Get $3 per sq ft for removing grass. Here’s how.

Get $3 per sq ft for removing grass. Here’s how.

Fall is the perfect time to replace your lawn with sustainable landscaping. Shorter days, less intense sun, rain and cooler temperatures may help new plants establish their roots, making it easier for them to withstand the heat of summer. It also has great weather for spending time outdoors installing a new landscape that you’ll love.

Customers can receive up to $3 per square foot when they remove lawn and replace it with sustainable landscaping. Sustainable landscapes include low water use plants, efficient irrigation systems, use rainwater as a resource and protect the soil with mulch.

Here is what you need to know to improve your landscape and reserve your rebate money:

 What qualifies

Residential customers are eligible for replacing grass areas from 250 square feet up to 5,000 square feet. Commercial properties are eligible for up to 10,000 square feet per year.

Reserve your rebate, then remove your grass
You must apply to reserve rebate funds before starting your project. Start today by taking photos of your existing grass. Then, submit your photos with your rebate application to reserve your rebate. Once you receive a reservation, you have 180 days to complete your project.

Cover soil with plants and mulch
To qualify for the rebate, you need to include a minimum plant coverage of three plants per 100 square feet in your new landscape – think three plants for each 10-foot by 10-foot room. Artificial turf and turf-looking grasses do not qualify. You will also have to cover all bare soil areas with a 3-inch layer of mulch. Mulch is inexpensive, and it can be wood chips, shredded bark or bark nuggets. You will be glad that you have mulch in your new landscaping since it helps your new landscape retain soil moisture, maintains a tidy appearance and prevents weeds.

Image shows person planting low water use plant

Improve overhead sprinklers
Since the sprinklers on your lawn are probably not the most efficient, now is a great time to improve them. Drip irrigation systems are easy to install for your new plants, and there are numerous retrofit kits available. You may also install high-efficiency spray heads.

Design to use rain water
Part of the benefits of removing your grass is that you can now capture, slow and sink rainwater for your plants. There are many ways to do this beyond just rain barrels, such as rain gardens, dry streambeds, berms, vegetated swales, rock gardens and grades. Visit the SoCal WaterSmart website to see what design works best for you.

Patios, walkways and other hardscapes 
Use permeable materials, such as flagstone set in loose sand, for pathways. You can include impermeable hardscapes in your new landscape design, but they will not count towards your rebate. Examples of typical hardscapes include areas with concrete and impermeable walkways, patios and structures.

Make it easier: Take a FREE landscaping class on Zoom and are offering FREE classes via zoom. Register for either program. You can ask questions and learn how to transform your grass into a functional, sustainable and enjoyable landscape.

Sign up for a class at or

What We’re Thankful For This Year

What We’re Thankful For This Year

This year, we’re thankful for all of the front line and essential workers
Who helped us get through each day.
We are so grateful for family and friends and
For you, our customers.

All of us at Helix Water District
Wish You The Very Best This Thanksgiving

Helix staff is proudly participating in the 2020 Toys for Tots Program

Helix staff is proudly participating in the 2020 Toys for Tots Program

If there was ever a time to help families in need, this is it. Over the next few weeks, Helix staff is donating to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, and you are welcome to join us.

If you’re unfamiliar with Toys for Tots, know that each holiday season, the Marine Corps partners with local non-profits and businesses to collect toys for distribution to less fortunate children throughout our community.  Helix employees at all four of the district’s facilities are collecting new and unwrapped toys until Monday, December 14.

If you would like to pitch in, please donate virtually by creating a virtual toy box at   

Wondering what to buy? Here are some helpful answers from the Marine Corps:

 Q: Is there a list of toys available to help me?
Toys for Tots does not publish a list of appropriate toys to donate.  If such a list were created, most would follow it, resulting in a limited selection of items to distribute in each community.  We would rather our donors consider what might be an appropriate gift for their own child/relative, purchase the item, and donate to Toys for Tots.

 Q: Shopping for pre-teens and teens is especially difficult.  Do you have any ideas?
The Foundation does purchase supplemental toys/gifts for our campaign sites and focuses on these age groups.  In the past, items purchased for these groups have included, but are not limited to:  sporting equipment/bags/balls; books, backpacks, cosmetics, purses, watch/wallet gift sets, bath gift sets, board games, radio control cars/trucks, hand-held electronics, skateboards/helmets, curling irons, hair straighteners, and hair dryers.

