Celebrate Water Professionals This Week

Celebrate Water Professionals This Week

Every job, product and service within our community depends on water. Every day, trained water professionals work behind the scenes to keep clean water flowing to our faucets and improve the health, safety and quality of our communities.

Their dedication provides reliable water, but their service is often unrecognized because water is always available. Celebrating Water Professionals Appreciation Week provides an opportunity to recognize the excellent services water professionals provide.

In 2017, California established an annual Water Professionals Appreciation Week. Last month, the Helix Water District Board of Directors passed a resolution proclaiming October 3-9, 2022, as Water Professionals Appreciation Week to extend their gratitude to water and wastewater professionals.

At Helix, we know it takes a team of highly trained, skilled and qualified professionals to keep the water flowing. Here are just a few of our employees whose talents, hard work and dedication improve our daily lives and communities.

“We have a responsibility.”

The people that I work with continuously impress me; I admire their technical knowledge, their work ethic and their integrity. I think that there is a sense of responsibility that comes with knowing that people rely on you to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to support their daily lives, and I think that we all rise to that challenge every day.

It’s definitely a wonderful industry to go into, and it is rewarding to see the positive impacts of your work and how the infrastructure we build today will outlive us and serve future generations.

Karah Kingsbury – Associate Engineer – 6 years

Helix water district engineer
Helix crew supervisor Junior P

“We all play a vital role.”

I enjoy working with water and the distribution system as I see firsthand how the water gets delivered to the community. To most, it is a thankless job because most people don’t get to see the time and effort that is put into maintaining such important infrastructure that people rely on every day.

I get to work and collaborate with a great group of people who all play a vital role in maintaining this system.

Junior Pilar Utility Crew Supervisor – 15 years

“Our work is bigger than ourselves.”

This distribution system, the district and water itself play an important part in everyone’s daily lives. I like being able to work on something that is bigger than me.

For us to be able to provide this service, as well as being able to have some camaraderie with other hardworking people, makes the work very rewarding. A lot of the people here became family, and it is something that I appreciate and have pride in.

Jose Ramirez – Utility Crew Member II – 3 years

Helix water district utility crew member
Water professional and customer service representative

“We provide a core service.”

I have always had a knack for assisting and helping people, and I feel very valued about being able to serve the public with water since it is a core element that is good for the public and their health, well-being and quality of life.

Working in water is one of the most challenging, exciting and fulfilling careers you could ever work. You get to work knowing that you are supplying something that everyone needs and you get to accomplish this service with other professionals.

Michelle Harrison – Customer Service Representative II – 4 years

“We have a collaborative environment.”

I am also excited about the new projects we have coming up, specifically East County Advanced Water Purification and getting that online. These are big, important projects, and I am thrilled to be a part of them.

One thing that I really like about working with other water professionals is that our industry is a smaller community than you might expect. We all share similar challenges and we all can relate to these challenges from one agency to the next. This makes the collaborative environment much better, and it provides for a lot of opportunities.

Luis Valdez – Director of Water Quality/System Operations – 13 years

Helix water district Director of Water Quality

Our dedicated water professionals work through challenges and provide needed services that people and businesses rely on. It is a rewarding career that motivates us to do more and do better as we keep the water flowing.

We are grateful for our water professionals and the services we provide. Show your support for water professionals this week by following Helix on Facebook or Twitter. We will highlight some of the many incredible professionals that are here for you.


We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

How did Lake Jennings get its name?

How did Lake Jennings get its name?

You have probably driven along the Chet H. Harritt Dam on Lake Jennings Park Road. You have likely even visited Lake Jennings. If you ever wondered who Lake Jennings and its dam are named after, then keep reading. Helix Water District named the lake and its dam after two people who left an impressive legacy for the communities we serve.

Water lawyer William Jennings

William Jennings

William Jennings was one of the most well-respected and known water lawyers in California and served Helix Water District from 1936 to 1969. As a lifetime resident of San Diego, Jennings played an influential role in helping San Diego secure imported water sources to benefit the region.

