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Helix Continues to Evaluate Local Drinking Water Project

On Nov. 5, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, city of El Cajon and County of San Diego formed a Joint Powers Authority to serve as the governing body for the East County Advanced Water Purification project.

A Helix Water District representative will serve as an ex officio, nonvoting member of the JPA board. “The JPA board will be focused on the wastewater side of the project. Our role in the project if it moves forward, is on the drinking water side,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo.

California Releases Roadmap For Water Resources Sustainability

Earlier this month, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the California Water Plan Update 2018Update 2018 outlines state strategies and actions for managing California’s most precious resource in every region of the state. Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot highlighted the importance of the Water Plan, “Water management in California is a grand exercise in partnerships…State government and our many partners achieve more when we work together…Perhaps most importantly, Update 2018prioritizes supporting local and regional efforts to build water supply resilience across California. This approach recognizes that different regions of the state face different challenges and opportunities, yet all benefit from coordinated State support.”

Water Authority Board Endorses Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio

San Diego, Calif. –  The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today unanimously supported Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-10-19, directing development of a water resilience portfolio approach that meets the needs of California’s communities, economy and environment through the 21st century. That order also advanced a single-tunnel project to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, instead of the two-tunnel project favored by former Governor Jerry Brown.

The Water Authority Board made its backing of the single-tunnel proposal contingent on a project financing plan that treats San Diego County ratepayers fairly through the proper allocation of project costs by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own Conservation Garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Oty Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

La Mesa Conservation Garden Wins 2019 Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell’s conversion of 2,500 square feet of thirsty irrigated lawn into a creative conservation garden was selected by the Otay Water District as the winner of its 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual competition recognizes landscape redesign projects among 13 participating San Diego County water agencies which best represent water-efficient landscaping principles.

Project inspired by free WaterSmart landscaping classes

The Cissells designed their new yard after attending the Water Authority's free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover courses. Photo: Otay Water District

The Cissells designed their new yard after attending the Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover courses. Photo: Otay Water District

Inspired after their participation in the Water Authority sponsored WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program courses, and by the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, the Cissells began their La Mesa Conservation Garden project in April 2018 by removing the sod. They incorporated creative elements including a hand-built waterfall made from an old truck ladder rack, and other solid materials otherwise destined to become trash in a landfill.

Water from a swale feeds the waterfall, then travels through microtubes up a faux bonsai tree — made of concrete and unused materials – to irrigate flower baskets resting at the end of each tree branch. Large tree roots that once ran through their yard now decorate other areas of their yard.

Water from the waterfall grotto travels up the faux bonsai tree in the Cissells' La Mesa Conservation Garden. Photo: Otay Water District

Water from the waterfall grotto travels up the faux bonsai tree in the Cissells’ La Mesa Conservation Garden. Photo: Otay Water District

New efficient irrigation includes drip tubing along the top of the ground, and corrugated drain piping below. The piping allows excess water to irrigate the slopes surrounding the home. To assure their drip system would continue to work properly, the Cissells came up with a system using a birdbath made from an old sink. When their drip system turns on, it feeds the birdbath. The water flows up into the sink and into the overflow hole and back down to the trees. No water is wasted, and mosquito reproduction is avoided. If the birdbath is dry, it means that the drip system is not working properly.

‘Not a single drop of water wasted’

The Cissells’ “Stonehenge” is constructed from large tree roots topped with stones (left), serving as a reminder of what was once the nature beneath them. Photo: Otay Water District

“The coolest thing is that it was a 100 percent makeover from irrigated lawn that took a pathetic amount of water to keep it green, and it wasn’t even green,” said Shan Cissell. “It’s the design, the technical, the labor, the creativity, and the focus on not a single drop of water being wasted that we took seriously.”

The Cissells maximized their viewing area by strategically placing curved walking paths of decomposed granite throughout their yard. Paths are surrounded by vegetation and water-wise plants such as succulents, honeysuckle, pincushion flowers, and manzanita. The Cissells say they their efforts have reduced their water bill as much as 25 to 30 percent.

The Cissells maximized their viewing area by strategically placing curved walking paths of decomposed granite throughout their yard. Photo: Otay Water District

“The Cissells’ unique project proves that creating a beautiful WaterSmart landscape can be both cost-efficient and environmentally beneficial,” says Mitch Thompson, Otay Water District board president and Water Conservation Garden Joint Powers Authority member. “The benefits can be attributed to their efforts in incorporating recycled material along with water-saving features.”

