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Trenchless technology allows the Vallecitor Water District to effect repairs without digging up streets. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Trenchless Technology Saves Ratepayers Time, Money, and Inconvenience

A method of replacing sewer pipe without digging or removing the old pipe – trenchless pipe repair – is saving Vallecitos Water District ratepayers money and reducing traffic delays. It’s another example of how water agencies in San Diego County are tapping cost-effective technology.

The district is using the trenchless method to extend the life of its service pipelines while avoiding the disruption of excavation trenches and traffic rerouting around work areas on public streets. Instead of digging the pipeline up to replace it, the sewer line is rehabilitated from inside the pipe. This trenchless technology method increases the efficiency and the service life of the pipe without having to replace it; eliminating paving, reducing traffic interruptions, as well as saving the District and in turn its ratepayers money.

“Traditional installation methods cause such a disruption to customers daily routine, so we’re really lucky when this type of project presents itself to the District,” said Jason Hubbard, a senior engineer with the district. “Our residents are going to have a much better day without navigating a large construction zone – they can also be quite noisy and dusty. Bottom line, everyone’s happy.”

Avoiding disruption to customers from trenches and traffic rerouting

By avoiding the need for exacation, streets can be kept open and functioning while work progresses. Photo: Vallecitos Water DIstrict

By avoiding the need for exacation, streets can be kept open and functioning while work progresses. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Pipeline integrity can be lost due to a combination of many factors such as missing pieces, cracks, pinholes, offsets at joints, and root intrusion. Numerous methods, technologies and practices are used by water agencies to ensure pipeline integrity.

The Vallecitos Water District works to find innovative technologies to ensure continuing water, wastewater, and reclamation services to a population of 103,000 residents within its 45-square-mile service area. There are 358 miles of water pipelines and 276 miles of sewer pipelines in the VWD’s 45-square-mile service area, serving more than 103,000 residents. The pipelines are designed, built, and operated to be safe, reliable, and sustainable to achieve pipe integrity. This means ensuring a pipeline and all its related components are running properly, no small task.

“We constantly work to maintain a reliable sewer conveyance system by utilizing a plethora of innovative and cost-effective technologies,” said Hubbard.

Trenchless technology also results in cost savings

Trrenchless technology is also cost effect in addition to being less disruption to customers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Trrenchless technology is also cost effect in addition to being less disruption to customers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

VWD employed two types of trenchless rehabilitation methods, cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) liners and spiral wound liners to maintain District pipes. CIPP liners are epoxy saturated felt tubes, which are inserted into the existing pipe, then cured and hardened by steam. There are no joints or seams. Spiral Wound Liners use an above groundwinding machine to feed interlocking PVC profile into an old pipe.

Both methods result in a new “pipe within a pipe.” Little to no digging is involved in this trenchless process, making for a less disruptive and more cost-effective method than traditional “dig and replace” pipe repair methods. The liner can be inserted using water or air pressure. Liner technology is particularly effective in hard to reach areas, such as easements. For projects along residential and business streets, the trenchless method reduces disruptions and impacts to businesses and neighborhoods.

This technology helped the Vallecitos Water District to rehabilitate 1,595 feet of sewer pipe. The district plans to rehabilitate another 2,300 feet in 2020. Sections of critical infrastructure were rehabilitated at an affordable price due to the CIPP and spiral wound liner options. No sewer laterals were cut, and work was done without a sewer bypass. The project was completed with a savings to the District of $37,000 under the estimated budget. The lining part of the operation took less than three hours.

READ MORE: Innovative Relining Program Reduces Cost, Extends Pipeline Service

 

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection Systems workers Raul Rodarte (left) and David Saavedra conduct smoke testing. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Smokes Out Wastewater System Problems

Problems in wastewater systems can’t hide behind a smokescreen at the Vallecitos Water District. The district’s Systems Collection Department routinely performs “smoke testing” of its wastewater system. This technique can easily locate flows caused by broken or incorrectly installed sewer pipes, lateral connections, or missing/broken clean-out caps.

