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Arbitrator Admonishes Water Authority After It Sued Five Tribes

The San Diego County Water Authority tried to interfere with the delivery of water to five local Indian tribes based on illegal actions and illogical arguments, a former federal judge has ruled. Last year, five San Diego Indian tribes got back the rights to water taken from them a century ago. In response, the San Diego County Water Authority this spring blamed the tribes for cutting into its bottom line and sued them for $2 million.

 

L to R: Water Authority Deputy General Manager Sandra Kerl, Poseidon Water CEO Carlos Riva, and former Senator Barbara Boxer share a toast at Thursday's third anniversary event at the Carlsbad desalination plant. Photo: Water Authority

Carlsbad Desalination Plant Celebrates 40 Billion Gallons Served

San Diego County marked a significant milestone in regional water supply reliability Thursday at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant – the delivery of 40 billion gallons of drinking water during its first three years of commercial operations.

This is enough water to fill 800 million bathtubs, or 1,820 Bellagio Las Vegas fountains.

The plant, which launched its commercial operations in December 2015, provides San Diego County with 50 million gallons of locally-controlled, climate-resilient and high-quality water a day, helping to minimize the region’s vulnerability to droughts.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant has delivered 40 billion gallons of fresh, clean drinking water during its three years of operation. Photo: Water Authority

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant has delivered 40 billion gallons of fresh, clean drinking water during its three years of operation. Photo: Water Authority

Former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a long-time champion for water reliability projects like the Carlsbad facility, spoke at the third anniversary event on Dec. 13.

“This facility has helped protect public health and safety and the economy during the worst recorded drought in California history,” according to Boxer’s prepared remarks. “Here in California, we need to have a multifaceted water plan that includes conservation, recycling, recharging underground aquifers, and catching water as it falls.

“The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is a model for how desalination should be done in California, and more facilities modeled after Carlsbad are certainly going to be needed,” said Boxer. Boxer said in arid regions like Southern California where most of the population lives along the coast, seawater desalination is the only way to ensure residents’ water needs are met under extreme conditions brought on by climate change.

Most advanced and efficient desalination plant worldwide

The Carlsbad desalination facility is the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation. It was made possible through an innovative public-private partnership between Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority. The plant enhances water supply reliability in the San Diego region by meeting nearly 10 percent of the region’s water demand – or about a quarter of all the water generated in the county.

“We’re just thrilled,” said Sandra Kerl, deputy general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “It’s hard to believe it’s been three years and that we’re on the 40 billionth gallon. To have been a part of a project that provides a service that all of us can’t live without is really quite gratifying.”

Desalination is a cornerstone of the Water Authority’s strategies. Regardless of weather conditions, the Carlsbad plant produces a core supply of water day-in and day-out.

Visitors tour the Carlsbad desalination plant during Thursday's anniversary event. Photo: Water Authority

Visitors tour the Carlsbad desalination plant during Thursday’s anniversary event. Photo: Water Authority

Since the plant opened, it has also proved to be an educational and inspiring tool for water innovation across the country and throughout the world. Tour groups visit the plant monthly to learn about the plant’s operation and the partnership between Poseidon Water and the Water Authority.

At the Dec. 13 event, participants toasted the success of the plan with glasses filled with fresh, desalinated water from the plant. “A toast to Pacific on Tap and continued water reliability in San Diego County thanks to desalinated water!” said Carlos Riva, CEO of Poseidon Water.

For more information, go to the project website, carlsbaddesal.com, or the Water Authority’s website, sdcwa.org.

READ MORE:

CBS 8: Carlsbad desalination plant celebrates 40 billionth gallon of water

Fox 5 San Diego: County desalination plant celebrates 40 billion gallons of drinking water

KGTV 10 News: Carlsbad desalination plant celebrates milestone

NBC 7 San Diego: Carlsbad Desalination Plant Purifies 40 Billionth Gallon of Ocean Water

Times of San Diego: County Desalination Plant Celebrates 40 Billionth Gallon of Water

Homeowners learn through the Water Authority's Landscape Transformation program that sustainable landscaping can be as lush as a lawn. Photo Water Authority turf

Tearing Out the Turf: 1 Million Square Feet Targeted for Removal

San Diego County residents have targeted more than 1 million square feet of turf grass for replacement with WaterSmart landscaping through free landscape makeover classes sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority over the past five years.

