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Vallecitos Water District Taps Tech for Pipeline Inspection

The Vallecitos Water District is using a specialized camera and sonar to evaluate the condition of a sewer pipeline between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

The Land Outfall West pipeline is a large sewer line that stretches from El Camino Real to the Encina Water Pollution Control Facility in Carlsbad. Originally installed in 1986, an evaluation of the pipeline’s current condition using closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and sonar will help the District identify and prioritize its ongoing pipeline renewal and maintenance activities.

Working with Hoch Consulting, the Vallecitos Water District inspection project will take place through June. Photo: Vallecitos Water Distict

Vallecitos Water District Taps Tech for Pipeline Inspection

The Vallecitos Water District is using a specialized camera and sonar to evaluate the condition of a sewer pipeline between San Marcos and Carlsbad.

The Land Outfall West pipeline is a large sewer line that stretches from El Camino Real to the Encina Water Pollution Control Facility in Carlsbad. Originally installed in 1986, an evaluation of the pipeline’s current condition using closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and sonar will help the District identify and prioritize its ongoing pipeline renewal and maintenance activities.

Inspections help ensure system reliability

Field teams begin the inspection process, which is taking place at night to minimize disruption. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Field teams begin the inspection process, which is taking place at night to minimize disruption. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The pipeline ranges in size from 24-inches to 54-inches in diameter and is approximately 3.2 miles long. Project Manager Susan Bowman said today’s technology allows the District to perform thorough inspections without digging up streets and disrupting neighborhoods.

“We want to make sure the pipeline is still in good shape,” explained Bowman, who is the District’s asset management supervisor. “We’re going to be taking a look at the inside of the pipe using an advanced CCTV tool. It looks at all of the insides of the pipeline and identifies any flaws or maintenance issues that may need to be addressed.”

Bowman said the District regularly inspects manholes and performs routine inspection activities. Using cameras and sonar will provide more detailed information to help the District plan ongoing maintenance and repair to ensure the pipeline will continue to perform well.

District staff, consulting staff, pipeline inspectors, and environmental inspectors will be onsite during the work. Work started at the east end of the pipeline in Carlsbad, and will follow along Palomar Airport Road under Interstate 5, and end at the Encina Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Cost-effective and less disruptive

Map showing the 3.2 mile stretch of Vallectios Water District pipeline undergoing inspection in June. Photo: Vallecitos Water Diatrict

Map showing the 3.2 mile stretch of Vallecitos Water District pipeline undergoing inspection in June. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

To minimize traffic impacts and to take advantage of lower flow levels, all work is scheduled at night between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and will occur on weekdays through June 18. Bowman said most of the work should have limited impact on businesses and residents in the area, with minor compressor noise and limited street blocking along Palomar Airport Road.

Pipeline inspections tap tech

“We want to be good neighbors,” said Bowman. “But it is critical to ensure a pipeline is performing well, it is safe, and it is able to continue to do its job. It’s a cost-effective way to ensure the District’s assets are performing well. The technologies have really improved in the last 15 to 20 years.”

Previously, the only way to inspect a pipeline was to take it out of service and dig it up.

“If you’re going to dig something up to see what shape it’s in, you might as well be replacing it,” said Bowman. “We are definitely looking at a lot of these different noninvasive type of technologies. It helps the system perform better by reducing unplanned emergencies which are disruptive to all of us.”

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

San Marcos Interceptor Project Ready for Phase 2 Summer Start

The San Marcos Interceptor Replacement Project remains on schedule, with Phases 1 and 1A completed according to the Vallecitos Water District. The project replaces the District’s 1960s era 21-inch diameter sewer interceptor with more than 12,000-feet of 42-inch diameter sewer pipeline between Twin Oaks Valley Road and Pacific Street.

Vallecitos Water District-Interceptor-Pipeline-infrastructure

San Marcos Interceptor Project Ready for Phase 2 Summer Start 

The San Marcos Interceptor Replacement Project remains on schedule, with Phases 1 and 1A completed according to the Vallecitos Water District. The project replaces the District’s 1960s era 21-inch diameter sewer interceptor with more than 12,000-feet of 42-inch diameter sewer pipeline between Twin Oaks Valley Road and Pacific Street.

The Interceptor is a large trunk sewer pipeline receiving and conveying wastewater by gravity to the Encina Wastewater Authority. In Phases 1 and 1A of the project between 2002 and 2014, portions behind the Creekside Marketplace from State Route 78 to Grand Avenue, from Twin Oaks Valley Road to east of Johnston Lane, from Grand Avenue to Via Vera Cruz, and east of Johnson Lane to the south side of State Route 78 were completed.

Phase 2 will complete the remaining 3,400-feet of the westernmost project corridor extending from Via Vera Cruz to Pacific Street. The project budget is $8.5 million. The completion of Phase 2 of the Interceptor project has been in the works for more than 30 years, with the project exchanging numerous hands in planning, design, and construction.

“This is a milestone project for the District both in size and significance,” said Ryan Morgan, capital facilities senior engineer.

