservoir,” said Goldamer Herbon, a senior water resources specialist at the Water Authority. “Ancillary benefits include operational flexibility for regional supply benefits and preventing the accumulation of mercury, which can be harmful to people and wildlife that eat fish from the reservoir.”

The California State Department of Water Resources awarded the City of San Diego a $3.4 million grant funded by the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management program to complete the oxygenation project, which began in February 2019.

Lake Jennings staff including Recreation Manager Kira Haley (front row, fifth from left) rely on their dedicated volunteers including Lori Stangel (front row, sixth from left). Photo: Helix Water District

Volunteer Opportunities at Water Agency Reservoirs in San Diego County

People around the world know the San Diego region for its beautiful setting along the Pacific Ocean. But visitors, and even many local residents, aren’t aware of the recreational activities available year-round at area reservoirs.

There are 24 reservoirs in San Diego County. Of these, there are 18 fishable lakes and some offer overnight camping. Popular activities also include boating, kayaking, hiking, and picnicking.

Lake Jennings Reservoir, east of El Cajon, is called a “hidden jewel.” Lake Jennings Recreation Manager Kira Haley admits she didn’t know much about the lake even though she grew up in nearby La Mesa.

“It’s a beautiful resource, and it’s so close to home,” said Haley.

Volunteers help maintain the Lake Jennings campsites, which include five tipis. Photo: Helix Water DIstrict

Volunteers help maintain the Lake Jennings campsites, which include five tipis. Photo: Helix Water District

Volunteers help Lake Jennings operations become self-sustaining

Haley arrived in December 2014 with the goal of making the Lake Jennings self-sustaining. Recent park upgrades and an aggressive outreach program have attracted new visitors. The Helix Water District considered closing the park due to financial losses. But in 2018, Lake Jennings Park made a profit for the first time.

Onsite volunteers make a significant contribution to park operations. Onsite volunteers live full-time at Lake Jennings in campers and trailers in exchange for campsite space and electricity. They perform key roles by staffing the information and registration kiosk, monitoring and maintaining the 97 campsites, answering questions, and responding on-call 24 hours. All volunteers receive training in first aid and evacuation procedures.

“We find the volunteers through word of mouth or regular campers who retire,” said Haley. “Some work other jobs and still volunteer 24 hours each week. Their backgrounds are varied. Some have been with us for many years.”

Visitors can enjoy hiking year-round at Lake Jennings. Trail maps are available from volunteers at the campground kiosk. Photo: Helix Water District

Visitors can enjoy hiking year-round at Lake Jennings. Trail maps are available from volunteers at the campground kiosk. Photo: Helix Water District

Eight campsites are home to the volunteers, whether individuals or couples. Haley is currently recruiting new volunteers. The Helix Water District oversees the hiring process. Applications are now available on the Helix Water District website jobs page.

“It’s wonderful to live in a place like this in a natural open space situation,” said Haley. “There is a grocery store a mile away, but when you’re here, you feel like you’re in the wilderness. Everyone who comes out here is looking to have a great time. It makes for a wonderful work environment.”

Retired teacher puts her experience to work at Lake Jennings

Volunteer Lori Stangel arrived at Lake Jennings five years ago intending to stay six months, but is still a dedicated onsite volunteer host. Photo: Helix Water District

Intending to stay six months, Lori Stangel has worked as an onsite volunteer host for five years. Photo: Helix Water District

Retired kindergarten teacher Lori Stangel returned to her native San Diego after working in Arizona. She and her husband Chuck found a notice online about Lake Jennings volunteer opportunities and thought the six-month assignment would provide an ideal transition. Five years later, the Stangels are still living and working at Lake Jennings.

“I love nature, and I love being outdoors,” said Lori Stangel. “I love working with the public, and I work for the best staff and administration at Helix you can imagine. They make me feel welcome; it means a lot to me.”

Stangel puts her 30 years of experience as an educator into her volunteer role.

“I get to educate people and families about nature through the outdoors,” said Stangel. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for retired people, but also for young people. They can still go to school or work part-time. It’s a win-win. I’m here because I love it.”

As a Ms. California Senior America pageant competitor, Stangel also spreads the word about Lake Jennings as a valued environmental resource in her personal advocacy platform.

Additional San Diego County Water Authority member agency recreational facilities with volunteer opportunities include Santee Lakes, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

Switchfoot Guitarist Jon Foreman Sings Praises of San Diego Water Reliability

Switchfoot Guitarist Jon Foreman Sings Praises of San Diego Water Supply Reliability

The San Diego County Water Authority has partnered with San Diego singer and guitarist Jon Foreman of Switchfoot to create a series of videos highlighting the value of water to the region’s economy and quality of life.

From sustaining world-famous tourist destinations to making world-class guitars, the San Diego lifestyle wouldn’t be possible without clean and reliable water supplies delivered by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

“It takes a huge investment from the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies to maintain the pipes that deliver water across our region,” Foreman says in one of the videos.

Reliable water supply fuels San Diego economy

The video series includes virtual tours of the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir, and the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon.

Foreman talks with Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., about the importance of water to some of the region’s biggest industries.

He also tours the Water Conservation Garden, where residents and businesses can learn how to use water efficiently and “make the most out of every drop.”

BRO-AM brought to you by water

The Water Authority is sponsoring Switchfoot’s annual BRO-AM beach festival, which is set for June 29 at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

The Water Authority’s Brought to You by Water outreach and education program is designed to convey the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy.

Starting in 2018, the Water Authority has highlighted some of the region’s core industries – tourism, manufacturing, brewing and agriculture – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Pipelines from Lake Hodges to the Olivenhain Reservoir helps generate electricity and gives the San Diego County Water Authority the ability to store 20,000 acre feet of emergency water supplies at Lake Hodges when the entire project is finished. Photo: SDCWA

2012: Lake Hodges Projects

While looking for ways to optimize the San Diego region’s water supply, San Diego County Water Authority engineers realized the potential to link the new Olivenhain Reservoir with the existing Lake Hodges just to its east. Not only would connecting the lakes by a pipeline facilitate movemnt of Lake Hodges’ water through the regional distribution system, but the Water Authority could capitalize on a rare opportunity to generate electricity.

The resulting pipeline rises 770 feet from Lake Hodges to the Olivenhain Reservoir. Moving water uphill requires two 28,000-horsepower pumps sitting 10 stories underground. When water flows downhill through the same pipeline, it generates up to 40 megawatts of electricity, enough for 28,000 homes. The Water Authority generates power during the day when energy prices are highest. It pumps water back uphill at night when energy costs are lower, creating revenue in the process.

Completed in 2012, the Lake Hodges Projects facilities allow water stored in lake Hodges to be delivered to the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant prior to distribution to a majority of the county. This also gives the Water Authority the ability to store 20,000 acre-feet of emergency water at Lake Hodges when the entire Emergency Storage Project is finished.