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‘This System Cannot Be Sustained’

The Colorado River Basin is the setting for some of the most drawn-out and complex water issues in the Western U.S. In 2019, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan — a water-conservation agreement between states, tribal nations and the federal government for the basin, now in its 20th year of drought — passed Congress. This year, it goes into effect.

2020 will also see the start of the renegotiation of the Colorado River Interim Guidelines. The guidelines, which regulate the flow of water to users, were created in 2007 without tribal consultation and are set to expire in 2026. The 29 tribal nations in the upper and lower basins hold some of the river’s most senior water rights and control around 20% of its annual flow.

West’s Biggest Reservoir Is Back on the Rise, Thanks to Conservation, Snow

LAS VEGAS—The largest reservoir in the Western U.S., Lake Mead, is rising again after more than a decade of decline, and at least some credit goes to the local National Hockey League team.

“Reality check!” Ryan Reaves, right wing for the Vegas Golden Knights, yells as he body-slams a man through a plate-glass window for excessive lawn watering in a television commercial. “Vegas is enforcing water waste big time.”

Ads like this began airing last year as part of a campaign by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to persuade the more than two million residents of this sprawling desert metropolis to use less water. Using a carrot-and-stick approach, including paying landowners to remove grass and fining for overuse, the agency said it has cut total Colorado River water consumption by 25% over the past two decades, even as the population it serves has grown around 50%.

Driving Water Conservation

As California approaches what could be another drought, water utilities are eager to find new ways of curbing water demand. Stanford researchers have developed a machine learning model that detects unexpected water-use consumption patterns – data water utilities can use to inform resource planning and water conservation campaigns.

Projects Create Wetlands, Improve Water Quality in San Diego Region

Since 2005, the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Program has supported and funded water conservation, water quality and resource projects throughout San Diego County.

Program partners, including staff of the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, the California Department of Water Resources, and regional water industry leaders, met at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College Monday to celebrate 15 years of achievements.

The program facilitates collaboration on water resources planning and projects in the region by water retailers, wastewater agencies, stormwater and flood managers, watershed groups, the business community, tribes, agriculture, and nonprofit stakeholders.

IRWM - SD Wild Animal Park Biofiltration Wetland

Projects Create Wetlands, Improve Water Quality in San Diego Region

Since 2005, the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Program has supported and funded water conservation, water quality and resource projects throughout San Diego County.

Program partners, including staff of the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, the California Department of Water Resources, and regional water industry leaders, met at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College Monday to celebrate 15 years of achievements.

The program facilitates collaboration on water resources planning and projects in the region by water retailers, wastewater agencies, stormwater and flood managers, watershed groups, the business community, tribes, agriculture, and nonprofit stakeholders.

Collaboration improves regional water quality

Projects supported and funded by the program, or IRWM, have increased long-term water supply reliability, improved water quality, created wetlands and increased local water supply sources. Funding for the IRWM projects is provided from several propositions approved by voters and administered through the California DWR.

“Since it started, the Water Authority has been a strong supporter of the IRWM, partnering with the City and County of San Diego to develop the program,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl, in a keynote address at the Monday meeting. “Bringing diverse stakeholders together through collaboration funds water reliability projects throughout the San Diego region.”

The collaboration has resulted in improved water supply reliability through the successful funding of conservation, water reuse, and other supply projects throughout the region, she said.

Another benefit of collaborating through the program is it brings traditionally underrepresented communities to the table to have projects funded.

Environmental health and safety, open space

The San Diego IRWM program has helped fund 25 projects in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities supporting the improvement of water reliability and water reliability in all parts of the region.

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program and sponsored by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project.

The restoration of Chollas Creek was intended to improve environmental health and safety, surface water quality, and availability of green open space for Encanto, a disadvantaged urban community in San Diego.

IRWM Program - Chollas Creek - WNN

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program. Photo: Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project

Wetlands, educational opportunities

Another project funded under the IRWM program, created wetlands to improve water quality at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The biofiltration wetland project, sponsored by the San Diego Zoo Global, has also served to educate thousands of students, teachers, and park visitors through various programs.

The IRWM continues to identify opportunities to fund projects to bring multiple benefits to the region.

The program is included in California’s draft Water Resilience Portfolio, released in January. Three state agencies created the portfolio, which proposes recommended actions to help California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure and other challenges.

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Vallecitos Water District Employee Leads By Example With WaterSmart Landscaping Makeover

Vallecitos Water District Development Services Coordinator Eileen Koonce transformed the front yard at her new home into a beautiful water-efficient design with help from the San Diego County Water Authority’s Landscape Makeover Program.

As a new homeowner, when Koonce received her first water bill, she decided to figure out a way to reduce her water bill and her water usage. She realized the thirsty lawn covering the front yard had to go.

“As an employee of the District, we are always talking to customers about how they can reduce water use in their landscape, and what better time to put that theme to use than in my own yard,” said Koonce.

