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The Sweetwater Authority will use innovative technology to flush all 400 miles of its system pipelines. Pnoto: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority Taps Innovative Technology to Ensure Water Quality

The Sweetwater Authority recently began a multiyear water main flushing program using innovative technology to clean all 400 miles of pipeline in its system. It’s part of Sweetwater Authority’s use of the latest technology to deliver a safe, reliable water supply to its South San Diego County customers.

Water main flushing cleans pipeline interiors by sending a rapid flow of water through them. Sweetwater’s program is the first in the region to use a new, innovative technology resulting in less environmental impact.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with high-quality water, ensuring that every drop meets safety standards and protects public health,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager. “We’re also dedicated to providing the safe, reliable water through the use of best available technology and sustainable practices.”

See the system in action in the following video. A Spanish language version is also available.

New method avoids storm drain discharge

Traditional flushing methods release water from fire hydrants at a high speed in order to flush out naturally occurring sediments accumulating in water pipes over time. Although the sediment itself is harmless, it can eventually affect water color and taste. The water used to clean the pipes often cannot be captured and ends up in the storm drain system.

The bulk of Sweetwater Authority‘s flushing program now eliminates the need to discharge water from fire hydrants during the cleaning process while delivering the same results.

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Crews identify all pipes, valves, and fire hydrants located in the area to be flushed. Next, crews connect one end of a hose to a hydrant and the other end of the hose to the no discharge, or NO-DES flushing unit. The process repeats, connecting a second hose to another hydrant and the other end back into the flushing unit, creating a temporary closed loop.

Once the NO-DES flushing unit is turned on and the hydrants are open, water will push through the loop at high pressure, disrupting any accumulated sediment on the inside of the pipes. The water is pushed through a series of sock-like filters, which remove those sediments and return clean, high-quality water back into the system.

Crews closely monitor the filtration system and water quality to determine when flushing of each pipeline segment is complete.

Innovative technology, efficient and environmentally responsible

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Additional member water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the technology. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the closed-loop system and increased controls, crews are able to effectively and thoroughly flush large sections of pipeline with a single setup and staging area. This more efficient setup is less labor-intensive and allows the crew to maintain a safe hub for operations.

In the National City area 75.8 miles of pipeline was recently flushed. Crews are now completing work in the Bonita area, and then will start work in Chula Vista.

Additional water agencies have indicated an interest in the cost-effectiveness of purchasing the NO-DES flushing units for the region and collaborating to create a shared-use program with the innovative technology.

“Securing a local water supply to ensure the water delivered is of the highest quality through the best technology in our projects and programs helps to maximize value for our customers while also being sustainable,” said Berge.

For more information on the program, go to www.sweetwater.org/flushing.

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.

Sandra L. Kerl Appointed General Manager of the San Diego County Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors today approved a contract with Sandra L. Kerl to be the new general manager of the region’s wholesale water agency, following a months-long national search. The Board approved the contract in open session during its regular monthly meeting at Water Authority headquarters.

“Sandy brings an ideal mix of leadership, experience and vision to guide the Water Authority into a new decade as the agency seeks innovative solutions that benefit San Diego County and the Southwest,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Her creativity and collaborative approach ushers in a new era of partnerships and progress that has marked her work over the past eight months.”

Vallecitos Water District Senior Construction Systems Worker Steven Klein hosts the latest "Work We Do" video, describing his team working on a valve replacement. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District ‘Work We Do’ Videos Connect With Community

The Vallecitos Water District is moving beyond traditional bill mailers and tri-fold brochures to communicate with its customers in a more effective and dynamic way by using video.

Vallecitos Board President Hal Martin conceived the idea to create “Work We Do” videos to help customers see and understand first hand the complex work Vallecitos water professionals perform to ensure reliable water and wastewater services. Viewers see and hear from the workers in the field as they complete tasks such as replacing outdated equipment or using smoke testing to detect sewer leaks and protect the environment.

“I’ve seen the quality of staff videos and I realized it was the perfect way to show our customers exactly what we do,” said Martin of the series and the initiative.

Watching crews in action providing the community with reliable drinking water and wastewater services, protecting the environment, and developing the next generation of water workers, makes customers better informed citizens about the area’s vital infrastructure in a transparent way.

The video series also includes helpful information such as how to read water meters.

Online tools transforming community outreach efforts

Vallecitos Water District maintenance professionals perform a valve replacement project featured in the district's latest Work We Do video. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District maintenance professionals perform a valve replacement project featured in the district’s latest Work We Do video. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“We’re working to change our Public Information Department and keep up with current technology,” said Chris Robbins, Vallecitos public information and conservation supervisor.