While not all the targeted turf has actually been removed, post-class surveys show that many participants end up taking out more turf than they initially planned after seeing the benefits of their work, said Joni German, who coordinates the Water Authority’s award-winning WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series.

“Because we give people the skills and the confidence to do this, they often go on to convert turf in another part of their yard,” she said.

Water savings potential tops 36 million gallons a year

The Water Authority's Landscape Transformation Program teaches homeowners the proper methods for removing turf. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series teaches homeowners the proper methods for removing turf. Photo: Water Authority

In the past five years, 947 people have completed the WaterSmart class series, which includes identifying turf areas for replacement with low-water use landscaping. Participants work one-on-one with local landscape architects to complete design and irrigation plans.

The Water Authority then compares estimated total water use for each homeowner before attending the four-class series, and after implementing a sustainable landscaping plan. In total, participants have identified more than 1 million square feet for conversion.

“We have documented about a 33 percent water savings in those plans,” said German. “The total water savings realized from removing 1 million square feet of turf is equal to 36.5 million gallons per year, or 112 acre-feet annually.”

One acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons, roughly enough to serve 2.5 typical Southern California families of four for a year.

Education helps homeowners embrace change

Example of a Landscape Transformation Program participant's yard prior to its sustainable makeover. Photo: Water Authority

Example of a WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series participant’s yard prior to its sustainable makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The National Resources Defense Council said California homeowners are leading the transition away from lawns, which is expected to continue for more than a decade nationwide. And there is a long way to go: Lawns currently cover up to 50 million acres of land in the United States, consuming three trillion gallons of water each year, according to NRDC.

German said WaterSmart landscape makeover courses help homeowners change their thinking, and embrace the sustainable landscaping approach.

The same residence after its makeover to a sustainable landscape design. Photo: Water Authority

“Homeowners don’t know where to start,” said German. “They think they have to create a rocks and cactus landscape. Our program reflects a WaterSmart landscape for the San Diego lifestyle.

“In the course, we explain that we live in one of the most desirable climates on earth. People come and vacation here for our climate. We deserve beautiful, lush, colorful, thriving landscapes – and we can have them. They can be water-efficient, too,” said German.

German said the combination of course lectures, hands-on assignments, and support from landscaping professionals makes the classes highly practical. “We get participants to think about their lifestyle and take them down the path that gives them the skills and knowledge to actually implement their own landscape plan.”

Each class series is limited to 25 participants. Experts visit each homeowner’s proposed project area prior to the first class. They take measurements, locate irrigation heads, and produce a CAD drawing for homeowners to use in the class.

“With the help of local landscape professionals, homeowners create planting plans and irrigation plans specific to their project areas. They are either ready to implement the plans themselves, or work with a contractor to tell them what they want done,” said German.

Applications now open for 2019 courses

The Oberkamp home before its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The Oberkamp home before its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority has scheduled a full calendar of WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Classes for 2019, with the first series starting in February in Fallbrook. Limited enrollment ensures every participant receives hands-on support. Homeowners who want to attend a course in 2019 should complete an online application and get on the waiting list. Apply at WaterSmartSD.org.

The Oberkamp home after its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The California Department of Water Resources funds the class series because it generates water savings. It also generates a lot of enthusiasm, according to participant reviews.  “Could not believe the amount of information and guidance. Worth every minute and highly recommended!” said one participant.

“Wonderful class!” said another. “The instructors, the workbook and resources are beyond belief. I still have a lot to learn, but I will definitely be implementing everything.”

 

 

 

 

The San Diego County Water Authority won two first place awards and a second place award for its communication efforts from the San Diego Press Club.

Water Authority’s Outreach Efforts Honored

The San Diego County Water Authority received two first place awards and a second place award for its public outreach and education at the 2018 San Diego Press Club’s 45th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards. The event took place at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation’s Joe and Vi Jacobs Community Center on October 30.

San Diego’s finest reporters, photographers, writers, artists, and communicators were honored with the region’s top awards.

(L to R) Dennis Cushman, Assistant General Manager; Denise Vedder, Public Outreach and Conservation Director; and Mike Lee, Public Outreach and Conservation, accept their San Diego Press Club Journalism Awards. Photo: Water Authority

Left to right: Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis Cushman, Public Outreach and Conservation Director Denise Vedder, and Public Affairs Supervisor Mike Lee accepted the agency’s San Diego Press Club awards on Oct. 30. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority received the following Press Club awards:

Websites, Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Site: First Place, Water News Network

Websites, Blog by Corporation or Group: Second Place, Water News Network

Public Relations and Trade Publications, Annual Report: First Place for the 2017 Annual Report titled Pioneering. Visionary. Agile. Driven.

