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San Diego County Has New Top Crop as Agricultural Value Reaches $1.75 Billion

For the first time in 12 years, San Diego County has a new top crop, while agricultural value exceeded $1.75 billion, according to the county’s Crop Report released Wednesday.

Find the Right Native Plants for Your Water-Saving Landscape Online

If you’re looking to upgrade your landscape or just love gardens, it can be challenging to choose the right plants that will thrive in a water-saving landscape with your specific conditions.

The online plant finder WaterSmart Landscaping in San Diego County can assist you through a comprehensive database of choices well suited to this region’s Mediterranean climate.

Supervisors Take 1st Step to Overhaul Water, Drought Management Strategies

The Board of Supervisors directed the chief administrative officer Wednesday to update the county’s water and drought-management strategies, including sustainability efforts, and deliver a final report within the next year.

The overhaul, proposed by board Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas, will incorporate the entire region, including local municipalities, Imperial County and bi-national cities.

Tropical Storm Kay Produces Wind Gusts to 109 Mph in San Diego County, Along With Heat, Rain, Traffic Problems

San Diego County is taking a hard and weird hit from Tropical Storm Kay, which generated winds that gusted from 93 mph to 109 mph early Friday in East County and lifted temperatures countywide into the 80s and 90s at the tail end of a long heat wave.

Sweating Through the Heat Wave in California’s Hottest County

It was just before 9 a.m. and already nearing 100 degrees as I stared out at the menacing steel pillars of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in California’s far southeastern corner. My long-sleeve shirt stuck to my skin. Sweat dripped down my back.

Pure Water Oceanside Project on Track for $9.9M Federal Grant

The Pure Water Oceanside project, a purification facility for recycled drinking water that opened in Oceanside earlier this year, is on track to receive nearly $10 million in federal grant money, the city recently announced.

Water Conservation is Critical in San Diego County as Colorado River Declines

San Diego County is not currently facing water cuts as the historic drought reaches a new low and the nation’s largest reservoir — Lake Mead — is at its lowest water level on record, according to the San Diego County Water Authority.

The Helix Water District is the San Diego region’s second largest water utility, after the City of San Diego. Its service area includes La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon, Spring Valley, and other unincorporated areas of the county, with a population of 277,000. Brian Olney

Helix Water District Names Brian Olney New General Manager

The Helix Water District Board of Directors appointed Brian Olney as the organization’s new general manager, effective September 1, 2022. Olney was previously the Assistant General Manager and before that, the water district’s Director of Water Quality and System Operations.  He has 28 years of experience in the water industry.

“Brian’s experience spans system operations, water treatment plant operations and maintenance, water distribution and construction,” said Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “He’s been a member of the executive team since 2016, and he is knowledgeable about local and regional water issues. Brian is a leader and will make a smooth transition into the general manager role.”

“I am honored to be the next general manager of Helix Water District,” said Olney. “We provide an essential service to hardworking people, who expect us to do our jobs correctly and efficiently and provide clean, safe water at a reasonable price. I agree with that, and we meet and exceed those expectations every day.”

Summer job leads to water industry career

Brian Olney has been named General Manager of Helix Water District, effective Sept. 1, 2022. Photo: Helix Water District

Brian Olney named General Manager of Helix Water District, effective Sept. 1, 2022. Photo: Helix Water District

Olney, a native San Diegan, grew up in East San Diego County, and now lives in Santee with his wife, Brenda. He earned an associate’s degree in water science technology and is a graduate of San Diego State University, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in public administration.

A summer construction job introduced Olney to a career in the water industry.

“I quickly realized how rewarding it was and embraced the public service aspect. It is truly enjoyable to meet customers and explain what we do or help them through an issue,” said Olney.

Olney worked in field operations for Lakeside Water District and as a water system operator for Otay Water District before joining Helix in 2000 as a water treatment plant operator. Olney maintains Grade 5 certifications from the California State Water Resources Board in water treatment and water distribution, the highest level of certification with ongoing education requirements.

