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.

 

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Read our Annual Comprehensive Financial Report

Read our Annual Comprehensive Financial Report

We provide the water that keeps the homes and businesses in our community running. Did you know that we purchase over 80% of our water supplies?  We also invest your water rates in the infrastructure to deliver it 24/7, when and where you need it.

Last month, we released our Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. The report shows our expenses for purchasing, treating and moving water to your tap, and it shows how water rates and water use have changed over the last 10 years. It also demonstrates the district’s financial transparency and accountability for the public resources we manage.

This year, we created a new look for the report, making it easier to read and understand. We encourage you to read it. The report includes our financial statements, which provide the district’s detailed financial data. It also shows changes in the district’s cash balance and information about the district’s short-term and long-term activities.

Shows charts and organization from district's annual comprehensive financial plan
Shows charts of expenses, revenues and annual changes from district's annual comprehensive financial plan

The report includes a summary from the annual audit performed by an independent certified public accounting firm. The audit firm reviewed the district’s internal controls and provided a clean opinion, confirming our accounting records comply with generally accepted accounting principles.

Our Annual Comprehensive Financial Report is one of three large reports we release each year. To see last year’s finances, what has changed and how we are financially transparent and accountable, read our report.

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Helix Board Elects New President and Vice President

Helix Board Elects New President and Vice President

At the Helix Water District Board of Directors Meeting on January 5, 2022, the board elected Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg to serve as board president in 2022 and Director DeAna Verbeke to serve as vice president.

Hedberg, who is a third generation water professional and licensed civil engineer with a master’s degree in public health, was elected to the board in 2006 and represents Helix’s division 4, which includes La Mesa and the communities of Casa De Oro, Mt. Helix and Calavo Gardens. In 2021, Hedberg chaired the district’s finance and administration committee and was vice chair of the water quality and resources committee. She was Helix’s representative to the East County Advanced Water Purification Program Joint Powers Authority and served on other regional and statewide committees.

“This is an honor. This is the first time in Helix’s over 100 year history that the board president and vice president are both women,” Hedberg said. “Just last month, the Association of California Water Agencies membership also elected women as president and vice president for the first time. This is an exciting time and why I support the annual Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College. The water industry is where you should be if you want to help your community and make a difference every day.”

Verbeke has served on Helix’s board since 2005 and represents the district’s division 2 customers in La Mesa, the Mt. Helix community and El Cajon. Last year, Verbeke chaired Helix’s engineering and operations committee, was the region 10 chair for the Association of California Water Agencies and served on multiple committees while representing Helix with east county and regional organizations.

Helix General Manager Carlos Lugo thanked outgoing president Joel Scalzitti for his leadership throughout 2021, and president Hedberg echoed his comments. For more information on the district’s accomplishments last year, read our Fiscal Year 2020-21 Annual Report.

Hedberg assumed her new position immediately after the election and led the board meeting.  One of her first tasks is determining board committee assignments for the year ahead. Helix board members represent the district and its customers on the San Diego County Water Authority board and participate in water resources planning, policy-making and funding decisions on regional and statewide committees.

For more information on Helix’s board of directors go to hwd.com/board/.

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Helix Water District Declares Level 1 Water Shortage Response

Helix Water District Declares Level 1 Water Shortage Response

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom extended California’s drought emergency to the entire state. He also called on water utilities to activate their water shortage contingency plans based on local supply and demand, and asked all Californians to do more to conserve as the state faces one of its most severe droughts on record.

In response, on November 3, 2021, Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo declared a water shortage response Level 1 under our water shortage contingency plan, calling for voluntary water conservation.

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 by ensuring we have the water we need. And this year, these planning efforts are why we can ask for voluntary conservation instead of needing bigger, mandatory cutbacks.

Although we have sufficient water supplies, we can all do our part to help. Helix has permanent water-use efficiency measures that are always in effect. These measures are best practices to make sure we’re being water-wise every day, and they are things that most of you already do:

      • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and patios.
      • Stop irrigation runoff.
      • Don’t water for at least 48 hours after rain.
      • Use recirculated water in fountains and water features.
      • Use a hose with a positive shutoff nozzle when washing vehicles.
      • Serve water upon request at restaurants.
      • Offer guests at hotels and motels the option of not laundering towels and linens daily.

Our water shortage contingency plan includes six water shortage levels, with increasing restrictions that we can enact during times of drought or decreasing water supplies – when we need extra conservation efforts. Here are additional voluntary measures that you can take under Level 1:

      • Irrigate between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 a.m.
      • Limit watering with spray sprinklers to no more than 10 minutes per station, per day.
      • Use a hose with a positive shutoff nozzle or bucket if hand watering.
      • Repair all leaks within five days.

Thank you for your commitment to using water wisely. Keep up your efforts and explore our sustainability menu for more ways to help.