Winners are selected based on overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, and efficient irrigation and maintenance. The Cissells were recognized with a certificate of recognition, gift certificate to a local nursery of their choice, and other promotional items. View more photos of the Cissells’ winning landscape here.

READ MORE: City of Oceanside Selects Drought Tolerant Gardens as 2019 Contest Winners

Limited rainfall means avocado grower John Burr must use innovative farming methods. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego’s Farmer of the Year Taps Every Drop

Growing water-intensive crops like avocados in San Diego County is no small feat. Producing avocados requires the use of innovative farming methods to supply the trees with enough water.

It’s the use of innovative farming methods that earned John Burr the title of San Diego County’s Farmer of the Year – an honor he recently celebrated on KUSI-TV with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer as part of the agency’s Brought to You by Water outreach and education program.

Innovative farming methods

Over the past few months, the Water Authority partnered with local agriculture industry leaders like the San Diego County Farm Bureau to highlight the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for more than 5,500 local farms that are part of the county’s $4.8 billion agriculture industry.

Local farmers like Burr are invaluable in growing the agricultural bounty that sustains 3.3 million residents and the region’s quality of life.

Found in everything from tacos to smoothies to toast, avocados have become a staple in California cuisine and, with only about 10 inches of annual rainfall in the San Diego region, it takes innovation and technology to grow the popular fruit.

Technology saves water

For decades, Burr has been perfecting the operations on his Escondido farm, using state-of-the-art technology like the California Irrigation Management Information System. Two different satellite systems allow him to regulate irrigation by zones to determine precise water amounts to prevent using too much or too little water on his trees.

Satellites collect data, which Burr then analyzes with spreadsheets to determine how many gallons of water each tree requires. Every bit of data collected, from water usage to atmospheric conditions to soil type, allows Burr and his team to streamline their operations to be even more water-efficient.

“In San Diego County, we have to get the most out of our crops with the least amount of water,” said Burr, who irrigates his farm with water from the City of Escondido. “When the weather varies with changing seasons or fluctuating weather patterns, providing the right amount of water at the right time is paramount to using water efficiently. These technologies provide the information and tools that allow us to do that consistently, and ensure our crops grow successfully.”

Efficient land use conserves water

Those who see Burr’s farm may also notice another difference from the typical avocado farm, which is that his groves are designed for high-density planting.

“A typical avocado grove can have about 100 trees, but ours have about 400 in the same area of land. This cuts our water usage in half,” he said.

Each tree is also limited in height to prevent water loss through transpiration. This is especially important in a region like San Diego County, where temperatures can rise quickly on summer days.

Top 10 Tips for Saving Water This Summer

Top 10 Tips for Saving Water This Summer

The start of summer brings the hottest, driest months of the year in San Diego County and a good time to remind residents of the Top 10 tips for using water more efficiently.

Top 10 tips to use water more efficiently

Check it out. Inspect irrigation equipment to eliminate overspray. Monitor soil moisture using a spade or soil probe, and only water if the top inch of soil is dry. Irrigate turf if it doesn’t spring back when stepped on. Better yet, upgrade to a “smart” irrigation controller that automatically adjusts water times based on weather conditions. Rebates for a variety of irrigation equipment are at WaterSmartSD.org.

Let it sink in. Irrigate mature trees once or twice a month using a soaker hose or drip system toward the edge of the tree canopy – not at the base of the tree. Use a hose faucet timer (found at hardware stores) to prevent overwatering. Young trees need more frequent irrigation; consult an arborist or tree-care manual for details.

Maintain your mulch (and compost). Keeping a 3-inch layer of mulch around trees and plants reduces runoff, helps control weeds and protects soil from direct sunlight and evaporation. Keep mulch at least a foot away from tree trunks and several inches from the crowns of plants. Also, add compost to increase soil nutrients.

Use water efficiently

Drink responsibly. Keep drinking water cool in your refrigerator to avoid running the tap. Use refillable water bottles instead of buying disposable plastic bottles.

Put a lid on it. Pool and spa covers reduce evaporation, lower pool heating costs and keep dirt and other debris out of the pool.

Let your lawn grow

Take a break. New plants need more water to get established, so wait until fall and winter for planting to take advantage of cooler temperatures and rain.

Go to summer school. Get started planning your WaterSmart landscape by surfing WaterSmart Landscaping Videos On Demand from the comfort of your beach chair or sofa.

Let your lawn grow. Set your mower to leave grass at least 3 inches high because taller blades reduce evaporation up to 80 percent and protect roots from heat.

Keep it clean. Patronize car washes that recycle water and save at least 15 gallons each time. When washing at home, use a hose nozzle that shuts off when you release the handle.