The test is performed by introducing smoke, comprised primarily of steam, through a device similar to a fog generating machine, into the wastewater systems. Staff can see if smoke comes out of the system through any leaks or breaches.

“We don’t want clean rainwater entering the sanitary sewer system, because we don’t want to treat clean water down at the treatment plant,” said Matthew Thompson, VWD wastewater collection worker. “We also don’t want to have an open system in case of an emergency, where liquids could exit the system.”

Residents are notified prior to any smoke testing in their neighborhood. The use of the smoke is an approved practice by the U.S. EPA and has no adverse health effects. The smoke used by VWD is non-toxic and dissipates quickly. During the testing process, residents can assist by monitoring the plumbing systems inside their homes to see if they have any internal problems.

Watch how the smoke testing process works in this video.

Crews inject smoke into the sewer system. It bypasses the living quarters of each residence before rising out of vents located on the roof. This is what crews are looking for, because it’s a good indicator there are no illegal hookups to the sewer. Smoke may also escape if the private sewer lateral clean-out is missing its cap.

If smoke emits from the home’s storm drain system or front yard, it could mean there is a possible illegal system connection, or an opening to the sewer that can lead to surplus water levels and subsequent sewer spills.

Field crews take care of any problems that may arise during testing. Residents are notified to disconnect illegal connections or face potential future fines. While the district does not maintain the plumbing inside homes, including the sewer lateral or the clean out, district crews will make simple, inexpensive repairs on the spot as a service to their customers. A doorhanger is left after any quick-fix is completed.

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection Systems workers Dennis Richardson (standing) and David Saavedra inject smoke into the sewer system. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Smoke testing

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection Systems workers Dennis Richardson (standing) and David Saavedra inject smoke into the sewer system. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“Our ultimate goal is to make the customer happy, and that there is no interrupted service,” said Thompson. “If you see any of the wastewater crew out in the street, feel free to come talk to us and ask us what we’re doing. We’d love to share how we’re helping the system flow.”

In some cases, customers identify sewer problems themselves. District Systems Collection Department staff then determine the source of any potential problems, and how to resolve those problems.

Smoke testing isn’t new, but it might catch residents off guard. It has been used since the 1950s. For more than 10 years, smoke testing has proved to be a valuable ally in sewer maintenance. The Vallecitos Water District performs a minimum of four tests annually to keep its system operating at the optimum level.

 

Vallecitos Water District Smokes Out Wastewater System Problems

Problems in wastewater systems can’t hide behind a smokescreen at the Vallecitos Water District. The district’s Systems Collection Department routinely performs “smoke testing” of its wastewater system. This technique can easily locate flows caused by broken or incorrectly installed sewer pipes, lateral connections, or missing/broken clean-out caps. The test is performed by introducing smoke, comprised primarily of steam, through a device similar to a fog generating machine, into the wastewater systems. Staff can see if smoke comes out of the system through any leaks or breaches.

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore's landscape makeover won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: Water Authority

WaterSmart Landscape Contest Seeks Inspiring Entries

The 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest invites homeowners across San Diego County to share their landscaping makeovers to inspire and encourage more people to consider their own makeovers by showcasing the beauty and variety of water-efficient landscapes.

The winning landscape from each of the participating water agencies will receive a prize valued at $250 and be recognized in print and online publications. The deadline to apply is April 26. Enter the contest here: www.landscapecontest.com

Customers of these local water agencies are eligible: the City of Escondido, Helix Water District, the City of Oceanside, Olivenhain Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon del Diablo Water District, City of San Diego, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, Vista Irrigation District and California American Water.

Jeff Moore stands in his San Marcos front yard featuring his award-winning waterwise landscaping work. Photo: Water Authority

Contest rules vary with each agency, but all entries will be judged on the same criteria. Judges are looking for overall attractiveness of the landscaping including its curb appeal and whether the plants are well maintained; a design with adequate plant coverage and permeable soil able to thrive with less water; efficient methods of irrigation; and climate-appropriate plant selection with minimal turf.

