San Diego County Water Authority crews recently replaced two pickup truck-sized valves at the agency’s Pressure Control and Hydroelectric Facility in central San Diego – each valve weighing about 35,000 pounds. The pressure-control facility is a key piece of the Emergency and Carryover Storage Project, which ensures water is available around the region if imported water deliveries are disrupted.
Addressing the San Diego region’s limited local water supplies with innovative ideas is something the San Diego County Water Authority has become known for. Using expertise gained from decades of successful planning and projects, the Water Authority is developing strategies to reduce the future cost of water that sustains the economy and quality of life across the county.
Just as owners perform routine maintenance to keep their cars running smoothly, water systems need regular maintenance to provide reliable service. The Vallecitos Water District’s Valve Maintenance Program ensures these vital components in its water distribution remain in good working condition throughout the District.
It is no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant when it was proposed, and I still wasn’t completely on board when the plant began operations in 2015, or even when I was elected to the Carlsbad City Council in 2016.
But time has given me perspective, and I recognize now that the value that the Carlsbad Desalination Plant provides our region is undeniable.
We are now celebrating the plant’s fifth anniversary since operations began. In that time, I’ve seen firsthand how the Carlsbad Desalination Plant benefits our city and the entire San Diego region, given it has produced more than 65 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water. To put that in perspective, that is enough water to fill the Rose Bowl in Pasadena all the way to its brim nearly 200 times!
A major construction project to improve drinking water supply reliability in North San Diego County will start in February after the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today approved an $11.4 million contract for the work to Pacific Hydrotech Corporation of Perris, Calif.
The Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir project includes demolition of an abandoned steel tank, building a 2.1 million-gallon storage reservoir connected to the Valley Center Pipeline, and construction of an isolation vault and an underground flow control facility. The project is expected to be completed by winter 2022.
Infrastructure improvements ensure water delivery
Strategic infrastructure improvements by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are part of the regional effort to ensure continued delivery of water to support the region’s $245 billion economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents. The Water Authority just completed a $30 million series of upgrades on the historic First Aqueduct in North County to ensure these facilities continue to serve the region for many more decades.
“These upgrades are investments in our future,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “Ever-changing conditions mean the work is complex and challenging, but continued vigilance helps ensure that we can meet our region’s water needs both today and for decades to come.”
As part of the asset management program, it is critical to actively replace and repair the Water Authority’s assets, which include pipes, valves, facilities, equipment and other infrastructure.
The new Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir will provide operational flexibility, enhanced system reliability for the day-to-day operations of the aqueduct system, and help ensure water deliveries can be maintained even if power supplies are interrupted.
The Water Authority will continue to work closely with the Valley Center community, Valley Center Municipal Water District, and nearby homeowners to minimize short-term construction impacts.
For more information on the Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir project, go to www.sdcwa.org/hauck-mesa-storage-reservoir.
When the Helix Water District received contractor estimates as high as $3.5 million to upgrade the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant’s ozone power supply units and generators, it decided to perform the upgrade in-house.
With Suez Water Technologies provided engineering and equipment, Helix employees incorporated new technology and innovative installation practices. The proof of concept pilot project proved the feasibility of the new approach, and a full retrofit is now planned. The estimated upgrade costs to complete the full project is $1.1 million – an approximately 70% cost savings. The upgrade will extend the life of the power supply units and generators at least 15 years.
Reducing upgrade costs saves ratepayers
“The ozone project is our latest example of cost-effective local government,” said Brian Olney, Helix Water District director of water quality and system operations. “In early 2020, Helix staff also standardized the design, hardware, and software of the motor control centers in the district’s 25 pump stations, and that project also saved our customers money, and created long-term operating, maintenance and purchasing efficiencies.”