“The San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism awards shows that solid research, writing, reporting and photography matter more than ever,” said Kristen Castillo, 2018 Press Club president. “I’m proud our organization honors student and professional journalists and public relations professionals in San Diego.”

The San Diego Press Club’s journalism awards program is among the largest regional competitions of its kind in the nation. A total of 478 awards were presented in 188 categories, with a record number of entries. Press Club officials say entries continue to be robust from a diverse array of media and public relations professionals.

Judges included members of press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Alaska.

Water News Network receives Award of Merit

Earlier this month, the Water Authority’s Water News Network received an Award of Merit for External Websites at the 26th annual Edward L. Bernays Mark of Excellence Awards ceremony on October 25, hosted by the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

“As communication pros, we spend most of our time highlighting our clients and executives. The Bernays Awards are a unique opportunity for our fellow professionals to be recognized for all of their contributions and tremendous efforts,” said Jenny Corsey, chapter president.

Named after Edward L. Bernays, the “father of public relations,” the awards were open to all agencies and organizations in San Diego and Imperial Counties. They recognize excellence in public relations campaigns and tactics in a range of categories including media relations, community relations and public affairs. Members of the West Michigan PRSA Chapter judged all award entries.

 

 

 

Los Angeles Water Officials Cancel Settlement Meeting with San Diego County Water Authority

An offer last week by the San Diego County Water Authority board chairman to settle a host of litigation with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California was not well received by water officials to the north. MWD leaders accused their San Diego counterparts of violating an agreement to negotiate in private and abruptly canceled a meeting previously scheduled for Tuesday. “We were surprised by the unilateral decision by the San Diego County Water Authority to make the proposal letter public as our ongoing discussions … were confidential and our agencies have an executed confidentiality agreement governing those discussions,” the MWD chairman wrote Monday.

Kelsey Ceccarelli (center), the Citizens Water Academy's 500th graduate, with Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis A. Cushman (left) and Board Chair Jim Madaffer (right). Photo: Water Authority

500th Community Leader Graduates from Citizens Water Academy

The San Diego County Water Authority’s pioneering Citizens Water Academy celebrated the graduation of its 500th community leader Friday at the conclusion of the fall class series.

During the popular and award-winning academy program, civic leaders learn about visionary local efforts to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for the San Diego region. Participants get an in-depth look at how the Water Authority helps protect the region’s economy and quality of life through strategic planning, innovative programs, and cost-effective investments.

After the third and final class of each academy, graduates are given diplomas to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” and congratulations from Water Authority executives – a tradition that took on special significance in light of today’s milestone.

“The Citizens Water Academy has profoundly improved the understanding of water issues across our region and demystified the critical work we do to sustain San Diego County’s $220 billion economy and quality of life for 3.3 million people,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Reaching 500 graduates is an impressive accomplishment – but we are not done.

“Anyone who aspires to civic or business leadership should invest the time to learn about this fundamental resource,” Madaffer said. “I guarantee that the Citizens Water Academy will change the way they think about this amazing place we call home.”

Citizens Water Academy graduates remain engaged in regional water issues

Kelsey Ceccarelli, the Citizens Water Academy's 500th graduate, displays her Certificate of Completion. Photo: Water Authority

Kelsey Ceccarelli, the Citizens Water Academy’s 500th graduate, displays her Certificate of Completion. Photo: Water Authority

The Citizens Water Academy launched in fall 2014 and produced a diverse inaugural class of 49 graduates. Over the years, 99 percent of participants said they would recommend the Water Academy to a colleague, and nearly 50 percent of graduates stay engaged through the Water Authority’s alumni program.

Participants said the class series helped them understand the physical movement of water into and around the region; the importance of the region’s water supply diversification strategy; how large-scale water projects are built and maintained; and how water managers are preparing for future water supply needs.

The Water Authority typically hosts three academies of about 50 participants each year. Classes have been held in Kearny Mesa, the South Bay and North County to promote regional participation. Class series include presentations by agency executives, role-play activities, and tours of world-class water facilities such as the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

In addition, the Water Authority maintains an active network of Water Academy graduates who participate in specialized tours, lectures and other events. They also stay connected through an alumni newsletter – part of the Water Authority’s commitment to supporting engaged and knowledgeable regional leaders.