William Jennings grew up during San Diego’s early 1900s. As a farmer’s son and living on multiple farms, he saw firsthand the importance of water in our region. He started practicing law in 1930 and later began serving in local government with the City of La Mesa and the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce. In 1936, Jennings started working in water, serving as General Counsel with the La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley Irrigation District, which was later renamed Helix Water District. He also served as a board member for the San Diego County Water Authority.

During his career, he guided and negotiated water decisions that included the formation of the San Diego County Water Authority, the construction of the San Diego Aqueduct, our region’s annexation into the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the legislation that started the State Water Project, which delivers water by aqueduct from Northern California to Southern California.

Helix first General Manager Chet Harritt

Chet H. Harritt

In 1908, Chet H. Harritt went to work for the Cuyamaca Water Company, which owned and operated the San Diego Flume. Helix still uses parts of the original flume system today to bring water from Lake Cuyamaca to East County. He became the water company’s superintendent, in charge of water operations. When the La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley Irrigation District purchased the company in 1926, Harritt became the district’s first general manager. The photo below, taken in 1947, shows Harritt smoking a cigar and opening a valve to bring Colorado River water to East County for the first time.

Historic photo of 1947 Colorado River Water arriving to Helix

November 1947. Chet Harrit pictured left, opening a valve that will bring Colorado River water to the region for the first time. 

From 1936 until 1948, Harritt and Jennings worked together on water supply issues. While Harritt developed the infrastructure and resources needed to deliver a reliable water supply for East County, Jennings negotiated agreements with neighboring water agencies to pool resources and finance projects to deliver imported water into the San Diego region.

Their legacies benefit us today. Lake Jennings is a reservoir for the water supplies that Jennings secured for East County. The Chet Harritt Dam provides our region with the access and reliability to which Harritt devoted his career. Finally, their commitment to public service and leadership instilled a culture at Helix Water District that staff and elected officials embrace every day. 

Lake Jennings is one of two reservoirs owned by Helix Water District. The lake can store up to 9,790 acre-feet of water and is open to the public for boating, fishing, camping and hiking.

Lake Jennings is located at 9535 Harritt Road in Lakeside.


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Helix recognized for openness and accessibility

Helix recognized for openness and accessibility

The Special District Leadership Foundation has announced that Helix Water District is the recipient of the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence in recognition of the district’s outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance. The district has consistently received this award since 2015.

“This award demonstrates the commitment of our board and staff to open government and accountability to the people and communities we serve,” said Helix General Manager Carlos V. Lugo. “We are very proud of what we have done to empower the public and facilitate engagement with our customers.”

To receive the award, Helix Water District had to meet the SDLF requirements for essential governance transparency, including conducting ethics training for all board members, properly holding open public meetings, and filing financial transactions and compensation reports with the State Controller in a timely manner.

The SDLF award is the second transparency award the district has received in just one week. On July 22, Helix received a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for its easy-to-read budget document for fiscal year 2022-23.

SDLF is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes good governance and best practices among California’s special districts through certification, accreditation and other recognition programs.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to 277,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.


We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

State Adopts Emergency Drought Regulation

State Adopts Emergency Drought Regulation

On May 24, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a statewide emergency drought regulation.

The new regulation requires urban water suppliers to implement Level 2 demand reduction measures from their water shortage contingency plans, regardless of local water supply conditions. The order also bans irrigation of non-functional grass at commercial, industrial and institutional properties, and in homeowner’s association common areas. The ban does not apply to residential lawns, community spaces or sports fields.

The regulation was in response to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-7-22 issued on March 28, 2022.

In California, droughts are part of life, and so is using water wisely. Helix Water District and the other water utilities serving the San Diego region have worked together for decades to plan for water shortages, encourage conservation and invest in new water resources. These steps help protect us against drought and are the reason why we have sufficient supplies to meet demand through at least five consecutive years of drought.

Many water supplier representatives from throughout the state, including Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Hedberg, attended the May 24 SWRCB meeting to request that local water supply and demand be taken into account and that Level 2 watering restrictions should only apply to areas with an actual water shortage.

