We Have a Winner!

We Have a Winner!

Helix Water District has named Chandrika “Dusty” Patel-Lynch of La Mesa as this year’s winner of its WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes which are judged on overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection and maintenance, design and efficient irrigation methods.

After converting to a low-water landscape, Patel-Lynch’s single-family home on Highwood Avenue uses just one third of the water it consumed a few short years ago, averaging 12 units per two-month billing period in 2016. One unit is 748 gallons.

“About five years ago, I decided to beautify the exterior of my home,” Patel-Lynch wrote in her contest entry statement. “The front landscape was covered with ivy, which must have been popular in the 1960s when the house was built.”

Patel-Lynch noted that she had always admired the water-wise yard of her nearby neighbor and friend, Angela Shaw.

“The decision to go drought-tolerant was a ‘no-brainer,’” Patel-Lynch wrote. “With cuttings from (Shaw’s) mature plants, I was able to cover quite a radius. Plus, in a quest to have variety, I have purchased succulents/cacti from various nurseries,” including barrel cactus, beaver tail cactus, fire sticks, sunbursts, and agave.

“I thought about height, texture and color. I didn’t create a design on paper. I just thought about it and planted.”

Helix will invite Patel-Lynch to receive her prizes—gift cards totaling $250 and an award certificate—at a ceremony at the Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 21.

Patel-Lynch also will get a WaterSmart contest winner’s sign to display in her yard. It will join a La Mesa Beautiful sign she said she was awarded about two years ago for a win in that competition’s “best color and design” category.

Although Patel-Lynch said she is quite happy with her yard, she said there is always more to do.

“I did it myself,” she said. “And that gives me pride. It keeps me rejuvenated. I’m constantly tinkering… because it’s never really done.”

Photos of Patel-Lynch’s yard will appear in the winners section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other local water agencies, as well as on the district’s website, hwd.com.

Call for entries for the contest usually begin in January of the competition year and the deadline for submissions is in early April. More information can be obtained through the Helix website, hwd.com, or Facebook.com/HelixWater or Twitter @HelixWater.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to more than 273,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.

6 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden Now

6 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden Now

Why is Helix Water District promoting vegetable gardening? Because growing your own food is a good use of water and one more step on the path to sustainability. And, technically, most of the vegetables and herbs that grow here in San Diego are moderate water use plants, which means they need less water than the average lawn. Here are six reasons to plant a vegetable garden right now.

Reason #1
According to the San Diego County Master Gardeners, the time to plant warm season vegetables in our region is April to June. It’s May and it’s time to plant!

Reason #2
We’ll show you how.

What to Plant
This Vegetable Planting Guide was developed by the University of California and San Diego County and is featured on the San Diego County Master Gardeners website. The guide says that if you live inland — Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, La Mesa or El Cajon — plant these vegetables in spring: beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Now is also the time to plant basil — yes, basil = pesto!

How to Improve Your Soil
Add compost, worm castings or manure to your soil before you plant — they add the organic nutrients that plants need. They are available by the bag at local nurseries. Empty a bag or two on to your soil and mix it in with a shovel.

How to Water
It’s easy and relaxing to hand-water a small vegetable garden with a hose (and a positive shut-off nozzle) or a watering can. Or you can install a drip irrigation system. These videos show you how to assemble the tubing and emitters and connect the system to a hose bib.


Reason #3
Our climate here in San Diego County allows year-round gardening. The Vegetable Planting Guide on the San Diego County Master Gardeners website recommends planting cool season vegetables in the fall: arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, endive, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach and turnips. Fall is also the time to plant cilantro!

Reason #4
You don’t need your own yard. You can grow vegetables and herbs in pots on a balcony or you can find an open spot in a community garden for free or for rent. The San Diego County Master Gardeners have a list of community gardens on their website. There’s one on Spring Drive in Spring Valley and four in El Cajon. The list includes who to contact for each garden and their contact information.

Reason #5
If you don’t grow your own vegetables then you don’t know how good vegetables taste! My wife and I rent a raised bed in a small community garden and our first planting last November was cool season vegetables. All winter long we ate amazing salads with arugula that tasted nutty and spicy, fresh kale and snow peas. In April, we planted our first warm season vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

Reason #6
This is an opportunity to eat better, feel better, and even to go organic. Avoid using any non-organic soil amendments, fertilizers or pesticides and your soil and plants are organic!  And enjoying the intense flavors of food that you grew yourself is truly satisfying. Give it a try. 


