Charging forward: Helix gets first electric truck

Charging forward: Helix gets first electric truck

Helix Water District received its first all-electric, zero-emission, Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck — another milestone in the organization’s sustainability plans.

“Converting public and private fleets to zero-emission trucks is a big part of the governor’s plan to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030,” said Helix Director of Operations Kevin D. Miller. “This is a small step, but Helix is heading in the right direction.”

Helix dispatches a fleet of 80 light- and heavy-duty trucks throughout its 50-square-mile service area each day to maintain the district’s pipelines, pump stations and reservoir tanks, and respond to customer calls. Helix field operations crews drive up to 100 miles per day and Ford’s F-150 Lightning has over a 200-mile range.

“Right now, the switch to electric vehicles makes sense in many cases,” said Miller. “Zero-emission technology is advancing and we’re evaluating technologies that meet regulatory requirements, meet our 24/7 and emergency response requirements and keep delivering cost savings to our customers.”

The district ordered its new F-150 prior to recent manufacturer price increases, and rebates helped offset the price difference between the electric and gas-powered models. It is anticipated that electric trucks will also be cheaper to maintain since electric vehicles have fewer moving parts to replace than internal combustion engines.

Additional savings come from not purchasing fuel. The district’s light-duty gasoline trucks have a fuel efficiency of about 20 miles to the gallon and cost 25 cents per mile to drive. Thanks to the district’s power purchase agreements and other investments, the electric trucks will cost less than 10 cents per mile.

Helix began transitioning to a sustainable fleet in 2017 when it purchased seven Toyota Prius plugin hybrids to replace inefficient light-duty work trucks. The hybrids are 400% more fuel efficient than the trucks they replaced. The district also partnered with SDG&E and received grant funding to install on-site charging stations at two of its facilities.

And in 2020, the district switched from diesel to renewable diesel, resulting in decreased emissions, particulates and a noticeable increase in vehicle performance.

“We welcome our first fully electric work vehicle,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “The technology has come a very long way, and zero-emission trucks benefit the cities and communities we serve by reducing operational costs, improving air quality and reducing our environmental footprint. Whether developing new water sources or advancing toward a cleaner fleet, I am proud of the district’s sustainability efforts.”


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Learn how to hire a landscaper from The Garden

Learn how to hire a landscaper from The Garden

Good landscapers are always in high demand. They can make your property flourish and help you save money and use water efficiently.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers is where they can go to hire a good landscaper. Fortunately, there is a class on that. The best part is, the class is FREE.

Sign up with our friends at The Water Conservation Garden for a free one-and-a-half-hour class on what you need to know to hire a landscaper. You will learn which questions to ask, what to look for and how to plan. 

The class is held at the Water Conservation Garden on Saturday, September 17, from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Register today and get the landscaper and the garden you want.


Sign up at


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3 ways to learn turf removal

3 ways to learn turf removal

Replacing your lawn with a sustainable landscape is the best way to use less water. Sustainable landscapes save water and give you a landscape that requires less maintenance, cleans stormwater, creates habitat and improves the value of your home.

While it can take some knowledge and planning to redesign your landscape, you don’t have to be a designer to get the landscape you’ll love. Take a class, or take all of our classes, and learn how. All of our classes are free!

Find a class that works with your schedule and start planning your turf removal project.

2022 landscape contest winner front yard

1. Attend online

The Green Gardens Group teaches residents all across California how to remove lawn, build healthy soil, select plants and irrigate correctly. They offer free one-hour classes every week on Zoom.

Find a class at

2. Attend in person

The San Diego County Water Authority is offering free classes that teach homeowners how to remove grass and design a water-efficient landscape. Attend a three-hour workshop or sign up for the four-class series. The Water Authority will announce their next series of classes soon, and they fill up fast. If you want to attend the four-class series, go to the website below and get on the waiting list.

Find classes at

Watch recordings of past classes at:

3. Learn at your own pace

If you are on the go and want a more flexible way to learn, watch the Water Authority’s 20-part video series. You’ll learn step by step how to transform your lawn and take care of your new landscape. The videos cover everything from lawn removal and building soil to irrigation, maintenance and capturing rainwater. You can also rewatch the videos as many times as you want, which makes learning how to do this even easier.

Start watching at



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Helix at Warriors2Water Career Day Tomorrow, August 10

Helix at Warriors2Water Career Day Tomorrow, August 10

Helix Board Member Mark Gracyk and our human resources team will be among the military and water industry panelists at the Warriors2Water Career Day tomorrow, August 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cuyamaca College Student Center.