Ozone treatment provides safe and reliable water to East County
The water treatment process at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment plant begins with the removal of dirt and other material suspended in the water. Ozone is then used to inactivate or destroy any organisms in the water. Ozone offers important advantages over chlorine:
- Ozone destroys or inactivates a wide range of organisms in the water
- Ozone needs little contact time with the water to be effective
- Ozone produces fewer potentially harmful disinfection byproducts than other disinfectants
- Ozone removes most of the smell and taste issues people associate with tap water
Ozone is naturally unstable at normal atmospheric conditions, which is why Helix needs ozone generators to produce it on site. The high voltage generators break down oxygen molecules (O2) and form ozone (O3). The ozone molecules are then diffused in a contact chamber and bubble up through the water to destroy any organisms present.
After ozonation, Helix Water District filters the water and adds a dose of chloramines — chlorine and ammonia — to maintain water quality throughout its 737 miles of water distribution pipelines. The treatment process is managed by a team of highly trained plant operators who conduct 200 water quality tests per day. Chemists and biologists test water samples from both the plant and the distribution system as well.
For many communities in the West, the water that flows out of kitchen faucets and bathroom showerheads starts high up in the mountains, as snowpack tucked under canopies of spruce and pine trees.
How should power over water decisions in San Diego be divided?
Should the city of San Diego, which represents almost 40 percent of the region’s water consumers, have the most sway?
Or should smaller cities be on equal footing when the outcome of a decision could harm towns with less people and money?
That is the question facing San Diego County Water Authority once again, after the latest vote over a $5 billion duplicate pipeline to the Colorado River. Directors voted down spending $1.7 million more to study the project further, in raw numbers. Twenty of the agency’s 36 directors said no to the pipeline, and 14 said yes.
Thank you for your support over the past two years. It’s been an honor to serve as the chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. While some may not realize it, this 36-member Board plays a critical role in sustaining San Diego County’s quality of life and economy.
And I’m pleased to say that this Board engages in the difficult discussions and decisions to make sure our children and grandchildren enjoy the same safe and secure water supplies that we enjoy today. Unfortunately, it’s also true that efforts are underway that would undermine decades of successful planning that has served our county well from Fallbrook to San Ysidro.
This week, the Water Authority filed a formal response to address a proposal by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to detach from the Water Authority and annex into Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. These proposals would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.
Our detailed filing with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) spells out how the Fallbrook and Rainbow detachment proposals contain significant areas of misleading or incomplete information that must be addressed before LAFCO and all of the interested parties countywide can understand the full scope of impacts that would be created by detachment. The LAFCO process is expected to take at least another year.
As proposed by Fallbrook and Rainbow, the detachments would allow Fallbrook and Rainbow to avoid paying for water supplies and infrastructure that have been developed in collaboration with those agencies and are currently being used by those agencies to meet their customers’ needs. Abandoning those cost obligations would force other ratepayers countywide to cover their portion of the bills already incurred for decades of investments in supply reliability.
Our agency’s analysis shows that detachment, as proposed, would reduce water reliability and increase risk for Rainbow and Fallbrook customers, create environmental impacts that haven’t been studied, and impair the successful long-term planning efforts that have served our county well. And it would give Riverside County water agencies more control over San Diego County’s water future, including water rate and property tax impacts. The Water Authority’s formal response to the Fallbrook/Rainbow reorganization proposals and related documents are at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-reorganization.
It’s critical that LAFCO and all the interested parties across San Diego County take the time to address the full scope of consequences created by these unprecedented proposals so we avoid unintended harm to our region. The Water Authority, its member agencies and regional planning agencies such as SANDAG have worked together for more than 75 years to provide this region with safe and reliable water supplies. Trying to turn back the clock now is a costly, difficult process with numerous impacts to Fallbrook and Rainbow customers and across the region.
As we transition to the new Board leadership in October, I trust that you will give incoming Chair Gary Croucher and Vice Chair Christy Guerin the same support that you’ve given to me over the past two years. And don’t forget that whatever the challenges, San Diego County is stronger together.
View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.
Analysis released today shows that proposals by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to leave the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.
Numerous financial, environmental and legal issues that affect property owners and water users across San Diego County are analyzed in the Water Authority’s formal response to the reorganization proposals filed today with the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO.