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Recycled Water May Prove Crucial for Northern California Amid Ongoing Droughts, Climate Change

The San Francisco Bay Area is far behind Southern California in reusing water. Policy experts say it could take decades for the state’s second-most populous region to catch up — the lower half of the state recycled 83% more water than the Bay Area last year.

Standing outside Google’s Bay View campus in Mountain View in early August, wearing a pool-blue collared shirt and a gray blazer, California’s Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot pressed the state’s northern region to do more.

“If you spend time in Orange County, there’s a chance that you’re consuming purified water that’s been recycled,” he said. “We need to expand water recycling throughout the Bay Area.”

Hydro Station Lets Students Explore WaterSmart Landscape Design

As its fourth year begins, the Chula Vista Hydro Station offers new activities in 2022, helping Chula Vista Elementary School District students learn about using water wisely through hands-on activities.

A unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Hydro Station, opened in 2019 at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

Chula Vista Elementary School students participate in learning activities at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Hydro Station Lets Students Explore WaterSmart Landscape Design

As its fourth year begins, the Chula Vista Hydro Station offers new activities in 2022, helping Chula Vista Elementary School District students learn about using water wisely through hands-on activities.

A unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Hydro Station, opened in 2019 at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

More than 4,000 students visit the Hydro Station annually and learn more about careers and opportunities in the water and wastewater industry through various learning experiences.

“Sweetwater Authority’s Board is proud to continue to support the Hydro Station for another school year,” said Board Chair Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. “We’re excited that more students will have the opportunity to visit our Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility to learn about how water agencies deliver safe, reliable water to our communities and discover the vast career opportunities in the water industry.”

Landscape design and engineering projects 

Students get the opportunity to practice landscape design with a watersmart focus. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School Districtv Hydro Station

Students get the opportunity to practice landscape design with a watersmart focus. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

This year, students can step into the role of a civil engineer and learn about the ways water is transported across long distances. They take what they learn and try their hand at designing a model of an aqueduct.

Students are also invited to explore the artistic aspects of water management by taking on the role of a landscape architect. They work in teams to design beautiful, WaterSmart landscapes using various design elements.

“The Otay Water District believes this Hydro Station effort is critical to educating the younger generation about water industry jobs as they prepare for their futures,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “We continue to promote and recruit for water industry jobs, and this program is another resource to help us to increase the talent pool in the industry as our youth learn about what is available to them early on.”

Hands-on experience in an interactive space

Projects in progress by Halecrest Elementary School students at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Projects in progress by Halecrest Elementary School students at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

The Hydro Station is an interactive educational space with learning exhibits and hands-on activities dedicated to introducing fifth-grade students to the ecological cycle of water, water conservation, water quality, and careers in the water industry.

Educating the next-generation water industry workforce

Locally, more than 2,800 people work in the water and wastewater sector at the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. One-third of these industry professionals will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. The Hydro Station helps develop interest among a new generation of potential water professionals to participate in the mission to deliver safe and reliable water to hundreds and thousands of people in communities who rely on this essential workforce.

Students participate in activities focused on career opportunities, learning how their strengths, interests, and values may align with career options through hands-on activities connecting to specific careers. It also educates children, their families, and the community on the thoughtful use of water resources.

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

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

North County Water Agencies Offers Low‐Cost Rain Barrels to Help Customers Save Water

Encinitas, Calif. — To encourage water conservation as drought conditions persist, Carlsbad Municipal Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District, and Santa Fe Irrigation District have partnered to offer discounted rain barrels to area residents this fall. Collecting rainwater for future use not only can save drinking water and money, but also reduces irrigation runoff that can carry pollutants into local waterways and beaches.

Although average rainfall in San Diego County is just under ten inches annually, even light rain can provide a sufficient amount of water for later use. For example, a roof with a 2,000‐square‐foot surface area can capture 300 gallons from only a quarter inch of rain.

Rain barrels at Solana Center

rain barrel-water conservation-drought-rain barrels

Rain barrels ordered from October 1 to November 30 will be available for pick up at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation located at 137 North El Camino Real in Encinitas. Photo: Solana Center

Fifty‐gallon barrels are on sale for $97, with a final cost of $62 after a $35 rebate from water wholesaler Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Rebates on rain barrels and other water‐saving measures are available at www.socalwatersmart.com.