Despite the requests of representatives whose agencies have sufficient water supplies, like Helix, the SWRCB unanimously approved the regulation. The state expects the new regulations to go into effect in June 2022.


Learn about our water supplies

View our Level 2 demand reduction measures and Water Shortage Contingency Plan

Check out our rebate programs


We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

May 1-7 is Drinking Water Week

May 1-7 is Drinking Water Week

Every day you wake up and use water, and every day it’s there for you; your faucets, toilets, showers and hoses all provide the very thing you expect them to provide. What typically goes undiscussed, though, is the work done by the countless individuals in the water industry who make sure that you are getting the clean, good tasting water that you expect 24/7.

This week is Drinking Water Week, which runs May 1-7 and recognizes the vital role tap water plays in our daily life, the infrastructure that is required to carry it to and from our homes and businesses, and the critical work that water employees accomplish around the clock to ensure the delivery of quality tap water.

This year’s theme is “There When You Need It,” because although turmoil and chaos has faced this country over the past few years, the reliability of clean drinking water has been stable. Here at Helix, we pride ourselves on our ability to consistently provide our customers with the highest quality water possible, no matter the circumstances.

Our water district employs 149 dedicated individuals who are all a part of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into providing East County San Diego with clean water. Whether it’s our water distribution professionals, engineers, administrative teams, lake staff, chemists working on water treatment, or information systems employees, everyone plays a part in making Helix run as efficiently and effectively as possible.

In our district alone, over 730 miles of pipe run underground; transporting water to customers after the water is treated to the highest quality at our treatment plant in Lakeside. Any time there is a water emergency, our teams are on the job immediately. 


We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

State Water Project Cutbacks Don’t Impact San Diego Region

State Water Project Cutbacks Don’t Impact San Diego Region

This week, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced new water restrictions for millions in the Los Angeles area, including limiting outdoor watering to one day per week. MWD’s restrictions apply to communities that are dependent on water from the State Water Project, which has severely reduced deliveries over the last three years because of the state’s historic drought.

These cuts do not apply to the San Diego region because we are not currently receiving any water from the State Water Project. Thanks to decades of conservation and investment in diversified supplies, we continue to have reliable water supplies from other sources to see us through multiple dry years.

Map showing where impacted areas of MWD's 2022 shortage on the State Water Project

Map showing impacted areas in Metropolitan Water District’s northern region

However, the ongoing drought is a serious concern for the state, and we can all do our part to help. Last November, Helix Water District declared a Level 1 water shortage calling for voluntary conservation efforts. Governor Newsom also issued an emergency executive order last month calling for all water agencies to move to a Level 2 water shortage, regardless of local water supply conditions. The state has until May 25 to implement the order. In the meantime, Helix remains at a Level 1 while we await final direction.

We encourage all of our customers to help our water supplies go further and last longer. Use water wisely, fix leaks immediately and take advantage of rebate programs for high-efficiency appliances, WaterSmart irrigation components, turf removal and more.




We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

Helix Water District recognized for reducing insurance claims

Helix Water District recognized for reducing insurance claims

Photo: From left: ACWA JPIA Executive Committee Member David Drake, Helix Water District Division 1 Director Dan McMillan, Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Hedberg, Helix Water District Division 5 Director Joel Scalzitti, ACWA JPIA Chief Executive Officer Andy Sells and ACWA JPIA Assistant Executive Officer Adrienne Beatty.

At the April 6 Helix Water District board meeting, the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority recognized the district for having low claims on its insurance policies.

Each year ACWA presents refunds to its members, such as Helix, who have done a good job keeping their losses at a minimum through their policies, procedures and programs aimed at reducing risks. These include construction related losses, administering fair employment practices, preventing workplace injuries, operating vehicles safely and responding to emergencies efficiently.

ACWA JPIA Chief Executive Officer Andy Sells presented Helix with a $177,230 refund check at the meeting.

“Helix’s commitment to safety and commitment to security makes this refund possible,” said Sells. “Helix is a forward-thinking agency; ideas that happen here can be implemented throughout the state.”