Water-efficient landscaping is beautiful

Raised planter beds and a living wall are features in this award-winning Olivenhain area landscaping project. Photo: Courtesy OMWD

San Diego County residents have embraced the new WaterSmart approach to their landscaping, installing water-efficient gardens and removing thirsty turf in increasing numbers.

One of those swapping turf for sustainable landscaping is San Marcos homeowner Rhonda Holmes. She won the 2018 Vallecitos Water District Landscape District contest. Holmes transformed the landscape at her home shortly after buying it. Her outdoor remodel included replacing the front and backyard turf areas with water-efficient plants.

She designed a garden that was smart on water while being beautiful at the same time.

“It’s really easy to do,” Holmes said. “I’d love to see more people try to do their part.”

The contest aims to inspire residents to consider a landscape makeover by showcasing the beauty and variety of water-efficient landscapes.

Video of 2018 Vallecitos Water District winners

Many previous winners have taken advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority’s free WaterSmart landscape makeover classes to help them successfully create and complete their projects. More than one million square feet of turf has been targeted for removal by course participants, generating a water savings potential of 36 million gallons annually.

Interested residents can learn about the next series of Landscaping Makeover classes and register on the WaterSmartSD website.

In addition to the benefits of reducing water consumption, water-efficient landscaping can improve a home’s curb-appeal and value, and reduce the need for costly, time-consuming maintenance. Many native plant selections also have fire-resistant qualities and provide habitat for local wildlife.

Outdoor watering accounts for roughly half of statewide urban use, and more in inland areas, according to a Public Policy Institute of California report. Savings can come from installing more efficient irrigation systems and replacing thirsty lawns with less thirsty plants.

Jeff Moore stands in his front yard featuring his award-winning waterwise landscaping work. Photo: Charlie Neuman, Water Authority Vallecitos

Waterwise Landscaping Blooms in San Marcos

San Marcos, Calif. – A beautiful native garden low on water use but not on style won first place in the Vallecitos Water District’s 2018 “WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

To encourage customers to reduce outdoor water use, Vallecitos recognizes customers whose yards best exhibit the beauty of California-friendly, low-water gardening. The Vallecitos Board of Directors honored the 2018 winners of the annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest at its August board meeting.

Jeff Moore stands in his front yard featuring his award-winning WaterSmart landscaping work. Photo: Water Authority

The winners are:

First place – Rhonda Holmes and Jeff Jenco

Second place – Dennis and Shannon Root

Third place – Patti Joyce and Jeffrey Moore

View a video tour and interviews with the winners here.

First place winner Rhonda Holmes said the landscape transformation at her Lake San Marcos-area home took place after purchasing the house and undertaking a complete remodel, which included replacing the front and back yard turf areas with water-efficient plants.

Holmes describes seeing neighborhood lawns with running sprinkler heads misting the streets. She wanted to design a garden that was smart on water, while being beautiful at the same time. As for the earth-friendly garden remodel, Holmes says, “It’s really easy to do. I’d love to see more people try to do their part.”

Bioswale feature prevents stormwater pollution

Jeff Moore rakes the zen garden in his back yard featuring his landscape work. Photo:  Water Authority

Holmes also installed a beautiful and environmentally conscious bioswale to reduce pollution to nearby Lake San Marcos. It prevents water from being emptied into the storm drain system.

“I think what people don’t realize is all the pesticides and fertilizers and chemicals we use on our plants, if we don’t do something like a biofiltration system with those chemicals, then end up leaching out into the streets, into the gutters and into the golf course here, and for example in Lake San Marcos,” said Holmes.

Holmes says in addition to water conservation, she is able to avoid pest control with chemicals, because native plants are more disease resistant.

All three winners experienced an unexpected benefit: an influx of wildlife into their yards including birds, bees and butterflies, and small reptiles. There is even a neighborhood peacock that visits the Root household.