Robbins said the goal is to feature each department within the district and focus on topics that lend themselves to visual communication. Videos run three minutes or less to keep the audience engaged.

The latest ‘Work We Do’ video in the series features a recent valve replacement

Finished videos are posted to the district website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The videos can also be seen on the City of San Marcos news channel, San Marcos TV. Videos are also shared through water industry news websites such as Water News Network.

Alicia Yerman, a Vallecitos public information representative, shoots and edits the video series. She schedules time to join crews at work when performing a specific task. She also plays talent scout, finding a knowledgeable employee who can describe the work on camera.

Not all staff want to talk, but Yerman is able to coax at least one Vallecitos staff member to be the ‘on camera talent,’ and she also has a knack for bringing out their best. She finds ways to make staff more comfortable being on camera—either by asking questions or placing staff members in comfortable settings.

Yerman and Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe were recently certified as drone pilots. Future videos will feature district work from a bird’s eye point of view.

Four Lessons From the Front Lines of California’s Water Wars

Were San Diego on its own, there wouldn’t be enough water to go around. Only about 5 percent of urban San Diego’s water comes from local rainfall, an almost meaningless amount that wouldn’t support our region’s 3 million residents.

Storage in Lake Mead - San Diego County Water Authority - Public Opinion Survey - 2019

Survey: San Diego Region Strongly Supports Enhancing Water Reliability

San Diego County residents strongly support efforts to continue improving water supply reliability and they largely trust local water agencies to do that work, according to a regional public opinion survey released today by the San Diego County Water Authority.

An overwhelming majority (94%) of respondents favor expanding the use of recycled water for agriculture and irrigation, and 79% support purifying wastewater to drinking water standards with advanced treatment technologies.

In addition, 71% of respondents back efforts by the Water Authority to store water in Lake Mead on the Colorado River for use during droughts and emergencies, and to help avoid water shortages on the river.

Public willing to make additional investments in reliable water

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents understand that providing safe and reliable water supplies is more costly in San Diego than many other parts of the country, and many indicate a willingness to make additional investments. More than 6 in 10 (64%) residents say they would pay $5 more a month to increase reliability and enhance local control over water supplies, with 50% showing willingness to pay $7.50 more per month, and nearly half (45%) saying they would pay $10 more each month.

“Our region’s residents appreciate the importance of maintaining safe, reliable water supplies and the role of public water agencies to support our $231 billion economy,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “They also recognize that continuing to develop locally controlled water supplies – while making efficient use of existing sources – is critical for our future.”

San Diego Region committed to water efficiency

The survey also makes it clear that San Diego County residents remain committed to using water efficiently even though the region’s water supplies are sufficient to meet demands. Ninety-two percent of respondents agree that water-use efficiency is a civic duty, and 70% say they have taken actions to reduce their home water use in the past 12 months.

The Water Authority has performed periodic public opinion research over the past two decades to gauge residents’ knowledge and attitudes about water issues. The latest survey of 1,063 adults in San Diego County was conducted by Encinitas-based True North Research from Aug. 16 to 27, and results were provided to the agency’s Board of Directors during today’s regular monthly meeting.

Affordable housing, homelessness, most pressing regional issues

Survey results show that affordable housing is the most prominent top-of-mind issue (31%) in the region, followed by homelessness (21%) and cost of living (12%). Only 3% of respondents mentioned water-related topics such as drought, cost or quality as the most important top-of-mind issue facing San Diego County. Four years ago, when statewide drought conditions were peaking, water issues ranked first (33%).

 

The latest survey also indicates that almost everyone agrees that a safe, reliable water supply is important for a healthy regional economy (94%) and San Diego’s desirable quality of life (93%). That’s a key tenet of the Water Authority’s ongoing Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, and an increase from prior years.

Public trust in water agencies to deliver reliable supply

When it comes to supply reliability in San Diego County, more than half (52%) of respondents expect it to improve or stay about the same over the next year. Residents were divided in their optimism over the region’s long-term reliability. While 42% expected supplies to improve or remain the same over the next 20 years, 48% thought supply conditions would worsen. However, nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents trust local water agencies to ensure a reliable water supply over the long-term.

The 2019 survey also explored issues of cost. The survey showed that few residents know how much they pay for a gallon of tap water. After being told that the retail cost of municipal tap water in the San Diego region is about one cent per gallon, nearly 6 in 10 (58%) respondents said tap water is an excellent (29%) or good (29%) value, with 24% percent saying it is a fair value.

On the topic of water rates, nearly 6 in 10 (59%) survey respondents agree that additional increases may be necessary to increase the reliability of our region’s water supply.

