Southern California Water Giant Wants Sacramento Valley Water — and has $44 Million to Spend

With California in the throes of a second year of drought conditions, the mega-water agency of Southern California served notice Tuesday that it’s prepared to spend up to $44 million to buy water from Northern California to shore up its supplies.

The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million urban residents, authorized its staff to begin negotiating deals with water agencies north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where supplies are generally more plentiful.

Watershed areas such as the land around the El Capitan Reservoir was assessed in the 2020 Watershed Survey by the City of San Diego. Photo: City of San Diego

Watershed Survey Helps Maintain San Diego Regional Water Quality

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department conducts regular surveys of its watersheds to monitor and maintain high water quality within those watersheds.

The City recently released its 2020 Watershed Sanitary Survey. Conducted and issued every five years since 1996 as required by California law, the report identifies actual or potential causes of local source water contamination that might adversely affect the quality and treatability of City of San Diego water.

The updated information is used as a basis for future watershed management and planning efforts. City of San Diego tap water meets all state and federal drinking water health standards, the primary standards for treating and monitoring water.

“Development and other activities in our watersheds can have a profound influence on the quality of our water,” said Shauna Lorance, director of the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. “The Watershed Sanitary Survey is important for identifying potential negative impacts and ways to better protect our watersheds.”

Watershed protection critical to safe, reliable water supply

Everything that is on the land, whether a natural feature or a human activity like grazing cattle at this area near the Sutherland Reservoir, is part of the watershed. Photo: City of San Diego

Everything that is on the land, whether a natural feature or a human activity like grazing cattle at this area near the Sutherland Reservoir, is part of the watershed. Photo: City of San Diego

A watershed is an area of land that drains water into a specific body of water. Everything that is on the land, whether a natural feature or a human activity, is part of the watershed. Many places San Diego County residents live, work, and play in are watershed areas.

There are 11 westward draining watersheds in San Diego County.  Six are within the City of San Diego: San Dieguito River, Los Peñasquitos, Mission Bay and La Jolla, San Diego Bay, San Diego River, and Tijuana River.

The City of San Diego’s nine water supply reservoirs have a combined capacity of over 550,000 acre-feet and more than 900 square miles of watershed lands tributary to these reservoirs. Local runoff from watersheds captured in City reservoirs accounted for about 11% of total drinking water production from 2015-2020.

Six of San Diego County's watershed regions lie within the City of San Diego boundaries. Map: City of San Diego

Six of San Diego County’s watershed regions lie within the City of San Diego boundaries. Map: City of San Diego

Reservoirs are critical components of the regional water supply system, as water is supplied to nearly two million people in the City of San Diego and neighboring communities. Protecting these water sources is vital to providing healthy and safe drinking water. The public can assist in preventing watershed damage through source reduction and preventing stormwater runoff.

The 2020 survey noted these changes since the 2015 Watershed Sanitary Survey:

  • Total area of residential and commercial development in the watersheds increased slightly by about 2%.
  • A total of 412 new construction permits were recorded for onsite wastewater treatment systems located within the watersheds.
  • The number of fires occurring in the watersheds increased by about 8%.
  • Leaking underground storage sites decreased by 53%.
  • Sanitary sewer overflows increased by 36%.

The survey offers recommendations including continuing and expanding public awareness programs to help protect watershed, and implementing projects and programs to improve land management and water quality of source waters. All recommendations will be used for future watershed management and planning efforts.

The full 2020 Watershed Sanitary Survey, as well as past surveys, is available on the City’s website.

Editors Note: The City of San Diego is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies working collaboratively with the Water Authority to increase the value, reliability, and safety of water for ratepayers in San Diego County.

Hooded mergansers glide across Sweetwater Reservoir. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Reservoirs

Sweetwater Authority Reservoirs Provide Safe Public Recreation 

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego County’s reservoirs and lakes have provided welcome opportunities for safe, accessible outdoor family recreation.

After shutting down in March 2020, facilities began to slowly reopen through the summer months by carefully implementing safety guidelines, including increased sanitation, social distancing, and restricted attendance to allow San Diegans to resume their favorite hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and bird watching activities.

Sweetwater Authority owns and maintains two popular recreation spots in San Diego County, Sweetwater Reservoir near Spring Valley and Loveland Reservoir, near Alpine.