Order your discounted rain barrel by March 5th

Order your discounted rain barrel by March 5th

San Diego County residents have until March 5th at 11:00pm to purchase discounted rain barrels online at www.rainbarrelprogram.org/sandiego. The County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program and Solana Center for Environmental Innovation have teamed up to offer the barrels for only $90.

Purchased rain barrels will be ready for pick-up on March 11th, from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Lakeside River Park Conservancy, at 10354 Channel Road in Lakeside (Directions). Print your purchase confirmation email and bring it with you to pick up your barrel(s).

The county’s webpage at www.rainbarrelprogram.org/sandiego features a video on how to install your rain barrel and a list of the barrel’s features. The 50 gallon rain barrels are made in the U.S.A. using 100 percent recycled materials.  They also have a screen over the water inlet to prevent mosquito breeding. The county requires screening and proper maintenance.

After purchasing your rain barrels, go to SoCalWaterSmart.com and apply online for a $35 rebate on up to two barrels. This will save you about 50 percent off the $129 retail price. Act fast as rebates are on a first come first served basis and only last until funding is exhausted.

Prior to purchasing a rain barrel, residents living in a homeowners association (HOA) should check with their HOA to ensure CC&Rs allow for the use of rain barrels and storage of rain water in their communities.

Explore the San Diego County Watershed Protection Program

Explore Solana Center for Environmental Innovation

State extends emergency drought regulations

State extends emergency drought regulations

Photo: Stranded car in floodwaters near San Rafael, California (source: abc7news.com)

The State Water Resources Control Board voted Wednesday to extend emergency drought regulations for another 270 days.

“This is an emergency?” asked State Senator Jim Nielsen. “It’s pretty hard to argue to the public, the citizens of California, that we are now in an emergency.”

A growing coalition of legislators and water suppliers that includes Nielsen, Helix Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority has called on the State Water Resources Control Board to end the emergency regulations. The coalition increased its efforts in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s vote, as rain, snow and flooding inundated California.

The coalition recommends managing current drought conditions at the regional level, as moderate and severe drought conditions are now limited to parts of Central and Southern California and extreme drought conditions are limited to areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Explore the Issue
Read the San Diego Union Tribune story on the water board vote
Helix WD Feb 6 2016 Letter to Water Board
SDCWA Feb 3 2017 Letter to Water Board
ACWA Feb 3 2017 Letter to Water Board

Get inspired by a watersmart landscape on Mt. Helix

Get inspired by a watersmart landscape on Mt. Helix

We love beautiful WaterSmart landscapes, and even more, we love to highlight those that our customers have installed. Join us as we highlight different Helix customers and their beautiful, water-wise, sustainable yards – and get inspired to upgrade your landscape.

Helix Customer Profile
Hultgren-Geldbach residence
Mt. Helix in La Mesa

When Carey Hultgren and Paul Geldbach purchased their half-acre Mt. Helix home, they became the owners of a 3,000 square foot front yard that included a beautiful pool and a dead lawn. Ready for an upgrade, they participated in the San Diego County Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program and developed a design plan which included flagstone pathways, a cost-effective conversion of their existing sprinklers to MP rotators and lots of flowering, water-wise plants. They removed the dead lawn, composted over winter and began planting in spring. Currently 50 percent installed, the flowering aloes, colorful bougainvillea and sprawling yellow lantana already enhance their 1930s Spanish-style home.

Q & A with the homeowner

Q: What was here before?

A: We had the remnants of a dead lawn mixed with large expanses of rocky dirt before we started planting.  We began by adding several yards of free Miramar landfill compost periodically (for about 2 years before planting).  The compost inadvertently worked well as a weed-preventative as it decomposed and made our soil healthier!

Q: Where did your design ideas come from?

A:  I had recently been to Palm Springs and stayed at The Alcazar Hotel.  They had just completed a significant landscape remodel and I picked their gardener’s brain, I was so inspired.  We wanted plants that would thrive in the highly exposed and hot upper terrace above our pool but also wanted floral color to give it a touch of the tropics.  We planted fuchsia “Barbara Karst” for background color and coral-pink “Rosenka” bougainvillea in the middle.  Hesperaloe Parviflora sent off long, rose-colored flower stems all summer long and the New Gold Lantana is intended to eventually spill over the wall towards the pool deck below. With careful placement, we located a thornless Chilean Mesquite for some filtered shade for the plants.  It is at least 25 feet from our pool. We also planted several Blue Flame Agaves, Senecio and Lemon Bean Bush.  I googled hundreds of pictures and I especially liked using a contrast of greens – from frosty gray greens to lime greens to deep jewel greens.