The Water Authority received the Silver Bernays Mark of Excellence Award for the Citizens Water Academy from the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in 2015. The program also won the Communications Initiative Award from the San Diego Section of the American Planning Association in 2016.

The next Citizens Water Academy is scheduled for Spring 2019, though dates have not been set. The selection process is competitive, and acceptance is not guaranteed. For more information, go to www.sdcwa.org/citizens-water-academy. The site includes a link to sign up for notifications when future class dates are announced.

 

 

San Diego County Water Authority Seeks to Settle Legal Disputes with Metropolitan

The San Diego County Water Authority is offering an olive branch to the region’s largest water wholesaler in an effort to end years of public and legal feuding. Local water officials have fought for decades with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The dispute has often left the two agencies fighting expensive legal battles and publicly insulting each other. Jim Madaffer, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority, said it is time to end the fighting. In a letter sent Thursday, he offered the Metropolitan Water District an agreement to end pending legal actions.

San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer today sent a letter to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board of Directors, settiing the stage for an equitable resolution of long-running rate cases. Photo: FourSquare/Creative Commons Madaffer's letter

Water Authority Board Chair Outlines Compromise Terms to Potentially End MWD Litigation

San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer today sent a letter to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board of Directors that lays out a potential compromise approach by both parties designed to end nearly a decade of litigation over MWD’s rates.

The letter includes specific, practical terms that respect both the Water Authority’s and MWD’s perspectives towards an equitable conclusion in coming weeks.

“Concluding all pending court cases is in the best interest of everyone involved, and it would allow us to begin a new era of collaboration on other important regional and state issues,” said Madaffer, who started his tenure as chair on Oct. 1. “I hope MWD will embrace this gesture of good faith to seek settlement, and that we can do so in an expeditious and fair manner.”

Madaffer’s letter builds on the commitment of his predecessor, prior Water Authority Board Chair Mark Muir, to seek an end to lawsuits that started in 2010 and involve billions of dollars of contested rates and charges.

The Water Authority won several significant items in two cases covering MWD’s rates for 2011-2014, including additional rights to approximately 100,000 acre-feet a year of MWD water, invalidation of an illegal contract clause that MWD used to deny support for local supply development projects, and damages and interest on tens of millions of dollars of unlawful Water Stewardship Rate charges by MWD. The courts allowed MWD to continue charging historic State Water Project costs in water transportation rates charged to the Water Authority.

Key terms outlined in Madaffer’s letter include:

  • Neither party should be expected to give up anything it won in court.
  • MWD would change the way it charges for delivering the Water Authority’s independent supplies from the Colorado River by adopting a fixed price and tying future price increases to an inflation index each January 1.
  • The Water Authority would drop pending claims challenging the legality of MWD’s Water Stewardship Rates that MWD charges on the purchase of MWD water supplies.
  • The Water Authority would accept $5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, a substantial reduction from the $8.9 million the trial court awarded to the Water Authority.
  • MWD’s Board would approve a pending agreement to provide through its Local Resource Program funding for the Carlsbad Desalination Project, the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Project, the Padre Dam-East County Advanced Water Purification Project and other pending local supply project agreements.
  • The Water Authority would be granted a sub-account in MWD’s Colorado River Lake Mead Storage Project to store 200,000 acre-feet of eligible Water Authority supplies in Lake Mead, which would benefit both MWD and the Colorado Basin states.

The complete letter is posted here.

Background

 More than 20 years ago, the Water Authority and its member agencies began improving the San Diego region’s water supply reliability by lessening reliance on MWD, which at the time supplied about 95 percent of all the water used in San Diego County.

The cornerstone of that diversification strategy is a set of agreements known collectively as the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement, which was signed in 2003 to secure independent water supplies for the Water Authority from the Colorado River. To deliver these supplies to San Diego County, the Water Authority must use pipelines operated by MWD because MWD owns the only large-scale conveyance facilities in Southern California for transporting water.

The Water Authority filed suit in 2010 seeking to invalidate MWD’s rates, and then filed additional suits in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 because MWD kept adopting rates using the same methodology and flawed cost allocations. A series of court decisions have been issued in the 2010 and 2012 cases. The other cases have been stayed in Superior Court during the appellate process on the initial two lawsuits.

Additional information is available on the Water Authority website.

