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The Fall 2015 Citizens Water Academy tours the Olivenhain Reservoir. Photo: Water Authority Citizens Water Academy Applications

Citizens Water Academy ‘Inspiration’ for Water Agency Board Members

The Citizens Water Academy helps educate civic leaders, and many graduates have gone on to become water agency board members in San Diego County.

The application and nomination period remains open for the Fall 2019 class of the San Diego County Water Authority’s pioneering Citizens Water Academy.

The closing date is September 18. More than 700 people have completed the award-winning program since 2014.

The Citizens Water Academy provides an opportunity for emerging civic leaders to learn about visionary local efforts to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for the San Diego region. Participants get an in-depth look at how the Water Authority helps the region’s economy and quality of life through strategic planning, innovative programs, and cost-effective investments.

The first two sessions are at the Helix Water District’s operations headquarters in El Cajon on October 11 and 16, and the third session is in Escondido at the Water Authority’s Escondido operations center on October 25.

Citizens Water Academy ‘a catalyst’ for Gracyk

Mark Gracyk (center) participates in a role playing exercise during the Winter 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: Water Authority Water Academy Applications

Mark Gracyk (center) participates in a role playing exercise during the Winter 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Helix Water District board member Mark Gracyk attended the Citizens Water Academy in Winter 2016.

“As an average citizen, most people don’t know much about what’s involved about getting their water,” said Gracyk. “I didn’t have a macro view of the whole system. I really looked forward to the classes and I learned so much. It’s kind of jam packed, it’s like a cram course. But you really learn a lot in those short three or four days.”

Gracyk says the Citizens Water Academy was “a catalyst” inspiring him to run for the Helix board in 2016.

“I took what I learned and it helped in my campaign, and to be an more effective elected official,” said Gracyk.

Local leaders become better informed

Citizens Water Academy participants tour the Claude "Bud" Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad. Photo: Water Authority

Citizens Water Academy participants tour the Padre Dam Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Project in Santee. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The program also helped José F. Cerda become better informed about the region’s water supply and infrastructure in 2015 prior to his successful 2016 campaign for the South Bay Irrigation District board.

“I had a childlike wonderment about what water is and where it comes from,” said Cerda. “It’s your civic duty to understand this big issue for California and create a sense of consciousness. People think you just open the tap.”

“I’m pretty comfortable now making decisions because of the background and the foundation of the Water Academy,” added Cerda.

Valley Center avocado grower Enrico Ferro, a Valley Center Municipal Water District board member, says his Citizens Water Academy experience in 2015 helped him look at water beyond the local perspective.

“Whenever I talk to anyone about water, I reference what I’ve learned,” said Ferro, recently named president of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “We can’t do anything without water, it’s extremely important. Before I got involved with the Farm Bureau, I wasn’t paying attention to the impact of things on a regional and statewide level.”

“Lots of people from different walks of life of all ages, all professions, and every type of person attends. You get their perspective on things and how [water] affects them,” added Ferro.

Citizens Water Academy grads forge new relationships

Enrico Ferro (far right) participates in an icebreaker exercise at the Summer 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: Water Authority

Enrico Ferro (far right) participates in an icebreaker exercise at the Summer 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Gracyk, Cerda, and Ferro all value the relationships they forged and the networking opportunities with other engaged people at the Citizens Water Academy.

“You’ll make new friends and colleagues you didn’t have before. It will pay you back twenty fold,” said Gracyk.

Competitive selection process for popular program

The selection process is competitive. The Water Authority typically receives many more applications than spots available.

To apply or to nominate someone for the academy, go to www.sdcwa.org/citizens-water-academy. People who are interested but cannot attend in October can submit an application and ask to be notified when additional sessions are announced.

Gracyk says he hopes to join the first session and welcome the new Citizens Water Academy Fall 2019 class to the Helix operations center.

“Three years ago, I was sitting in that audience,” said Gracyk. “Now, I’m here as an elected official and I’m much more knowledgeable than when I started. One thing I really learned is that access to fresh, clean, safe affordable water is essential to human dignity.”