Q: What motivated this project?

A:  Since moving to Mt. Helix from Bay Park in 2012, we’ve been shocked by the incessant heat of our new climate zone. Although we just loved our new home, we knew we had to rethink our approach to planting and watering – especially with one-half acre to conquer. I always tell people that San Diego County is an irrigated desert and people usually find that funny, but it is so true.  Our approach has been a blend of desert plants and Mediterranean succulents with desert trees.

Q: What do you like best about your new landscape?

A: It frames the view down to our pool and the hills of Mexico in the distance.  We are now proud of our yard instead of making excuses for it.  It can take a beating in the heat and the bougainvillea just keeps blooming and blooming!  We have more to do to finish it – refining some of the plants and adding more mulch and adjusting the irrigation, but we are happy with its beginning.

Q: Are you saving water?

A:  We never had the lawn when it was living, but unequivocally yes!

Q: Does it take more or less time for maintenance?

A: Given that we had nothing but dirt and weeds before, maybe a little more. Believe it or not, our dirt patch took a lot of work with weed remediation! Since we have planted and mulched, it’s much better at keeping weeds at bay. Plus, I enjoy working on it so much more because now it gives back to me with color and beauty.

Q: Do you have any tips for other homeowners?

A: 1)  Rinse and repeat!  Use the same plants over and over again for a more finished garden with continuity and intention. Using one or two plants at a time looks random and confusing.  A good design seeks repetition, contrast and color repeats.  You can really appreciate the plants when you see several of them at once. I confess, against my better judgement I do often buy heat-loving plants spontaneously with only a vague plan for where to put them, especially if I find nice, healthy ones. But I always buy in groupings of five or seven or even nine.  I never buy just one!

2)  Mix your greens.  Explore all the different varieties of greens out there – greens with blue, gray, purple, yellow, even whitish undertones – and blend them for the best effect.

3)  Opposites attract!  Pair softer, feathery plants with sculptural plants.  The visual contrast is striking and beautiful.


Thank you, Hultgren-Geldbach family for sharing your lovely and sustainable landscape with us. If it looks this good already, we can’t wait to see it completely finished.

Inspired to upgrade your landscape but not sure where to start? Consider registering for a free WaterSmart Landscape Program workshop or series of classes.

Do you have a beautiful, WaterSmart landscape that you would like to share with others? Contact us at conserve@helixwater.org and you could be featured in a future blog article.

Reserve your seats for next landscape workshop

Reserve your seats for next landscape workshop

Since every seat was reserved for our landscape design workshops in September and October, we are going to have another one on Saturday, January 21st at Helix’s Nat L. Eggert Operations Center in El Cajon.  The WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop is a free, 3-hour workshop that will show you how to have a beautiful landscape using a fraction of the water that a traditional landscape needs. The workshop is taught by one of our local landscape experts and brought to you by Helix and the San Diego County Water Authority.

You will learn

  • How to convert your turf area to water efficient landscape
  • How to select plants that thrive in our Mediterranean climate
  • How to analyze your yard, identify your soil type, remove turf and irrigate efficiently
  • How to create a professional landscape with planting and irrigation designs ready for installation

We encourage you to reserve your seats now as seating is limited and these workshops fill up fast. It’s easy to do. The reservation form is on the workshop’s webpage. Click on the link below to go there.

Reserve your seats for the January 21st workshop

Discounted rain barrels now available

Discounted rain barrels now available

Save water this winter by installing a rain barrel – and save money by taking advantage of discounts and rebates that reduce the final cost of each rain barrel to $15 before tax.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, including Helix, have partnered with the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation to offer 50-gallon rain barrels for $90 each. The rain barrels can be purchased through the Solana Center and are normally $149.

Once purchased, residents can apply for the $75 rain barrel rebate (maximum two rebates per address) available through the SoCal WaterSmart regional rebate program by December 31. The rebate will be reduced to $35 effective January 1, 2017.

Residents may pick up their rain barrels at one of four designated pick-up locations throughout the county, including the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon on December 3 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Residents must pre-order their rain barrels and choose their pick-up location before November 27. No sales will be made the day of the event.

To pre-order your discounted rain barrels, visit www.rainbarrelprogram.org/sandiego. Rebate applications are available online at www.socalwatesmart.com. More details about the partnership can be found in the San Diego County Water Authority’s news release.

