California water regulators are poised to approve long-awaited rules that will allow local water agencies to convert sewage — such as what drains from toilets and showers — directly into drinking water.
Coachella Valley water agencies are lifting some drought restrictions following an exceptionally wet winter in California, although experts and officials warn that California residents should keep getting used to “conservation as a way of life.”
With the federal government calling for major cuts in water use to address the historic shortage on the Colorado River, the leaders of 30 agencies that supply cities from the Rocky Mountains to Southern California have signed an agreement committing to boost conservation, in part by pledging to target the removal of one especially thirsty mainstay of suburban landscapes: decorative grass.
San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl is taking the reins as board chair of California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA), a nonprofit corporation that supports development of sound water policy statewide.
The Water Authority is one of 11 member agencies of CUWA that are collectively responsible for serving drinking water to about two-thirds of California’s population. As the united voice for the state’s largest urban water purveyors, CUWA provides a technical perspective to promote common understanding and consensus-based solutions for urban water issues.
Dry heat is already being felt at the beginning of May, and without rain, the drought continues across all of California.
Experts said California is in its third consecutive year of drought.
This week, some of the top water experts in the state were in Sacramento to think of solutions. Experts talked about the ongoing dry hydrology – the idea that this dry climate will be consistent up and down the state for the foreseeable future.
One dozen San Diego County water agencies are looking for the best in landscaping makeover projects for the 2022 regional WaterSmart landscape competition. This annual competition showcases residential water-saving landscaping projects to inform and inspire other homeowners to consider replacing their turf-based yard designs.
The contest deadline for all participating agencies is Friday, May 13.
The tradition of generous holiday support by the San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies flourished again in 2021. Employees pitched in to help a wide array of nonprofit community services.
This year, the Charitable Giving Committee and Employee Association of the San Diego County Water Authority joined forces to support The Arc of San Diego. The Arc of San Diego serves adults and children with disabilities, empowering them to achieve their goals and reach their maximum potential.
The Arc of San Diego put together an Amazon holiday wish list for some of its clients with various items and brief bios on the recipients.
“Our employees eagerly pitched in to play Santa for these deserving families,” said John Kross, chair of the Water Authority’s Charitable Giving Committee. “It was even more meaningful to us when we learned a little about our recipients from Arc of San Diego. It reminded us what these small acts of kindness mean in the lives of our neighbors during the holidays. Our Charitable Giving Committee and Employees Association have a long legacy of philanthropic support, and we are more dedicated to our efforts than ever since the pandemic made life challenging for so many people.”
Bringing joy to kids and families in need
Sweetwater Authority employees have been active participants in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program for nearly two decades, providing toys to children in its service area. Every year, employees take a tag that contains information about the recipient (age, gender, toy request). The employee shops for the item and brings them back unwrapped to the office. The Salvation Army pickups and delivers the donated toys. This year, employees donated enough toys to help make Christmas bright for 20 South County families and kids.
Each holiday season, the Marine Corps partners with local nonprofits and businesses to collect toys for distribution to less fortunate children throughout the community. The Helix Water District employee volunteer program, “Helix Helps,” collected toys from collection boxes at each of its facilities and donated both in-person and virtually from November 22 through December 16. Under the Helix Helps program, Helix employees, families, and friends volunteer their time to help support the communities the district serves year-round.
The Toys for Tots drive continues virtually. Individuals can shop for toys virtually or donate directly to the Toys for Tots campaign at toysfortotsbox.com
City of Escondido employees, including the water and wastewater divisions, put together “Souper Sacks,” bags of non-perishable food, and fun surprises distributed through the city’s senior program at the Park Avenue Community Center. This year’s effort brought 292 Souper Sacks. In addition, nearly 300 items included gift cards, toys, blankets, pajamas, and clothing were donated for students and families at the Escondido Union School District by the city’s “PJ Angels.”
The City of Poway’s Water and Wastewater Utilities employees collaborated with the Kiwanis Club “Holiday With A Hero” event to provide more than 100 Poway children with food, blankets, towels, first aid kits, shoes, and toys.
Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees are playing Santa Claus for humans and canines alike in 2021. Donations were gathered for a single mom and her four children, two local seniors, and two veterans in its annual Adopt-A-Family effort. Employees also collected a box load of donations for A New Life Rescue, an organization finding homes for abused and neglected dogs in San Diego.
OMWD employees also collected donations in support of the international organization Water For People, a volunteer-based nonprofit working to support disadvantaged communities by providing sustainable, lasting solutions. This winter, OMWD employees raised over $4,669 in donations to help this cause.
(Editor’s note: The Sweetwater Authority, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, City of Poway, and City of Escondido, are five of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)
As heavy rain swept across Southern California on Tuesday, another rare water event was taking place. The Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreed to buy thousands of acre-feet of water from the San Diego County Water Authority.
Usually, water sales go in the other direction.
The transaction is significant on a number of fronts. The water should help some of MWD’s member agencies that are in dire straights due to drought and severe cutbacks from the State Water Project. Also, the deal again underscores that the Water Authority, which also is a member under Metropolitan’s umbrella, has for years moved to diversify and stockpile water supplies to become more resilient during drought conditions.
After back-to-back dry winters, two of the Bay Area’s biggest water agencies on Tuesday moved forward with plans to urge the public to reduce water use to avoid shortages this year. But for now, they are using a carrot rather than a stick, saying they have enough water to get by without resorting to fines, water cops and strict rules.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District, based in San Jose, voted Tuesday night to double the amount of money it pays homeowners to replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping, from $1 a square foot to $2, and to expand the maximum amount it will pay per household from $2,000 to $3,000 under the conservation program.
I’m so pleased report that yesterday the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest.
The rebate resulted from the Water Authority’s decade-long rate case litigation in state Superior Court seeking to compel MWD to set legal rates and repay overcharges. The Water Authority won several critical issues in cases covering 2011-2014 and was deemed the prevailing party, which means the agency is also owed legal fees and charges in addition to the recent damages and interest payment from MWD.
The court rulings will also help avoid future overcharges and thereby minimize future disputes over MWD’s unlawful Water Stewardship Rate for transporting the Water Authority’s independent water supplies through MWD facilities. Those charges – if they had continued – would have cost San Diego County residents more than $500 million over the life of the Water Authority’s water delivery contract with MWD.
This day has been a long time coming. We never wanted to litigate these issues – but if we had not had the courage to do so, MWD would still be collecting the illegal fees and we would not have money to give back to local retail water agencies across the region.