Proposed Changes to County Landscape Ordinance Would Reduce Water Use by 40%

The County’s Planning & Development Services is preparing to release draft documents for public review this week related to the project called Water Efficiency Updates to the Landscape Ordinance.

This project will update the County’s Landscape Ordinance to codify requirements set forth by the County’s Climate Action Plan Measures W-1.2 and A-2.1. PDS began implementing these requirements upon approval of the CAP in 2018 through the CAP Development Checklist and existing landscape review process within PDS.

 One result of the ordinance will be to reduce outdoor water use in new and existing residential and non-residential landscaping 40% from 2014 levels.

CVWD Offering Rebates for Washing Machines, Hot Water Pumps

Coachella Valley Water District is now offering two new water efficiency rebates for residential customers who install a new high-efficiency washing machine or a hot water recirculating pump in their home.

“We are excited to offer these new programs to our customers to increase their efficiency,” said Katie Evans, Director of Communications and Conservation at CVWD. “Many of our customers have already taken advantage of all of our existing programs and we pleased to offer them another way to reduce their use and help our community reach our sustainability goals.”

Native plant-sustainability-garden-landscapetracting pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Image: Water Authority

Design a Native Garden

If you haven’t finished planting your sustainable garden yet this year, you still have some time. Choose native plants that will thrive in the arid San Diego County climate.

Native plants are naturally drought-tolerant. They also support local ecosystems by providing food and habitat for pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. Native plants can fall into one of many categories: trees, succulents, perennials, shrubs, grasses, groundcovers and more.

Create your sustainable garden

Each type of plant serves a different purpose in a sustainable garden.

Trees are a great way to provide natural shade. They also catch water that runs off your roof when it rains.

Perennials often have colorful flowers that bring beautiful colors for your garden.

Groundcovers and shrubs are great for covering dry slopes and catching rainwater.

Succulents look great next to rocks or other features in your garden and are usually low-maintenance.

Need ideas for your new sustainable garden this spring?

The California Native Plant Society-San Diego Chapter will conduct its eighth annual Garden Tour, The Artful California Native Garden: Native Gardens and Art Tour of East County on Saturday, April 4, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Demonstrations will include how to add dry stream-bed bioswales, adjacent natural areas, water catchment devices, slope gardens, charming water features, bridges, sculptures and more in your garden.

Local artists will be meeting and greeting guests in many of the gardens and selling their California native garden themed artwork and crafts.

Tours of private residential gardens

Twelve private residential gardens will be visited on the tour, and their owners will be on-site to answer questions. At the Water Conservation Garden there will be guided demonstrations for planting and tours of the native plant garden.

When: Saturday, April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, El Cajon, 92019

Cost: $30 – $40

Vactor Truck-Leucadia Wastewater District-

Water Agencies Team Up to Reduce Potable Water Use

The Olivenhain Municipal Water District and Leucadia Wastewater District are reducing potable water use by switching to recycled water to flush sewer lines in their service areas.

With the recent installation of new equipment by both agencies, recycled water is now available to Leucadia for sewer line maintenance in the Village Park neighborhood in Encinitas and in the La Costa neighborhood in Carlsbad.

Regular flushing is important for gravity-fed sewer line maintenance. The process involves filling a specialized sewer cleaning vehicle, known as a vactor truck, with water and injecting the water into a sewer main. Flushing the pipes in proper working condition extends their lifetime by removing materials such as grease and roots, which can cause clogs and sewage overflows. Once flushed, a pipeline can be inspected and its condition assessed.

Recycled water, not potable water, now used to flush sewer lines

Prior to this project, Leucadia did not have access to recycled water in Olivenhain’s service area, instead filling vactor trucks with potable water. Leucadia identified the opportunity to reduce potable water use and save its ratepayers money, and approached Olivenhain about creating points at which the wastewater district could fill trucks with recycled water. Five locations throughout Encinitas and Carlsbad were selected.

“It’s a pleasure to partner with neighboring agencies for the common good,” said Olivenhain Municipal Water District Board President Ed Sprague stated. “Simple changes such as these add up and help ensure a reliable water supply for future generations.”

Regional partnership conserves drinking water

“Leucadia is excited to continue its regional partnership with the Olivenhain Municipal Water District,” said David Kulchin, Leucadia’s board president. “Using recycled water to clean sewer pipelines not only saves precious potable water supplies but continues our efforts to utilize renewable resources to the maximum extent possible.”

In addition to sewer line flushing, municipal street sweeping vehicles that were previously using potable water will be able to access recycled water thanks to the new connections. In accordance with state regulations governing recycled water use, the vactor trucks and street sweeping vehicles will have separate filling systems for potable and recycled water.

Approximately 14% of Olivenhain’s overall water demand is met with recycled water. Olivenhain produces up to two million gallons per day of recycled water at its 4S Ranch Water Reclamation Facility and supplements additional demand with recycled water purchased from Rancho Santa Fe Community Services District, City of San Diego, Vallecitos Water District, and San Elijo Joint Powers Authority.