To learn more about this award or board meetings, visit https://hwd.com/board-meetings.


We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

Our WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape, Two Years In

Our WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape, Two Years In

Have you ever looked out at your yard and felt that all the empty space needed some retooling and revival? Nearly two years ago we did just that when we replaced the tired and overgrown groundcover at our administrative offices in La Mesa with a WaterSmart demonstration garden. What started as a collection of small plants and a lot of mulch has grown into a lush, colorful and diverse landscape. Small plants can quickly blossom into a fantastic garden.

“Our demonstration landscape is here to show customers that water-efficient landscaping can compliment everyone’s personal taste,”

Our demonstration garden has three unique plant palettes: a Mediterranean garden on University Avenue, a desert landscape on Lee Avenue and a California native garden on Quince Street.

“Our demonstration landscape is here to show customers that water-efficient landscaping can complement everyone’s personal taste,” said Helix Water District’s Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg during the installation in 2020. “There isn’t just one single style of landscaping that saves water and money. It’s a great showcase out in the community that we too are doing our part saving water with this beautiful landscape.”

Flowers, soft colors and fragrant plants from Mediterranean climate zones, including rosemary, catmint and flax lily fill our Mediterranean garden. The desert landscape contains vibrant and airy plants like ocotillo, barrel cactus and Palo Verde trees, and our California native garden has plants that grow naturally in California and are drought tolerant and wildlife friendly, like monkey flower, bush sunflower and the strawberry madrone tree.

Use the side arrows to see our landscape grow.

Native Garden 2020
Native Garden 2022
Mediterranean Garden 2020
Mediterranean Garden 2022
Mediterranean Garden 2020
Mediterranean Garden 2022

Outdoor landscape water use accounts for 30-60% of an average household’s total water usage, with higher volumes of usage coming from homes that have water-dependent plants and less efficient irrigation systems. The plants featured in our three gardens are right at home in eastern San Diego County’s climate and flourish on half, a third or a fifth of the water that traditional lawns need. You can save a significant amount of water and save money on your water bill, too.

The demonstration garden makes it easy to learn about the WaterSmart plants that inspire you. Plant markers, placed along the sidewalk with each plant, show the plant name along with a QR code, which when scanned, shows more photos and gives information about the plant’s name, sun and water needs, and mature size.

red yucca plant

QR codes on the plant markers link to information about each plant in the garden. 

We recognize that relandscaping can be daunting – especially because of the length of time it can take for some plants to grow. Within eight months it was filling in nicely, and now, two years in, our garden has blossomed and is lush, full and rich with color.

There are also turf removal rebates of up to $4 per square foot available to help cover the costs when you remove your grass and replace it with WaterSmart, sustainable landscaping. (Visit SoCal Water$mart for more information.)

Now is a great time to upgrade your landscape! Visit our demonstration garden in La Mesa and get inspired to create your own WaterSmart landscape.

Native garden grown in in 2022

Native garden on Quince Steet, filled in after 2 years of growth. 


We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.

Like local history? Watch this.

Like local history? Watch this.

At Helix Water District, we deliver water to homes and businesses throughout San Diego’s East County. We are a not-for-profit public water district, and we have been that way since we formed back in 1913. We have a deep and storied past that helps explain the development and history of San Diego and East County.

Our semi-arid region makes it challenging to develop water supplies. Watch our two-part video series highlighting the evolution of our local water system and the formation of the district. This engaging series – with rarely seen photos – tells our story dating back to East County’s beginnings. From our past, you can see the challenges we faced in securing water supplies for our region. Ultimately, it takes vision, financing and the public’s support to keep water flowing to where we need it the most.

Part One begins in 1885 when visionary leaders developed a plan to deliver water to a rapidly growing region. Learn about the construction of a 34-mile wooden flume that delivered water from the Cuyamaca Mountains to our local towns and farms. Part Two shares Colonel Ed Fletcher and James Murray’s roles and how the water system went from a private investment to public ownership.

Watch Part One and Part Two of Helix History, and see how water continues to shape our future.



We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.