New Line Means Fewer Disruptions to Wildlife in Rancho San Diego

After several years of work, the Otay Water District announced in late December that it completed its $10.3 million Campo Road Sewer Replacement Project in Rancho San Diego near the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.

The project, which began in September 2017, replaced 1.41 miles of 10-inch diameter sewer main with a 15-inch diameter sewer main. The old main could no longer provide adequate capacity for sewer flows in the area, the district said.

Student Artists Featured in 2020 ‘Water Is Life’ Calendar

Five talented San Diego County student artists from four elementary schools were among 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2020 “Water Is Life” calendar.

The five artists represent regional water agencies including Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam MWD, and Sweetwater Authority.

Sweetwater Authority General Manager Gets Raise

The Sweetwater Authority governing board last week approved a 2 percent raise for General Manager Tish Berge.

The raise sets Berge’s annual salary at $231,000, retroactive to July. It marks her second raise since she was hired in June 2017 to manage Sweetwater, which serves 190,000 customers in National City, Bonita and a large portion of Chula Vista.

Board chairman Steve Castaneda said the raise, which matches a 2 percent raise given to employees, represents a cost-of-living adjustment.

Rocks and small boulders are both aesthetically pleasing and useful in your landscape. Photo: Otay Water District

Contour Your Landscape

When planning your landscape, look first at the terrain you’re working with. You can use the contours of your existing land – depressions and slopes – for guidance when planning your landscape grading. If your yard is flat, you’ll need to move soil and features around to create more rain-holding contour areas.

A soil percolation test can be very helpful in preparing your soil. You want to make it as much of a water-retaining sponge as possible before getting to work on rainwater capture plans.

NOTE: If you have existing hillsides, it’s best to get professional advice before grading or other significant changes. Before any digging, call Dig Alert 8-1-1 or visit to be sure you won’t hit any underground utility lines.

Move water with gravity

Basins and swales are shallow depressions or channels no more than 24 inches deep on gently sloped or nearly flat landscapes. Basins and swales move water over short distances. With these contours, gravity will move water around to where you want it.

Small, shallow depressions work best in clay soil areas, while sandy soils may accommodate deeper depressions up to two feet. Channels can be planted or lined with rocks and small boulders to resemble natural creek beds.

Use rainwater to your advantage

By planning your landscape so that you don’t have low spots with no plants, you prevent wasting rainwater through runoff. You can also avoid fungus and rot from standing water. Plants in and around the depressions capture and sink small volumes of surface water so that all the rainwater you capture can be used.

Berms are mounds of raised soil, usually planted, that can border basins and swales or be used alone. They help contain and move water around, increasing the holding capacity of basins and swales.

Boulders can add points of interest and slow down water runoff in your landscaping. Boulders also are useful to retain small berms or the edges of swales.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at

Otay Water District Kicks Off Pair Of Instagram Contests

The Otay Water District, which serves South and East counties, has launched its first-ever holiday-themed Instagram contests.

Participants do not have to be constituents from the Otay Water District, which provides water, recycled water and sewer service to nearly 224,000 customers within about 125 square miles of southeastern San Diego County. They do, however, need to be 18 years of age or over.

For the “Thankful for Water” contest, which has a Dec. 6 deadline, contestants must follow @otaywater on Instagram and post a thankful-for-water-themed photo to a public account with a caption, using the hashtag #Thx4OtayH2O

For the “Drink Tap December,” which has a Jan. 2 deadline, contestants must follow @otaywater on Instagram and post a tap water-themed photo to a public account with a caption, using the hashtag #DrinkTapDecember

Mark Watton, Who Helped Pioneer Historic Pact To Protect Region’s Water Supply, To Retire

Longtime Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton, regarded as one of the architects of the historic water-transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District, will retire next year.

Watton, who has represented the water interests of Otay, the county and the state for more than 30 years, said he intends to step down in late February.

“Looking back on my career, I’m fully satisfied,” he said.

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Otay Water District Announces ‘Thankful for Water’ and ‘Drink Tap December’ Instagram Photo Contests

In November, the Otay Water District launched two holiday-themed Instagram contests — Thankful for Water and Drink Tap December.