Free fall series of landscape makeover classes now open for registration

Decorative elements highlight Jeff Moore’s landscaping. Photo: Water Authority

Shannon Root says she attended a landscaping seminar held at the Vallecitos Water District. Third place winner Jeffrey Moore attended the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscaping Makeover series of classes. Both called them informative and extremely helpful. The next series of Landscaping Makeover classes are scheduled in October. Interested residents can register on the program’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vallecitos District Logo

Transparency Certificate of Excellence Awarded to Vallecitos Water District

San Marcos, Calif. – The Vallecitos Water District received the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence by the Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF) in recognition of its outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance. California SDLF Public Affairs Field Coordinator Chris Palmer and California SDLF Board Member Jo MacKenzie were on hand to recognize Vallecitos for completing the essential requirements.

Vallecitos District Logo

Vallecitos Water District Receive Re-Accreditation as ‘District of Distinction’

San Marcos, Calif. – On April 4, the Vallecitos Water District was honored for achieving re-accreditation as a “District of Distinction” by the Special District Leadership Foundation (SDLF). The accreditation is designed as a way for districts to highlight their prudent fiscal practices along with other areas important to effectively operate and govern a special district. California SDLF public affairs field coordinator Chris Palmer was on hand to recognize Vallecitos for completing the essential governance requirements. This is the second time Vallecitos has received this biannual accreditation.

The California Water Environment Association of San Diego recognized Vallecitos Water District wastewater treatment plant supervisor Dawn McDougle as its 2018 Supervisor of the Year. Photo: Courtesy VWD

Vallecitos Supervisor Honored for 28 Years of Environmental Protection

From her first day on the job at Vallecitos Water District in 1988, Dawn McDougle knew that she wanted to finish her career at the San Marcos-based water agency.

Her dedication, innovation, and commitment to the community have paid off in many ways over the decades. In January, they brought McDougle to the forefront of the region’s water industry when the California Water Environment Association of San Diego recognized her as Supervisor of the Year for her career of excellence, safety and protecting the environment.

McDougle started at Vallecitos as an industrial waste technician at a time when few women performed this work. She advanced her career by taking classes and earning certifications – and she helped others by mentoring and coaching them along the way. In 2002, McDougle was promoted to wastewater treatment plant supervisor.

Career Accomplishments Benefit the Community

Over the past 16 years, McDougle played a major role in the operation and management of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility – recognized in 2009 with an Award of Excellence from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“It’s been an awesome road with the Vallecitos Water District, and I am always going to be grateful to say I spent my career here and achieved all the goals I wanted to achieve,” said MdDougle.

McDougle’s tenure at Meadowlark included the recent completion of a $30 million expansion to an important part of Vallecitos’ water supply program that reduces demand on imported water supplies for northern San Diego County. The facility produces recycled water for golf courses at La Costa and the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, several school sites, Legoland and the Carlsbad Flower Fields.

McDougle masterminded the use of new process units that extended the useful life of the Meadowlark plant well beyond 2030. With many constraints along the way, she kept the existing plant operating while constructing a new plant and meeting the plant expansion output goal of 5 million gallons per day.

McDougle’s staff at Meadowlark praise her extensive knowledge, her leadership, and her generosity in passing on her knowledge to others. “Dawn gave me an opportunity … She’s been great, she shows me what I have to do in order to be a successful operator. She’s top notch in this industry,” said Fernando Mata, Plant Operator.

The Meadowlark facility is visited frequently by students and ratepayers, because it provides an excellent opportunity to see how wastewater is converted to a valuable resource. Vallecitos developed successful outreach programs with McDougle’s guidance, including the California Water Environment Association “Wake up to Wastewater” tour, and the district’s award-winning Water Academy tour.

During the Water Academy tour, McDougle highlights how the district plays an integral role in protecting the environment through water reuse. It showcases an industry leader, who has spent her career making sure the district’s facilities live up to their promise.