Q: Are there toys or gifts that are not accepted?
Toys for Tots prefers not to accept realistic looking weapons and gifts with food.  If donated, such items will NOT be distributed.

 Q: Should I gift wrap my donated toy?


Thank you all, in advance, for your donation.

This is Utility Scam Awareness Week

This is Utility Scam Awareness Week

November 16-20 is Utility Scam Awareness Week and water, electricity and gas utilities across the United States are raising awareness and educating their customers about scams and how to avoid them.

Here’s a Tip to Avoid a Scam
If a caller says they are from Helix Water District and requests your credit card number, they are an impostor. Under no circumstances will a Helix employee call you and ask for your credit card number.

Here’s Another Tip
Do not Google “make a Helix water payment” or “pay my Helix water bill” because you could unknowingly click on a search result that is not Helix Water District. The best thing you can do to avoid a scam is communicate directly with Helix Water District about your water bill. If you pay your water bill online, go directly to our website at and click on “Log In”.  If you have questions about your bill, call our customer service department at 619-466-0585.

Be Aware of These Common Scams

Disconnection Deception
Scammers call threatening disconnection of your utility service, demanding immediate payment by prepaid cards. (Helix employees do not request payment from prepaid cards)

Service Restoration Fee
Scammers call offering to restore water or power service more quickly for a fee in the aftermath of severe storms causing widespread power outages.

Overpayment Tactic
Scammers call claiming you have overpaid your utility bill, and you need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund. (Helix credits your account or mails you a check)

Vacate Your Home
Scammers claim there is a need to replace metering or other equipment and you must leave your home for 72 hours. (Helix’s water system stops at your water meter; we don’t need to go inside your home)

Facebook Charity Scam
Social media posts are telling customers that a charity will pay for their utility bills if the customer first makes a partial payment by money transfer. This new scam is still under investigation by authorities, and it is unclear if the scammers are seeking money, personally identifiable information, or both.

Door Knocking Impostor
Door-to-door impostors pose as utility workers to gain entry or access into unsuspecting victims’ homes. (Ask to see the person’s Helix ID card; all of our employees carry one)

Please find below a useful guide to help you avoid these scams. And, if you experience any of these scams, please report it to Helix. Jot down all the details you can remember and call our customer service department at 619-466-0585.

Tips to Avoid Impostor Utility Scams

2020 Trout Opener at Lake Jennings This Weekend

2020 Trout Opener at Lake Jennings This Weekend

Have you noticed that it’s getting chilly at night? Lake Jennings is cooling down, too, which means trout season is here. The season opens at 3 p.m. this Friday, November 20 and we’re stocking the lake with 2,500 pounds of Rainbow Trout to make this a weekend to remember.

Need a good reason to get away? Here’s one: fishing and camping in the great outdoors are fun ways to social distance during a pandemic. Please note, for the safety of our guests, mask wearing and social distancing is required in accordance with County of San Diego health orders.

Need another reason? Ten percent of this year’s stock will be Rainbows weighing over three pounds!

A few years ago, ranked Lake Jennings the #2 trout fishing lake in San Diego County and said of the lake’s seclusion and scenery that “Lake Jennings allows you to slip into the euphoria of a backcountry feeling without putting a big dent on the fuel in your vehicle.”

You can fish from shore, get out into deeper water on our fishing dock, or rent kayaks or a 16-foot skiff with an outboard motor and explore the lake. Our rental boats are on a first come, first served basis. You can launch your own boat, too.

Lake Jennings is more than just a great fishing spot. The lake is also where Helix stores imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California, and local water from Lake Cuyamaca and El Capitan Reservoir. The water is on its way to our water treatment plant and east county homes.  

We have a bait and tackle shop and we do a fishing report, so you know where the fish are biting and what they’re biting. The report this week is that people are still catching good-sized bass in Half Moon Cove and from Eagle Cove to Sentry Point on shiners and Senkos. Our rangers recommend fishing for bass near the tower buoy line about 15-20 feet down. Bluegill were caught off of the t-dock using wax worms and nightcrawlers. The Bluegill bite started to slow after 8am. The catfish were biting during night fishing this week in Hermit and Cloister Cove. Mackerel and shrimp were doing the trick.

The recommendation for the trout arriving this weekend is mini jigs, an all purpose lure that catches trout, bass, crappie, and bluegill. For Lake Jennings, a typical setup for trout is 4 lbs. test with a 1/16 oz. jig. If you have trouble casting such a light jig, attach a bobber 5-6 ft. above the jig. Popular jig colors for trout season are pink, orange, and chartreuse.