 

 

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Imagine a Day Without Water

Imagine a Day Without Water

Water plays a significant role in our lives, yet the infrastructure needed to deliver water to our homes and businesses is often out of sight and out of mind. You wake up, shower, make your coffee, clean your car, feed your family, flush the toilet and wash your laundry. But have you thought about where your water comes from and what it takes to deliver it to you 24/7?

October 21 is the Value of Water Campaign’s annual Imagine a Day Without Water, which was created to encourage each of us to stop and think about the value of water, water utilities and the vast water conveyance, storage, treatment and distribution systems we depend on.

Our job at Helix Water District is to keep the water on at each home, coffee shop, restaurant, grocery store, school, office building and business in East County. It’s also our job to keep the water on at every fire hydrant, and at all hospitals and clinics. Access to safe, reliable water keeps our communities healthy and thriving.

And it takes planning to do that. Helix, and the other water utilities serving the San Diego region, have worked together for 25 years to ensure that we have the water we need. We depend on imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California, which experience recurring periods of drought. To protect our region, together we have invested in alternative water supplies and infrastructure projects such as desalination and raising the San Vicente Dam, and we are looking at projects such as advanced water purification to create a local, drought-proof water supply for East County.

We know how important water is. It’s up to us to keep the conversation going and ensure the systems that deliver this valuable resource are reliable for generations to come.

Learn more about Helix’s planning efforts

Learn more about the East County Advanced Water Purification project

 

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We appreciate our water professionals

We appreciate our water professionals

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 protect the health and safety of our communities.

Their dedicated work to provide reliable water is essential, but because water is always available, their service is often unrecognized.

That is why this week, we want to appreciate water professionals and the excellent service they 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 2-10, 2021, 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. We want to share stories about just a few of our employees whose talents, hard work and dedication make our communities a little bit better.

Marlene Young – Customer Service Representative, 26 years of service

We care for the people we serve

“When you work in the water industry, you are contributing to people. You’re providing a vital service that is necessary for us to live.

I like that I am able to help people who are grateful for the assistance I provide. For me, it is very rewarding that I get to receive their gratitude and feedback. I also love that there are a lot of opportunities for growth and interactions with the many different departments.” 

We work behind the scenes every day

“I enjoy that you get to help customers as you meet them and can really have a positive impact on people and hear that they really appreciate what you do.

It takes a lot of people working behind the scenes to treat and move water to everyone’s faucets for drinking, showering and watering plants. I love working in water because I get to see the process and be a part of it each day.”

Carlos Cruz – Meter Reader, 4 years of service

Eileen Aguirre – Information Systems Analyst, 1.5 years of service

We continually improve to meet our community’s needs

“My favorite thing about being an information systems analyst is being able to help others improve their workflows and to work with such sharp, intelligent individuals who are always willing to help.

Working in the water industry is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the multiple systems and processes to deliver clean water. While you may be faced with some challenges along the way, knowing everyone is working towards the same goal always makes it worthwhile.”

We monitor and maintain your water every step of the way

“My favorite thing about working at Helix Water District is the variety of tasks that we do. Our department does everything from installing conduit, wires and instrumentation, to building the control panels, programming the controllers and building the interface pages for our operators.

I like the water industry because lots of people rely on us every day, and it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to move water from one place to another.”

Jeremy Boone – SCADA Technician, 4 years of service

Larry Lyford – Water Treatment Plant Manager, 23 years of service

We work together to do extraordinary things

“I love being involved in mentoring and preparing staff for the future and the future operation of our treatment plant. Everything we do here, we do with a lot of detail, thought and design with redundancy. It is challenging and critical work, but I love it.

What water professionals do to keep the water flowing 24/7 is incredibly important to the health and safety of our community. But, when we are doing our job right, we are invisible. We are not banner headline people like police or fire. We are the quiet first responders keeping our communities running.”

Water professionals work passionately to provide the essential services that people and businesses rely on. We joined this industry for many reasons, but the reward of providing something that everyone depends on is what motivates us to do more, do better, and keep the water flowing.

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

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Emergencies Can Happen at Any Time

Emergencies Can Happen at Any Time

Californians know that the next emergency could come at any time, from small events like a broken water main on your street, to wildfires in dry years, mudslides and flooding in wet years, and the constant, looming threat of earthquake. When emergencies happen, our focus at Helix is maintaining the water supply for our customers and first responders. Here are five steps we’ve taken to ensure that we’re always ready.

Planning

Helix recently completed a five-year update of our Urban Water Management Plan, which forecasts water demand in east county for the next 25 years, based on population growth and economic development, and explains how we will provide an adequate water supply, even during a multi-year drought. Our wholesale water suppliers – the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – completed their own Urban Water Management Plans, and the San Diego region has the water it needs through at least 2045.