Primarily a local water supply for Sweetwater Authority’s 200,000 customers in National City, Chula Vista, and Bonita, the agency has created recreational opportunities at the reservoirs. Fishing programs are offered at both reservoirs and a riding and hiking trail at Sweetwater Reservoir is operated by the County of San Diego.

Sweetwater is one of several regional water agencies that offer recreational opportunities at reservoirs and lakes. Helix Water District operates Lake Jennings, a hot spot for trout fishing. The City of San Diego also provides boat rentals and paddle-boarding at several of its reservoirs.

Safety first to protect the public 

Sweetwater Authority owns and maintains two popular recreation spots in San Diego County, Sweetwater Reservoir (above) near Spring Valley, California, and Loveland Reservoir, further east near Alpine, California. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority owns and maintains two popular recreation spots in San Diego County, Sweetwater Reservoir (above) near Spring Valley and Loveland Reservoir near Alpine. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Both fishing programs and the trail at Sweetwater Reservoir are designed to protect public health and the drinking water supply while benefiting the community.

“At Sweetwater Authority, part of our mission is finding the balance between human and environmental needs,” said Sweetwater Authority Board Chair Hector Martinez. “The recreation opportunities at our two reservoirs are a great example of how we achieve that balance. We can share these beautiful resources with the community while continuing to protect the local drinking water supply for our customers.”

A California Fishing License is required to fish at both reservoirs, and there are rules in place to ensure the protection of the water supply and sensitive habitats surrounding its reservoirs. For more information on current hours, fees, and COVID-19 safety, go to:

“The Board and I are proud to offer these recreation programs,” said Martinez. “We encourage the community to take advantage of these opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beauty of our water and the environment.”

Sweetwater Authority Offers Community Safe Outdoor Recreation Opportunities at Two Local Reservoirs

An angler casts a line, hoping for a nibble. Nearby, hikers and equestrians enjoy a morning walk along the water. Overhead, dozens of bird species, some of which are endangered, travel home to their nests made safe by protected areas around the reservoir. This idyllic scene is just another Saturday morning near Sweetwater Reservoir in Spring Valley, Calif.

Opinion: As Drought Alarms Sound, is California Prepared?

We’re facing another very dry year, which follows one of the driest on record for Northern California and one of the hottest on record statewide.

The 2012-16 drought caused unprecedented stress to California’s ecosystems and pushed many native species to the brink of extinction, disrupting water management throughout the state.  Are we ready to manage our freshwater ecosystems through another drought?

Sonoma County Flirts With Drought as Reservoirs Recede in Water-Poor Winter

About a mile of bare, cracked earth now lies like a desertscape between the boat ramp at the north end of Lake Mendocino and the water’s edge of a diminished reservoir that helps provide water for 600,000 Sonoma and Marin County residents.

The human-made lake near Ukiah is about 30 feet lower than it was at this time last year, and Nick Malasavage, an Army Corps of Engineers official who oversees operations at the reservoir, said the scene is “pretty jarring.”

Controlled Transfer of Water from Sweetwater Authority’s Loveland Reservoir Begins Today

Chula Vista, Calif. – In order to secure additional water sources for our customers, Sweetwater Authority initiated a controlled transfer of water from its two reservoirs on Monday, January 11, 2021.

Lake Hodges Water Levels Dry Up Prospects for Grebes

For years, pairs of grebes would zoom across the water at Lake Hodges in a dazzling mating dance, and then build their nests on mats of dried brush suspended above the waterline.

Drought Keeps Lake Mead Levels Low, But There is Plenty of Winter Left

Last week’s storm did little to ease the drought in Arizona’s reservoirs. But there’s still plenty of winter left.

The Bureau of Reclamation makes two-year projections, based on weather and water levels in Colorado River reservoirs, and its most recent projections have been dire.

That could set the stage for an Arizona water shortage in 2022. Snowpack in the mountains is now 69% of normal, but Patti Aaron, a spokeswoman for the bureau, says a little snow could go a long way.

State Water Officials say First Snow Survey Set for December 30th

State water officials say the first manual snow survey of the new season is set for December 30th. The Department of Water Resources is hoping for a wet December after seeing practically no rain in the first two months of the new water year. California recorded zero rain in October, and only 53% of the average rainfall in November.

Most of the state’s largest reservoirs are running well below their historic averages for December 1st. Lake Shasta at 75% capacity was 119% of its average this time last year. Lake Oroville at 61% capacity is down from 90% one year ago.