Complete Survey: SDCWA Water Issues Survey 2019 Report v3R

 

 

Water Authority board chairman Jim Madaffer addresses the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego about water's importance to the region's economy. Photo: Water Authority Water supply reliability

Madaffer: Collaboration Propels San Diego Water Supply Reliability

As the San Diego County Water Authority celebrates its 75th anniversary this month, Board Chair Jim Madaffer offered a fresh vision of the region’s water future and outlined new efforts to ensure water supply reliability for generations to come at the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego meeting in Chula Vista.

Madaffer pointed to the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District as an example of the creative thinking and political leadership needed to secure reliable water supplies not only for San Diego County, but across the southwestern U.S by working cooperatively.

“We were able to work out a deal with the Imperial Irrigation District for 200,000 acre-feet of water,” said Madaffer, noting that IID has priority rights to Colorado River water supplies. “How smart to have this insurance policy for the region.”

Madaffer said one of the key efforts ahead is securing storage rights for the San Diego region’s water at Lake Mead, a strategy that could offer benefits to the San Diego region and more broadly across the Southwest by minimizing the chances that Lake Mead will slip in formal shortage status.

Water Authority board chairman Jim Madaffer (right) with John Dadian of the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego. Photo: Water Authority water supply reliability

Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer (right) with John Dadian of the National Albondigas Political Society of San Diego. Photo: Water Authority

Creative concepts explored to improve water supply reliability

Madaffer also outlined some of the concepts being explored by the Water Authority and its member agencies to improve water supply reliability with more diverse water supply sources, along with engineering and political creative thinking.

Madaffer said the Water Authority’s Board of Directors is considering a study about constructing a regional pipeline system to move the San Diego region’s independent water supplies from the Imperial Valley directly to San Diego. He said the options offer additional advantages to farmers in Imperial County and the Salton Sea.

“I’m a regionalist,” said Madaffer. “I’m interested in what we can do to make sure all of our member agencies are supported, and make sure water delivery works for the entire region.”

Graphic: Water Authority

San Diego is Brought to You by Water

Displaying a chart showing the change in water supply sourcing from 1990 to today, Madaffer asked, “Do we think we can insulate our region from the ravages of drought, so we aren’t depending on pipeline relining and several pipelines delivering imported water?”

He said the region’s approach includes a mix of investments, backed by efforts to use water wisely.

“We’re using less water today with 900,000 more people than we did back in 1990,” said Madaffer, calling it a conservation success story. “All our member agencies, plus each of you in this room, are responsible for helping make it happen.”

Madaffer also touted the region’s innovation culture.  “From Qualcomm to BIOCOM to all of the technology we produce, we are a hotbed of innovation in the region,” he said. “If you remember our drought back in the 1990s, there were states trying to grab our people, saying ‘Hey, work in our state instead, because California is out of water.’ We’ve changed that narrative 100 percent … San Diego is Brought to You by Water.”

An artist's rendering of the new Padre Dam Visitor Center at the East County Water Purification Treatment Center. Graphic: Gourtesy Padre Dam Municipal Water District water repurification water reliability

East County Advanced Water Purification Project on Track for 2025

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is moving forward toward its anticipated completion date after the Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors approved the required environmental report.

“The approval of the environmental report for this project brings us another step closer to producing a local water supply for East County and improving the reliability of the water service for our community,” said Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam CEO/General Manager. “We are on track for the project to begin providing water to the East San Diego communities by 2025.”

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is a collaborative partnership between the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, County of San Diego and City of El Cajon. The partnership’s purpose is bringing a new, local, sustainable and drought-proof water supply to the East County, using state-of-the-art technology.

Advanced technology improves water reliability for East County

The project will recycle East San Diego County’s wastewater locally, and then purify the recycled water at an advanced water treatment facility using four advanced water purification steps. The purified water will then be pumped into Lake Jennings, treated again at the Helix Levy Treatment Plant and then distributed into the drinking water supply.

The water recycling project will help diversify East County’s drinking water supply, reducing the region’s dependence on imported water. It also helps the region in achieving long-term compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA), the primary federal law in the U.S. helping to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s waters by addressing pollution and improving wastewater treatment. It is one of the United States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws.

Upon its completion, the East County Advanced Water Purification Project will produce up to 12,900 acre-feet per year, or 11.5 million gallons per day of new local drinking water supply.

“This project is forward-thinking, innovative and promises to give East County greater water independence and reliability,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents the East County region. “It will give us more local control over our most precious resource — and that’s great news for residents and businesses.”

Padre Dam offers tours of the East County Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Project. To schedule a tour or for more information on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, visit www.EastCountyAWP.com.

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.

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.