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


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


Reserve a Seat Now! — Award-Winning WaterSmart Landscaping Class Series Begins February 17th

The San Diego County Water Authority and member agencies will hold a series of free classes starting in February that teach homeowners steps to designing and implementing successful WaterSmart landscape makeovers.

These free hands-on WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series classes are led by local landscaping professionals and are designed to help homeowners convert high-water-use turf areas to beautiful WaterSmart landscapes. Attendees will learn about soil, project planning and design, turf removal, plant selection, irrigation, efficiency and rainwater harvesting. The comprehensive and award-winning series includes four classes held every two weeks and concludes with homeowners working with experts to create personalized landscape makeover plans. Preregistration and a commitment to attend all four classes in the series is required. The first class in the next four-part series is Feb. 17 in Clairemont.

“Knowing how to combine WaterSmart plants with efficient irrigation systems is critical for designing attractive landscapes that use significantly less water,” said Mark Weston, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Whether drought conditions continue or not, we all can install water-wise landscapes to stretch our water resources.”

Participants from the 16 makeover series held between April 2014 and June 2015 reported on average replacing more than 1,000 square feet of turf and achieving landscape water savings of 58 percent.

For details about landscape classes and other water conservation resources, go to Advanced registration is required and space is limited, so sign up now!

The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $218 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.2 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 24 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

Lead in drinking water

Lead in drinking water

Photo: photo of Flint, Michigan resident holding jar of brown tap water.

Are you following the news about the drinking water in Flint, Michigan and wondering, “Could it happen here?” It’s very unlikely and there are a couple of reasons why.

Piping and plumbing materials Household plumbing made of lead is the primary source of high lead concentrations in the Flint drinking water.  There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 homes in Flint with lead service lines that carry water from the City’s water mains into the homes.  Helix’s water distribution system includes 725 miles of water mains with service lines to each of the 56,008 metered accounts we serve. None of our mains or service lines are made of lead.

Water Quality Testing In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency passed a regulation on water utilities called the Lead and Copper Rule. In compliance with the regulation, Helix has tested water for lead and copper at the tap in about 50 homes every three years. For the most recent testing in 2015 our lead and copper levels were well below the EPA standards.  In fact, over 90% of the samples were below the detection level.  These results are consistent with the testing the District has done repeatedly since 1991.

The District’s water quality report provides addition information about your drinking water supply. If you would like additional information about our lead and copper monitoring program please contact our senior chemist at 619-667-6248.

Helix’s Annual Water Quality Report

Meet With a Landscape Designer at The Water Conservation Garden

If you plan to re-landscape with water efficient plants then act now. Water efficient plants need just as much water as a thirsty lawn until their roots are established, which can take 6-12 months. Get your new plants in the ground within the next few weeks and let El Nino take care of the irrigation.

One of the best services — and values — available are the landscape design consultations at The Water Conservation Garden. Bring a diagram, measurements and photos of your yard, along with photos or a list of plants you like, and discuss ideas with a licensed landscape contractor for 45 minutes.

The cost of a design consultation is $60 for garden members and $75 for non-members, The consultations are booked on a first come, first served basis on one or two Saturdays each month.  To book an appointment call The Garden at 619-660-0614, ext. 10.


January 30th is Kids Day at Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings is hosting its annual Kid’s Day on Saturday, January 30, 2016 from 6:00am to 2:00pm. Kids under 10 years of age will fish for FREE and the kids pond will be fully stocked. (Note that there is a one fish per child limit in the kids pond)

Fishing should be fast and furious in the lake, as well, as 3,500 pounds of trout will be stocked in the two weeks leading up to Kid’s Day! Make a weekend of it, but act fast, as our rental boats and campsites book fast.

The lake will be CLOSED in preparation for the event on Friday, January 29th. Shoreline fishing below the campground will be available to registered campers only on the 29th.

Catch the Kids’ Day excitement on the lake’s Facebook page.

For more information go to
For campground reservations go to

Helix Customers Use 17 Percent Less Water in December

Helix Water District customers continued their conservation efforts in December, reducing their water use by 17 percent compared to December 2013. 

Last spring, 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 24 percent, keeping the district on track to exceed its cumulative 20 percent target.

Less irrigation is done during the winter months, making it more challenging to reduce water use on a month-by-month.  However, extra water savings by customers during the summer months should help carry the district through the winter months. 

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 over the next few months, especially since the drought regulations will be extended through October of 2016 if drought conditions persist this month.

Customers should continue to turn irrigation controllers off when rain is forecasted and leave them off until soil dries out.  Rain can also be captured in containers and used to water potted plants and trees as needed. Rebates of $75 per barrel (limit four) or $300 for cisterns holding at least 200 gallons are still currently available through


Monday is Martin Luther King Day

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At Helix Water District we are committed to honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. As we remember Dr. King on his birthday, let’s recommit ourselves to the standard he set and the challenges that remain.

Are you looking for a way to volunteer and make a difference?
Go to

San Diego Union Tribune – Lake Jennings Holding Kids Day on January 30th

Lake Jennings Kids Day is just two weeks away, on Saturday, January 30th, from 6:00am to 2:00pm! Reserve a boat now to make Kids Day even more fun. Reserve a campsite and stay for the weekend.

“This event allows families to bring their kids and get help from our rangers, who are fishing experts, which will guarantee a positive experience,” said Helix Boardmember Kathleen Hedberg.

Read More

More Than $31 Million Awarded to Water Projects in San Diego Region

From San Diego County Water Authority News Release:

The San Diego region has been awarded $31.1 million in grant money by the state Department of Water Resources for a variety of projects that will increase local water supplies, decrease water demands, improve water quality, manage stormwater, restore habitat and enhance species.