State of the art construction technology

Microtunneling made it possible for the Vallecitos Water District to successfully complete the project in under a week with no damage to the existing utilities while also minimizing traffic impacts at San Marcos Boulevard and Pacific Street. Photo: Vallecitos Water District San Marcos Interceptor

Microtunneling made it possible for the Vallecitos Water District to successfully complete the project in under a week with no damage to the existing utilities while also minimizing traffic impacts at San Marcos Boulevard and Pacific Street. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The project used state-of-the-art trenchless technology to install a 115-ft long tunnel under an existing concrete culvert under the Pacific Street and San Marcos Boulevard intersection. The 42-inch diameter fiberglass reinforced plastic Interceptor sewer was installed inside a 60-inch diameter steel casing pipe.

Using a process known as “microtunneling,” contractor TC Construction and sub-consultant JW Fowler used a MicroTunnel Boring Machine (MTBM) inside an excavation in the eastbound lanes of San Marcos Boulevard and be received in a smaller excavation in the westbound lanes of San Marcos Boulevard at Pacific Street.

The MTBM is larger than 60-inches in diameter to be large enough to bore through native soils, rock, and backfill along the Interceptor alignment. The new tunnel’s wall is pressurized internally using hydraulic fluids before the steel casing is permanently installed. The MTBM is remote-controlled by an operator on the surface and is laser-guided to ensure it stays within the designed horizontal and vertical alignment (line and grade).

The MTBM’s high level of accuracy makes it especially useful when a project needs to avoid conflicts with existing underground utility lines, including a 16-inch diameter high-pressure San Diego Gas & Electric gas line in this project. The microtunnel installation was a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week process.

The microtunnel allowed the District to “thread the needle,” and the tunnel was completed in under a week (plus setup). There was no damage to any of the existing utilities in San Marcos Boulevard, and traffic impacts were minimized.

Project completion nearing this summer

The San Marcos Interceptor project required special mitigating measures and biological monitoring for construction during bird nesting season between February 15 and September 15 along San Marcos Creek. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The San Marcos Interceptor project required special mitigating measures and biological monitoring for construction during bird nesting season between February 15 and September 15 along San Marcos Creek. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Interceptor project required biological monitors and archeological monitors for work adjacent to San Marcos Creek or predetermined environmental sensitive areas. Special mitigation measures and biological monitoring were required for construction during bird nesting season between February 15 and September 15. Additionally, tribal paleological monitors from Native American tribes of significance in the area were represented during excavation work in the creek.

The final leg of the project will begin in the easements adjacent to the creek between Via Vera Cruz and McMahr. Construction completion is expected in June 2021.

This replacement project was originally identified in the District’s 1991 Master Plan and has been phased to be completed prior to City of San Marcos development of the Creek District.

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

LOGO-SDCWA-Vallecitos Water District-Stacked

Agencies Reach Agreement over Water Deliveries

April 22, 2021 – The San Diego County Water Authority and the Vallecitos Water District have reached agreement over pipeline repairs and how to measure water deliveries while moving ahead as partners to ensure long-term water supply reliability. The Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday approved terms of a settlement with Vallecitos designed to end litigation filed in 2020. Vallecitos’ Board of Directors previously approved the terms.

Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology at Mahr Reservoir

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir in San Marcos. The district received the “Excellence in Action” award from the national WateReuse Association, and the “Innovation and Resiliency” award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, or CASA.

Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility employee Ivan Murguia monitors water quality. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology at Mahr Reservoir

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir in San Marcos.

The district received the “Excellence in Action” award from the national WateReuse Association, and the “Innovation and Resiliency” award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, or CASA.

The WateReuse Association is the nation’s only trade association solely dedicated to advancing laws, policy, funding, and public acceptance of recycled water. CASA provides leadership, advocacy, and information to its members, legislators, and the public. CASA also promotes partnerships on clean water and beneficial reuse issues that protect public health and the environment.

Known for its sustainable practices in water and wastewater treatment processes without compromising water quality, Vallecitos Water District employs a new ultrasound technology to improve water quality at the Mahr Reservoir and reduce the need for chemical treatment.

“These awards are proof of the Vallecitos Water District’s commitment to innovation,” said Vallecitos Board President Mike Sannella. “District staff are to be commended for their efforts to use innovative technology to improve and enhance our operations.”

See video recognizing contribution of Vallecitos employees to award-winning projects

Algal blooms treated with sonic technology

Originally called La Costa Storage No. 1 Dam and Reservoir when completed in 1981, Mahr Reservoir was renamed after original founder and 35-year board member Stanley A. Mahr. It stores up to 54-million gallons of reclaimed water for irrigation use. Vallecitos Water District has contracts with the City of Carlsbad and Olivenhain Municipal Water District to provide as much as five million gallons of recycled water daily as needed.

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Because the reservoir’s location receives intense sunlight with little rain, algal blooms can occur in the nutrient-rich recycled water. Algal blooms are commonly treated with costly chemicals that are labor-intensive to apply. Vallecitos Water District uses technology developed by LG Sonic of the Netherlands. It provides a complete overview of reservoir water quality, allowing swift identification and treatment of algal blooms.

