Helix Awards Scholarships to SDSU-bound Students

Helix Awards Scholarships to SDSU-bound Students

Each year, Helix honors two high school seniors who share our commitment to service, integrity and continuous improvement, and we award them $1,000 scholarships for college.

The scholarships were endowed by Dr. Lillian Childs, who was on Helix’s Board of Directors from 1979 to 1999, and Bob Friedgen, Helix’s general manager from 1980 to 1998. Both were present at our Board meeting on May 24th to meet this year’s recipients.

Nanse Mansor, a senior at Valhalla High School, is the 2017 recipient of the Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship. Mansor plans to major in biology, chemistry or physiology at San Diego State University and continue on to medical school.

She is an honor roll student, a Unity Leader who mentors incoming sophomores at Valhalla, and she dedicates about eight hours a week to community service, tutoring low-income and non-English speaking students, teaching first and second grade students at St. Michael’s Catholic Church and volunteering at the El Cajon Public Library.

Lamees Sharif, a senior at El Cajon Valley High School, is the 2017 recipient of the Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship. Lamees will also attend SDSU next fall, the first step on her path to becoming an oncologist.

In addition to her many extracurricular activities, Sharif is an intern in the office of State Senator Joel Anderson, assisting with research, public speaking and media relations. Sharif is also a bilingual peer tutor for new Syrian refugees.

Photo: Dr. Lillian Childs, Nanse Mansor and Board President Joel Scalzitti.

Photo: Bob Friedgen, Lamees Sharif and Board President Joel Scalzitti.

Eight Young Artists Meet the Board

Eight Young Artists Meet the Board

Parents, siblings, relatives and teachers crowded Helix’s boardroom on May 24th to honor the top artists in this year’s Water is Life Poster Contest.

The contest is an educational program for kindergarten through sixth grade students offered by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Met).  Helix likes the program and offers it to the elementary schools in our service area because it focuses students on the importance of water at a young age.

Students like the program because it’s fun and because their poster could be one of the 36 Met selects for their 2018 Water is Life Calendar, which is distributed throughout Southern California.

The posters created by the young artists in our boardroom on May 24th are on their way to Met for judging. If one is selected for Met’s calendar, we take the student and their parents to Los Angeles for Met’s ceremony.

Click through slideshow of winning posters.

Lake Jennings Up for a Golden Watchdog Award

Lake Jennings Up for a Golden Watchdog Award

Helix’s Lake Jennings is a nominee for a Golden Watchdog Award from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

The SDCTA’s 22nd Annual Goldens Awards Dinner is Thursday at the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown San Diego. The Golden Watchdog and Golden Fleece Awards, according to the association, “give the public the opportunity to voice both admiration and criticism of government programs.” This Times of San Diego story will tell you which agencies are nominated this year and why.

Lake Jennings earned a nomination for its financial turnaround over the last four years.

WHERE WE WERE

-$120,000

Campground Net Revenues in 2012

WHAT WE DID

2013

Formed Lake Jennings Board Committee to focus on lake operations.

2014

Completed Lake Jennings Improvement Study and hired new Reservoir Recreation Ranger to manage lake operations.

2015

Approved development of a Lake Jennings brand, website and marketing plan.

Kayak Rentals

We added kayaks to our navy of rental boats.

Tipi Rentals

We added a new and exciting way to camp: in a tipi (every kid’s dream).

Events

Over 400 kids and families came to Kids Day in 2016.

Best of Award

Best of East County voters chose Lake Jennings as Best Campground.

5,500 Likes

Likes on Facebook increased from 164 in 2014 to over 5,500 in 2017.

3,500 Followers

Instagram followers increased from zero in 2014 to over 3,500 in 2017.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

$88,000

Campground Net Revenues in 2016

If you haven’t been to Lake Jennings it’s time to visit or stay for a couple of days. It’s close enough to get there after work, but far enough from the city to see the night sky and count shooting stars. And we have kids’ activities, like Fishing University, all day long. Tipi rentals are $65 weeknights and $75 on weekends, and kayak rentals are $10 an hour and $30 for a partial-day.

For more information and to make an online reservation go to lakejennings.org.

