Last year came in and went out like a wet lion in San Diego County. In between, it was a relatively tranquil, although not uneventful weather year.
With the recent heavy rains, our water supply may not be at the top of everyone’s worry list. Even so, last week the San Diego County Water Authority gave an update on the future of water in our region.
In the very early years of the 20th century, Western leaders had big dreams for growth, dreams tied to bringing water from the Colorado River across mountains and deserts.
In dividing up the river, they assigned more water to users than the system actually produces. The consequences of the so-called “structural deficit” are being felt today, as states sweat through difficult river diplomacy to prop up water levels in reservoirs.
The Vallecitos Water District is moving beyond traditional bill mailers and tri-fold brochures to communicate with its customers in a more effective and dynamic way by using video.
Vallecitos Board President Hal Martin conceived the idea to create “Work We Do” videos to help customers see and understand first hand the complex work Vallecitos water professionals perform to ensure reliable water and wastewater services. Viewers see and hear from the workers in the field as they complete tasks such as replacing outdated equipment or using smoke testing to detect sewer leaks and protect the environment.
“I’ve seen the quality of staff videos and I realized it was the perfect way to show our customers exactly what we do,” said Martin of the series and the initiative.
Watching crews in action providing the community with reliable drinking water and wastewater services, protecting the environment, and developing the next generation of water workers, makes customers better informed citizens about the area’s vital infrastructure in a transparent way.
The video series also includes helpful information such as how to read water meters.
Online tools transforming community outreach efforts
“We’re working to change our Public Information Department and keep up with current technology,” said Chris Robbins, Vallecitos public information and conservation supervisor.
Robbins said the goal is to feature each department within the district and focus on topics that lend themselves to visual communication. Videos run three minutes or less to keep the audience engaged.
The latest ‘Work We Do’ video in the series features a recent valve replacement
Finished videos are posted to the district website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The videos can also be seen on the City of San Marcos news channel, San Marcos TV. Videos are also shared through water industry news websites such as Water News Network.
Alicia Yerman, a Vallecitos public information representative, shoots and edits the video series. She schedules time to join crews at work when performing a specific task. She also plays talent scout, finding a knowledgeable employee who can describe the work on camera.
Not all staff want to talk, but Yerman is able to coax at least one Vallecitos staff member to be the ‘on camera talent,’ and she also has a knack for bringing out their best. She finds ways to make staff more comfortable being on camera—either by asking questions or placing staff members in comfortable settings.
Yerman and Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe were recently certified as drone pilots. Future videos will feature district work from a bird’s eye point of view.
The City of Oceanside is joining the City of San Diego and East San Diego County in adding advanced purified water to its drinking water supply. The Pure Water Oceanside project is expected to break ground next spring and begin producing advanced purified water in 2022.
The Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District and the City of San Diego, are among the water agencies in San Diego County that are developing or expanding water recycling to increase the local water supply.
The Oceanside project launched in March with a “World of Water” community open house attended by more than 400 people. Building on the interest generated at the event, the city opened its doors for the public, schools and scouts to experience Pure Water Oceanside on October 15. The next community event is scheduled for November 9.
“The incredible interest, success and feedback from the community event demonstrated a true thirst for water knowledge and a strong desire to see, first-hand, water facilities located in the community,” said Cari Dale, water utilities director for the City of Oceanside. “Pure Water Oceanside is an important and smart investment and we find tremendous value in educating the public about the importance of diversifying the city’s water supply.”
Technology used to recycle and purify water on display
The tours offer a behind-the-scenes look of the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation and Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facilities, where guests can take a hands-on approach and learn about the technology used to recycle and purify water.
Pure Water Oceanside will purify recycled water to create a new local source of high-quality drinking water that is clean, safe, drought-proof and environmentally sound. The project will produce enough water to provide 32% of the city’s water supply, or between 3 and 5 million gallons of water per day.
In addition to tours, Oceanside has developed a comprehensive public education program for the water purification project, including a video, fact sheet, FAQ and community group presentations. To experience Pure Water Oceanside and sign up for an upcoming tour, go to: www.PureWaterOceanside.org.
READ MORE: Pure Water Day Delivers Pure Family Fun
Six water professionals from the Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District spent one week in August assisting the Paradise Irrigation District with disaster recovery in the wake of the devastating Camp Fire.
The Camp Fire burned through the town of Paradise, California in November 2018. CAL FIRE reported the fire burned 153,336 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures and resulted in 85 civilian fatalities and several firefighter injuries. The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, according to CAL FIRE.
Ten months later, Paradise remains hard at work on recovery efforts.
The fire caused significant damage to the Paradise Irrigation District’s infrastructure. As a result, more than 10,500 customers fell under a “Do Not Drink” advisory due to contamination from several harmful volatile organic compounds in distribution pipelines.
Padre Dam employees Austin Darley and Jesse Knowles, and Helix employees John Wilson, Dan Baker, Eric Hughes and Bryan Watte, spent a week in Paradise working to help ensure water system safety. While most customers have water service restored, the water quality is being carefully monitored.
“The majority of the work we did revolved around keeping customers in water during a three-day testing period, and reestablishing water service through a plastic jumper after samples had been drawn,” said Darley.