Chula Vista fifth graders enjoy their first visit to the new Hydro Station educational facility. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

New Educational Hydro Station Project Opens in Chula Vista

The first Hydro Station in California opened August 15 in Chula Vista.

The interactive educational space is a joint partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

The Hydro Station, at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility, features learning exhibits and hands-on activities to introduce fifth grade students to the ecological cycle of water, water conservation, water quality, and careers in the water industry.

More than 4,000 students are expected to visit the Hydro Station annually.

Making the world ‘a better place’

“The Hydro Station introduces our students to the world of work in the water industry and inspires them at an early age to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics,” said CVESD Superintendent Dr. Francisco Escobedo. “With this station, we expose students to careers that can change the trajectory of entire families, opening the door to high-wage careers that our students might not have thought were possible.

“The students also explore ways to make the world a better place through clean water, and water conservation,” added Escobedo.

Students drink in details about water conservation at the opening of the Hydro Station in Chula Vista. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Students drink in details about water conservation at the opening of the Hydro Station in Chula Vista. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

New generation encouraged to consider careers as water industry professionals

More than 2,800 people work in the water and wastewater sector at the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. One-third of these industry professionals will be eligible for retirement in the next few years.

“It’s an opportunity for a new generation to join us in our mission to deliver safe and reliable water to hundreds and thousands of people in communities that rely on us as water professionals,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager.

As part of the Hydro Station experience, students will have three dedicated days focused on career opportunities in Information and Communication Technologies, Clean Energy, and the Blue Economy. They will learn how their strengths, interests, and values may align with career options. Hands-on activities will also help them make connections to specific careers.

Hydro Station mission is about education and conservation

“I have served many years in the water industry, which has allowed me to experience the evolving industry climate firsthand,” said Mark Watton, Otay Water District general manager. “The high level of retirements, new technologies, and increased demand for safe drinking water all contribute to the availability of good, stable careers and employment.”

“We want to make sure that a rewarding career in the water and wastewater industry is within reach for as many local students as possible who are vocational or college bound, and the Hydro Station helps us do that,” he added.

Visitors to the new Hydro Station's grand opening mark the occasion with a selfie. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Visitors to the new Hydro Station’s grand opening mark the occasion with a selfie. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Hydro Station’s location is ideal to educate students on how their strengths, interests, and values can connect with careers in the water industry while presenting opportunities to solve real-world problems through the Engineering Design Process. It will also serve to educate children and their families, as well as the community, on the thoughtful use of water resources.

Water Agencies Inaugurate California’s First Hydro Station

Chula Vista, Calif. – The Sweetwater Authority, the Chula Vista Elementary School
District, and the Otay Water District are pleased to announce the opening of the
first Hydro Station in California on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, at the Richard A. Reynolds
Groundwater Desalination Facility (3066 North Second Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910).

Third grader Jeeanna Mendoza fro, Camarena Elementary School, won first place in the Otay Water District student poster contest in the K-3 category. Photo: Otay Water District

Otay Student Poster Contest Winners Illustrate Importance of Water-Use Efficiency

Six talented elementary school students were recognized on August 7 by the Otay Water District Board of Directors as the winners of the District’s “Water is Life” Student Poster Contest.

As one of the Otay Water District’s educational programs, the contest offers an opportunity for students to showcase their creativity while reflecting on the importance of using water efficiently in their daily lives. Students were encouraged to illustrate the value of water used both inside and outside the home as an informational poster intended to educate others.

“We’re proud to offer students this opportunity to have fun and be creative, while at the same time thinking and learning about water conservation,” said Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton.

More than 245 students from 10 different schools in the District’s service area submitted entries. The District judged the entries based on categories in two grade categories: kindergarten through third grade, and fourth through sixth grade. First, second and third prize winners were chosen from each category.

Winners received an award certificate, gift card, art kit, and a goodie bag filled with District promotional items. The lucky first place winners in each category also received a pizza party for their entire class.