Rain barrels ordered from October 1 to November 30 will be available for pick up at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation located at 137 North El Camino Real in Encinitas. Visit www.solanacenter.org/rain‐barrels for more information and to order rain barrels.

Catching rain in barrels not only saves water for use in gardening and landscaping but also prevents rainwater from draining to the ocean and picking up contaminants along the way.

(Editor’s note: The City of Carlsbad, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District and the Santa Fe Irrigation District are four of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Helix Water District Adds Zero-Emission Truck to Sustainability Efforts

The Helix Water District has expanded its ongoing sustainability efforts with the addition of its first all-electric, zero-emission, Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck.

“Converting public and private fleets to zero-emission trucks is a big part of the governor’s plan to have five million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030,” said Helix Water District Director of Operations Kevin D. Miller. “This is a small step, but Helix is heading in the right direction.”

Helix Water District Board of Directors in the district’s new all-electric, zero-emission, Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. Driver’s seat: Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. Backseat: Director Dan McMillan. Back of the truck: Directors Joel Scalzitti, De Ana Verbeke and Mark Gracyk. Photo: Helix Water District sustainability

Helix Water District Adds Zero-Emission Truck to Sustainability Efforts

The Helix Water District has expanded its ongoing sustainability efforts with the addition of its first all-electric, zero-emission, Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck.

“Converting public and private fleets to zero-emission trucks is a big part of the governor’s plan to have five million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030,” said Helix Water District Director of Operations Kevin D. Miller. “This is a small step, but Helix is heading in the right direction.”

Left to right: Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg, Director Dan McMillan, Director Mark Gracyk, Board Vice President De Ana Verbeke and Director Joel Scalzitti. Photo: Helix Water District

The district dispatches 80 light- and heavy-duty trucks throughout its 50-square-mile service area daily to maintain the district’s pipelines, pump stations, and reservoir tanks, and also in response to customer calls. Field operations crews drive up to 100 miles per day.

Electric truck fuels savings

The Ford F-150 Lightning has over a 200-mile range. Ordering the vehicle prior to recent manufacturer price increases and taking advantage of rebates offset the price difference between the electric and gas-powered models. Electric trucks are also anticipated to save maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts to replace than comparable internal combustion engine models.

Avoiding fuel costs generates more savings. The district’s light-duty gasoline trucks have a fuel efficiency of about 20 miles to the gallon and cost 25 cents per mile to drive. Thanks to the district’s power purchase agreements and other investments, the electric trucks will cost less than 10 cents per mile.

New vehicle latest milestone in Helix sustainability efforts

The Helix Water District partnered with SDG&E and received grant funding to install on-site charging stations at two of its facilities. Photo: Helix Water District sustainability

The Helix Water District partnered with SDG&E and received grant funding to install on-site charging stations at two of its facilities. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix began transitioning to a sustainable fleet in 2017 when it replaced inefficient light-duty work trucks with seven Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids. The hybrids are 400% more fuel efficient than the trucks they replaced. The district also partnered with SDG&E and received grant funding to install on-site charging stations at two of its facilities.

“We welcome our first fully electric work vehicle,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “The technology has come a very long way, and zero-emission trucks benefit the cities and communities we serve by reducing operational costs, improving air quality, and reducing our environmental footprint. Whether developing new water sources or advancing toward a cleaner fleet, I am proud of the district’s sustainability efforts.”

In 2020, the district switched from diesel to renewable diesel, resulting in decreased emissions, particulates, and a noticeable increase in vehicle performance.

Additional sustainability efforts include:

  • Solar panel arrays at the Helix Operations Center in El Cajon
  • Purchasing electricity through California’s Direct Access Program
  • Pumping and moving water at night when electricity rates are lowest
  • Retrofitting facilities to reduce HVAC costs
  • Partnering with SDG&E to install charging stations for Helix and employee vehicles
  • Purchasing Toyota Prius vehicles with state and federal rebates

Each of these programs reduces energy use and reduces costs, which helps reduce operational costs for Helix Water District customers.

