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Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Controlling the Budget and Water Rates in a Challenging Era

As we head into summer, we look forward to the continued retreat of COVID-19 and a full return to baseball games, barbeques, and graduation celebrations.

We also take a moment to remember that those things we cherish about San Diego County are all based on a reliable supply of water. It is the foundation of everything we do in our semi-arid climate. That’s why I’m so pleased to report that we have reliable supplies through at least 2045, even during multiple dry years like this one. That assurance was part of the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan that the Water Authority Board of Directors recently approved.

Water supply reliability

The Board is also considering the proposed 2022 water rates, along with the budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 – a challenging task to say the least. The proposed two-year budget is $1.7 billion, a 0% change from the current two-year budget due to our continuing commitment to cost control. As usual, more than 90% of the recommended budget is for buying and treating water or building and financing infrastructure. This reflects our long-term strategy to invest in supply reliability to meet current and future needs of the San Diego region – a strategy that is paying significant dividends during the current drought hitting most of California.

Water Authority staff also proposed increasing rates and charges for member agencies by 3.6% for treated water and 3.3% for untreated water in calendar year 2022, attributable to more rate increases by the Metropolitan Water District, continued payments for past investments in supply reliability, and inflationary pressures on energy, chemicals, and construction materials.

Rigorous review of budget and water rates

Each budget and rates package undergoes a rigorous review process, as we steward ratepayer funds to ensure continued water supply reliability in support of our $253 billion economy and quality of life. This year’s budget process started in fall 2020 with internal analyses, and it continued with meetings with our retail member agencies over the past several months. The process continued this week with the Board holding a third budget workshop. We expect to vote on the budget and rates package, following any revisions, on June 24.

A final note: I thought you might be interested in this letter that I recently sent to Gov. Newsom to share my appreciation for his leadership navigating the complexities of the current drought and outlining some of our key policy principles. It’s gratifying that the governor has avoided the kind of one-size-fits-all regulations we faced in the last drought – and I encouraged him to stay the course with regards to letting local leaders determine the appropriate response for their areas.

Urban Water Management Plan-2020-San Diego County Water Authority-San Vicente Dam

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors May 27 approved the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan highlighting a “water portfolio approach” that ensures reliable water supplies for the region through the 2045 planning horizon – even during multiple dry years. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Helix Water District Logo Square officers for 2021

Helix Water District Planning Document Reveals Sufficient Water Supplies

Helix Water District Board of Directors just adopted its 2020 Urban Water Management Plan following a public hearing. The 2020 Urban Water Management Plan supports the district’s long-term planning efforts to ensure that it has enough water supplies to meet existing and future water needs.

Value of Water-Mission Trails-FRSII-Underground reservoir

Value of Water: Mission Trails FRS II

What does project do?

The Mission Trails Flow Regulatory Structure II Project, or FRS II, will be an underground concrete water tank in Mission Trails Regional Park that will store slightly less than five million gallons of water and be used to balance flows in the aqueduct system. FRS II will be the second underground water tank in the park – both work to efficiently move water through the region. Construction is underway and expected to be completed in 2022.

Why is this project important?

Improving the region’s water infrastructure ensures that San Diego County residents are getting a clean, safe, and reliable supply. The FRS II project is another example of the successful long-term strategy by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to diversify its water resources, make major upgrades in the regional water delivery and storage system, and improve water-use efficiency.

How do water ratepayers benefit?

The underground reservoir is being constructed within the park to improve the Water Authority’s untreated water system in the northwest area of the park. The upgrade will increase reliable water delivery to treatment plants that serve the central and south sections of San Diego County.

In 2013, the Water Authority finalized the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, the agency’s roadmap for infrastructure investments through 2035. This updated plan focuses on optimizing the Water Authority’s existing infrastructure while maintaining the flexibility to adjust to a range of future water supply needs.

Notable

Once complete, the dirt hill will be leveled to its previous contours and revegetated with native plants – many seeded from plants within the park itself. The reservoir will be completely underground – out of sight – but within the control of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Quotable

“The San Diego County Water Authority is building a massive 5-million-gallon concrete water storage tank, called a flow regulatory structure. You will never see it once it’s completed.” — Joe Little, Reporter, NBC 7, April 9, 2021.

[Editor’s note: This feature, the Value of Water, focuses on the projects, operations and maintenance by the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies that increase the value, reliability, and safety of water for ratepayers in San Diego County.]

Heavy Metal: Facility Upgrades Enhance Flexibility of Regional Water System

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.

Water Authority Seeks to Reduce Water Costs Countywide

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.

Vallecitos Water District Valve Maintenance Program Ensures Reliable Service

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.

Opinion: A Desalination Skeptic Now Sees Carlsbad Plant’s “Undeniable Value”

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!

Water-deliveries-Hauck Mesa-Storage Reservoir-

New Reservoir to Protect Local Drinking Water Deliveries in North County

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.

Operational flexibility

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.

A Helix staff member installs parts in the ozone generator. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix Water District Reduces Plant Upgrade Costs

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 ozone generator at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant in Lakeside. Photo: Helix Water District

The ozone generator at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant in Lakeside. Photo: Helix Water District

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
Helix’s ozone project team (pre-pandemic) in front of the rebuilt power supply unit.

Helix Water District’s ozone project team (pre-pandemic) in front of the rebuilt power supply unit. Photo: Helix Water District

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 The West’s Drinking Water, Wildfire Concerns Linger Long After Smoke Clears

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.