READ MORE:

San Diego Union Tribune: County water authority proposes sweeping legal settlement with Metropolitan Water District

Times of San Diego: Water Authority Offers to End Decade-Old Rate Dispute with Los Angeles

L.H. Woods working on one of its first projects for the Water Authority in 1960. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

L.H. Woods & Sons Honored for 60 Years of Enhancing Region’s Aqueducts

After 60 years of work upgrading the San Diego regional aqueduct system, Vista-based L.H. Woods & Sons, Inc. was honored by the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors upon completion of the company’s final project under local ownership for the Water Authority.

The Board formally marked the successful conclusion of the $28.6 million Lake Murray to Sweetwater Reservoir pipeline relining project at its September 27 meeting. L.H. Woods reinforced 4.3 miles of large-diameter pipeline to extend its service life by decades. At the meeting, the Board adopted a resolution honoring Woods for decades of unequaled service to the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $220 billion economy.

L.H. Woods works on the 2nd Aqueduct in 1972. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

L.H. Woods works on the 2nd Aqueduct in 1972. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

Since Woods’ first Water Authority project in 1959 to excavate the Second Aqueduct, three generations of Woods have worked on approximately 40 projects  for the agency. Work includes construction of several pipeline segments in the 1960s, 70s and 80s; construction of the North County Distribution Pipeline in the 1990s; emergency pipeline repairs near the San Diego River in 2008; and several pipeline relining projects in recent decades.

“Nothing is more important to our region’s economy and quality of life than ensuring our pipelines continue to deliver water without interruption – and no company has played a bigger role in that effort than Woods,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board. “Woods brings to each project an innovative spirit and an unwavering commitment to excellence that benefits every person in our region every single day.”

L.H. Woods played key role in Water Authority relining project

L.H. Woods working on its final project within the Water Authority's relining program in 2017. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

L.H. Woods working on its final project within the Water Authority’s relining program in 2017. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

In September 2017, Woods started construction on the La Mesa to Sweetwater relining project. Crews conducted most of the work underground and used 17 portals to access the 66-inch and 69-inch diameter prestressed concrete cylinder pipe. Woods deployed specialized installation equipment built specifically for the Water Authority’s aqueduct system to install steel pipeline liners.

Much of the construction was in public rights-of-way in La Mesa on Baltimore Drive (south of the Laport Street-El Paso Street intersection), Nebo Drive (to University Avenue), and Spring Street. Work did not close any streets, through it temporarily reduced lanes for traffic. All construction equipment has been removed, and all streets have been restored.

L.H. Woods working on one of many projects within the Water Authority's relining program in 2000. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

L.H. Woods working on one of many projects within the Water Authority’s relining program in 2000. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

As a certified small business, Woods participated in the Water Authority’s Small Contractor Outreach and Opportunities Program, which is designed to maximize participation by small businesses in the agency’s procurements. In June, the company was purchased by J.F. Shea Co., Inc., one of the largest and oldest privately held construction companies in the nation. Shea’s storied history includes work on the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam and the pipeline connecting the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant to the Water Authority’s regional water distribution system.

With the completion of the La Mesa to Sweetwater relining project, the Water Authority has relined 45 of the 82 miles of pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe in its system.

An L.H. Woods crew works on emergency repairs for the Water Authority in 2008. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

An L.H. Woods crew works on emergency repairs for the Water Authority in 2008. Photo: Courtesy L.H. Woods

Pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes were commonly installed between the early 1960s and the late 1980s in water distribution systems throughout the world. This combination of concrete and steel initially appeared to provide unparalleled inner pipe strength and be highly resistant to corrosion. However, pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes have not been as reliable as predicted, and the Water Authority is proactively relining sections of that pipe to extend their service life by at least 75 years.

The Water Authority’s relining program is an important part of its Asset Management Program, which helps avoid pipeline failures by identifying potential risks before they cause problems. To date, the Asset Management Program has saved water ratepayers more than $200 million by prioritizing repairs, avoiding unnecessary work and maximizing the service life of the region’s 310 miles of large-diameter pipelines.

 

 

 

San Diego Expected To Have Enough Water For 2019

San Diego County will have enough water for 2019 in spite of low rainfall and high temperatures over the past year, the San Diego County Water Authority announced Monday. Rainfall during the 2018 water year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, totaled slightly more than three inches at San Diego International Airport, the county’s precipitation measurement site. SDCWA officials say that’s 67 percent lower than normal and the county’s second-lowest annual rainfall total since 1850.