Thank you, Helix Customers

Thank you, Helix Customers

If you didn’t come to Customer Appreciation Day, you should have.

Hundreds of people did — customers of Helix and Otay water districts, Sweetwater Authority and the City of San Diego — for guided tours of The Water Conservation Garden and presentations on soil testing, habitat gardening, water reclamation, arranging succulents and how to hire a landscape professional.

Helix customers received free hose nozzles and wildflower seeds for water efficient landscaping, dye tabs to check for toilet leaks, sponges and snacks. And Lake Jennings staff treated kids to face painting and balloon animals.

And, again this year, the complimentary Hawaiian Shave Ice was a big hit.

So, scroll ahead on your smartphone calendar to May 2018 and make an appointment for Customer Appreciation Day. We’ll post the actual date of the event on our website around March, and we’d love to meet you.

Sunday is Customer Appreciation Day

Sunday is Customer Appreciation Day

The Water Conservation Garden is pleased to host a special “appreciation day” for ratepayers of Helix and Otay Water Districts, Sweetwater Authority and the City of San Diego!  Visit The Garden this Sunday, May 21st and enjoy:

Kids' Activities

balloons, butterfly life-cycle coloring project and seed planting to grow your own butterfly plant!

FREE Shave Ice

Go to your water district’s booth and get your ticket for a FREE shave ice from Kona Ice (while supplies last). We’ll have a bake sale and popcorn, too.

Presentations

Learn how to plant a habitat garden that birds and butterflies will love!

You’ll also discover different varieties of drought-tolerant plants, learn how to “toss the turf” and get inspiration to incorporate water-wise gardening into their own gardens. Water agency representatives will be on hand to answer questions and provide advice on sustainable water use methods and technology.


Scheduled Activities Include:

9:30am

Ms. Smarty-Plants™ presentation about native butterflies to Southern California and how to attract them.

10:00am

Docent-led tour of The Garden

10:00am

Visit our succulent sale area to learn how to design, build and care for a succulent arrangement for your garden.

10:30am

Join Education Director Pam Meisner for an informative, common-sense approach to hiring a landscape professional. You’ll learn which questions to ask, how to properly plan and money-saving tips! Free class made possible by the San Diego County Watershed Protection Program.

11:00am

Clayton Tschudy, The Garden’s Director of Horticulture & Exhibits, leads a tour of the new Native Habitat Garden and a discussion of habitat gardening and water reclamation.

11:30am

Ms. Smarty-Plants™ presentation about native butterflies to Southern California and how to attract them.

12:00pm

Docent-led tour of The Garden

1:00pm

Soil testing demonstration by Harold Bailey, aka “Dirty Harry”

1:00pm

Clayton Tschudy, The Garden’s Director of Horticulture & Exhibits, leads a tour of the new Native Habitat Garden and a discussion of habitat gardening and water reclamation.

 

Helix dams ready for Infrastructure Week

Helix dams ready for Infrastructure Week

Above:  Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant sits across the street from Chet Harritt Dam and Lake Jennings, where we store imported water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project.

The damaged spillway at Oroville Dam, which occurred earlier this year in northern California, sparked concern about the integrity and safety of aging infrastructure nationwide.

Those concerns are front and center again this week during Infrastructure Week 2017, a national campaign created to raise awareness about the importance of improving and maintaining local, state and national infrastructure – including critical water infrastructure like dams.

Here at Helix Water District, we own and operate two earthen fill dams: the dam at Lake Cuyamaca captures and stores local runoff and the dam at Lake Jennings stores imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California. Unlike Oroville Dam, Helix’s dams do not serve flood control purposes.

Helix’s dams are inspected regularly by Helix staff and annually by the State of California, Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams. Helix is in full compliance with all requirements of the Division of Safety of Dams and maintains an Emergency Operations Plan in the event of emergencies involving one of the dams.

Helix staff regularly inspect and maintain dam infrastructure, including spillways, outlet towers and the dams themselves. During weekly visual inspections, staff checks for cracks, settling, rodent intrusion, brush growth and abutment integrity, all things that can undermine a dam’s integrity.

Regular maintenance includes clearing brush and woody vegetation off of the dams and abutments, and operating all mechanical devices such as outlet valves to ensure they remain in good working order.

