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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.

IRWM - SD Wild Animal Park Biofiltration Wetland

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.

Collaboration improves regional water quality

Projects supported and funded by the program, or IRWM, have increased long-term water supply reliability, improved water quality, created wetlands and increased local water supply sources. Funding for the IRWM projects is provided from several propositions approved by voters and administered through the California DWR.

“Since it started, the Water Authority has been a strong supporter of the IRWM, partnering with the City and County of San Diego to develop the program,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl, in a keynote address at the Monday meeting. “Bringing diverse stakeholders together through collaboration funds water reliability projects throughout the San Diego region.”

The collaboration has resulted in improved water supply reliability through the successful funding of conservation, water reuse, and other supply projects throughout the region, she said.

Another benefit of collaborating through the program is it brings traditionally underrepresented communities to the table to have projects funded.

Environmental health and safety, open space

The San Diego IRWM program has helped fund 25 projects in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities supporting the improvement of water reliability and water reliability in all parts of the region.

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program and sponsored by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project.

The restoration of Chollas Creek was intended to improve environmental health and safety, surface water quality, and availability of green open space for Encanto, a disadvantaged urban community in San Diego.

IRWM Program - Chollas Creek - WNN

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program. Photo: Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project

Wetlands, educational opportunities

Another project funded under the IRWM program, created wetlands to improve water quality at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The biofiltration wetland project, sponsored by the San Diego Zoo Global, has also served to educate thousands of students, teachers, and park visitors through various programs.

The IRWM continues to identify opportunities to fund projects to bring multiple benefits to the region.

The program is included in California’s draft Water Resilience Portfolio, released in January. Three state agencies created the portfolio, which proposes recommended actions to help California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure and other challenges.

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Putting a Price on the Protective Power of Wetlands

In coastal communities prone to hurricanes and tropical storms, people typically turn to engineered solutions for protection: levees, sea walls and the like. But a natural buffer in the form of wetlands may be the more cost-effective solution, according to new research from the University of California San Diego.

In the most comprehensive study of its sort to date, UC San Diego economists show that U.S. counties with more wetlands experienced substantially less property damage from hurricanes and tropical storms over a recent 20-year period than those with fewer wetlands.

To Bridge the Cultures of Mexico’s Border Region and a Neglected Colorado Neighborhood, Just Add Water

San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico — Under the red girders of a nondescript toll bridge, waves gently lapped coarse sands in a gritty corner of this northwestern Mexican border city.

“There is usually no water and vegetation, and the ground looks like this,” local conservationist Alejandra Calvo-Fonesca said, gesturing toward the dusty shoreline of the Colorado River.

For a few months this winter, residents welcomed an unexpected surge of water in the river – a phenomenon they had not experienced since the spring 2014 “pulse flow,” when the United States released 107,000 acre-feet of water into the Colorado River Delta over a two-month period. That seminal event brought revelers in droves, eager to celebrate the revival of a historic waterway that is not only the city’s namesake, but a source of pride for its people.

Salton Sea Partners Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Lake’s Condition

IMPERIAL — Representatives from Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County took to the air Friday to get a keen view of California’s largest and most troubled lake.

Coordinated by Audubon California, the flights took off from Imperial County Airport Friday morning, flying over the perimeter of the Salton Sea. Passengers witnessed the decline of the receding lake and viewed the IID’s and the state’s dust mitigation projects and Audubon’s proposed new project, Bombay wetlands.

Poseidon Water has assumed the stewardship of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and will help preserve over 400 acres of coastal habitat. Photo: Poseidon Water

Poseidon Water Assumes Stewardship of Agua Hedionda Lagoon

Poseidon Water, a national leader in the development of water supply and treatment projects using a public-private partnership approach, furthered its commitment to protect and preserve San Diego’s coastal environment by assuming stewardship of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad.

The Agua Hedionda Lagoon encompasses over 400 acres of marine, estuarine and wetlands habitat teeming with hundreds of fish, invertebrate and bird species. The lagoon has long been home to youth recreation activities, including the YMCA Aquatic Park (affectionately known to its patrons as “Camp H2O”), as well as popular activities for visitors of all ages, such as kayaking, swimming, canoeing and paddle-boarding. As the lagoon’s steward, Poseidon Water is taking responsibility for ensuring the man-made lagoon continues to realize the life-sustaining benefits of an open connection to the Pacific Ocean.

Maintaining healthy marine ecosystem

Poseidon Water is ensuring the ongoing vitality of this magnificent estuary through periodic maintenance dredging. Dredging keeps sand from blocking the flow of ocean water in and out of the lagoon, maintaining its tidal circulation, which is needed to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem, support extensive recreational uses, sustainable aquaculture (Carlsbad Aquafarm) and a white seabass fish hatchery (Hubbs-SeaWorld Fish Hatchery). Dredging also helps replenish the sand on Carlsbad State Beach, which otherwise would revert to historical cobble-stone, with sand that is relocated from the lagoon to nearby shoreline, ensuring the local beaches are attractive for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

“The Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation has been dedicated to providing direct access to nature while ensuring the environmental protection of the lagoon,” said Lisa Cannon-Rodman, chief executive officer of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation. “We are thrilled that Poseidon Water will continue in these efforts and can confidently say that the community will continue to experience the splendor of this unique environment for many years to come.”