Olney will oversee second largest water utility in San Diego County

Serving 277,000 customers, the Helix Water District maintains 16,892 valves and 56,504 water meters. Photo: Helix Water District Brian Olney

Serving 277,000 customers, the Helix Water District maintains 16,892 valves and 56,504 water meters. Photo: Helix Water District

The Helix Water District is the San Diego region’s second largest water utility, after the City of San Diego. Its service area includes La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon, Spring Valley, and other unincorporated areas of the county, with a population of 277,000. The Helix regional treatment plant also supplies water to Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Lakeside Water District in addition to its own customers, a total population of 500,000. Olney will oversee 150 employees and manage the FY2022-23 budget of $108 million.

“We are fortunate at Helix,” said Olney. “The board of directors are actively involved in the community and serve the district and our customers very well. Our employees are qualified, compassionate, and dedicated. I will continue to reinforce our values, and our goals and objectives, and we will work through the challenges we face.”

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Lakeside Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District are four of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Groundbreaking for East County Advanced Water Purification Program

The East County Advanced Water Purification Program broke ground, marking an important milestone for the recycled water project in San Diego County. Scheduled to be complete in 2026, the East County AWP will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County.

East County Advanced Water Purification Plant Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking for East County Advanced Water Purification Program

The East County Advanced Water Purification Program broke ground, marking an important milestone for the recycled water project in San Diego County.

Scheduled to be complete in 2026, the East County AWP will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County residents and businesses.

Program representatives, elected officials and water industry leaders gathered at the future site of the treatment facility in Santee to celebrate the East County AWP. The project will create a new, local, sustainable and drought-proof drinking water supply using state-of-the-art technology to purify East San Diego County’s recycled water.

Officials in attendance included representatives from the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority, San Diego County Water Authority, Bureau of Reclamation, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Potable reuse projects

“In 2045, potable reuse projects are going to provide up to 20% of the water that we need here in San Diego County,” said San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “This region has been excellent in its innovation and planning for water needs for the region and this project is just another step in that process. I want to congratulate everyone involved in this project in developing another drought-resilient supply for the region.”

Water supply reliability for San Diego County

Collaboration on new recycled water supply

The groundbreaking follows approval of project construction on May 19, 2022, by the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority that owns and operates the Program and is a collaborative partnership between four agencies: Padre Dam, the City of El Cajon, the County of San Diego and Helix Water District. The overall cost for the project is $950 million and estimated to create 2,500 jobs in the region.

The project will use four advanced water purification steps to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

4-step process-potable reuse-East County AWP

Sustainable source of water

“Today marks an exciting moment for our East San Diego County customers,” said Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam and JPA Administrator CEO/General Manager. “We are now one step closer to creating a local, reliable and sustainable drinking water source that will reduce our dependence on increasingly expensive imported water. The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is a smart investment that provides a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life.”

After the advanced water purification process, the purified water will be blended with water in Lake Jennings and treated again at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant before being distributed as drinking water.

New local supply

“In addition to providing a new local water supply, the Program will eliminate the need to send most of East County’s wastewater to the City of San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it is currently treated and then discharged into the ocean,” said Kyle Swanson, Padre Dam Incoming CEO/General Manager. “The East County Advanced Water Purification Program will benefit not only our customers and the community, but our shared environment too.”

The East County AWP has secured more than $123 million in grant funding and up to $796 million in low interest loans to help finance the project. East County AWP officials anticipate receiving additional state and federal grant funding to help pay for the project.

Local leadership and vision

“As California adapts to an increasingly arid climate, expanding our water supply portfolio with 21st century investments in water recycling, like the East County Advanced Water Purification program is critical,” said Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board. “Thanks to state and federal leadership, we have a generational opportunity to support the affordability and viability of this and other water supply projects throughout the state. Local leadership and vision are what have made this project a reality and helped to show that we can turn climate anxiety into climate action.”

(Editor’s note: The Padre Dam Municipal Water District and the Helix Water District are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)