Water Authority staff inspect leak in Pipeline 4

Pipeline 4 Repairs Underway in North San Diego County

A recently discovered leak in a section of a pipeline in North County will be repaired in coming months while Pipeline 4 returns to service.

Crews have installed bulkheads in the pipeline to isolate a portion of Pipeline 4 for repairs. This will allow the pipeline to continue treated water deliveries throughout the county in a modified fashion starting the week of Sept. 16 and restores full service to retail water agencies. With the leaky section isolated, crews will make necessary repairs.

Four Water Authority member agencies – Fallbrook PUD, Rainbow MWD, Valley Center MWD, and Vallecitos Water District – have taken steps to manage water supplies while the pipeline was shut down to install the bulkheads.

Carbon fiber section will protect pipe

In August, Water Authority crews detected a leak in the 90-inch diameter Pipeline 4, one of five major pipelines the agency operates. The leaky section is near Camino Del Rey in Bonsall, in an area with no adjacent homes or business.

To find the cause of the leak, the Water Authority dewatered the pipe starting Sept. 9. Preliminary results of the investigation are that a weld seam, connecting a steel pipe section to a pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe, separated in an area of very high water pressure.

The Water Authority is preparing to install a carbon fiber liner to give the pipeline several more years of service while a longer-term solution is developed and deployed.

After repairs are completed, a second 10-day shutdown of Pipeline 4 will be needed to remove the bulkheads and return the pipeline to full, normal operations.

Proactive approach keeps pipelines healthy

As part of its proactive approach to asset management, the Water Authority continually assesses and rehabilitates pipelines serving the San Diego region. The agency operates 310 miles of large-diameter pipelines, along with 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, and approximately 100 metering/flow-control facilities.

Approximately 82 miles of the pipelines are pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes. These types of pipes were installed between the early 1960s and late 1980s, and have experienced premature failures and shown areas of degradation.

By relining the pipes or conducting timely repairs with the latest technology, the Water Authority has avoided major pipeline failures for more than decade.


Pipeline relining is an efficient technique that extends the lifespan of pipes while minimizing costs and impacts to nearby communities. Photo: Water Authority

Innovative Pipeline 5 Relining Completed

San Diego County Water Authority crews completed relining a segment of Pipeline 5 in Fallbrook and San Marcos in late July, reaching a milestone in a strategic, multi-decade pipeline relining program. The 2.3-mile segment of Pipeline 5 was relined with new steel liners that are planned to last for more than 75 years.

The proactive pipeline relining program is a crucial part of asset management efforts that improve the reliability of San Diego County’s water supplies.

30-year pipeline relining program

Since the relining program began in 1991, nearly 47 miles of pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe have been rehabilitated. This constitutes more than half of the total PCCP in the Water Authority system. The remaining 35 miles are expected to be rehabilitated by 2027.

The Pipeline 5 project was conducted in eight segments to minimize impacts to the nearby communities of Fallbrook and San Marcos.

Proactive measures to protect infrastructure

Pipeline relining is an efficient technique used on long stretches of pipelines. It involves inserting new steel liners into the existing pipes. The new liners can extend the lifespan of the pipe by several decades.

“Relining our existing pipes is quicker and more cost-effective than excavating, removing and replacing an entire pipeline,” said Gary Olvera, senior construction manager at the Water Authority. “In partnership with our member agencies, the Water Authority has developed an efficient and proactive plan to ensure continued water supply reliability for the entire region.”

New steel liners can extend the lifespan of a pipe by several decades. Photo: Water Authority

New steel liners can extend the lifespan of a pipe by several decades. Photo: Water Authority

Innovative technique to minimize impacts

To access Pipeline 5, crews excavated dirt to create eight 25-foot by 60-foot access portals spaced roughly 525 to 2,500 feet apart. During construction, crews eliminated two of the originally planned portals, helping save more than $217,000. Most of the work was then performed underground, inside the pipe.

Once the new liner was installed, the joints were welded together. Then, each new steel liner was coated with a cement mortar lining. Finally, the portals were backfilled, the pipeline was disinfected, and the pipe was put back into service.

A welder works inside the pipe to connect the new joints. Photo: Water Authority

A welder works inside the pipe to connect the new joints. Photo: Water Authority

Maintaining regional water supply reliability

Large-diameter pipelines operated by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies extend approximately 310 miles to convey water throughout San Diego County.

Approximately 82 miles of the pipelines are pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes. These types of pipes were installed between the early 1960s and late 1980s and some are nearing the end of their service life.

By relining the pipes ahead of time or conducting timely repairs with the latest technology, the Water Authority and its member agencies avoid pipeline failures and improve the reliability of future water supplies.

