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

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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. 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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. 

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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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