Our New Water Savings Target — 12 Percent

We are pleased to report that the mandatory water use reduction of 20 percent imposed on Helix by the State Water Resources Control Board in June 2015 has been reduced to 12 percent.

The water agencies in the San Diego region are receiving the eight percent credit for developing a new, local, drought-resilient water resource – the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant — which began producing 50 million gallons of drinking water per day in December.

“I am pleased the State Water Resources Control Board listened to us and the other representatives from the San Diego region, and I am very proud of the lobbying effort we mounted, in writing and in face-to-face testimony,” said DeAna Verbeke, Helix’s Board President.

“This credit is recognition from the State of California of the investment Helix customers and everyone in the San Diego region have made over 20 years in water conservation and diversifying our water supply,” added Carlos Lugo, Helix’s General Manager.

It’s now up to Helix’s Board and staff to determine how to incorporate the credit in the district’s water use restrictions. “We have a lot to consider. Yes, we have more water to use, but we need to keep our eye on El Niño and the snowpack in the Sierra, as well.” said Lugo.

Read the San Diego County Water Authority’s March 10, 2016 Release

Read the State Water Resources Control Board’s February 2, 2016 Release

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Comments to the State Water Resources Control Board

Yesterday, we posted Helix’s comments to the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the board’s proposed changes to the statewide water conservation mandates that went into effect in June 2015 and may extend through October 2016.

Today, we have the San Diego County Water Authority’s comments to the board on behalf of the San Diego region. Click on the PDF file below to open and read the letter.

Water Authority Jan-28-2016 Comments to SWRCB





Helix Submits Comments to State Water Resources Control Board

On January 15, 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board proposed revisions to the statewide, emergency water conservation mandates that will remain in effect through October 2016 if drought conditions persist.

In response to comments from water districts and cities, the state board proposes reducing water conservation mandates up to four percent for water suppliers in the warmer regions of California and up to eight percent for water suppliers that have developed a new, local, drought-resilient water supply since 2013. Other reductions are also available.

Helix qualifies for a two percent climate-based reduction and an eight percent reduction for the construction of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, but the board proposal caps reductions at eight percent. Helix submitted additional comments on January 28, 2016 for the state board’s consideration. See the text of the letter below.

(On Helix Water District letterhead)

January 27, 2016

To: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

Subject: February 2, 2016 Board Meeting – Item 7 (Conservation Extended Emergency Regulation)

Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Chair Marcus and Commissioners of the State Water Resources Control Board:

We appreciate the board’s continuing efforts to revise the Extended Emergency Regulations to ensure they are equitable, reasonable and support long-term water management planning. The revisions included in the Proposed Text of the Draft Emergency Regulation released on January 15, 2016, show that the board acknowledges the importance of developing drought-resilient supplies, as well as the challenges that climate and growth have created for water suppliers when meeting their water savings targets. However, while we are encouraged that the regulations continue to move in the right direction, they still do not go far enough in recognizing differences throughout the state.

Increasing the cap on drought-resilient supply credits to eight percent and increasing the overall cap for all credits to eight percent is appreciated and is a definite improvement over the previously proposed caps of four percent. However, we continue to oppose the seemingly arbitrary nature of the caps. Successful drought management is, and has been achieved through conserving water and investing in new drought-resilient supplies. Individually, neither will bring California through the worst drought in the state’s history. Additionally, the arbitrary caps threaten to discourage ratepayers from supporting future water supply investments. This could limit California’s ability to address the impacts of a growing population and a changing climate and also attract and retain businesses. As such, we continue to encourage the board to further modify the regulations to provide a one-for-one credit for drought-resilient supplies and to allow suppliers to take credit for all adjustments for which they are eligible.

We also continue to oppose limiting credit for drought-resilient supplies to only those developed after 2013. To equitably reflect the long-term investments that communities have made in drought-resilient supplies, the emergency regulations should provide credit for supplies developed prior to 2013. Pre-2013 supplies have better prepared California for this drought and future droughts by helping to reduce, forestall, or in some cases eliminate shortage impacts. In addition, these early investments in supplies are consistent with the Governor’s Water Action Plan.

Lastly, the proposed text also added language stating that State Water Resources Control Board staff would monitor snowpack, reservoir and groundwater basin levels, and prepare adjustments to the regulations as conditions warrant. Again, we are encouraged that the board heeded the suggestions of water stakeholders to add this language on how the regulations would end. However, we continue to emphasize that more specific benchmarks regarding the levels that snowpack, reservoir, and groundwater need to reach in order for the emergency regulations to be lifted still need to be clearly defined. This would help to avoid any confusion between the State Water Resources Control Board staff, water suppliers and the ratepayers who are tasked with conserving.