Unique lagoon environment

Some of the uses that make up this unique environment include:

1. Man-Made Marine Estuary – Aqua Hedionda Lagoon is a man-made estuary consisting of 400 acres of inter-tidal wetlands and uplands that are home to a wide variety of fish, invertebrates, animals and birds.
2. Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant – The Carlsbad Desalination Plant produces over 50 million gallons of high-quality and climate-resilient drinking water each day, serving approximately 10 percent of the region’s water demand.
3. YMCA Aquatic Park – The YMCA Aquatic Park, better known as Camp H2O, is a summer camp geared towards children ages seven to twelve that offers affordable day camp activities including swimming, kayaking, boating and fishing. The camp plays an important role in educating youth about the precious marine environment and the need to preserve the lagoon for future generations.
4. Hubbs-SeaWorld Fish Hatchery – Hubbs-SeaWorld Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program include a 22,000 square-foot fish hatchery on the lagoon. The Program actively contributes to the restoration of the California white seabass population, adding over 350,000 juveniles annually. Hubbs-SeaWorld has begun to expand its marine restoration activities as a result of additional acreage donated by the Desalination Plant.
5. Recreational Boating – Boating remains one of the most popular lagoon activities for residents and visitors alike. California Water Sports offers expert lessons and rents a variety of boats, including kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to the public.
6. Carlsbad Aquafarm – The lagoon is home to the Carlsbad Aquafarm, Southern California’s only shellfish aquafarm, where over 1.5 million pounds of shellfish are sustainably harvested each year. The farm is a growing contributor to the $1.5 billion U.S. aquafarming industry and the San Diego region’s local economy.
7. Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation Discovery Center – Opened in 2006, the Discovery Center offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the lagoon’s native plants and marine life through exhibits and educational programs and hosts more than 8,700 local students each year.

Lagoon preservation

“Agua Hedionda Lagoon plays a key role not just in our environment, but also Carlsbad’s quality of life and economy,” said City of Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall. “By ensuring the lagoon’s long-term preservation, Poseidon Water has once again demonstrated its commitment to Carlsbad and environmental sustainability.”

The Lagoon was previously maintained by NRG, owner of the now decommissioned Encina Power Station. The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is located on the same site as the Encina Power Station and utilizes the power plant’s historic intake and outfall facilities for the desalination process. As part of its co-location, Poseidon Water has long planned to succeed NRG as the lagoon’s steward.

With the decommissioning of Encina Power Station, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant is modernizing the existing intake facilities to provide include additional environmental enhancements to protect and preserve the marine environment.

“Our location along the shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon makes it a critical part of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant’s operations, which enables us to provide San Diego County with more than 50 million gallons of high-quality drinking water every day,” said Carlos Riva, Poseidon Water CEO. “We look forward to taking an even more active role in the protection and preservation of the lagoon so that we can all enjoy its recreational and marine resources now and for generations to come.”

Assuming responsibility for the lagoon is just the latest in Poseidon Water’s long history of environmental stewardship in California, by employing 100 percent carbon neutral desalination technology at its Carlsbad Desalination Plant – making it the first major infrastructure project in California to eliminate its carbon footprint – and committing to do the same at its proposed Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Plant. These efforts continue to assist communities in becoming water independent and less susceptible to dangerous drought conditions, without any carbon emissions.

 

Endangered Wetlands Offer Vital Wildlife Habitat And A Reason To Fight About Coastal Development

Between Southern California’s popular beaches and much-traversed mountain trails lies an unsung natural landscape, teeming with its own special wildlife. As you head outdoors to celebrate Earth Day weekend — or to simply connect with nature and leave behind the anxieties of urban life — one option is our area’s often overlooked coastal wetlands. In Orange and Los Angeles counties, more than 90 percent of the estuaries, lagoons and other coastal waters that existed in the 19th century have been lost to roads, buildings and other development. But what remains provides a crucial habitat for resident animals and migrating birds, including several endangered species.

Calif. Clinches New Regs Just in Time for Federal Rollback

After more than a decade of drafting and editing, California is poised to finally update its wetlands regulations this spring. The effort, which began after a pair of Supreme Court decisions limited federal wetlands protections, could be finalized just in time to insulate the state from a Trump administration proposal restricting which wetlands and waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. California State Water Resources Control Board Chief Deputy Director Jonathan Bishop said the administration’s Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule “has little to do with our process.”

California Works To Protect Its Shrinking Wetlands

California officials are poised to seize control over a major arena of federal regulation in response to Trump administration rollbacks: the management and protection of wetlands. Wetlands are vital features on the landscape. Basically low spots in a watershed, when they fill with water they provide important habitat for birds, fish, and other species. Wetlands also help control floods and recharge groundwater, and they filter the water we drink. On the other hand, being generally flat and maligned as “swamps,” they are popular places to pave and build. As a result, wetlands have nearly disappeared across the western United States.

Water Agencies, Farmers Fret Over California’s Move To Regulate Wetlands

The State of California is working on a new regulatory program to oversee protection of wetlands and other ephemeral water bodies, such as seasonal streams. It comes in response to the Trump administration’s plan to roll back federal protection of such waters, which are critical for wildlife habitat, flood protection, groundwater recharge and water quality. Water Deeply explored the state’s proposal in detail in an article published this week. But what would this broad new California regulatory program mean to the water industry and developers in the state?