What we know now about atmospheric rivers

What we know now about atmospheric rivers

Our biggest storms are hurricane-scale storms. And there’s no place other than the hurricane belt that you get storms this big. So really, when we have a big, bad storm here, there’s no reason to apologize. Our big, bad storms are as bad as anyone else’s.

Michael Dettinger
Research Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that it snowed the equivalent of 5.7 trillion gallons of water on California in January. On the first day of February, the snowpack in the Sierra is 108 percent of what it usually is on the first day of April.

This is the result of the atmospheric rivers that hit the state throughout the month — long, narrow bands of water that originate in the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, travel across the ocean, and come onshore in California. Researchers tracked January’s storms from start to finish.

Read about atmospheric rivers in News Deeply

50+ customers come to first Helix Water Talk

50+ customers come to first Helix Water Talk

More than 50 customers spent the morning at Helix’s Nat L. Eggert Operations Center learning about the district’s water distribution during Saturday’s launch of the district’s Water Talks series.

Customers enjoyed a 45-minute tour of the operations center where they had a chance to see and learn about the facilities, equipment, technology and staff that keep the district running efficiently. The tour was followed by a short presentation providing an overview of Helix’s $1.5 billion infrastructure to safely and reliably deliver water to customer homes, and of the rigorous maintenance program designed to keep that water flowing 24/7, 365 days per year.

The walking tour was great.  I was really blown away at by how organized everything was.  Everyone is very professional and seem to be very dedicated to doing the job to their best ability.  Proud to be a customer of Helix water!


“The Water Talks series was developed to create an opportunity for our customers to get to know us better. To create another open, transparent forum that provides visibility into the breadth and complexity of the system that we operate,” noted Helix general manager, Carlos Lugo.

Have a suggestion regarding what our next Water Talks topic or tour should be?  Send us an email at helix@helixwater.org.  Our next session is scheduled for April 2017.  More details to come!

Saturday, February 11th is Kids Day at Lake Jennings

Saturday, February 11th is Kids Day at Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings is hosting its annual Kid’s Day on Saturday, February 11, 2017.

  • Kids under 10 years old fish free for the day!
  • Kids under 10 years old can also catch one fish out of the fully stocked Kids Pond.
  • We’re stocking Lake Jennings with 1,700 pounds of Rainbow trout.

Reserve a tipi or site in our campground and make a weekend out of it. You can also rent kayaks and boats. To make a reservation, call 619-390-1623 or visit our website. Book early to make sure you get a spot, Kids Day is one of our most anticipated events of the year.

For more information go to http://lakejennings.org/
For campground reservations go to http://camping.lakejennings.org/

State Water Board makes lead testing available to schools

State Water Board makes lead testing available to schools

K-12 schools in California can receive free testing for lead under new guidelines announced today by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Under the federal Lead and Copper Rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already requires public water systems to test for lead at customers’ taps, targeting the highest risk homes based on the age of their plumbing. There is no lead pipe in Helix’s water distribution system, including water mains and service lines to homes and buildings, and the district is in full compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

But the rule does not require testing for schools and businesses. The state water board’s new guidelines ensure schools that want lead testing can receive it for free by requiring community water systems, including Helix Water District, to test school drinking water upon written request by school officials.

Read the State Water Resources Control Board press release

Helix seeking applicants for vacant board seat

Helix seeking applicants for vacant board seat

Helix Water District’s board of directors voted unanimously at their January 11, 2017 meeting to consider candidates for appointment to the Division 1 board seat left vacant by the resignation of Luis Tejeda.

The candidate appointed by the Board will represent Helix’s Division 1 customers, who live north of the I‐8 freeway in El Cajon, from Fletcher Hills to Bostonia (see map). The appointment is through November 2018, when the seat is up for election.

To be eligible, candidates must reside in Division 1 (see map), be registered to vote in San Diego County, and have experience and time to commit to the board.

Interested candidates should contact Sandra Janzen, Helix board secretary, at 619-667-6232 or sandy.janzen@helixwater.org, for an application. Applications will be available on or after January 19, 2017.

Completed applications are due by 5:00pm on January 26, 2017, and the board will interview selected candidates during a public meeting at 6:00pm on January 30, 2017.

Helix Water District is a special district—a not-for-profit, local government agency — formed to provide water for the cities of La Mesa, El Cajon and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas within the City of Santee, Lakeside and San Diego County. We serve over 270,000 people through over 56,000 metered accounts.

Notice of Vacancy

Helix Fact Sheet

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.

Lake Jennings on CBS8 News

Lake Jennings on CBS8 News

Jeff Zevely of CBS8 News dropped by Lake Jennings on Friday to kayak and tour the new tipis. Then he saw the bald eagle. The photo below shows two of the bald eagles at the lake. Are they nesting? One of our local experts contacted us to say “no”, that the photo is of a young eagle and its parent on a nest built by a Great Blue Heron. But Lake Jennings staff have seen the eagles adding new sticks to the nest. We’ll update this story as it progresses.

Watch Jeff Zevely’s story on CBS8 News

What is this atmospheric river flowing into California?

What is this atmospheric river flowing into California?

This weekend, a second atmospheric river will flow into, and on to, California, with the estimated snowfall in the Sierra up to 20 feet. The storm could also cause dangerous flooding throughout northern and central California. Curious? Click on the first link below for a San Jose Mercury News story explaining what atmospheric rivers are. Click on the second link if you want to dig deeper into the science of these phenomena.

Explaining the atmospheric river that’s bringing our weekend storm

Atmospheric River Q&A

Helix seeking applicants for vacant board seat

Newly elected Helix board member resigns

Newly elected Helix Water District Director Luis Tejeda resigned from the board effective December 30, 2016, saying new business opportunities could present a conflict of interest in his role as a board member.

Tejeda announced his resignation in an email to Board President Joel Scalzitti, explaining that he
resigned to protect the district and ratepayers and made his decision as quickly as possible to ensure

Board members will address Tejeda’s resignation and the next steps in filling the vacancy at their next
regular meeting on Wednesday, January 4th at 2:00pm.

Tejeda retired in 2016 after a 28‐year career at Helix and was elected to the board in November. He
replaced incumbent John Linden to represent Helix’s Division 1 customers, who live north of the I‐8
freeway in El Cajon, including the Fletcher Hills and Bostonia neighborhoods.