The six posters winners were submitted by students in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

jeeanna Mendoza, Grade 3, Camarena Elementary School (first place; K-3)

Jeeanna Mendoza, Grade 3, Camarena Elementary School (first place; K-3). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Jeeanna Mendoza, Grade 3, Camarena Elementary School (First Place; K-3)

Amerie Constantino, Grade 1, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (second place; K-3). Photo: Otay Water District

Amerie Constantino, Grade 1, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (second place; K-3). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Amerie Constantino, Grade 1, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; K-3)

Miguel-Angel Gonzalez, Grade 2, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (third place; K -3). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Miguel-Angel Gonzalez, Grade 2, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; K-3)

Maya Santana, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (first place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

Maya Santana, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (first place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Maya Santana, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (First Place; 4-6)

Malayiah Williams, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

Malayiah Williams, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Malayiah Williams, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Second Place; 4-6)

Rin Smith, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

Rin Smith, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; 4-6). Photo: Otay Water District

  • Rin Smith, Grade 5, Wolf Canyon Elementary School (Third Place; 4-6)

Otay Water District winners advance to regional contest

In addition, according to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s 2020 Student Art Calendar Contest rules, the District submitted five of the six winning posters to MWD’s contest. MWD will select 36 posters from its overall regional entries to be displayed in its 2020 “Water is Life” calendar. The winners will be honored at a student art exhibit and recognition event in December.

To learn more about the Otay Water District’s “Water is Life” Student Poster Contest, go to otaywater.gov/education.

READ MORE: San Diego County Students Inspire Water Conservation Through Art

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own Conservation Garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Oty Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

La Mesa Conservation Garden Wins 2019 Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell’s conversion of 2,500 square feet of thirsty irrigated lawn into a creative conservation garden was selected by the Otay Water District as the winner of its 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual competition recognizes landscape redesign projects among 13 participating San Diego County water agencies which best represent water-efficient landscaping principles.

Project inspired by free WaterSmart landscaping classes

The Cissells designed their new yard after attending the Water Authority's free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover courses. Photo: Otay Water District

The Cissells designed their new yard after attending the Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover courses. Photo: Otay Water District

Inspired after their participation in the Water Authority sponsored WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program courses, and by the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, the Cissells began their La Mesa Conservation Garden project in April 2018 by removing the sod. They incorporated creative elements including a hand-built waterfall made from an old truck ladder rack, and other solid materials otherwise destined to become trash in a landfill.

Water from a swale feeds the waterfall, then travels through microtubes up a faux bonsai tree — made of concrete and unused materials – to irrigate flower baskets resting at the end of each tree branch. Large tree roots that once ran through their yard now decorate other areas of their yard.

Water from the waterfall grotto travels up the faux bonsai tree in the Cissells' La Mesa Conservation Garden. Photo: Otay Water District

Water from the waterfall grotto travels up the faux bonsai tree in the Cissells’ La Mesa Conservation Garden. Photo: Otay Water District

New efficient irrigation includes drip tubing along the top of the ground, and corrugated drain piping below. The piping allows excess water to irrigate the slopes surrounding the home. To assure their drip system would continue to work properly, the Cissells came up with a system using a birdbath made from an old sink. When their drip system turns on, it feeds the birdbath. The water flows up into the sink and into the overflow hole and back down to the trees. No water is wasted, and mosquito reproduction is avoided. If the birdbath is dry, it means that the drip system is not working properly.

‘Not a single drop of water wasted’

The Cissells’ “Stonehenge” is constructed from large tree roots topped with stones (left), serving as a reminder of what was once the nature beneath them. Photo: Otay Water District

“The coolest thing is that it was a 100 percent makeover from irrigated lawn that took a pathetic amount of water to keep it green, and it wasn’t even green,” said Shan Cissell. “It’s the design, the technical, the labor, the creativity, and the focus on not a single drop of water being wasted that we took seriously.”

The Cissells maximized their viewing area by strategically placing curved walking paths of decomposed granite throughout their yard. Paths are surrounded by vegetation and water-wise plants such as succulents, honeysuckle, pincushion flowers, and manzanita. The Cissells say they their efforts have reduced their water bill as much as 25 to 30 percent.