Chet Harritt Dam at Lake Jennings is equipped with an underdrain system that allows the measurement of water flow. If water flow becomes excessive, alarms activate automatically, notifying staff immediately. At both dams, monitoring well measurements are taken on a weekly basis and surveys are conducted annually to verify dimensions.

Finally, in the event of an earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater with an epicenter within specified distances from the dam, survey and engineering crews will inspect the dam to ensure its integrity and dimension.

 

 

We Have a Winner!

We Have a Winner!

Helix Water District has named Chandrika “Dusty” Patel-Lynch of La Mesa as this year’s winner of its WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes which are judged on overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection and maintenance, design and efficient irrigation methods.

After converting to a low-water landscape, Patel-Lynch’s single-family home on Highwood Avenue uses just one third of the water it consumed a few short years ago, averaging 12 units per two-month billing period in 2016. One unit is 748 gallons.

“About five years ago, I decided to beautify the exterior of my home,” Patel-Lynch wrote in her contest entry statement. “The front landscape was covered with ivy, which must have been popular in the 1960s when the house was built.”

Patel-Lynch noted that she had always admired the water-wise yard of her nearby neighbor and friend, Angela Shaw.

“The decision to go drought-tolerant was a ‘no-brainer,’” Patel-Lynch wrote. “With cuttings from (Shaw’s) mature plants, I was able to cover quite a radius. Plus, in a quest to have variety, I have purchased succulents/cacti from various nurseries,” including barrel cactus, beaver tail cactus, fire sticks, sunbursts, and agave.

“I thought about height, texture and color. I didn’t create a design on paper. I just thought about it and planted.”

Helix will invite Patel-Lynch to receive her prizes—gift cards totaling $250 and an award certificate—at a ceremony at the Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 21.

Patel-Lynch also will get a WaterSmart contest winner’s sign to display in her yard. It will join a La Mesa Beautiful sign she said she was awarded about two years ago for a win in that competition’s “best color and design” category.

Although Patel-Lynch said she is quite happy with her yard, she said there is always more to do.

“I did it myself,” she said. “And that gives me pride. It keeps me rejuvenated. I’m constantly tinkering… because it’s never really done.”

Photos of Patel-Lynch’s yard will appear in the winners section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other local water agencies, as well as on the district’s website, hwd.com.

Call for entries for the contest usually begin in January of the competition year and the deadline for submissions is in early April. More information can be obtained through the Helix website, hwd.com, or Facebook.com/HelixWater or Twitter @HelixWater.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to more than 273,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.

6 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden Now

6 Reasons to Plant a Vegetable Garden Now

Why is Helix Water District promoting vegetable gardening? Because growing your own food is a good use of water and one more step on the path to sustainability. And, technically, most of the vegetables and herbs that grow here in San Diego are moderate water use plants, which means they need less water than the average lawn. Here are six reasons to plant a vegetable garden right now.

Reason #1
According to the San Diego County Master Gardeners, the time to plant warm season vegetables in our region is April to June. It’s May and it’s time to plant!

Reason #2
We’ll show you how.

What to Plant
This Vegetable Planting Guide was developed by the University of California and San Diego County and is featured on the San Diego County Master Gardeners website. The guide says that if you live inland — Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, La Mesa or El Cajon — plant these vegetables in spring: beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Now is also the time to plant basil — yes, basil = pesto!

How to Improve Your Soil
Add compost, worm castings or manure to your soil before you plant — they add the organic nutrients that plants need. They are available by the bag at local nurseries. Empty a bag or two on to your soil and mix it in with a shovel.

How to Water
It’s easy and relaxing to hand-water a small vegetable garden with a hose (and a positive shut-off nozzle) or a watering can. Or you can install a drip irrigation system. These videos show you how to assemble the tubing and emitters and connect the system to a hose bib.

 

Reason #3
Our climate here in San Diego County allows year-round gardening. The Vegetable Planting Guide on the San Diego County Master Gardeners website recommends planting cool season vegetables in the fall: arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, endive, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach and turnips. Fall is also the time to plant cilantro!

