Opinion: San Vicente Hydroelectric Project a Smart Way to Make Power Grid More Resilient

The state government’s decision to provide $18 million to fund preliminary work on state and federal approvals for the long-anticipated San Vicente Energy Storage Facility — advocated by the San Diego County Water Authority and the city of San Diego — makes the $1.5 billion project significantly more likely to come to pass. The great news is that the “pumped hydro” facility at the San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside will strongly shore up available energy supplies at night after solar power is no longer directly available.

Oceanside Launches Ratepayer Relief Program On August 2

The City of Oceanside announced the Oceanside Ratepayer Relief Program in response to financial hardships of the pandemic. The program will launch Monday, August 2, 2021, and will offer a one-time credit to eligible customers who are behind on their utility bill.

At the start of the global pandemic, Oceanside suspended late fees and water shutoffs; the Ratepayer Relief Program is going one step further to support customers. Funding for the program comes from a $2.3 million settlement received by the City as a result of litigation between the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District that challenged rates charged for the delivery of water from 2011 to 2014.

San Diego’s Water Desalination Efforts Could Get Boost in Federal Funding

Desalination projects in the San Diego area could get millions in federal funding under a bill Rep. Mike Levin introduced Tuesday.

The Desalination Development Act would provide $260 million over five years for desalination projects across the country, including the City of Oceanside’s Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility, which converts brackish flows into potable water, said Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano.

It also sets environmental standards for projects that get federal funding, with requirements for energy efficiency, wildlife protection and water conservation.

First Steps Taken to Make Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Project at San Vicente Reservoir a Reality

With an $18 million boost from the state, a major energy storage project using hydroelectric power is taking shape at the San Vicente Reservoir, nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains near Lakeside.

The long talked about San Vicente Energy Storage Facility — proposed by the city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority — received the funding earlier this month when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the state budget. The $18 million will be spent to tackle some of the preliminary work needed to make the “pumped hydro” project a reality, such as initial design, environmental reviews and federal licensing.

“We believe the project is a critical component to meeting the state’s needs for integrating renewables” into the power grid, said Gary Bousquet, deputy director of engineering at the County Water Authority.

Pure Water Oceanside-Drought-Water Shortage-Water Supply-Drought

Water Conservation Helps San Diego Regional Supply During Drought

Water conservation is a way of life in the San Diego region, whether during drought periods or wet years. While the region is in drought like much of the Southwest U.S., San Diego County is not experiencing a water shortage. That’s because the Helix Water District, and the other water utilities serving the region, have worked together for 25 years to conserve water and invest in new water resources.

The San Diego County Water Authority, its 24 member agencies, and the water ratepayers of San Diego County, have made investments to increase water supply reliability.

June 2021 was the hottest June on record in the U.S.

High temperatures make drought conditions worse. The hotter it is, the faster water evaporates from soil and transpires from plants. This is why urban landscapes, crops and forests dry out and the risk of wildfires increases. The map below shows all of the wildfires currently burning throughout the West.

Map from InciWeb

InciWeb map shows current fires burning across the U.S. West.

On July 8, Governor Newsom declared a drought emergency everywhere except Southern California

The Governor called for all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%, but only declared a drought emergency in the counties in red in the map below. That’s because communities in central and northern California are more likely to rely on a single river, creek or well for their water and are more vulnerable to drought. It’s drier in Southern California and water agencies have been developing multiple water resources to meet water supply needs for more than 100 years. Today, this approach helps protect the region against drought and water shortage.

Map from Cal Matters

On July 8, 2021, Governor Newsom extended his drought emergency declaration to include all 50 counties in central and northern California.

In the San Diego region, water utilities work together to develop water supply

Helix and other water utilities in San Diego depend on the San Diego County Water Authority to import water from the Colorado River and Northern California.  When residents and businesses pay their water bills, their water utility pays the Water Authority for the imported water they use. Then, all the water utilities meet at the Water Authority and decide how to invest that money in water resources. By pooling our money over the last 25 years, we invested $3 billion and developed projects no single utility could afford on its own.

