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The Jamacha Park Homeowners Association in Rancho San Diego is a 2024 MWD One Water Award recipient for its landscape makeover project. Photo: MSE Landscaping

Jamacha Park HOA Wins Award For Landscape Makeover Project

The Jamacha Park Homeowners Association in Rancho San Diego is the region’s latest showcase for low-water landscaping after receiving one of four One Water Awards from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Accessible walkways bring residents closer to nature as part of its new landscaping. Photo: MSE Landscape

Accessible walkways bring residents closer to nature as part of its new landscaping. Photo: MSE Landscape

The awards recognize large-scale improvements to facilities and landscapes that achieve significant water savings. The four projects honored in early May are expected to save 200 million gallons of water annually. Projects are also recognized for technology innovations, environmental stewardship, and their focus on water sustainability.

Jamacha Park is a 64-home community. The HOA worked with MWD, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program to replace 58,000 square feet of grass with sustainable landscaping, including climate-appropriate plants.

(L to R): Debby Dunn, San Diego County Water Authority; Mike Seymour, MSE Landscape; Brian Faris, Monarch Environmental; Scott Norris, County of San Diego; Matt Davenport, Monarch Environmental; Chad Praul, Environmental Incentives; and Tenille Otero, Otay Water District. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California landscape makeover project

(L to R): Debby Dunn, San Diego County Water Authority; Mike Seymour, MSE Landscape; Brian Faris, Monarch Environmental; Scott Norris, County of San Diego; Matt Davenport, Monarch Environmental; Chad Praul, Environmental Incentives; and Tenille Otero, Otay Water District. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“I hope the project that we have done will show other communities what is possible. There is a way to get water savings and still have a beautiful landscape everyone can enjoy,” said Jamacha Park HOA Board President Mary Kay Sieckman.

The HOA board, community residents, and landscape professionals worked together on the landscape makeover. The newly beautified community spaces are accessible to all residents while reducing water use.

Jamacha Park leaders achieve a long-time goal

Sieckman said the HOA learned about these programs through its property management company. “When the board members heard about it, they jumped at it. They were very excited because it would be a step forward toward a long-time goal we knew needed to be done.”

See a video featuring Jamacha Park HOA Board President Mary Kay Sieckman describing the landscape makeover process.

 

The project has been so successful that the HOA plans to replace additional turf, eventually removing a total 100,000 square feet of grass for a potential water savings of 4 million gallons annually.

The Jamacha Park HOA received funding and assistance through MWD’s Turf Replacement Rebate Program available through the Water Authority and the County’s Landscape Optimization Service. Working with the County’s Watershed Protection Program, residences and businesses in unincorporated areas of San Diego County can be eligible for enhanced water-use efficiency rebates.

The Jamacha Park HOA achieved significant water savings with its landscape makeover project. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California/Screenshot

The Jamacha Park HOA achieved significant water savings with its landscape makeover project. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California/Screenshot

“We have accomplished something with the help of all these agencies. It shows to the community you can save water and still have a beautiful landscape. You don’t have to rely on grass for everything,” Sieckman said.

County Landscape Optimization Service can assist customers with landscape upgrades

The Jamacha Park community's landscaping before its makeover. Photo: MSE Landscape/Screenshot

The Jamacha Park community’s landscaping before its makeover. Photo: MSE Landscape/Screenshot

To make the process of applying for rebates easier and maximize the return on investment, the County added a Landscape Optimization Service (LOS), a unique technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects. It is part of the Waterscape Rebate Program, which helps residential, commercial, and agricultural customers in unincorporated areas to make landscape upgrades that improve the region’s climate resilience and reduce the flow of pollutants into waterways.

The project has been so successful that the HOA plans to replace additional turf, eventually removing a total 100,000 square feet of grass for a potential water savings of 4 million gallons annually. Phoro: MSE Landscape

The project has been so successful that the HOA plans to replace additional turf, eventually removing a total 100,000 square feet of grass for a potential water savings of 4 million gallons annually. Phoro: MSE Landscape

County of San Diego Land Use Environmental Planning Manager Scott Norris says the LOS program helps applicants navigate the requirements, overcome any barriers to participation, and maximize their eligibility. “Often HOAs just need a bit of help to get started. We have worked with more than a dozen HOAs and more than half are coming back to complete additional turf removal projects because they see the value for their communities.”