The free event, hosted by the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and San Diego County water and wastewater utilities, will introduce current and soon-to-be military veterans to the career pathways in the water industry. The services that water and wastewater utilities provide are essential to public health and safety, the environment, local and regional economies and the jobs they provide.

Attendees can also talk with the Helix human resources team and recruiters from other utilities, and explore the training programs and resources available to help veterans launch a civilian career in water.

Each year in San Diego, more than 15,000 military personnel transition out of active duty and into the civilian workforce. 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.


8:30 a.m.
– Registration and check-in

9 a.m.
Opening Session
– Dr. Lynn Neault, Chancellor, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District
– Mark Gracyk, Board of Directors, Helix Water District
– Donald Jones, Warriors2WaterWorks Campaign Coordinator

9:45 a.m.
Why Choose a Waterwork Career Pathway?
– Sue Mosburg, Executive Director, California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association

10:45 a.m.
How Your Military Service Translates to a Career in the Waterworks Industry
– Jose Martinez, General Manager, Otay Water District, and U.S. Naval Academy Graduate

12 p.m.
100 Years of U.S. Military/Regional Waterworks Collaboration
– Kelley Gage, San Diego County Water Authority
– Free lunch provided

1:30 p.m.
Breakout Session 1A: Recently Transitioned From the Military to the Water Industry – Panel Discussion
Breakout Session 2A: How Civilian Employers Hire

2:45 p.m.
Breakout Session 1B: Resources for Managing the Transition Process
Breakout Session 2B: Career Pathways and Training Resources in Water

3:45 p.m.
Closing Session

How to Register
Register online at or at the event.

Event Location
Cuyamaca College is located at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon.



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Helix names Brian Olney new General Manager

Helix names Brian Olney new General Manager

On August 3, the Helix Water District Board of Directors announced that Brian Olney will be this organization’s new general manager, effective September 1, 2022. This is good news for Helix and for the communities we serve. Brian was appointed to Helix’s Director of Water Quality and System Operations position in 2016 and to the Assistant General Manager position in 2021. He has 28 years of experience in the water industry. 

Helix's new General Manager Brian Olney

From Our Press Release

“Brian’s experience spans system operations, water treatment plant operations and maintenance, water distribution and construction,” said Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “He’s been a member of the executive team since 2016 and he is knowledgeable about local and regional water issues. Brian is a leader and will make a smooth transition into the general manager role.”

“I am honored to be the next general manager of Helix Water District,” said Olney. “We provide an essential service to hardworking people, who expect us to do our jobs correctly and efficiently, and provide clean, safe water at a reasonable price. I agree with that, and we meet and exceed those expectations every day.

“We are fortunate at Helix. The board of directors are actively involved in the community and serve the district and our customers very well.  Our employees are qualified, compassionate and dedicated. I will continue to reinforce our values, and our goals and objectives, and we will work through the challenges we face.”

Brian is an East County Native

He and his wife Brenda have been married 21 years, live in Santee and have two children, one granddaughter and two dogs. He went to Santana High School, earned an associate’s degree in water science technology and then completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration at San Diego State University.

A Summer Job Introduced Him to Water

“I quickly realized how rewarding it was and embraced the public service aspect. It is truly enjoyable to meet customers and explain what we do or help them through an issue.”

Brian worked in field operations for Lakeside Water District and as a water system operator for Otay Water District before joining Helix in 2000 as a water treatment plant operator. He maintains grade 5 certifications from the State of California in water treatment and water distribution.

About Helix
Helix Water District is second largest water utility in the region, after the City of San Diego. Helix operates a regional water treatment plant serving four public water utilities and a water distribution system serving 277,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County. Olney will oversee 150 employees and manage a FY2022-23 budget of $108 million.


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Learn how to set up your irrigation controller – watch our video!

Learn how to set up your irrigation controller – watch our video!

One of the easiest ways to save water is to set your irrigation controller correctly and give your landscape just the right amount of water.  A fine-tuned irrigation controller will help prevent overwatering and help lower your water bill.

Our video shows you how to take control of your irrigation controller.We show you how functions like start times, watering days and watering run times all help give your plants the right amount of water at the right time.

Watch our video

Need help with watering times? Use the watering calculator at

Interested in a smart irrigation controller that always knows when and how much to water and syncs with your phone? We offer a $200 rebate!


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Helix Recognized for Excellence in Financial Reporting

Helix Recognized for Excellence in Financial Reporting

The Government Finance Officers Association announced today that Helix Water District is the recipient of a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for our fiscal year 2022-23 budget document.

