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Water Authority Rehabilitates Historic ‘First Aqueduct’ Dating to 1947 in North County

The San Diego County Water Authority has completed a major rehabilitation project on the historic First Aqueduct in North San Diego County, it was announced Thursday.

The project renovated and replaced dozens of structures on two large- diameter pipelines which delivered the first imported water to the San Diego region in 1947 and remains a part of the regional water delivery system. The construction contract for the project was worth approximately $30 million.

San Diego County Water Authority Completes First Aqueduct Project In North County

The San Diego County Water Authority has completed a major rehabilitation project on the historic First Aqueduct in North San Diego County, it was announced Thursday.

The project renovated and replaced dozens of structures on two large-diameter pipelines which delivered the first imported water to the San Diego region in 1947 and remains a part of the regional water delivery system. The construction contract for the project was worth approximately $30 million.

“The First Aqueduct delivered imported water to our region for the first time more than 70 years ago, and it remains critical to water supply reliability for our region to this day,” said Gary Croucher, chair of the authority’s board of directors. “Coordination across water authority departments and collaboration with our member agencies allowed us to complete this extraordinarily complex project and ensure these pipelines operate for generations to come.”

Major Rehabilitation of First Aqueduct Complete

January 21, 2021 – The San Diego County Water Authority recently completed a major rehabilitation project on the historic First Aqueduct in North San Diego County. The project renovated and replaced dozens of structures on two large-diameter pipelines, including the historic Pipeline 1. Pipeline 1 delivered the first imported water to the San Diego region in 1947 and remains a vital part of the regional water delivery system. The construction contract for the project was worth approximately $30 million.

Crews work on First Aqueduct Rehabilitation.

Major Rehabilitation of First Aqueduct Complete

The San Diego County Water Authority recently completed a major rehabilitation project on the historic First Aqueduct in North San Diego County. The project renovated and replaced dozens of structures on two large-diameter pipelines, including the historic Pipeline 1. Pipeline 1 delivered the first imported water to the San Diego region in 1947 and remains a vital part of the regional water delivery system. The construction contract for the project was worth approximately $30 million.

Coordination with member agencies key to success

Over the past two years, four coordinated shutdowns in collaboration with member agencies and communities in North San Diego County ensured minimum impact to nearby neighborhoods and water users.

“The First Aqueduct delivered imported water to our region for the first time more than 70 years ago, and it remains critical to water supply reliability for our region to this day,” said Gary Croucher, chair of the Water Authority Board of Directors. “Through coordination throughout the Water Authority and collaboration with our member agencies, we completed this extraordinarily complex project to ensure these pipelines operate for generations to come.”

The project was completed on January 12 and will be presented to the Water Authority’s Board of Directors at their March meeting.

Proactive asset management program maintains reliable water supplies

The timely rehabilitation of the First Aqueduct is part of the Water Authority’s proactive asset management program. A key element of providing safe and reliable water supplies is continually assessing the agency’s 310 miles of large-diameter pipeline and making the upgrades necessary to continue serving the region. That work is funded through water bills paid by residents and businesses across the county to sustain the region’s $245 billion economy and quality of life.

The First Aqueduct project began in early 2019 and was one of the most complicated pipeline retrofits in the Water Authority’s history. The upgrades included replacing 14,500 linear feet of lining on the steel pipe sections of Pipeline 1, removing 16 associated structures and retrofitting 46 structures. All this work was accomplished while ensuring regional water service remained safe and reliable. In addition, redundant connections to six flow control facilities were added between the two pipelines to improve the aqueduct’s operational flexibility.

Collaboration between departments increased efficiency

The Water Authority’s Engineering Department provided construction management and inspection for the retrofit. Before the pipeline was returned to service, secondary tie-in connections to flow control facilities were added and crews removed bulkheads that were used to isolate pipeline sections during the rehabilitation work. Once the work was completed, staff inspected all work areas in the pipeline to ensure they were clear of construction debris.

After the bulkheads were removed, the Operations and Maintenance team disinfected the highly impacted work areas and then refilled the aqueduct to prepare for a second disinfection of both pipelines with chlorine. Water samples at locations throughout the aqueduct were collected and analyzed to ensure the system was safe to return to service. Once all the samples passed analysis, all flow control facilities were placed back in service and the aqueduct was returned to normal operations.

Water Authority Prevails in Two Rate Cases Against Los Angeles MWD

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled the San Diego County Water Authority is the prevailing party in the first of two lawsuits challenging rates and charges set by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The order entitles the Water Authority to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs in those cases, in addition to a $44 million damage and interest award made earlier.

San Diego County Water Authority-Building at night-MWD

Water Authority Prevails in Rate Litigation

The San Francisco Superior Court has ruled the San Diego County Water Authority is the prevailing party in the agency’s first two lawsuits to be heard challenging rates and charges set by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The order entitles the Water Authority to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs in those cases, in addition to a $44 million damage and interest award made earlier.

“San Diego prevailed, and the judgment not only benefits its own ratepayers but all of the nearly 19 million people in Metropolitan’s service area because enforcing cost-of-service principles serves the interests of all ratepayers,” said Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo in her Jan. 13 order, which can be appealed. The exact amount of recoverable fees will be decided later.

In light of the order, Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher reiterated the Water Authority Board’s longstanding desire to avoid litigation and find common ground with other MWD member agencies. “This ruling only enhances our determination to find an equitable resolution that will not only conclude the few issues that remain pending in court, but also help avoid future litigation as new rates and charges are being considered for 2023 and subsequent years,” he said.