Discounted rain barrels and rebates are limited and are not guaranteed.

Helix’s new Video Tips Series for homeowners

Helix’s new Video Tips Series for homeowners

“My water usage has really increased since my last bill and I am not sure why or what to do. Can you help?” This is a common question from our customers who are looking to reduce their water use.   And the answer is, yes, we can help!

Today the Helix Water District released its first video in its newly launched Video Tips Series.  This video focuses on what to expect when a Helix customer signs up for a free Home Water Use Evaluation.  The four minute clip walks you through the steps that Helix water conservation staff will take when they visit your home. They start with reading your meter and end with providing you with a written report of steps, tailored to your home, that you can take to reduce your water usage – both indoor and out!

The Video Tips Series will focus on things that you can do to make water conservation a California way of life.  Next up in our series is a video on how to read your meter on your own and what to look for when checking for leaks.

Interested in making a reservation for a free water use evaluation for your home? Visit us at www.hwd.com/rebates, email us at conserve@helix.org or call 619-466-0585 to schedule an appointment.

Design ideas for a water efficient landscape

Design ideas for a water efficient landscape

It’s November, which means it’s time to finish designing and start planting your water efficient landscape.

Why now? Because new plants need all of the water that a lawn needs until their roots establish, and that can take six months. Plant now and winter rainstorms will provide a lot of that water.  If you’re still working on your design, here is some design inspiration from houzz.com. Need more inspiration, and some information? Go to our landscape design webpage where you will find links to websites, videos and plans.


Rebates available for sustainable landscape

Rebates available for sustainable landscape

Helix’s residential customers are eligible for rebates of $1.75 per square foot to replace turf with sustainable landscape. The San Diego County Water Authority announced on Wednesday that it received $500,000 in grant funding for the San Diego Sustainable Landscapes Program from the California Department of Water Resources, and that it expects to receive another $1.1 million in grants soon.

The rebates will go to residents with approved applications on a first come, first served basis. Residents must replace a minimum of 500 square feet of turf to qualify, and a site inspection is required before any work begins. New landscape designs must feature water efficient plants and irrigation, and capture one inch of rain within the first 24 hours of rainfall to reduce water pollution caused by stormwater runoff.


The program’s eligibility requirements and application instructions are at SustainableLandscapesSD.org/incentives.

In addition to the rebate, the San Diego Sustainable Landscapes Program offers guidelines, classes and materials, and landscape design assistance. The program is a partnership between the Association of Compost Producers, California American Water Company, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Surfrider Foundation, and the San Diego County Water Authority, which is the lead agency.

Read the Water Authority’s Press Release


Saving hives

Saving hives

In September, Helix’s Ted Salois followed Jesse Adcock, owner of J.R. Bees, who performs live bee removal from the meter boxes of Helix customers. Ted’s story, photos and video clip show just how Mr. Adcock does it.

Why is Helix investing in live bee removal? One reason, which Mr. Adcock explains in the story, is that it is more effective than killing bees. The big reason is bee populations are dwindling, in California and around the world. A study published earlier this year by the United Nations Environment Program found that over 40 percent of pollinators —  primarily bees and butterflies — are facing extinction. This matters: according to the report, 75 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of wild flowering plants are dependent on pollination.

Read Saving Hives

Watch the video

Read Six easy ways you can help save the bees


Protecting Helix’s Customers

Protecting Helix’s Customers

State officials are in the process of establishing a new water use efficiency framework for California. As part of Governor Brown’s last drought-related executive order this past May, the Department of Water Resources was tasked with developing permanent, long-term regulations on how water will be used throughout the state.

Once finalized, the framework will define the maximum amount of water that each water supplier is allowed to provide to residents and businesses within its service area. As currently proposed, staff is concerned the framework could have negative impacts on the economy and quality of life throughout the district, region and state.

Earlier this year, Helix joined forces with other water providers and successfully lobbied the State Water Resources Control Board to base state mandated water reductions on an agency’s actual supply and demand, reducing the district’s state mandated water use reduction from 20 percent to zero. The proposed framework is separate from the temporary state mandated water use reductions and is even more critical as it will establish permanent regulations into the future.

The Department of Water Resources will release the final draft of the framework in November. Click on the links below to read the comments that Helix and the San Diego County Water Authority, the district’s wholesaler, submitted to the state last week.

Helix’s comments to state of California

San Diego County Water Authority’s comments to state of California

Photo: University of Massachusetts


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