“Water is something that we all have in common and often take for granted that we have safe and reliable tap water,” said Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton. “Through these contests, we encourage the public to show us and the rest of the community why they may be thankful for water as well as why high-quality tap water is important daily.”

Jon Foreman of the San Diego band Switchfoot is among the many fans of The Water Conservation Garden in San Diego's East County. Photo: Water Authority

Water Conservation Garden Celebrates 20th Anniversary Nov. 16

Twenty years ago, people who saw a need to help people conserve water and preserve San Diego’s environment conceived the idea for a demonstration garden.

The Water Conservation Garden celebrates its 20th-anniversary Saturday, November 16 at 5 p.m. with a benefit concert featuring food and drink stations, dancing, auction items and live music provided by The Mighty Untouchables. More information and tickets are available on The Garden’s website.

Native San Diegan Jon Foreman of the Grammy-award winning band Switchfoot is among The Garden’s newest fans after a recent visit.

“It has been an amazing journey,” said CEO Jennifer Pillsbury. “We run six acres with educational exhibits for the public, but we also have a huge education program for the public. Last year we had 42,000 visitors and reached 88,000 kids. When we first opened, we were excited about 1,000 visitors.”

Water agencies and municipalities worked together to bring The Garden to life

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden's most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden’s most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

A task force of water agencies and municipalities conceived The Garden in response to six years of drought in San Diego County.

Otay Water District, Helix Water District, and Cuyamaca College kick-started the effort in 1990. By 1992, the San Diego County Water Authority, City of San Diego, and Padre Municipal Water District joined the effort, forming the original Water Conservation Authority.

The following year, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the establishment of a 4.5-acre Water Conservation Garden adjacent to Cuyamaca College. With $700,000 in donated services, products, and labor from local nurseries and members of the California Landscape Contractors Association, the Water Conservation Garden came to life. San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob presided over its grand opening in May 1999.

Over the past 20 years, The Garden has added its popular children’s exhibits, bird and butterfly gardens, the Dorcus Utter Memorial Sensory Garden, and the Dorcus Butterfly Pavilion.

“The Garden is here to inspire everyone to use all natural resources efficiently, not just water,” said Pillsbury. “When people see proper irrigation and the right plants in the right location with the right soil, having everything working together can be beautiful and efficient.”

Inspiring positive change in the living environment

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Water Conservation Garden has been governed as an independent nonprofit organization under its own Board of Directors since 2011. Memberships, donations, grants, facility rentals, gift shop sales, and water district dues fund operations.

With additional land donated by Cuyamaca College, The Water Conservation Garden now covers six acres of displays showcasing water conservation through its themed demonstration gardens and how-to displays on mulch and irrigation.

Students in the Cuyamaca College Ornamental Horticulture program benefit from hands-on education just steps away from their classrooms.

“Students come through and learn plant identification and experience lab learning,” said Pillsbury.

New smart classroom available soon at The Garden

The Garden's amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

The Garden’s amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th-anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Garden will open a new smart classroom available for business retreats, meetings, and seminars. Pillsbury also hopes to book more events in the 300-seat amphitheater.

Through its evolution and innovation, the mission of The Water Conservation Garden remains the same as it did on its opening day 20 years ago: to inspire positive change in the living environment through water conservation and the protection of natural resources.

“We’re here to educate the community on efficient water use, but we also want to be a spot where people can come learn and explore together in so many ways,” said Pillsbury.

Admission to The Garden is free. Docent-led tours take place on the first Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.

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Otay Water District Receives Service Provider of the Year Award from the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce

Chula Vista, Calif. – The Otay Water District is the recipient of the Service Provider of the Year Award from the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce. This award is presented to an organization for its corporate identity and first impressions, and overall service to customers including creativity in assisting customers, responsiveness and timely attention to its customers, problem-solving, customer awareness, and staff availability.

New California Law Creates Path to Water and Wastewater Industry For Military Vets

State legislation allowing veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California was recently signed.

San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District co-sponsored Assembly Bill 1588 to increase the number of military veterans entering the civilian water and wastewater industry at a time when many Baby Boomers are retiring.