State emergency assistance system activated to provide mutual aid
Helix and Padre Dam are among 14 member agencies and the Water Authority participating in the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or CalWARN, to support and promote statewide emergency preparedness, disaster response, and mutual assistance processes for public and private water and wastewater utilities.
“This program is like an insurance policy that can provide assistance when an emergency becomes larger than our internal resources can deal with,” said Melissa McChesney, Padre Dam Communications Manager. “The situation Paradise Irrigation District finds themselves in is a good example of this. We also have agreements with neighboring water agencies in which we call upon each other for equipment or staffing when needed.”
The agencies identified staff with the skills and experience to help the Paradise Irrigation District. All agreed to volunteer for the mutual aid mission. Padre Dam employees Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley were selected to help.
“Jesse and I feel very blessed to work for an organization that is passionate about helping those in need,” said Darley. “It was an important reminder that recovery efforts continue long after the disaster leaves the news. Paradise is still in need of our thoughts, prayers, and help.”
Recovery effort not over for Paradise Irrigation District
“There’s a lot of work up here but the town is healing,” wrote Helix employee Dan Baker while working in Paradise. “I think I speak for all four of us when I say I’m proud to be a part of this.”
Water service for burned lots will be replaced as recovery progresses and new homes are built.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to assist our fellow Californians with this recovery effort,” added Darley. “Although we exist 600 miles apart we all have the same goal, to deliver safe and reliable drinking water to our residents and communities.”
The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is moving forward after a new funding agreement was approved.
The program’s partner agencies – Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the City of El Cajon, Helix Water District and the County of San Diego – recently approved the Interim Funding Agreement. The final vote from the County of San Diego took place July 10.
The project is expected to begin producing water in 2025.
Purified water reduces dependence on imported water
The agreement requires each agency to commit $2.35 million ($9.4 million total) toward the program, with the aim to 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.
“This is an important milestone toward the completion of this innovative and much-needed program, said Allen Carlisle, CEO and general manager of Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “Working together with our partners, we are moving one step closer to reducing our dependence on imported water and putting the mechanisms in place to support our economy and quality of life well into the future.”
Sustainable drinking water project
Once complete, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of new drinking water. This represents approximately 30 percent of current drinking water consumption for residents within the Padre Dam service area (Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Flinn Springs, Harbison Canyon, Blossom Valley, Alpine, Dehesa and Crest), and the Helix service area (including the cities of Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and El Cajon, and the Spring Valley area). This represents approximately 373,000 residents.
The project will recycle East San Diego County’s wastewater locally, and then purify the recycled water at an advanced water treatment facility using four advanced water purification steps producing water that is near-distilled in quality. The purified water will then be blended with water in Lake Jennings, treated again at the Helix R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant and then distributed into the drinking water supply.
Industry Day planned for prospective designers and contractors
Next steps for the project include formation of a Joint Powers Authority between Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the City of El Cajon, and the County of San Diego to serve as the governing body for the program.
An industry day is being planned in mid-August to provide notice to prospective designers and contractors on the initiation of a selection process for the progressive design-build packages that will begin posting in Fall 2019.
Partner agencies also continue to pursue grant and loan opportunities to help fund the estimated $528 million project.
The water-recycling project is intended to diversify East County’s drinking water supply and reduce the region’s dependence on imported water. It also helps the region in achieving long-term compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Padre Dam offers tours of the East County Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Project. To schedule a tour or for more information on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, visit www.EastCountyAWP.com.
San Diego faces a hidden earthquake threat — to its water supply. A quake, even one so far away that nobody in San Diego feels it, could cause an emergency and force mandatory water-use restrictions. That’s because most of San Diego’s water comes from hundreds of miles away through threads of metal and concrete that connect us to distant rivers and reservoirs.
A local water district is developing a novel, market-based groundwater trading program that, if successful, could be expanded or copied to help Central Valley farmers cope with new state restrictions against over-pumping the region’s aquifers.
The City of San Diego held its third ‘Pure Water Day’ Open House at the North City Water Reclamation Plant in the Miramar area, inviting residents to enjoy family-friendly activities and learn about the upcoming project construction.
More than 300 people took tours of the five-step water purification process at the Pure Water Demonstration Facility and tasted the purified water produced at the facility following their tour. Residents of University City, Clairemont, and Scripps Ranch learned about Phase 1 of construction scheduled in their neighborhoods.
“We are excited to once again open our doors to the community, and share how we will deliver a new, safe, local source of drinking water for San Diego,” said John Helminski, assistant director of the San Diego Public Utilities Department.
Pure Water first phase starts construction later this year
Pure Water San Diego is a multi-year phased program using proven technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality potable water. After construction is completed, the Pure Water Program is expected to provide one-third of the City of San Diego’s water supply by 2035.
The first phase of construction includes the North City Pure Water Facility, new pump stations and pipelines, and upgrades to existing facilities. The North City Pure Water Facility will be constructed on City of San Diego owned property east of Interstate 805 and north of Eastgate Mall, across from the existing North City Water Reclamation Plant.
Purified water produced at the completed plant will be delivered to the Miramar Reservoir, blended with the City of San Diego’s imported and local water sources, and treated again at the existing Miramar Drinking Water Treatment Plant. After this process, the water will be distributed to customers. Construction of Phase 1 is expected to begin later this year and is scheduled for completion in 2023.