Ventura Readies The Spigot For State Water

Ventura started paying for its right to state water in 1971. On Monday night, policymakers took the biggest step yet to being able to access it. The Ventura City Council voted 6-0 to approve a study certifying no major environmental impacts would result from building the 7-mile pipeline near Camarillo. The action means the city’s next move is hiring a consultant to draft the interconnection’s final design. The state-mandated Environmental Impact Report flagged six areas of concern. “All issues are temporary, related to construction,” Meredith Clement, a water consultant to the city, told the council.

Proactive Partnerships Keep Pipelines In Top Shape

This summer, the Water Authority is partnering with three technology companies to test the condition of the agency’s oldest pipelines forming the First Aqueduct in Valley Center. Technology providers test their new and improved tools on Water Authority and member agency pipes. The tools are then used to assess the condition of those same pipes. This efficient strategy ensures maximum condition assessment accuracy. The strategy also allows for technology to keep up with what water agencies need and minimizes costs. Targeted repairs and maintenance activities maximize the life expectancy of some of the region’s most critical infrastructure.

Court Throws Out Federal Approval Of Cadiz Water Pipeline

A federal judge has struck down Trump administration decisions that cleared the way for Cadiz Inc. to build a water pipeline across public land in the California desert. The ruling is a blow to the company’s decades-long effort to pump groundwater from beneath its desert property 200 miles east of Los Angeles and sell it to urban Southern California. Cadiz wants to use an existing railroad right of way across federal land to pipe supplies from its proposed well field to the Colorado River Aqueduct. In 2015, during the Obama administration, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Cadiz couldn’t use the right of way and would therefore have to obtain federal permission to run the proposed pipeline across surrounding federal land.

Feds Can’t Duck Claims Of Shoddy Review For Desert Water Pipeline

A federal judge indicated Thursday he will advance conservation groups’ claims that a proposed 43-mile groundwater pipeline in a Southern California desert was approved abruptly and without proper environmental review by a federal agency. The Cadiz groundwater pipeline project would move nearly 45 million gallons of water daily for 50 years from an underground aquifer in the Mojave Desert and to cities across Southern California. The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety accuse Cadiz of trying to evade federal laws protecting the fragile desert by planning to build its pipeline along a railroad track that was established under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875.

IID Board Hears Plans To Pipe QSA Water Directly To San Diego

After false starts and real stops, the San Diego County Water Authority is once again trying to make inroads into taking their QSA transferred water directly from the Imperial Valley, bypassing its current deliverer, the Metropolitan Water District. Dan Denham, assistant general manager of the SDCWA, proposed several pipeline scenarios for QSA-conserved water at the meeting of the Imperial Irrigation District Tuesday, June 18. Denham proposed several pipeline routes, two southern and one northern from various points in the Valley to San Diego County.

FPUD is embarking on a number of prevention, maintenance and improvement projects to safeguard and maintain its pipes and infrastructure. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

Fallbrook PUD Goes With the Maintenance Flow to Provide Reliable Service

Water pipeline blowouts like the one the day before Thanksgiving 2017 at the intersection of Stagecoach Road and Ranchwood Lane in Fallbrook provide periodic reminders about the realities of aging infrastructure.

Preventing these type of emergencies is the driving force behind planned shutdowns at water agencies such as the Fallbrook Public Utility District; investments today will avoid similar emergencies and unplanned water outages in the years ahead.

Many of FPUD’s pipes are more than 50 years old. A pipeline’s life can be 80 to 100 years, but many of the early lines that were installed were not put in at today’s standards and have shorter lives.

In fact, some of the early pipelines installed in the area were originally excavated from March Air Force Base in Riverside County and re-installed in Fallbrook, said FPUD general manager Jack Bebee. Many of these pipelines have reached the end of their useful lifespans.

That’s why FPUD is embarking on a number of prevention, maintenance and improvement projects to safeguard and maintain our pipes and infrastructure. Waiting to fix them after they break isn’t the most cost-effective and convenient way to operate.

“We’re trying to prevent a continued Band-Aid approach,” said Bebee.

Proactive approach prioritizes greatest need first

The shutdowns and retrofits are part of FPUD’s proactive approach to pipeline and valve replacement. By identifying pipes that are in the worst condition, the agency is prioritizing those needing to be replaced first, resulting in fewer pipe failures, blowouts and spills.

As part of its ongoing maintenance program, FPUD has refurbished six of its eight steel tanks over the past several years. It is also working on systematic valve replacement covering the entire community area. Valves are a critical component of water and sewer system infrastructure to limit the size of any shutdown.

Annually, the district also replaces or relines sewer manholes and sewer lines. Some of the manholes date so far back they are made of brick. Only FPUD’s sewer customers pay for sewer improvements, and only water customers pay for water improvements.

All FPUD construction work will be on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with an exception for projects that disrupt businesses. Those projects may be scheduled overnight. FPUD customers will receive both a letter and phone call if the planned shutdown will affect their water service.

FPUD posts regular updates to its website at and on its Twitter account, @Fallbrook water

Residents can also visit the FPUD Facebook page for other water-related updates.