The awards announced Wednesday are part of the final round of Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) grants from voter-approved Proposition 84 (2006). Since 2008, the San Diego region has been awarded more than $89 million in IRWM grants through Propositions 84 and 50.  The newly announced $31.1 million from the state will be paired with other funding sources to advance more than $190 million in projects countywide.

“These grants will help our region meet goals for water conservation and expanding drought-proof water supplies,” said Mark Stadler, the San Diego IRWM program manager. “Several of the projects will restore habitat along our streams, rivers and lakes.

“By working together, all of the agencies and non-profit groups involved are making big investments and big improvements in the region we call home. This coordinated approach is the hallmark of integrated watershed management.”

The San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Plan addresses management of water resources, water quality, and habitat in the heavily populated area of San Diego County where tributaries drain to the Pacific Ocean. The plan was prepared under the direction of a management group comprising the San Diego County Water Authority, the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego, with input from an array of water management agencies and non-profit groups. The Water Authority is the regional lead agency for IRWM grant applications and administration.

The 13 funded projects and their local sponsors are:

Padre Dam Advanced Water Treatment, Phase I Expansion
($6 million in grant funding – Padre Dam Municipal Water District)
This project is a key component of the East County Regional Water Reuse Program, a partnership between Padre Dam, Helix Water District, the County of San Diego and the City of El Cajon. It will expand the Ray Stoyer Water Reclamation Facility by 4 million gallons per day. Water from the project will be used for irrigation and potentially for potable reuse in the future.

Regional Drought Resiliency Program
($3.8 million in grant funding Water Authority)
This project includes retrofitting a correctional facility in the region with water-efficient fixtures, expanding the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program, expanding the Sustainable Landscapes Program initiated under a previous Proposition 84 IRWM grant, and additional drought education, outreach and conservation activities. The combined efforts are expected to conserve an estimated 1,800 acre-feet of water per year.

Rural Disadvantaged Community Partnership Program, Phase III
($3 million in grant funding – Rural Community Assistance Corp.)
This project will improve water and wastewater infrastructure to address water quality concerns in underserved rural disadvantaged communities that otherwise would face potential water shortages and continued exposure to contaminated drinking water supplies.

Hodges Reservoir Natural Treatment System
($2.9 million in grant funding –  City of San Diego)
This project will create a biofiltration wetland at Hodges Reservoir to improve water quality. The wetland also will provide habitat and species conservation benefits, in addition to recreational opportunities.

Safari Park Drought Response and Outreach
($2.9 million in grant funding – The Zoological Society of San Diego)
This project will save 72 acre-feet per year of potable water through increased conservation and recycled water use. Conservation will be achieved through reduced landscape irrigation by replacing turf grass with water-wise landscaping and upgrading the existing wastewater treatment plant. The Zoological Society also will expand its water conservation education at the Safari Park and online.

Integrated Water Resource Solutions for the Carlsbad Watershed
($2.5 million in grant funding – San Elijo Joint Powers Authority)
This project uses recycled water and low-impact development strategies to offset potable water demands, reduce urban runoff and implement water quality monitoring at San Elijo Lagoon.

San Diego River Healthy Headwaters Restoration
($2.1 million in grant funding – U.S. Forest Service)
This project implements a watershed approach to removing invasive species such as feral pigs, invasive weeds and invasive aquatics, along with restoration of impacted sites through decommissioning of unauthorized trails and campgrounds, installation of drainage improvements, and site rehabilitation in the San Diego River watershed. In total, the project will improve 335 acres of habitat and improve hydrologic conditions that have been negatively impacted by unauthorized recreation.

Escondido Advanced Water Treatment for Agriculture
($2 million in grant funding – City of Escondido)
This project will construct a new microfiltration/reverse osmosis advanced treatment facility with a production capacity of 2 million gallons per day. Water treated at the facility will be blended with water from an existing recycled water plant and distributed to agricultural customers in the northern and eastern areas of Escondido.

Sweetwater Reservoir Wetlands Habitat Recovery
($1.5 million in grant funding – Sweetwater Authority)
This project will remove invasive species, and restore and rehabilitate approximately 113 acres of primarily riparian habitat near Sweetwater Reservoir. It will reestablish the river-floodplain connection and enable full use of Sweetwater Reservoir so it can store an additional 7,873 acre-feet of water.

UC San Diego Water Conservation and Watershed Protection
($1.4 million in grant funding – UC San Diego)
This project will conserve an estimated 200 acre-feet of water per year by expanding water reuse at UC San Diego’s cooling tower, retrofitting heating-ventilation-air conditioning systems to allow for condensation water reuse; replacing turf grass; and education. Watershed protection efforts include removing trash and invasive species from the Tijuana River Valley.

San Diego Water Conservation Program
($866,000 in grant funding – City of San Diego)
This project will conserve an estimated 75 acre-feet of water per year by expanding the city’s turf replacement rebate program and implementing a greywater system rebate pilot program.

Ms. Smarty-Plants Grows Water-Wise Schools
($652,000 in grant funding – The Water Conservation Garden)
This project will target Title I schools and disadvantaged communities in Spring Valley and Lemon Grove to deliver the Ms. Smarty-Plants Grows Earth Heroes education program. The Garden also will identify 12 to 15 schools to participate in its Water-Wise Schools effort, which helps convert landscapes to water-wise plants, upgrade irrigation systems and adopt water-wise practices.

Conservation Home Makeover in the Chollas Creek Watershed
($542,000 in grant funding – Groundwork San Diego)
This project will engage low-income families in San Diego’s Encanto neighborhood to mitigate drought impacts through water capture and greywater reuse for food production and landscaping.

In addition, the grant includes approximately $934,000 for administering the projects. For more information about the IRWM Plan, go to