Again, we want to thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Proposed Text of the Draft Emergency Regulation. We anticipate that the final regulation that is adopted will offer a more balanced, flexible, local approach to drought management given our current supply challenge while also better preparing the state for future droughts.


De Ana Verbeke                                                                      Carlos Lugo
Board President                                                                      General Manager
Helix Water District                                                                 Helix Water District


Helix Submits Comments on Proposed Changes to Statewide Water Use Restrictions

Helix submitted comments today to the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the Board’s proposed modifications to the statewide, mandatory water use restrictions enacted June 1, 2015. The restrictions remain in effect through October 31, 2016.

The Board’s proposed modifications reduce the water conservation requirement of urban water suppliers up to four percent if they are located in the warmest parts of the state, are using new drought resistant water supplies, or have experienced growth since 2013. The modifications were developed based on comments received from water suppliers, including Helix Board members, at the Board’s December 7, 2015 public hearing.

Read Helix’s January 6, 2016 Letter to the State Water Resources Control Board

Helix lobbying to make water conservation rebates tax-exempt

Water conservation rebates are taxable? It turns out that the answer is yes, but only if you receive $600 or more in rebates in a single year.

If you didn’t know about this you’re not alone. Few rebates ever surpass the $600 threshold. But this year — the fourth consecutive year of extreme, statewide drought — Metropolitan Water District of Southern California increased their turf removal rebate to $2 per square foot. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, many homeowners were surprised to learn that they owe taxes on the big rebates they received.

While the State of California exempted turf removal rebates from reportable income, the IRS didn’t. This November, the Alliance for Water Efficiency reported that this issue was, “included in the U.S. Treasury Department’s greenbook, an annual report on tax policy changes the administration would like Congress to enact.”

On December 3rd, the Alliance for Water Efficiency called on water agencies to email the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, and Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Read Helix’s Letter to Congressional Leaders.

On December 11th, the Alliance for Water Efficiency reports, a letter signed by 32 members of Congress requesting a federal exemption for water conservation rebates from taxable income was sent to the IRS and the Department of the Treasury.




Helix Board and general manager advocate for ratepayers in Sacramento

December 7, 2015 — Helix Board President DeAna Verbeke, and Board member Kathleen Hedberg spoke on behalf of Helix ratepayers at the State Water Resources Control Board’s public hearing on emergency drought regulations and, specifically, the statewide mandate to reduce water use by 25 percent.

The standing-room only hearing lasted over seven hours as the SWRCB listened to presentations and testimony from dozens of water suppliers around the state regarding requested changes to the regulations.

Verbeke and Hedberg called on the SWRCB to provide “credit” to the San Diego region for the significant investments that ratepayers have made in long-term water supply reliability and diversification.

During her comments, Verbeke said of the state’s water use restrictions, “To artificially prevent our customers from access to water, after their significant investment in water reliability, is causing water rates to increase more than necessary.  Our customers are using less water but paying more because of the artificial constraints placed on the region by these emergency regulations.   Our customers are frustrated and this mandate is creating trust and credibility issues with them.  Helix Water District is cutting back on expenditures on important infrastructure improvements to help relieve the rate pressure on our customers.”

SWRCB Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said at the hearing, “I am open to adjustments.”  Governor Brown issued an Executive Order on November 13, 2015 directing the SWRCB to consider modifying its water use restrictions.  The SWRCB will analyze the comments submitted by water suppliers and other stakeholders and deliver draft amendments in January.

The day after the hearing, Helix’s general manager, Carlos Lugo, spoke one-on-one with Frances Spivy-Weber, Vice Chair of the SWRCB. Lugo pointed to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant and the East County Advanced Water Treatment Project and said, “Our customers are paying for these projects through their rates. When they are delayed by water use restrictions it results in even higher costs in the future.”

“The resulting funding challenges and anticipated lack of public support will discourage our agency from investing in projects to bring drough-tolerant water to the region,” Lugo said.

Click here to see the people and organizations that submitted comments to the SWRCB, and those representing the San Diego region. If you would like to comment on the state’s water use restrictions, send an email to your elected representatives:

State Assembly

Brian Jones
71st Assembly District

Shirley Weber
79th Assembly District
(La Mesa & Lemon Grove)

State Senate

Joel Anderson
38th Senate District

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