Water Savings Update for November

Helix Water District customers continued their conservation efforts in November, reducing their water use by 10 percent compared to November 2013. 

Last June, California called for mandatory water use reductions statewide and assigned a 20 percent reduction in water use for the district from June 2015 through February 2016, when compared to the same months in 2013. 

Since June, district customers have reduced their water use by 25 percent when compared to the 2013 baseline period, exceeding the district’s cumulative target of 20 percent under California’s emergency drought regulations.

During the winter months it is more challenging to reduce water use on a month-by-month basis as we irrigate less and there is less discretionary water use to cut.  Extra water savings by customers during the summer months should help carry the district through the winter months, enabling the district to achieve its cumulative 20 percent target by the end of February. 

While the district is on track to meet the state’s targets, it’s important that customers continue to look for ways to save water indoors and out..


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

Reduce Your Watering This Winter

Reduce Your Watering This Winter

Did you know that you can reduce your outdoor watering during the winter months, even below the current water restrictions?  In December and January, most landscaping needs less water since days are shorter and temperatures are cooler, especially at night.

If you are watering with regular spray sprinklers, continue watering two days per week but try reducing your station run times from 10 to 6 minutes each day. 

If you have upgraded to water-efficient rotating nozzles, try watering 15 to 18 minutes twice a week. 

For those that are using drip that emits one gallon of water per hour, try watering twice a week for 15 to 25 minutes each day. 

And if it rains, don’t forget to shut your irrigation off and leave it off until your soil dries out.  Together, we can continue to save water and still enjoy our landscapes and the outdoor living that the county is known for.

San Diego Union Tribune – County deserves adjustments to state water restrictions

“There’ll be lots of adjustments. In fact, I would say politics is the art of adjustments.”
— Gov. Jerry Brown, Aug. 11, in San Diego

Gov. Brown made the above comment in the context of concerns expressed by San Diego political, business and water industry leaders that the governor’s water-use restrictions did not give San Diego County justifiable credit for efforts made and billions spent to develop its own sources of drought-resistant drinking water from sustainable sources, significantly reducing reliance on water from Northern California.

Read More

Helix’s request to the State Water Resources Control Board to modify water restrictions

On November 13th, Governor Brown extended statewide water use restrictions through October, 2016. He also ordered the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to consider modifying the restrictions. On December 7th, the SWRCB will hold a public hearing to hear input on the restrictions from water suppliers. Helix submitted the following letter and will attend the hearing.


November 30, 2015

To: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

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

Subject: Comment Letter – Urban Water Conservation Workshop

Dear Ms. Townsend:

We appreciate the opportunity to submit these comments regarding potential changes to the emergency regulations for statewide urban water conservation to the State Water Resources Control Board. We understand the severity of water challenges facing our state and appreciate the various constraints under which the board is operating to achieve increased water conservation during drought conditions through the current emergency regulations.

Helix Water District is an urban water supplier which serves over a quarter million people east of San Diego. Our customers have exceeded the water conservation mandates established by the SWRCB for our district. We have worked diligently to reduce our costs by cutting back our capital improvement program in order to keep our water rates reasonable for our customers. However, the SWRCB emergency regulations have put significant added pressure on the cost of water. The district has contributed millions of dollars to support the water reliability improvements in the San Diego region. To date, this investment has not been reflected by the SWRCB in the emergency regulations.

This has caused significant confusion and frustration for our customers who are paying more for water reliability projects but told they can’t benefit from those projects. It is akin to adding an additional room on to a house but then not utilizing the additional space after making the significant investment. It doesn’t make sense economically. Our customers are paying more for water while they are using less even though this region has access to 99 percent of the water needed.