Multiple benefits from sustainable landscapes

Dry riverbeds add interest and help manage stormwater runoff. Photo: MSE Landscape

Dry riverbeds help manage stormwater runoff. Photo: MSE Landscape

Sustainable landscapes produce multiple benefits including reduced water use, enhanced biodiversity, increased stormwater retention, and decreased run-off.

IMPACT:

  • 58,000 square feet of turf removed
  • 270,000-gallon reduction in irrigation runoff annually
  • 12% savings in water use in the first year
  • $232,000 in utility incentives
New landscape features include boulders framing walkways. Photo: MSE Landscape

New landscape features include boulders framing walkways. Photo: MSE Landscape

Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at SanDiegoCounty.gov/WatershedRebates. More information on the Landscape Optimization Service can be found here. The program is currently recruiting new participants.

The Waterscape Rebate Program helps to protect local waterways by reducing pollutants that enter storm drains. When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same negative effects as runoff from rainfall. Reducing turf helps reduce irrigation use and runoff. HOA landscapes are potentially significant contributors.

The County Watershed Protection Program is currently seeking new applicants. Photo: MSE Landscape

The County Watershed Protection Program is currently seeking new applicants. Photo: MSE Landscape

The program includes outreach and education to commercial, industrial, and residential properties in unincorporated areas of the county. In addition, the County is offering rebate programs for upgrades, including rain gardens, gutters, permeable pavement, and regular septic system pumping.

Learn more about the County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program at its website.

 

 

Opinion: Changing Water Reality Upends Huge Project, Pushes Rates Higher

We’re all in hot water.

Sometimes there’s not enough water, sometimes too much. Either way, water costs for San Diegans will increase to sticker-shock level and maybe beyond, if that’s possible. And using less won’t help much.

Plans Proceed for Solar Farm at Carlsbad City Reservoir

Carlsbad is working with consultants and industry experts to build a solar energy farm on 30 to 40 acres the city owns at the Maerkle Reservoir.

WaterSmart Makeover: A Low-Water ‘Mountain Glade’ In Encinitas

Oh, the things you do when you first buy a house that make you wish you’d known better. For Melanie and Rick Cullen, it was planting three liquidambar trees in their front yard around the time they moved into their Encinitas home back in 1986.

A pioneering education partnership inspires students regionwide to pursue careers in the water and wastewater industry. Photo: San Diego County Office of Education

Education Partnership Inspires Future Water Leaders 

The San Diego County Water Authority and San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) have embarked on a pioneering education partnership to inspire students regionwide to pursue careers in the water and wastewater industry. This new program is the latest initiative in a long history of regional education outreach reaching hundreds of thousands of students in the last two decades.  

At the Innovation Center in Linda Vista, SDCOE hosts groups of students, many of whom come from underserved and underrepresented communities, for weeklong innovation programs. These programs are designed to help students identify their individual strengths through an assessment, which highlights several strength areas: Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C).

Priority Career Sectors Critical to Region’s Economic Future 

Students are grouped into teams that have complementary strengths to work together on water-related activities and learn about possible water industry career paths. Photo: San Diego County Office of Education education partnership

Students are grouped into teams that have complementary strengths to work together on water-related activities and learn about possible water industry career paths. Photo: San Diego County Office of Education

“At the Linda Vista Innovation Center, we aim to inspire kids to find their strengths, interests, and values and match those with San Diego Workforce Partnership priority sector careers,” said Dr. Matthew Tessier, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation at the San Diego County Office of Education. “Partnerships with organizations like the San Diego County Water Authority are crucial to our mission, and we look forward to working together to build a brighter future for all.”

These programs give students a glimpse into the opportunities available in various industries, many of which are on the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s priority list. The industries on the list are critical to the region’s economy and will need to hire substantial numbers of capable new employees in the foreseeable future.  

