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

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


Water, gravity and Fletcher Hills’ new pump station

Water, gravity and Fletcher Hills’ new pump station

Rendering: the current Fletcher Hills 2 Pump Station is located between the Aldwych Reservoir Tanks. The new station will be built west (left) of the tanks, as shown.

Ever wonder what a pump station is for and why we need them? Check out the new pump station project Helix will be constructing over the next year! This station will serve the Fletcher Hills area and provide enhanced reliability.  Last spring, the District met with residents in the immediate area surrounding the new station site to discuss the project during the initial phases of design. Now that the project design is complete and the construction contract has been awarded, a follow-up meeting has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 24 at the Aldwych Reservoir Tanks.

Pump Stations 101

The new station, called the Fletcher Hills 2 Pump Station, is one of 25 pump stations within Helix’s water distribution system. They play a critical role: filling reservoirs and pressurizing water mains.

Helix’s 25 Pump Stations







Many of you reading this are probably familiar with the basic concept of water distribution, which is to pump water to reservoirs on hilltops, and let gravity distribute the water to homes, schools and businesses. This is the most energy efficient way to operate a public water system.

A public water system, like Helix, strives to maintain water pressure at an adequate level for every customer. Water pressure is the force exerted per square inch (psi) of wall – whether in a reservoir, a water main or the pipes in your home.  If water pressure is too high, pipes burst. If it’s too low, firefighters can’t put out the fire, and you can’t take a morning shower, do laundry and irrigate at the same time.

The catch is that water pressure is directly related to elevation, or more specifically, the height of a water column. One foot of water height is approximately equal to 0.434 psi.  So, if we provide 50 psi to customers near the top of Mt. Helix at an elevation of 1,300 feet, the water pressure for customers at a low elevation, for example, the western edge of Lemon Grove, elevation 270 feet, will be 497 psi.

(1,300 – 270) x 0.434 = 447 psi

50 psi + 447 psi = 497 psi

The solution to this issue is to serve water to customers at different elevations, such as Mt. Helix and at the western edge of Lemon Grove, from different reservoirs. In fact, we group customers over the 50 square miles based on their elevation and we serve into 33 pressure zones. The zones are isolated from each other with specialized valves and each zone has its own reservoirs and pump stations. Check the map to see which zone you are in.

Map: Ctrl-click then click “open image in a new tab” to see a larger map.

Fletcher Hills 2 Pump Station

The Fletcher Hills 2 Pump Station pumps water from the Aldwych Tanks (that serve the Aldwych pressure zone) into the Fletcher Hills Combined Tank that serves the Fletcher Hills pressure zone.

Photo: Helix stores water in the saucer shaped section of the Fletcher Hills Combined Tank.

Diagram: note the elevation gain from the Aldwych Tanks to the Fletcher Hills Combined Tank.

The Fletcher Hills Combined Tank is actually two tanks in one — Padre Dam Municipal Water District operates the lower, cylindrical section and Helix utilizes the higher elevation, saucer section.  The saucer is at a higher elevation than Helix’s old tank, which was demolished to make way for the 125 freeway, and provides higher water pressure for customers in the Fletcher Hills pressure zone.

The Fletcher Hills 2 Pump Station now must pump to a higher elevation than it was originally designed to handle, requiring both of the station’s 50 horsepower pumps to operate simultaneously. Neither pump can be taken offline for maintenance.  The industry term for this is lack of redundancy, and Helix requires redundancy in all facility designs to ensure a reliable water supply. Even our water treatment plant has two of everything.

The new pump station includes three pumps that are capable of pumping 2,000 gallons per minute more efficiently than their predecessors. The third pump is a standby unit, allowing maintenance of the other two.  The state of the art design also includes automated control valves, flow metering, electrical switchgear and instrumentation coordinated with the district’s SCADA control network.  

Rendering of new pump station

Current pump station

Helix maintains and replaces our pump stations as needed, and nearly all of our older stations have been improved at some point to ensure reliable service. The average age of our pump stations is 33 years old. If you want more information about the Fletcher Hills 2 Pump Station, please feel free to contact Helix Water District’s Engineering Department or click on the following link. 

Learn More

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


Experts discuss our local ecosystem on October 27th

Experts discuss our local ecosystem on October 27th

The Water Conservation Garden is hosting The Effects of Climate Change and Drought on our Local Ecosystem on Thursday, October 27th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Panelists from San Diego Zoo Global, the Natural History Museum, the Audubon Society, the Watershed Protection Program, and San Diego State University will share their insights about patterns in our climate and watersheds, as well as challenges facing our birds, insects, and indigenous plants. Following the presentations, Professor Emeritus Bonnie Kime Scott, a Docent and member of the Board of Directors at The Garden, will lead a discussion and the audience is encouraged to participate. Seating is limited and pre-registration is recommended.

Admission is $5 for Garden Members, $10 for Non-Members.

Register for the event on The Garden’s website

Enjoy The Garden by Moonlight October 15th

Enjoy The Garden by Moonlight October 15th

The Enchanted Garden Gala, which is next Saturday, October 15th, is an exceptional event and The Water Conservation Garden’s big fundraiser for the year. Come at 7 p.m. for the Gala’s live entertainment, auction, wine and hors d’oeuvres, or go large and buy tickets for the Red Carpet Reception at 6 p.m. Proceeds from the event support The Garden’s internationally recognized botanical garden and its programs and services educating residents of all ages about water conservation.

Click here for the event program, tickets and auction donations

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