Rinse right. Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water instead of in running water. Afterward, pour the collected water on a plant.

More information on how residents and business can use water efficiently, along with rebates, classes and other water-saving resources, at WaterSmartSD.org

An irrigation map that clearly shows the layout of your irrigation system can be very helpful when you need to locate components for repair. Photo: Markus Distelrath/Pixabay

Make a Map of Your Irrigation System

It’s easy (and fun) to produce a landscaping plan showing where every shrub and flower is placed on site. Drawing what you can see is relatively easy.

But what about the irrigation system underneath your landscaping? Do you know the location of your water mainline, irrigation system clocks, valves and sprinkler heads?

Understanding the layout of your irrigation system is important so you can accurately locate components for seamless repair. If you plan on adding to or upgrading the system, you’ll want an irrigation map to guide construction.

Steps to making your irrigation map

First, locate all of the sprinkler heads on your property and mark their location on a copy of your landscaping site plan. Also mark the location of the following elements:

• Water meter or irrigation sub meter, and where the water comes from the street onto your property (the main line)
• Irrigation controller
• Shut off valve for turning off the irrigation system
• Pressure regulator – this may be for the irrigation system separate from the house. If your irrigation comes from a pipe that first serves the house, it may be located before it enters the house.
• Irrigation valves
• Hose bibs
• Backflow preventer – if you don’t have one, your sprinkler valves probably do, so don’t worry

Observe and color code which sprinklers go on at the same time when a valve is turned on.

Adapting your existing irrigation system to a new efficient system

Use your irrigation map to determine which parts will work with a new, more efficient system without abandoning everything and starting from scratch. If you’re removing or renovating most of your landscaping, you might need to alter the irrigation. In that case, starting from scratch can end up being the most cost and time efficient alternative.


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

The San Diego County Water Authority has a long history of supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project. Photo: California DWR

Water Authority Invites Gov. Newsom to Tour Facilities, Praises Portfolio Approach to Water Security

The San Diego County Water Authority today praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking a proactive, far-sighted approach to water supply planning for California, and pledged to help the governor advance his portfolio strategy for water security in the face of a changing climate.

In a letter to Newsom, Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer thanked the governor for the “wisdom and leadership” shown last week with the issuance of Executive Order N-10-19 and invited the governor to tour San Diego County’s cutting-edge water facilities.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.” Newsom then directed state agencies to scrap Brown Administration plans for a $18 billion two-tunnel system for moving water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta in favor of a one-tunnel system.

“We congratulate you on Executive Order N-10-19 and stand ready to support you and work with other stakeholders to ensure its success,” Madaffer wrote to Newsom. “If state and federal dollars are prioritized to support local, integrated planning solutions, we will realize the State’s 2009 promise to reduce demand on the Bay-Delta.”

Portfolio Planning For Water Security

The Water Authority has a long history of both portfolio planning for the region’s water security and supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project.

“Almost two decades ago, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors chose to take affirmative steps to change what had been an ‘end-of-the-pipeline’ mentality, when our agency relied greatly on water imported from the Bay-Delta,” Madaffer said. “In other words, we embraced then the intent of Executive Order N-10-19, and believe our experience is proof that it can be done.”

In 2013, the Water Authority joined several Southern and Northern California water districts, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other conservation groups in proposing a Portfolio Alternative for the Bay-Delta. That proposal included a single tunnel, increasing water storage south of the Bay-Delta, and significant investments in local and regional water supplies.

That approach didn’t gain enough support in the Brown administration, but it aligns closely with Gov. Newsom’s executive order.

Strategic partnerships

The portfolio approach also aligns with what history has shown to be a highly successful strategy in San Diego County, which relied almost entirely on water supplies controlled by external interests in 1991.

“After suffering the devastating impacts of drought and water shortages that year, our community got to work, determined to gain local control over the cost and reliability of our water,” Madaffer said. “Since then, the Water Authority and its member agencies have invested over $2 billion in local projects.”

Those investments include:

  • The nation’s largest agricultural water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District
  • The first new dam in the county in more than 50 years at Olivenhain Reservoir
  • The nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, producing up to 56,000 acre-feet of water annually
  • The raising of San Vicente Dam, more than doubling its capacity
  • Water-use efficiency programs that have helped reduce per capita potable water use by more than 40 percent in San Diego County

“Every dollar of investment the Water Authority has made represents a commensurate reduction of take on the Bay-Delta,” said Madaffer’s letter.