Protecting water ratepayers

The Water Authority filed lawsuits between 2010 and 2018 challenging water rates and charges as they were set and imposed by MWD on San Diego County agencies and their ratepayers. After a favorable court ruling invalidating MWD’s Water Stewardship Rate on the Exchange Agreement, the Water Authority worked with MWD to try to resolve the remaining issues. The MWD Board promised to fund almost $500 million in local water supply projects in San Diego County and the Water Authority agreed to dismiss claims against MWD’s Water Stewardship Rate on supply, which is used to fund local projects under the MWD program.

“It is deeply gratifying that the court not only validated our claims but acknowledged the importance of protecting ratepayers by water agencies following the law,” Croucher said. “This week’s order makes it clear once and for all that our desire to protect San Diego ratepayers was never intended to harm MWD, its other member agencies or the ratepayers they serve. Rather, the litigation was necessary to address serious flaws in MWD’s rates that will, as the court said, ultimately benefit not only San Diego County ratepayers, but all Southern Californians.”

Rate litigation

The Water Authority’s first two rate cases – covering 2011 to 2014 rates – resulted in the court ordering an increase in the Water Authority’s preferential right to MWD water by as much as 100,000 acre-feet a year, equivalent to about twice the annual production of the $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project. MWD has already complied with this ruling and adjusted its records accordingly.

The court also determined that MWD must pay the Water Authority damages for illegal charges imposed on delivery of the Water Authority’s water under the Exchange Agreement. A Superior Court judge in August 2020 awarded the Water Authority $44,373,872.29 covering rates paid by San Diego County ratepayers during 2011-2014.

Water Stewardship Rate charges

San Diego County ratepayers have also avoided paying more than $45 million from 2018-2020 after MWD suspended its invalid Water Stewardship Rate charges on the Exchange Agreement. The improper charges would have cost local residents more than $500 million over the term of the Exchange Agreement. Currently, MWD owns the only pipeline that can deliver the Water Authority’s independent supply of Colorado River water to San Diego County and it sets the unregulated water rates which govern and control the delivery of water to San Diego County.

In addition, the court ruled that MWD had illegally barred the Water Authority from receiving money from MWD’s local water supply program, even though the Water Authority was still being forced to pay for it. MWD lifted the ban in response to the court’s order, and ultimately promised the nearly $500 million for water supply projects in San Diego County including the City of San Diego’s Pure Water North City Project Phase 1, East County Advanced Water Purification Project, Escondido Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility and Fallbrook Groundwater Desalter Project.

Carlsbad Committee Shakeup Bumps Schumacher from SANDAG, CEA

During a Jan. 12 Carlsbad City Council meeting, the city reorganized members for its regional and municipal committees, including prominent board seats on the San Diego Association of Governments and Clean Energy Alliance.

Mayor Matt Hall will return to the SANDAG board of directors, while Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel will join the Clean Energy Alliance board while remaining with North County Transit District.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

Olivenhain Municipal Water District General Manager Kimberly Thorner Joins County Water Authority Board

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District General Manager Kimberly Thorner was seated this afternoon at her first board meeting as OMWD’s representative on the San Diego County Water Authority board of directors. OMWD’s board unanimously appointed Ms. Thorner to the position at its November 18, 2020 meeting and she was sworn in on January 6, 2021.

“Ms. Thorner will continue to ensure that the interests of ratepayers in OMWD’s 48-square mile service area are heard at the regional level,” said OMWD Board President Larry Watt.

Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Building a Collaborative Vision for San Diego County

We welcome the new year with heavy hearts about the recent events in our nation’s Capitol and a renewed commitment to civility and respect at every level of government.

At the same time, we are maintaining our concentration on our priorities for the year, which are numerous and significant. I’m focused on advancing San Diego County’s interests as we continue to fulfill our mission of making sure that our region has safe and reliable water supplies at an affordable price, which is critical to maintaining our economic competitiveness and sustaining our wonderful quality of life.

Here’s some good news about how the Water Authority is putting San Diego County first in 2021:

  • As part of our commitment to meeting some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world, the Water Authority and Poseidon Water have launched a state-of-the-art project evaluating intake screen technologies at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant, which has served more than 65 billion gallons of locally produced water over the past five years. Crews are testing both active screen and passive screen technologies in Agua Hedionda Lagoon to complete the full-scale project by the end of 2023.
  • We are updating our Urban Water Management Plan, which is a critical part of meeting the long-range water needs of the San Diego region for both normal years and dry years. This planning document is increasingly important given the increasingly unpredictable impact of climate change. The planning process is, of course, a collaborative effort with our 24 member agencies as we account for their local supplies and demand projections.
  • Our low-cost supplies of conserved water from the Imperial Valley are the foundation of our diversified supply portfolio. With Board direction, staff has launched the next phase of a study to explore a new system to deliver those supplies because initial studies show it could be most cost-effective than the current system and mutually beneficial for our partners in the valley. The study will only advance if it benefits the region by providing cost savings for ratepayers.
  • As the regional economy recovers, we are working hard to protect ratepayers by maintaining a focused and strategic budget. It’s a tough balance, but we are working hard to find the right combination of near-term and long-term funding priorities in these challenging times.
While I’m glad to put the old year behind us and welcome 2021, I’m certain there will be many challenges and opportunities ahead. I’m committed to keeping you informed along the way, and to working with our Board, member agencies, stakeholders, regional leaders and ratepayers to create innovative solutions. In my 20-plus years on the Water Authority Board, we’ve never shied away from big and bold ideas – and 2021 will be no exception.

Detachment Committee Introduces Consultant

San Diego’s Local Agency Formation Commission has an Advisory Committee on the Fallbrook/Rainbow Detachment which met Dec. 7, and the focus of that meeting was to introduce consultant Michael Hanemann and provide feedback on his proposed approach.