San Diego County Water Authority board meeting photo from Water News Network

Board members from member agencies work together as the board of the San Diego County Water Authority.

San Diego residents use half the water they used in the 1990s

Residents and businesses in the region have reduced their water bills by installing water efficient plumbing fixtures, appliances, landscapes and irrigation, and have taken advantage of rebates to save money. Today, San Diego County residents use half the water they used in the 1990s. As a result, water utilities have been able to reduce the size and cost of new water projects. Conservation eases demand when there is a water shortage due to drought or emergencies.

Water efficient landscaping at The Water Conservation Garden

Water efficient landscaping at The Water Conservation Garden.

Water supply from the Colorado River

In 2003, the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to sell up to 200,000 acre feet of water annually to the San Diego County Water Authority. Water used to irrigate crops was now available to San Diego homes and businesses, and just one acre foot of water can sustain up to four homes for a year. And, the Imperial Irrigation District has the most senior water rights on the Colorado River. If the Colorado River Basin states renegotiate how the river’s water is divided up, those senior water rights will help protect San Diego.

Colorado River photo from KUER Public Radio

Muddy Colorado River flowing through Utah.

Drought-proof water resources

In 2014, the Water Authority completed the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant to turn Pacific Ocean water into drinking water. It’s the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere. Now, we’re focused on turning recycled water into drinking water by using reverse osmosis, just like at the Carlsbad plant, and other advanced water treatment technology.

New water supply projects underway

Helix is working with Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the city of El Cajon and the county of San Diego on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside are developing “Pure Water” programs.

Reverse osmosis cannisters at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo from Poseidon Water

Reverse osmosis canister arrays at the Carlsbad Desalination

More space to store water

The more water we can store during a wet year, when a lot of rain and snow falls on California and the Colorado River Basin, the more water we have available in a dry year. Diamond Valley Lake, which Metropolitan Water District of Southern California filled in 2002, stores enough water for Southern California for six months. With the construction of Olivenhain Dam and the raising of San Vicente Dam, we have an additional six month water supply just for the San Diego region.

San Vicente Dam photo from the San Diego County Water Authority

San Vicente Dam.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Pumped Storage Project Gets Seed Money … Now the Work Begins

A 500 MW pumped energy storage project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the California state budget. The support will help fund the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.

The project would provide long-duration stored energy and is seen by backers as an asset that will help avoid rolling blackouts through on-demand energy production. It also could generate revenue to help offset the cost of water purchases, storage, and treatment.

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Powers Ahead with $18M Boost

A large-scale renewable energy project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the state budget signed this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, enough to advance the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.

San Vicente Dam-Fill Chute-Energy Storage Project

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility Powers Ahead with $18M Boost

A large-scale renewable energy project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the state budget signed this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, enough to advance the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process.

The San Vicente energy project is one of the most promising pumped energy storage solutions in California and it would be a major asset to help avoid rolling blackouts through on-demand energy production while helping to meet state climate goals. It also could mitigate costs for water ratepayers across the San Diego region by generating additional revenue to help offset the cost of water purchases, storage, and treatment. The City and the Water Authority are developing the project together, just like they did to raise the height of the city-owned San Vicente Dam 117 feet in the 2010s.

Energy for 135,000 households

Upon completion, the San Vicente energy project would provide up to 500 megawatts of long-duration stored energy, which will assist in meeting peak electrical demand periods throughout Southern California and help meet the goals of Senate Bill 100, which requires 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% zero-carbon energy resources statewide by 2045. The project will provide enough energy for about 135,000 households when operating.

Construction jobs

“I want to thank Governor Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and all the members of the Legislature for funding a vital San Diego project that will help us provide reliable, clean energy,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “This innovative partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority will help our City meet its climate goals while building sustainable infrastructure and supporting good-paying local jobs.”

Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher also highlighted the work of state leaders and staff at both agencies who have been collaborating on project plans for years.

“The San Vicente Energy Storage Facility will reduce the chances for rolling blackouts by storing renewable energy for use when it’s needed most,” Croucher said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins for ensuring funding for this critical infrastructure project, which will create more than 1,000 construction-related jobs in addition to its other benefits.”

Environmental reviews, licensing

With state funding in place, the Water Authority and the City are preparing to launch federal and state environmental reviews, seek a project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and issue a Request for Proposals for a full-service private partner to help develop the project. Those complex components are expected to take at least four years, with construction completion forecast for 2030.

“California has a proud history of adopting forward-thinking solutions to our biggest challenges, and the San Vicente Energy Storage Project is no exception,” said Sen. Atkins of San Diego. “This may well be a pivotal moment in our statewide efforts to meet peak power needs and maximize our use of renewable energy.”

Pumped energy storage

California sources nearly one-third of its power from renewables, mainly solar and wind. The target for renewable energy in California is 60% by 2030. Such a major shift to renewables will require new kinds of investments, markets, and business practices. Electric grids need to be more flexible; new kinds of power supplies will help deliver energy flexibility when needed; and new pricing systems are needed to send clear signals to developers and financial markets that these projects need to move forward.

Pumped energy storage projects are a major piece of the solution. They are designed to store excess renewable energy from solar and wind during the day, and then discharge that energy when energy use increases in the evening and renewable energy is not available.

Energy Storage Process-San Vicente-Pumped Hydro-Energy

The San Diego County Water Authority and the City of San Diego are partners in developing the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility. The pumped storage energy project at San Vicente Reservoir could store 4,000 megawatt-hours per day of energy, or 500 megawatts of capacity for eight hours.

The San Vicente project would create a small upper reservoir above the existing San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside, along with a tunnel system and an underground powerhouse to connect the two reservoirs. The powerhouse would contain four reversible pump turbines.

During off-peak periods – when power is inexpensive and renewable supplies from wind and solar facilities exceed demand – turbines would pump water to the upper reservoir where it would act as a battery of stored potential energy. During high energy use, the system would discharge water from the upper reservoir downhill through the turbines, producing energy. The exchange between the two reservoirs would not consume water.

San Vicente Reservoir is near major electricity transmission interconnection facilities, which would allow the project to play a central role in integrating solar and wind energy from across the Southwest for use in San Diego County. The San Vicente project is largely immune to the challenges faced by some conventional hydropower facilities because it is a closed-loop system that mainly holds imported water and is not reliant on runoff that can fluctuate significantly from year to year and hamper power production.

For more details about the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility go to:

Valley’s Farm Organization Execs Look Ahead

With 500,000 acres of farmland in the Imperial Valley, agriculture continues to not only be vital to the economy of the region, but now perhaps more than ever the crops grown on that land are critical to the entire country and a world that is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Considering just how essential Imperial Valley agriculture is, strong voices ready to advocate on behalf of the farming community are pivotal — especially considering the ongoing challenges farmers face, like increasing costs of production and an ongoing need to protect the Valley’s water rights during this time of drought, as they work to get their crops from the fields to dinner tables.


CWA Approves Two-Month Extension of PSAWR Eligibility Transition

When the San Diego County Water Authority adopted the Permanent Special Agricultural Water Rate, the SDCWA also adopted eligibility criteria but allowed previous Temporary Special Agricultural Water Rate customers a six-month grace period to establish eligibility. The CWA extended that transitional eligibility period by an additional two months June 24. The unanimous CWA board vote extends the temporary eligibility period to Aug. 31. Although the six CWA member agencies who requested an extension of the eligibility period sought a six-month extension, the CWA’s Financial Strategy Working Group recommended the two-month extension which was approved by the CWA board.