Water Resources Engineer Sami Sweis holds the Nautilus in his right hand and a foam ball in his left hand that the high-tech device is placed in before it is inserted into a water pipeline to scan for potential leaks. Photo: Water Authority

High-Tech Tools Help Detect Possible Pipeline Problems

It’s a whole new ballgame for the San Diego County Water Authority when it comes to finding leaks in major pipelines with cutting-edge technology.

One new tech tool deployed for the first time in February actually looks like a tennis ball that floats through water-filled pipelines scanning for potential trouble.

Of course, the new device is much more complex inside than a tennis ball – in fact, the Nautilus is among the most advanced tools of its kind in the world.  It not only detects defects that are invisible to the human eye, it does so without requiring pipes to be drained, which saves a significant amount of water and disruption to customers.

Innovation Leader

The Nautilus is just the latest component of the Water Authority’s cutting-edge Asset Management Program that has been adopting and developing innovative tools for more than two decades. In fact, the Water Authority has been recognized by the American Water Works Association as a leader in the water industry for its focus on asset condition assessment, risk management, proactive pipeline replacement, and use of cutting-edge technology that saves ratepayers money.

“These high-tech tools are cost-effective and fit perfectly with our proactive approach to managing our infrastructure, including 310 miles of large diameter pipelines and 1,400 pipeline structures,” said Nathan Faber, an operations and maintenance manager with the Water Authority. “Our mission is to find potential failures in the system in advance, rather than react after a failure.”

‘Listening’ for leaks

The Nautilus uses acoustic feedback to detect leaks or abnormalities in active pipelines without causing any disruption to water service or supply, Faber said. About the size of a tennis ball, the Nautilus is placed inside a larger, sterilized foam ball, to float through operating pipelines.

For the First Aqueduct scan, 26 sensors, called synchronizers, were installed on various structures on the outside of the pipeline. Those sensors relayed information to the Nautilus as it floated between checkpoints. No leaks were discovered in the tested portions of the pipeline.

Digital Resolution

A scan from the LIDAR device shows precise and highly-accurate digital measurements that pinpoint pipeline problems. Photo: Water Authority

A scan from the LIDAR device shows precise and highly-accurate digital measurements that pinpoint pipeline problems. Photo: Water Authority

Leveraging new technology to gather data and pinpoint pipeline problems saves water and money.

“Responding or reacting after failures can cost up to six times the cost of proactive repairs,” Faber said.

He pointed to a recent pipeline repair project in La Mesa, where a Light Detection and Ranging device, or LIDAR, was used inside a pipe to provide highly-accurate digital measurements.

“The LIDAR took 1,600 measurements in five seconds,” Faber said. “The high-resolution images showed stressed pipe and verified cracking issues that allowed crews to make an efficient, proactive repair.”


View looking north of the First Aqueduct right of way in Valley Center. Photo: Water Authority

Historic Pipeline Project Boosts Long-Term Water Reliability

San Diego County Water Authority crews successfully completed the first of three coordinated shutdowns of the First Aqueduct in early March to launch a major renovation of dozens of structures on two pipelines, including the historic Pipeline 1 that first delivered imported water to the region in 1947.

The series of shutdowns was carefully planned for nearly four years to minimize impacts on the community and retail water agencies during retrofits of Pipelines 1 and 2, which comprise the First Aqueduct.

“The First Aqueduct has been a very reliable source of imported water for more than 70 years,” said Chris Castaing, operations and maintenance manager at the Water Authority. “These critical upgrades will make sure we can operate and maintain the pipelines for another several decades to transport water to the region for future generations.”

Started during the Water Authority’s 75th anniversary year, the $30 million First Aqueduct structure and lining renovation project is among the most complicated pipeline retrofits in agency history.

During the next two years, upgrades include replacing the lining on the steel pipe sections; removing 19 associated structures; and retrofitting 41 structures – all without jeopardizing water service to the region.

Project will enhance reliability and flexibility of regional water system

Crews complete work on and seal the top of a bifurcation structure. Photo: Water Authority

Crews complete work on and seal the top of a bifurcation structure. Photo: Water Authority

Pipeline structures that will be rehabilitated include valves, blowoffs, pump wells and access ways.

Approximately 4 miles of failing pipeline lining on the steel pipe sections will be carefully removed and replaced with new cement mortar lining. Cement mortar is the preferred material, because it protects the interior of the steel pipe from corrosion and premature failure, has a longer life, and is easier to maintain. The project also will add redundant connections to six flow control facilities between the two pipelines, greatly improving the aqueduct’s operational flexibility.

During the first shutdown between February 24 and March 5, crews isolated sections of the pipeline and took them out of service so work can be safely performed on those sections throughout the year. In late 2019, a second 10-day shutdown will allow crews to switch flows to the upgraded sections of pipe and isolate other sections for repairs.

In addition to completing the First Aqueduct structure and lining renovation project, the Water Authority also will perform assessments of 27 miles of the pipeline to determine if additional upgrades will be needed.