The Cissells maximized their viewing area by strategically placing curved walking paths of decomposed granite throughout their yard. Photo: Otay Water District

“The Cissells’ unique project proves that creating a beautiful WaterSmart landscape can be both cost-efficient and environmentally beneficial,” says Mitch Thompson, Otay Water District board president and Water Conservation Garden Joint Powers Authority member. “The benefits can be attributed to their efforts in incorporating recycled material along with water-saving features.”

Winners are selected based on overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, and efficient irrigation and maintenance. The Cissells were recognized with a certificate of recognition, gift certificate to a local nursery of their choice, and other promotional items. View more photos of the Cissells’ winning landscape here.

READ MORE: City of Oceanside Selects Drought Tolerant Gardens as 2019 Contest Winners

July is "Smart Irrigation Month," designed to call attention to efficient irrigation techniques to preserve the world's fresh water supply. Photo: Irrigation Association

Smart Irrigation Month Highlights Water-Efficient Technology

San Diego regional water agencies are sharing water-efficiency tips during “Smart Irrigation Month.”

July is traditionally the month of peak demand for outdoor water use and the reason it was chosen as Smart Irrigation Month when it started in 2005. The month celebrates the social, economic, and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation for landscapes, recreation and agriculture.

Smart Irrigation Month highlights irrigation technology innovations and encourages water-efficient irrigation techniques to preserve the world’s fresh water supply.

Member agency activities for Smart Irrigation Month 2019

The Otay Water District is participating in "Smart Irrigation Month" education via its social media channels and website. Photo: Otay Water District

The Otay Water District is among those participating in “Smart Irrigation Month” education via its social media channels and website. Photo: Otay Water District

The Otay Water District is helping its customers increase water-use efficiency during Smart Irrigation Month with a dedicated webpage of tips. Customers can apply for a free WaterSmart Checkup by calling 760-728-1332 or at watersmartcheckup.org

The Helix Water District also offers free home water use checkups to its customers by phone 619-667-6626 or email

And, the City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department is hosting a free Smart Irrigation Workshop at Mira Costa College on Saturday, July 13. The event has reached capacity, but customers can all 760-435-5816 to get on a waiting list and be notified about future events.

Nine Watering Tips For #SmartIrrigationMonth

Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes. Photo: Irrigation Association

Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes. Photo: Irrigation Association

July is an ideal month to perform a check on current irrigation systems and determine whether any practices can be improved to save water. The San Diego County Water Authority offers these nine Smart Irrigation Month tips:

  • Select sprinkler heads and nozzles that apply water uniformly to the target area.
  • Inspect your sprinkler heads regularly to make sure they are not obstructed or watering onto pavement or other hardscapes.
  • Upgrade to a smart controller. Weather and soil moisture-based controllers can automatically adjust your watering schedule based on the conditions at your location.
  • Use drip or low pressure, low volume irrigation which applies water directly to the base or roots of plants.
  • If water is applied too quickly, it can run off into the street or sidewalk. Smart irrigation regulates water pressure, ensuring water has a chance to soak into the ground.
  • Less is more when watering turf. Water long enough to soak down to the root zone, then don’t water again until the soil is completely dry. If the grass springs back when you step on it, it has enough water.
  • The greatest waste of water in landscape irrigation comes from watering too much, too fast. Instead of watering 20 consecutive minutes, run sprinklers in four five-minute sessions. This allows water to soak into the soil and minimizes runoff.
  • A rain shut-off device is an inexpensive gadget to add to your sprinkler system.
  • Improve efficiency by watering at the coolest time of day. When it’s hot or windy, more than a third of the water can be lost to evaporation.

Find more tips and information on Smart Irrigation Month at WaterSmartSD.org

 

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.

Otay Water District Logo

The Ultimate Water Panel: The Biggest Water Issues Facing San Diego and the South Bay

(Chula Vista, Calif.) – Join the Otay Water District and Sweetwater Authority Board Chairs to learn more about water issues facing San Diego County and more specifically South Bay. The next Albondigas will be held on Friday, May 17 at Mangia Italiano in Chula Vista from 11:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. Topics to be covered at the event include Governor Gavin Newsom’s N-10-19 Executive Order on water supply planning, water recycling for 2019 and beyond, water legislation, and more.