Education Partnership Informs Students About Water Industry Careers 

The Innovation Center also supports SDCOE’s goals to significantly reduce the number of students living in poverty and reduce overall unemployment in the region over the next decade. By matching students with potential career paths and inspiring them to lean into their strengths early on, thousands of students from elementary to high school leave the program knowing about opportunities that they may not have known about otherwise.

Organizations like the Water Authority and its member agencies benefit from generations of students becoming interested in water-related careers, which are essential to the region’s economy and quality of life.  

Report: State Snowpack Levels Above Normal

Hundreds of miles away and nearly 7,000 feet up in the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the most recent snow survey delivers good news: The state’s snowpack is at 110% of normal, a good sign for the water supply.

(Left to right) California Dept. of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Gov. Gavin Newsom join the snow survey team for fourth media snow survey of the 2024 season is held at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo:  Andrew Nixon, California Dept. of Water Resources

Snow Survey Confirms Water Supplies Remain Plentiful for San Diego

The California Department of Water Resources performed its fourth snowpack survey of the season on Tuesday, April 2, confirming that the early winter’s “snow drought” gave way to a slightly above-normal snowpack following a series of storms.

DWR’s early April snow survey marks what is considered the peak snowpack for the year in the Sierra Nevada. The Colorado River Basin – San Diego County’s main source of water – also reports more snow than average for this time of year.

DWR’s survey recorded 64 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 27.5 inches, which is 113 percent of the average. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast.

Two consecutive wet winters, combined with regional investments and conservation by residents and businesses, delivered enough water to meet the San Diego region’s needs for the rest of 2024.

Wet Winter and Full Reservoirs Support Region

Across California, reservoirs are nearly full as we approach the start of summer—the heaviest water-use months. Plentiful water is a rare occurrence in the arid Southwest. From 2020 to 2022, the state suffered severe drought conditions that forced water-use reductions for millions of California residents.

California's major reservoirs are between 69 and 99 percent of capacity as of April 1. Graphic: California Dept. of Water Resources snow survey

California’s major reservoirs are between 69 and 99 percent of capacity as of April 1. Graphic: California Dept. of Water Resources

For the past decade, San Diego County has been insulated from drought-induced cutbacks due to the long-term investments in secure water supplies, a strategy that emerged in the early 1990s following an economically devastating drought. Since 1990, the region has dramatically cut water demands, reducing per capita water use by more than 50 percent. Water conservation has become a “way of life” for the region’s residents and businesses.

Innovative Leadership in Water Management

The Water Authority is currently working to sell or transfer some of its surplus water supply to areas with greater needs. For instance, an innovative water transfer deal could eventually deliver drought-resilient water supplies to South Orange County through the Moulton Niguel Water District and help combat increasing water rates for San Diegans.

A deal completed in late 2023 saved the San Diego region about $20 million. These water transfers help maintain the viability of the Colorado River as the most critical water resource for the Southwest.

“Wet years are the right time to prepare for the inevitable dry years,” said Water Authority General Manager Dan Denham. “That’s why we’re working every day to explore creative deals that help us reduce water rate pressures for San Diegans, enhance our long-term water security, and help our neighbors meet their needs for drought-resilient water supplies.”

(Editor’s Note: Information in this story was provided by the California Department of Water Resources).

 

Why is San Vicente Reservoir So Full?

After two years of above-average rainfall, the reservoirs in San Diego are at near capacity.  San Vicente’s reservoir waterfalls are spilling in to help raise the water level, but what does that mean as we head into the Summer months?

South County Looks to Diversify Water Portfolio with Desalination, Direct Potable Reuse

South Orange County is heavily reliant on imported water, with the price of that water continuing to rise. Without readily available water to help the area through emergency situations, water districts serving South Orange County residents such as South Coast Water District and Moulton Niguel Water District are looking to diversify their water supplies with ocean water desalination and direct potable reuse.