He noted that the Water Authority and its member agencies are still at work, with more local projects on the drawing board, including a Pure Water potable reuse program being developed by the City of San Diego and the East County Advanced Water Purification Project.

“We are also continuing to plan for the future, with an upcoming study that will explore water, conveyance, storage, treatment and energy opportunities with strategic partners in Imperial Valley, Mexico and across the Southwest,” Madaffer said. “This initiative is the next generation of the Water Authority’s evolution, and the ‘poster child’ for your Portfolio Alternative.”

The Water Authority is looking at new integrated solutions such as a storage account in Lake Mead that would help raise water levels in the drought-stressed reservoir and avoid formal shortage conditions that could hamper water deliveries across the Southwest. The Water Authority also is supporting a Salton Sea action plan that will protect both the environment and public health; binational opportunities with Mexico; and clean energy generation.

Alfred and Audrey Vargas with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer after they were awarded first place in the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair for designing a device that could treat wastewater and generate electricity. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego County Students Shape the Future of Water

On April 25, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors honored the latest group of water-related award winners from the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair as part of the agency’s effort to inspire young people to pursue water industry careers.

This year’s middle school and high school science and engineering projects displayed a wide range of innovative ways to solve a variety of water issues people face today.

In the senior division, Alfred and Audrey Vargas won the first place award with the design of a new device to treat wastewater and generate electricity simultaneously using hydrogen fuel cell technology. The siblings, who attend Sweetwater High School, also won their division last year and continue their work in designing devices and systems that can potentially be used in developing countries where resources are scarce.

Alfred and Audrey Vargas combined their passion for science and engineering with an awareness of water issues to design a device that treats wastewater and generates electricity. Photo: Water Authority

Alfred and Audrey came back this year to win the senior division for the second time. Alfred is heading to UC Berkeley in the fall to study chemical engineering, and Audrey will continue developing their designs in her last two years of high school. Photo: Water Authority

Alfred and Audrey have been competing in science fairs since they were in middle school and have always been inspired by a drive to solve world water issues in affordable ways.

“As we’re looking for the next generation of water industry professionals, events like the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair are the perfect opportunity to connect with and support students who are already interested in relevant water issues,” said Water Authority principal public affairs representative Risa Baron, who helped select the winners. “These young thinkers and inventors can make huge strides in solving future water challenges around the world.”

Finding inspiration in the natural world

Cambridge School student Emily Tianshi won the second place award in the senior division. She looked beyond the ocean views at Torrey Pines State Park to see the intelligent ways that nature sustains itself and how those can be imitated.

Emily spent the past three years perfecting a design for a device that can capture moisture from the air like Torrey Pine needles do. Using 3-D printing technology to bring her project to life, Emily demonstrated that the naturally occurring ridges of Torrey Pine needles efficiently collect water, and she designed a model of a device that would mimic the shape of the needles.

Middle school students display stellar scientific knowledge and creativity

The winners of the junior division show off their awards with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. Photo: Water Authority

The winners of the junior division show off their awards with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. Photo: Water Authority

In the junior division, Brendan Cordaro and Max Shaffer from Saint John School in Encinitas teamed up to win first place with “The Water Maker,” a homemade device that transformed a miniature refrigerator into a means of collecting water from the air.

Oliver Trojanowski, who is also a middle school student at the Saint John School, won the second place award in the junior division. Oliver surveyed several sites in the region to test for water quality and determine toxicity levels in stormwater runoff.

Matthew Angulo from the Corfman School in El Centro earned the third place award in the junior division. He travelled over 100 miles to showcase his results from several tests of water samples from the Colorado River.

Welcoming the next generation of water professionals and leaders

More than 2,800 people across all levels of educational attainment work at the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to provide safe and reliable water supplies to the region.

The Water Authority and its member agencies are committed to fostering the next generation of industry professionals and leaders. Engineers, system operators, maintenance technicians, customer service representatives and utility workers are just some of the many careers available in the water industry.

Report credits San Diego County Water Authority for providing regional water solutions which include storing water in Lake Mead. Photo: National Park Service

OPINION: San Diego Is Ready For Some Big Water Solutions

Back in the early 1990s — near the start of my career at San Diego City Hall — the San Diego County Water Authority launched a historic effort to sustain the region’s economy and quality of life by diversifying our water supplies so that we didn’t depend on one source for 95 percent of our water. That effort took many forms, many billions of dollars and more than two decades — but it paid off in spades. Even though we are at the literal end of the pipeline, today we have among the most diversified and secure water supply systems anywhere.

Full story here: https://bit.ly/2VDRBE7