 

Alexander Schultz, Otay Water District geographic information systems technician, operates a drone in front of a district water storage tank. Photo: Otay Water District

Drones Offer Water Agencies Cost, Safety Benefits

Water agencies across San Diego County are saving time and money while improving employee safety with drones.

Industry analysts say drone use by water agencies worldwide is growing. The Helix Water District, Otay Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority have embraced the technology, using drones to inspect and monitor facilities, and to map and survey inaccessible areas.

Helix used a drone in February to check rooftop air vents on a water storage tank in El Cajon, rather than send employees high in the sky to do it. The agency determined it was too risky for employees – even with safety equipment – and too costly to have staff inspect the vents outside the 120-foot-high Fletcher Hills Combined Tank.

“We continually look for ways to utilize technologies where appropriate to minimize facility down time and to keep staff safe,” said Carlos Lugo, general manager at Helix. “Drone technology is proving to be a useful and cost-efficient way to survey and keep the district’s facilities properly maintained.”

Drones provide a safe and cost-effective alternative for inspecting the condition of storage tank vents without placing employees at risk or taking the storage tank offline. Photo: Helix Water District

Drones provide a safe and cost-effective alternative for inspecting the condition of storage tank vents without placing employees at risk or taking the storage tank offline. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix uses drones to inspect interior roof supports of its water storage tanks. The supports are especially vulnerable to corrosion because they are constantly exposed to humidity and heat.

Drone image of a roof bracket inspection. Photo: Helix Water District

Drone image of a roof bracket inspection. Photo: Helix Water District

Inspecting the storage tank roof supports requires moving 30-foot-high scaffolding from one support to the next, a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. To cut down that time, Helix used a drone to get high-resolution images of the supports. The drone images showed which ones needed repair without moving the scaffolding to each support.

A drone helps reduce the need to move scaffolding to each bracket during inspections. Photo: Helix Water District

A drone helps reduce the need to move scaffolding to each bracket during inspections. Photo: Helix Water District

“Using drones for this type of inspection work is a simple, elegant and safe solution,” said Jim Tomasulo, Helix’s director of engineering. “We anticipate using drones for this and other purposes.”

Drone inspections of reservoirs, treatment plant

The Otay Water District also is finding drones useful to save money and improve employee safety.

After a two-year study and evaluation period, the district is now using two camera-equipped drones to assist with preliminary inspections of its water facilities in eastern and southern San Diego County, including 40 potable water reservoirs, four recycled water reservoirs, 20 pump stations and a recycled water treatment plant.

Drones Reduce Risk

Countywide, the Water Authority uses drones to monitor rights of way and to survey inaccessible landscapes.

When a drone was used to get images and video of steep terrain on the Second Aqueduct west of Interstate 15 and south of the San Luis Rey River, the images were 10 times higher resolution than stock aerial images. Using the drone also kept staff from being exposed to potentially dangerous conditions.

The Water Authority is also exploring using drones for future surveys and potentially at water transportation, treatment, and storage facilities, where cutting-edge technology is used to save ratepayers money.

Drones are helping the Water Authority monitor rights of way, particularly in areas of rugged terrain.

But the potential of drone use is not limited to visual photography of elevated water tanks and surveying remote areas.  Water quality monitoring is another potential application.

Water agencies can use drones with infrared cameras “to monitor water areas remotely at higher spatial resolution than ever before, at low cost and at any time,” Michal Mazur, with Drone Powered Solutions, told Waterworld.com in a recent article about the advances in drone use.

Otay Water District Uses Drones To Survey Facilities, Properties

When it’s time to inspect facilities, such as water tanks, or survey the topography of its properties, the Otay Water District now turns to technology it has embraced in the past year: drones. The water agency, which serves more than 225,000 customers in eastern and southern San Diego County, uses two camera-equipped drones to get a bird’s-eye view of its vast and mostly remote sites and facilities, which include 40 potable water reservoirs, more than 20 pump stations and a treatment plant.