The current regulations focus on achieving the state’s water reduction standards solely through conservation. They do not allow regional or local water agencies to realize the benefits of their investments in water supply reliability – investments in self-reliance that are consistent with Governor Brown’s Water Action Plan. In San Diego County, water agencies have invested billions of dollars in developing a portfolio of sustainable water supply, specifically designed to make our region less vulnerable to droughts and devastating water supply cutbacks. However, the current regulations strip away the drought protections these supplies provide by not allowing the region to benefit from these investments. This approach has understandably angered our customers and threatens to discourage them from supporting future water supply investments, stunting California’s ability to meet the needs of its growing population amid a changing and more challenging climate.

The imposition of demand reduction targets as the state’s primary drought response places California at a competitive disadvantage in terms of business attraction and business expansion. Businesses are unlikely to relocate to, or expand their businesses in California under prolonged water use reduction mandates that ignore the availability of sustainable water supplies to meet our state’s economic needs. These businesses and industries need to be convinced that the state is doing everything in its power to develop new and drought-resilient water supplies to serve their businesses. An important step the state can take now is amend the regulations to provide credits for new supply development.

The regulations are threatening property values by inhibiting efforts to re-landscape dead lawns with water-smart plants, which require irrigation to establish even though they reduce overall water use in the long run and also provide aesthetic and environmental benefits. Without healthy landscapes, soil erosion and stormwater runoff will increase, wildlife habitat will decrease and the urban heat island effect will intensify.

The district supports the regional approach to ensuring the emergency regulations are met. The San Diego region, under the leadership of the San Diego County Water Authority, our water wholesaler, has worked together successfully to manage water resources and infrastructure including improving water reliability and sustainability. This region has a demonstrated, successful track record of working collaboratively and would like the opportunity to do so to meet the emergency regulations.

Finally, it is critical to maximize the water reliability benefits of drought-resilient and sustainable water supplies, such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project, during drought conditions to help support California’s economy and quality of life. That’s why we support modifications to the emergency regulations to allow water agencies such as ours, to meet reduction targets through a combination of conservation and the leveraging of sustainable drinking water supplies, such as desalination, potable reuse and long-term transfers of conserved water through a regional approach. This is a more balanced, more flexible approach that recognizes the significant investments San Diego County ratepayers have made toward the development of a drought-resilient water supply. It will help save water now and better prepare California for future droughts.


DeAna Verbeke
Board President
Helix Water District


Helix Collecting Toys for Tots

Helix Collecting Toys for Tots

Helix Water District is proudly participating this holiday season in the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, collecting donated toys up to the Wednesday, December 16th deadline.

On Christmas, Marine Corps coordinators will work with local churches and social welfare agencies to distribute the toys to the less fortunate children in our community.

Helix has placed Toys for Tots collection barrels in two convenient locations for our customers and employees. Thank you, in advance, to all of those who donate. Answers to frequently asked questions are provided below.

Drop-Off Locations

Helix Administration Office Lobby

7811 University Avenue in La Mesa
Open Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm

Helix Operations Center Lobby
1233 Vernon Way in El Cajon
Open Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:00pm


Q: Should I gift wrap my donated toy?
Toys must be new and unwrapped.

Q: Is there a list of toys available to help me?
Toys for Tots does not publish a list of appropriate toys to donate.  If such a list were created, most would follow it, resulting in a limited selection of items to distribute in each community.  We would rather our donors consider what might be an appropriate gift for their own child/relative, purchase the item, and donate to Toys for Tots.

Q: Shopping for pre-teens and teens is especially difficult.  Do you have any ideas?
The Foundation does purchase supplemental toys/gifts for our campaign sites and focuses on these age groups.  In the past, items purchased for these groups have included, but are not limited to:  sporting equipment/bags/balls; books, backpacks, cosmetics, purses, watch/wallet gift sets, bath gift sets, board games, radio control cars/trucks, hand-held electronics, skateboards/helmets, curling irons, hair straighteners, and hair dryers.

Q: Are there toys or gifts that are not accepted?
Toys for Tots prefers not to accept realistic looking weapons and gifts with food.  If donated, such items will NOT be distributed.