The Fairways HOA landscape makeover in Lake San Marcos retains some turf mixed with low-water use plants for substantial water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Fairways HOA Achieves Savings Through Landscape Optimization

A Lake San Marcos homeowners association successfully upgraded its community landscape to achieve water savings and cost savings with assistance from a joint program offered through a partnership between the San Diego County Water Authority and the County of San Diego.

The original Fairways HOA landscaping included large areas of unused grass. Photo: Vallecitos Water District savings

The original Fairways HOA landscaping included large areas of unused grass. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Landscape Optimization Service (LOS) offered through the Waterscape Rebate Program is a technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The program helps applicants with large landscapes, such as HOAs, parks, and commercial properties, to navigate the requirements, overcome any barriers, and maximize their rebate eligibility.

Members of the Fairways Homeowners Association (HOA) in Lake San Marcos within the Vallecitos Water District recently took advantage of this program to facilitate a water-saving landscape makeover project. Upgrades replaced large grass areas with attractive low-water-use plants inside the property. Drip irrigation was upgraded, and swales act as a water retention feature.

Learn more about the Fairways HOA transformation in this new video.

Saving Costs, Saving The Environment

Fairways HOA president Terry Brown said her community was introduced to the program about 18 months ago.

“We removed 23,000 square feet, and then we got three dollars for each square foot that we removed, plus we got 40 cents for the drip irrigation system. We’re going to receive one dollar per square foot for at least 10,000 square feet of California native plants. So, we did all of that. And we’re pleased with everything that has happened,” said Brown.

New landscaping includes low-water use plants, decorative dry riverbeds and low-water use plants along small areas of grass for walkers and pet owners. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

New landscaping includes low-water use plants, decorative dry riverbeds, and low-water use plants along small areas of grass for walkers and pet owners. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

While rebates defrayed the initial costs, the real savings will be realized in the years ahead on one of the HOA’s major expenses. “Within ten years, we’ll save $40,000 on water,” said Brown.

Maggie Knol, chairperson of the Landscape Committee, is also a Master Gardener. She understood the need to balance the needs of everyone in the community while planning their landscape makeover.

“We saw certain areas that weren’t really being used where we could definitely have some waterscape landscaping,” said Knol. Now, irrigation water is better managed and used only where needed.

“We have no water in the gutters. That makes us feel better about what we’re doing for our environment,” said Knol. “I would encourage any subdivision or any area to go ahead with it. It’s a wonderful program.

Still Room for Thoughtful Use of Grass 

Grass can still be a useful part of a low-water use landscape. Photo: Vallecitos Water District savings

Grass can still be a useful part of a low-water-use landscape. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Makeovers don’t require eliminating all grass. Instead, grass is retained where it is most useful and practical. For the Fairways HOA board members, this meant accommodating the many residents who like to walk their dogs in the neighborhood and wanted to retain some grassy spaces for them to enjoy with their pets.

“We have tried to be sensitive to the dog owners in the neighborhood because we have a lot of dogs,” said Knol. “When we mapped this out, we left certain areas that could be definitely used as little rest spots for the dogs and the owners as they walk around. They all realize that the water crisis is going to continue and not get better.”

“This project is an ideal example of balancing community needs to create a thoughtful landscape design that saves water but allows room for retaining grass areas when there’s a practical purpose for them,” said Vallecitos Water District Conservation Supervisor Chris Robbins.

The completed Fairways HOA landscape makeover in Lake San Marcos retains some turf mixed with low-water use plants for substantial water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The completed Fairways HOA landscape makeover in Lake San Marcos retains some turf mixed with low-water use plants for substantial water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

As part of the program, LOS staff analyzes estimated water and cost savings, which helps decision-makers justify the investment with an understanding of how quickly the project will pay for itself. The program also offers discounted designs to participants.

The enhanced incentives include rebates for turf replacement, smart controller stations, rain barrels, and cisterns. In addition to offering technical assistance to upgrade larger landscapes on multifamily and commercial properties, a cost-share is available for agricultural growers to make water-saving upgrades.

More information on the Landscape Optimization Service can be found here, or contact your member water agency for details. The program is actively recruiting new participants.