(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.)

Sweetwater Authority Adds Clean Energy Vehicles to its Fleet

Chula Vista, Calif. – Yesterday, the Sweetwater Authority Governing Board gathered to see and celebrate the agency’s new electric vehicles (EVs). The purchase of these clean energy vehicles demonstrates the Authority’s commitment to sustainability.

Helix Water District-WIFIA loan-EPA-Water reuse

Helix Water District Gets $18 Million Loan for Water Reuse Projects

The Helix Water District has received an $18 million loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support the Drinking Water Reliability Project. Helix will use the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA loan, to increase the region’s drinking water resiliency by expanding water reuse opportunities and reducing the reliance on imported water.

The WIFIA loan will help fund infrastructure improvements for the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, pump station upgrades and cast-iron pipeline replacement throughout the district.

Developing new drought-proof water supply

“In California, we are purifying recycled water and ocean water to replace the water that nature used to provide,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “The only way we can afford to keep rates as low as we can and develop these new projects is through collaboration – multiple agencies working together and securing capital from multiple funding sources. We are partnering with neighboring agencies to develop a new, drought-proof water supply and we are so pleased that the EPA selected our project for funding.”

$18 million loan helps recycled water efforts

Specifically, Helix Water District will modernize existing pump stations, conveyance infrastructure, and distribution pipelines as well as install an aeration system in Lake Jennings to meet state surface water requirements.

By completing the project, Helix Water District will replace 30% of its water needs that are currently met by regional sources with an alternative source of purified water conveyed from the East County AWP, which received a separate WIFIA loan. This project also supports California’s Title 22 “Pure Water” objective to increase use of recycled water by at least 2 million-acre-feet per year by 2030.

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.

As a result of the WIFIA program’s flexibility and competitive rates, Helix Water District will save approximately $3.2 million by financing with a WIFIA loan. Construction and operation are estimated to create nearly 400 jobs.

“Future of water in the West”

“Helix Water District’s project represents the future of water in the West,” said EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Bruno Pigott. “EPA is proud to help finance these infrastructure upgrades that will increase water reuse and help secure reliable safe drinking water for generations to come.”

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. The WIFIA program’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District and the Padre Dam Municipal Water District are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region. Water agencies in north San Diego County also received federal funds recently to support water recycling projects.)

WateReuse Award-Olivenhain Municipal Water District-Primary

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Receives Recycled Water Award

The Olivenhain Municipal Water District received the WateReuse Association of California’s 2022 award for Recycled Water Community Outreach. The award was presented at WateReuse’s annual conference in San Francisco.

OMWD’s community outreach campaigns are intended to educate customers on the importance of water use efficiency, new supply development, and water reuse as a means to address future water supply challenges. To this end, recycled water is a focal point for OMWD’s public outreach campaigns. The recycled water award is another recognition of Olivenhain’s collaborative efforts to increase local, sustainable water supply sources in the region.

Reducing imported water

“Every drop of recycled water used on our landscapes replaces a drop of imported drinking water,” said OMWD Board Secretary Bob Topolavac. “With the state now in its third consecutive dry year, it is more critical than ever to be promoting the benefits of recycled water to new potential users to expand the use of this sustainable water supply.”

WateReuse previously recognized OMWD as California’s Agency of the Year in 2005 and again in 2019. Since that time, OMWD has expanded its recycled water distribution system such that it now meets 14 percent of its demands with recycled water.

Water Reuse Coalition

Beyond its borders, OMWD encourages a regional approach to recycled water infrastructure. It is the lead agency of the North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition, a group of nine North County agencies that coordinate across jurisdictional boundaries to connect recycled water sources with demands. By working together on the North County Regional Recycled Water Project, these agencies expect to reduce potable water use by nearly 11 billion gallons per year by 2035.

Formed in 1990, the WateReuse Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the beneficial and efficient uses of high quality, locally produced, sustainable water sources for the betterment of society and the environment through advocacy, education and outreach, research, and membership.

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

North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition Awarded Up to $17.8 Million in Federal Funding

The North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition was awarded a grant of up to $17.8 million for the development of recycled water infrastructure. The grant funds come from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.