Every ten minutes, an MPC Buoy in the Mahr Reservoir measures and monitors green and blue-green algae population, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and water temperature. The data is collected in real time and uploaded online software, which uses the data to predict algal blooms three to ten days in advance.

Sound barrier limits algae

The LG Sonic buoy can create a sound barrier in the top water layer. It affects the algae buoyancy, preventing it from rising where it can absorb sunlight to grow. Starved of sunlight and nutrients, algae cells sink to deeper water where they degrade due to natural bacteria and do not release toxins into the water.

With overall algae levels reduced through sonic technology, the need for chemical treatment is also reduced. LG Sonic’s specific low-power ultrasonic transmitters emit signals which are not harmful to people, fish, plants, or other wildlife.

Vallecitos Water District Wins Awards for Sonic Tech Disrupting Algae Blooms

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at Mahr Reservoir, it was announced Thursday. The district received the “Excellence in Action” national award from the WateReuse Association and the “Innovation and Resiliency” state award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies for its use of an ultrasound technology to address water quality at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir with a reduced need for chemical treatment.

Volunteers Offer Birds Eye View at South Lake Reservoir

For decades, it was a source of drinking water for the San Marcos area. Today, the South Lake Reservoir has new life as a local wildlife habitat.

South Lake was built with an earthen dam and provided drinking water to the Lake San Marcos area, most of downtown San Marcos, and the Coronado Hills area. Updates to potable water treatment had detrimental effects on the lake ecology, so the Vallecitos Water District stopped using the lake as a drinking water source in 1984, although it remained an emergency water supply for another decade.

Naturalists Paige DeCino (left) and Karen Merrill survey South Lake Reservoir. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Volunteers Offer Birds Eye View at South Lake Reservoir

For decades, it was a source of drinking water for the San Marcos area. Today, the South Lake Reservoir has new life as a local wildlife habitat.

South Lake was built with an earthen dam and provided drinking water to the Lake San Marcos area, most of downtown San Marcos, and the Coronado Hills area. Updates to potable water treatment had detrimental effects on the lake ecology, so the Vallecitos Water District stopped using the lake as a drinking water source in 1984, although it remained an emergency water supply for another decade.

South Lake Reservoir is home to freshwater fish and abundant aquatic plant life, waterfowl, quail, doves, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, and coyotes. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

South Lake Reservoir is home to freshwater fish and abundant aquatic plant life, waterfowl, quail, doves, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, and coyotes. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Now, South Lake provides a thriving ecosystem within and around the facility. The lake is home to freshwater fish and abundant aquatic plant life. Waterfowl such as coots, gallinules, grebes, various species of ducks, and cormorants frequent the lake throughout the year. The property is filled with quail, doves, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bobcats, and coyotes.

Volunteers help identify habitat and wildlife at South Lake

Vallecitos Water District staff recently surveyed the area to look for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife, and to catalog plant and animal species.

Certified California naturalists Paige DeCino and Karen Merrill from Preserve Calavera assisted Vallecitos public information representative Alicia Yerman, who is also a certified naturalist. The team spent three days exploring the lake and the 1.4-mile trail. Merrill and DeCino host the volunteer UC Naturalist certification program. The program is currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wildlife cameras at South Lake Reservoir captured this visiting bobcat at night. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Wildlife cameras at South Lake Reservoir captured this visiting bobcat at night. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Two wildlife cameras were set up at South Lake to capture wildlife activity over a two-week period. Lisa Urabe, a University of California trained Master Gardener and Vallecitos public information representative, asked the Buena Vista Audubon Society to conduct a bird survey. The BVAS volunteers identified 36 species in mid-February and created a YouTube video showcasing some of the species.

BVAS volunteers were enthusiastic about surveying the birds in an area set aside as wildlife habitat. With increased habitat fragmentation, BVAS hopes the area will remain primarily an area for wildlife.

Buena Vista Audubon Society volunteers including Karen Merrill andd Paig DeCino identified 36 species in mid-February and created a YouTube video showcasing some of the species seen. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Buena Vista Audubon Society volunteers including Karen Merrill andd Paige DeCino identified 36 species in mid-February and created a YouTube video showing some of species. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“What you have at South Lake is a gem of the healthy functioning habitat— flora, fauna, and it is just a complete picture of what we hope our open spaces and natural lands to be,” said Karen Merrill. “It is something we should treasure now and into the future. It is one of a kind here on coastal San Diego County.”

Vallecitos employees take pride in the lake and its surrounding ecosystem and strive to keep the habitat intact for generations to come.

Vallecitos Water District staff including maintenance operator Marcelino Sanchez help maintain the lake and habitat. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District staff, including water distribution operator Marcelino Sanchez, help maintain the lake and habitat. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Firefighting helicopters can pull water from the lake

In addition to its value as local wildlife habitat, South Lake is available for fire suppression. Firefighting helicopters can pull water from the lake during wildfire events. The lake may be used as part of the City of San Marcos’ park system in the future.

Water quality within South Lake is monitored daily by water distribution operators, and the condition of the dam’s integrity is recorded weekly. Recently, an environmentally-sound ultrasonic technology made by LG Sonic was placed on the lake to reduce algae blooms and to improve water quality.