Reason #4
You don’t need your own yard. You can grow vegetables and herbs in pots on a balcony or you can find an open spot in a community garden for free or for rent. The San Diego County Master Gardeners have a list of community gardens on their website. There’s one on Spring Drive in Spring Valley and four in El Cajon. The list includes who to contact for each garden and their contact information.

Reason #5
If you don’t grow your own vegetables then you don’t know how good vegetables taste! My wife and I rent a raised bed in a small community garden and our first planting last November was cool season vegetables. All winter long we ate amazing salads with arugula that tasted nutty and spicy, fresh kale and snow peas. In April, we planted our first warm season vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

Reason #6
This is an opportunity to eat better, feel better, and even to go organic. Avoid using any non-organic soil amendments, fertilizers or pesticides and your soil and plants are organic!  And enjoying the intense flavors of food that you grew yourself is truly satisfying. Give it a try. 

 

Scientists link CA drought to atmospheric waves

Scientists link CA drought to atmospheric waves

The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge was a high pressure ridge that formed over the west coast of North America and blocked winter storms from reaching California in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Last week, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research published two papers attributing the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge and this year’s record precipitation to the same phenomenon: a wave pattern that emerges in the upper atmosphere and circles the globe.

Read the National Center for Atmospheric Research press release

Customers toured treatment plant on Saturday

Customers toured treatment plant on Saturday

What a fantastic tour! Thanks for a great day and our clean water. What a wonderful group of people who work there!!

Helix Customer

Over 50 customers participated in Helix Water Talks on Saturday for a behind the scenes tour of Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant.

After coffee and bagels, and a welcome from Helix’s general manager, Carlos Lugo, customers saw our water treatment process first hand and learned how we assure the safety and quality of the drinking water we provide. They also learned that:

  • We operate the plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet customer demand.
  • Our plant treats water for Otay, Padre Dam and Lakeside water districts in addition to Helix customers, and can treat up to 106 million gallons per day to meet future demand as East County’s population grows.
  • The plant includes two mixing basins, two sedimentation basins and two filter basins so that we can continue treating water while taking facilities offline for maintenance or repair.
  • We disinfect our water with ozone (ozone is comprised of three oxygen molecules) to produce high quality drinking water.
  • We have a chemist and biologist onsite at the plant and conduct 200 water quality tests per day.

Larry Lyford, Helix’s plant manager, explains to his tour group how plant operators monitor and manage the treatment process from the control room.

Michelle Berens, Helix’s system manager, and Cindy Ziernicki, our chemist, discuss how we identify the constituents in source water and manage treatment accordingly.

Francine Thompson, who coordinates tours of the treatment plant for about 2,000 local fifth grade students annually, walks customers through a short history of East County’s water supply and water quality.

Big crowd at Spring Garden & Butterfly Festival

Big crowd at Spring Garden & Butterfly Festival

The Water Conservation Garden and Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego celebrated their Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival on Saturday April 29th with hundreds in attendance. The pleasant, gardening-inspired event included over 75 artisan, horticulture and food vendors and exhibitors.

Children were encouraged to arrive as their favorite pollinator and were welcomed with a range of engaging activities that included Monarch butterfly releases, face paintings, tours of the Butterfly Pavilion, story time with Ms. Metamorphosis, and a Pollinator Party with Ms. Smarty Plants™.

Plant enthusiasts and other adults explored the garden through free docent led tours and gardening workshops, and signed up for landscape design consultations offered in advance for only $20! In addition to the vendors and children’s activities, dozens of different native, ornamental, and low water use plant species were on sale throughout the day.

This free event, bringing both The Garden and the Cuyamaca campus to full blossom, was put on to celebrate beautiful, low water use and native plants that create habitat for butterflies and other pollinators, which are helpful to our local ecosystems.

The Water Conservation Garden is located at 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West in El Cajon and is free to the public 9am to 4pm every day (excluding holidays).

Above: The Water Conservation Garden was packed for the festival.   Below: Helix Boardmember DeAna Verbeke in the bake sale booth.  Bottom: Jennifer Bryant, Helix’s Assistant Director of Administrative Services, and Vince Dambrose, our Water Conservation Technician.