You should also consider spending the weekend at the lake. To reserve a campsite (tent or RV) go to or call 619-390-1623.

About the Event

3 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Friday Hours

6 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday Hours

Fishing Permit

$10 age 16 and over
$9 age 65 and over
$9 active duty military
$5 age 16 and under
Free age 8 and under with adult permit
$2 non-fishing day use permit

State Fishing License

A state fishing license is required for ages 16 and over and is not available for purchase at the lake.


619-443-2510 (lake information)
619-390-1623 (campground)

Driving Directions

– Take 8 freeway east
– Take Lake Jennings Park Road exit
– Turn left on Lake Jennings Park Road
– Turn right on Harritt Road
— Follow road to the parking lot

Helix launches virtual school programs

Helix launches virtual school programs

Third and fifth grade teachers in the Helix Water District service area can now enroll their classes in one of Helix’s virtual school programs. 

We have a hands-on activity for third graders and a virtual tour of our R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant for fifth graders. Each one-hour program meets next-generation science standards and STEAM curriculum requirements.

Our third-grade program, “Dams, Lakes and Rivers,”  offers a live presentation for third graders to learn about natural water supplies and storage reservoirs, including Lake Jennings, the district’s reservoir and recreational area located in Lakeside. We provide classes with materials so students can be engineers and build a functional dam.

We transitioned our fifth-grade treatment plant tour to a live, virtual tour. We will take students virtually through the R.M Levy Water Treatment Plant and go step-by-step through our drinking water treatment process. Students will see the plant inside and out, learn the process and hear from actual experts at the plant about what it takes to supply clean drinking water to our faucets each day.

“Our interactive virtual school programs introduce students to our water resources, infrastructure and water quality,” said Helix Water District’s Director of Administrative Service Jennifer Bryant. “We designed our programs with the students in mind, and made them engaging, informative and fun.”

Teachers can book a virtual activity by contacting our Education Assistant, Francine Thompson, at 619-667-6264 or

About Helix Water District

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.

What you missed from last week’s Water Chat about meter accuracy:

What you missed from last week’s Water Chat about meter accuracy:

Last week we hosted a live event on Facebook explaining everything you need to know about your Helix water meter. We also shared a video of Helix construction and meter shop supervisor Dan Baker answering some common questions about water meters and accuracy. 

The 4-minute video shows our testing procedures, how we read meters, why we replace meters and how to use your meter to find a leak.

Q. First off, how accurate are water meters?

New water meters must meet industry-specific guidelines and must fall between 98.5 and 101.5 percent accuracy across three different flow rates. For an added layer of quality control, Helix tests a sample of new meters before field installation to verify the manufacturer’s test results.

Q. Are old water meters accurate?

Old water meters actually under-read water consumption, allowing more water to flow through the meter than the meter registers and work as expected for approximately 17 years. For this reason, Helix staff replaces water meters once they are 15-20 years old. We replace around 3,000 water meters per year to maintain the replacement cycle of our 56,500 water meters.

Q. How do we test meters?

At our El Cajon Operations Center, Helix staff test meters on a testing bench. The bench allows staff to run varying flows of water through the meters into a tank with a known volume. We record the meter’s reading before starting the test and then again after the flow test. We then compare the readings, which provides us with the accuracy of that meter for that flow rate. For residential water meters, we test using a high flow at 25 gallons per minute, a medium flow of 3 gallons per minute and a low flow of ¼ gallon per minute.

Q. How do water meters work?

Water meters are 100 percent mechanical, meaning you have to use water for the meter to register use. We mostly use a type called a positive displacement meter. These meters have a disk inside of a chamber with a known volume. As water flows through the chamber, it rotates the disk and the meter register records the rotations, just like a car’s odometer.

Q. How do we ensure our meter reads are correct?

Our meter readers visit each address – and meter – every two months, and use a handheld device to enter the meter reading for each account. The device informs readers of the meter address, location, serial number and previous reading. The device also alerts the reader if the reading is too high or too low based on that property’s historical consumption and prompts the reader to reenter the actual reading. Once we upload the reading data, our customer service team runs a separate analysis of high and low readings for an extra layer of quality control. If our customer service team determines that the read seems too high or low, we send out a different meter reader to the property to verify the read.