Emergency Storage

Helix stores a 75-day water supply for our customers in Lake Jennings and the City of San Diego’s El Capitan Reservoir; the San Diego County Water Authority stores a 6-month emergency water supply for the San Diego region in Olivenhain Reservoir, Lake Hodges and San Vicente Reservoir; and, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California stores a 6-month water supply for all of Southern California in Diamond Valley Reservoir near Hemet.   Helix also collaborates with neighboring water districts and has multiple ways to access and deliver water to our customers.

Photo: Lake Jennings

Reserve Equipment

Helix maintains its own warehouse stocked with the equipment and parts we need to respond to emergencies even when supply chains break down. We also have shared resources agreements with other water agencies and cities, to make equipment and key people available when and where they are needed.

Emergency Generators

We equipped our treatment plant and pump stations with emergency generators to ensure that we can continue treating and distributing water to customers throughout a local or regional power outage.

Inside Calavo Pump Station, looking at five pumps.

Photo: Calavo Pump Station

Proactive Maintenance

We proactively maintain our infrastructure, vehicles, heavy equipment and tools so that we are always ready to respond.

We Also Have a 5-Step Plan for Customers

We want you to be ready for the next emergency, too. At hwd.com/emergencies, we present a 5-step plan to get you ready. We show you how to:

Get alerts on your cellphone when emergencies happen

Make a communications plan for your family

Assemble an emergency kit

Monitor updates during an emergency

Disinfect water yourself

Go to hwd.com/emergencies

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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.

Fitch Affirms an AA+ Credit Rating for Helix Water District

Fitch Affirms an AA+ Credit Rating for Helix Water District

On Tuesday, August 3, Fitch Ratings, a global independent credit rating organization, affirmed Helix Water District’s AA+ rating with a Stable Outlook.

The AA+ rating is the second-highest credit rating an organization can receive and affirms the district’s strong financial stability. The rating process evaluates the district’s financial profile, ability to pay back loans, its ability to limit operating risks and recover costs.

Fitch’s rating reflects Helix Water District’s low operating costs, low cost to treat water and low level of outstanding debt. The rating highlighted the district’s proactive capital improvement program that keeps the district’s infrastructure in good condition by regularly replacing pipe, valves and other key infrastructure. Programs like this reduce the district’s risk of having to pay for expensive emergency repairs.

“We are delighted to have secured another AA+ rating from Fitch,” said Helix Water District Director of Administrative Services Jennifer Bryant. “Our sound financial position during these uncertain times reflects our board and staff’s commitment to efficient operations, a thoughtful capital improvement program and responsible fiscal policies and practices.”

Higher Fitch ratings allow agencies like Helix Water District to receive lower interest rates when it is necessary to obtain loans or issue bonds. Since bonds often have 15-30 year terms, having a lower interest rate can produce substantial cost savings to customers. Upholding a good credit rating shows that the district is in good fiscal health and can continue to reliably and affordably serve customers.

Helix Water District is a not-for-profit local government agency that provides water treatment and distribution for 277,000 people in the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas of Lakeside — east of downtown San Diego. Helix also provides treated water to neighboring Padre Dam, Otay and Lakeside water districts.

Read the report and learn more

 

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Watch New Video: Where Does Your Money Go

Watch New Video: Where Does Your Money Go

Ever wonder what your Helix Water District water bill pays for?

We are a not-for-profit public agency. This means that every dollar we collect from customer bills goes directly to the cost of providing clean and reliable water.

Almost half of your water bill pays for purchasing imported water. The rest of your bill pays for the costs of operating, maintaining, administering, protecting and improving your 24/7 water service.

If cost is what you pay for and value is what you get, Helix customers can be assured they receive a superior value at a reasonable cost.

Watch our video and see the breakdown of where your dollar goes.

Video Transcript: Where Does My Money Go

At Helix Water District, every dollar collected from customer bills, goes directly towards the costs of providing our customers with a clean and reliable source of water.

Let’s take a look at how those expenses break down.

Forty-three percent of each bill covers the cost of purchasing imported water. That’s just about half of every dollar that we spend.

Thirteen percent covers the operating and maintenance costs that keep our water delivery and treatment systems up and running.

Twelve percent funds capital projects such as pipeline replacements, tank retrofits and expenses to buy equipment.

Nine percent covers water treatment and quality control costs, which ensure your water is safe to drink.

Nine percent covers administrative expenses needed to run the district.

Three percent covers engineering costs. This allows the district to design and make improvements to our water treatment and delivery systems.

Three percent covers meter reading, billing and customer service expenses, so when you have a question or need some help, Helix is there for you.

Three percent pays for information technology, the computers and software behind our water systems, administration and customer service.  IT keeps us running.

Three percent covers energy costs to treat and pump water, and the electricity used to operate district facilities.

Two percent repays bonds and other debt.

And not one penny goes towards profits.  Helix is a not-for-profit agency.

For more details, visit hwd.com

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