Q. What should I do if I have a high bill or think my reading is wrong?

Give us a call. We would be happy to assist you. We can help you troubleshoot possible reasons for high use or send out a representative for a free water use evaluation. Call us at 619-466-0585 

Upcoming Water Chats

Started in 2019, our Water Chats series invites customers for a conversation and in-depth look at what we do. These smaller “chats” focus on single water-related subjects like distribution, supply, meters and infrastructure.
We are hosting our next Water Chat on January 28 at 5:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. We will take you on a virtual tour of our tanks and discuss how we use gravity to deliver water. We started doing Water Chats on Facebook Live in July to allow customers to participate during the pandemic.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

Thank You, Veterans

Thank You, Veterans

Wednesday, November 11 is Veterans Day and here in San Diego, it’s likely that you know a veteran – a family member, friend, neighbor or coworker – who would appreciate a “Thank you” and being asked about their service.

Want to do more? You can donate to or volunteer with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Operation Homefront or the Wounded Warrior Project.

If you’re an employer, hire a veteran. At Helix, we hire veterans because the military teaches strong teamwork, problem-solving and adaptability skills and these are critical skills when you are operating a water treatment plant, repairing a broken water main or troubleshooting an IT issue.

We have 15 veterans on staff from the Army, Navy and Marines, and two on our Board of Directors. Board President Mark Gracyk served as an enlisted engineer in the Army, and Division 1 Director Dan McMillan served as a first lieutenant in the Marines and as a company commander in the California National Guard.

We asked Helix Meter Services Field Representative Sam Pacheco, who was in the Marine Corps for 20 years, what he likes about working at a water district. He said, “As a veteran, you serve your country and serve in a team environment – you get up every day with a job to do. The water industry has a lot of parallels. I quickly realized that the people who work here, and the water industry as a whole, are committed and professional.”

Helix Administrative Assistant Rita Mooney, who was in the Army for three years, echoed Pacheco. “There is a feeling I had, especially when serving overseas, that fellow soldiers were kind of like family. We were in it together.  There is a similar feeling at Helix. People do truly care about each other and support each other. There is a feeling of mission and pride and camaraderie.”

Hiring Veterans
A video from the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College

 Why Veterans Should Consider a Career in Water

In October 2019, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 1588, which requires that the State of California’s operator certification program for water and wastewater treatment plants and water distribution systems recognize the experience and education veterans acquire while they are in the military. Now veterans can sit for the appropriate certification exam based on their military experience so that they can more quickly transition into a civilian career with a water or wastewater utility.

This is important for utilities managing Baby Boomer retirements and a changing workforce. A task force organized by the San Diego County Water Authority found that water and wastewater utilities in the San Diego region employ about 4,500 people, and that about 1,400 of those people will likely retire by 2024.

Where Veterans Should Start

 A month ago, the water and wastewater agencies serving the San Diego region launched — a one-stop-shop for current water and wastewater job postings in the San Diego region. The site also features training and education resources, career advice, internship programs, and information specific to veterans.


Student Poster Contest Winners Highlight Water is Life

Student Poster Contest Winners Highlight Water is Life

Above: The winning second place poster in the 4th-6th grade category, drawn by Nurah Avellano, a 6th grade student at St John of the Cross in Lemon Grove during the 2019-20 school year.

We honored local student artists for their winning Water Is Life posters at a virtual awards ceremony during our October 28, 2020, board meeting.

Each year, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of our wholesale water providers, holds a regional poster contest for students in kindergarten through sixth grade to increase student’s awareness about water.

We promote the contest to all K-6 schools within our service area. This year, 174 students from 14 schools submitted posters depicting how to use water wisely. The following students took top honors:

Grades K – 3

First Place – Gabriel Espino, Lemon Avenue Elementary, Grade 3

Second Place – Marvin Sears, La Mesa Dale Elementary, Grade 3

Third Place – Alexander Mollner, St. John of the Cross, Grade 2

Honorable Mention – Pashaun Tillman, La Mesa Dale Elementary, Grade 3

Honorable Mention – Lily Griffin, Murdock Elementary, Grade 3

Grades 4 – 6

First Place – Jose Sabedra, Bostonia Language Academy, Grade 4

Second Place – Nurah Avellano, St. John of the Cross, Grade 6

Third Place – Mina Saeed, Lexington Elementary, Grade 4

Honorable Mention – Valeria Ramirez-Quiroz, St. John of the Cross, Grade 5

Honorable Mention – Giselle Villegas Garcia, Lemon Grove Academy, Grade 5

Grade levels are for the 2019-20 school year

View all the winning posters on our Facebook page