“This award shows the commitment by the district’s board of directors and staff to serving the public with integrity, fiscal accountability and transparency,” said Kathleen Coates Hedberg, Helix Water District’s Board President. “Our budget is well organized and easy to read. We want customers to easily see what we are doing, how we are efficient and how we keep our operating costs steady.”

GFOA also recognized Helix’s administrative services department with a certificate of recognition for budget presentation. Producing the district’s budget is a group effort and the entire organization contributes to making the financial story of the district transparent to the residents and businesses it serves.

GFOA is a nonprofit association of public finance officials in Canada and the U.S. that establishes accounting standards and best practices for federal, state and local government. The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, for example, recognizes budgets that serve as a public agency’s policy document, financial plan, operations guide and customer communications. To win the award, budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories and in the 14 mandatory criteria within those categories.

Over 1,700 public agencies participate in the budget awards program. You can find the most recent budget award recipients and their corresponding budget documents posted quarterly on GFOA’s website at

Read our FY 2022-23 Budget

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


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Go paperless for a chance to win!

Go paperless for a chance to win!

Want to enter a sweepstake without receiving annoying promotional emails? Sign up for paperless billing!

Helix Water District’s payment processor, InvoiceCloud, is hosting a summer sweepstakes, and they are giving away some exciting gifts.  

From July 1 through August 31, customers who sign up for paperless billing will be automatically entered to win 1 of 90 prizes. The prizes include:

  • 5 $4,000 travel vouchers.
  • 5 Apple Watches.
  • 80 Amazon gift cards.

Already enrolled in paperless billing? Just pay your bill online, and as a reward, you’ll receive two entries, doubling your chances.

Paperless billing makes paying easy, as paying bills should be. When your bill is ready, we’ll email or text reminders and we’ll keep your billing and payment history for you. Paperless is just like online banking; you’ll be able to manage everything on your phone, wherever you are.

Enroll now, and you might just win. Good luck! 


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How to Water

How to Water

July is Smart Irrigation Month.

Three years of below-average rain and snow, and some of the driest months on record this past winter, have left California in a severe drought. Helix is asking our customers to be water-wise and continue your conservation efforts.

One of the best ways to save water is to give your irrigation system a tune-up. Irrigation can be a big water waster, but it can also be your biggest water saver. Following the tips below can reduce your water use by 20%-30%, and that will put a big dent in your water bill.

How to Water

The recommendations on this page could reduce the amount of water you use for irrigation by 20-30 percent.

#1 Water on Schedule

Plants come in four categories – high, moderate, low and very low water use – and the recommended watering times are different for each category. And, watering times vary by season. It’s complicated, but we have two tools that make it simple.

Tool A

Use the city of San Diego’s Landscape Watering Calculator. Enter your zip code, plant category, soil type and sprinkler type and it will give you recommend watering times for each month of the year.

Tool B

Weather-based, or smart, irrigation controllers automatically adjust watering times each day. They do this based on weather data, from sensors you install on your property, or from the State of California’s CIMIS weather stations accessed through the internet.

#2 Use the Most Efficient Sprinkler

Our sprinklers put a lot of water on our landscapes, but only a percentage of it is absorbed into the soil and into the roots of our grass, plants and trees. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the sprinkler is.

Spray Nozzles

Spray nozzles are very common but have two issues: they apply water faster than most soils can absorb it, and wind can blow the small water drops off target — causing water to run on to sidewalks and into the street.




Rotors shoot a single stream of water that moves slowly over a landscape, giving soil time to absorb the water. Rotors are commonly used on large landscapes.



Rotary Nozzles

Rotary nozzles apply water slowly and produce large, wind-resistant water drops. They can be up to 30 percent more efficient than spray nozzles and are the best choice for watering a lawn.

Video: Replacing spray nozzles with rotary nozzles is simple.



Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation applies water slower and deeper into the soil, and is the best way to water plants and trees.  Not irrigating the area between plants saves a lot of water and reduces weeds, and installation is easy – watch this video.



#3 Prevent Water Runoff

If your sprinklers apply water faster than your soil can absorb it, water will run off of your landscape, on to the sidewalk and into the street. You can avoid runoff by using rotary nozzles and drip irrigation, or by reducing your watering times and watering more often.

Use Multiple Start Times

Some irrigation controllers offer multiple start times on the same day within one program, while other controllers require you to use multiple programs.

On Start Time 1 or Program A:
Schedule the same days and 3:00 minutes at 12:00am

On Start Time 2 or Program B:
Schedule the same days and 3:00 minutes at 2:30am

On Start Time 3 or Program C:
Schedule the same days and 4:00 minutes at 5:00am

Use the Cycle and Soak Option

Some irrigation controllers have a cycle and soak option, which will automatically divide a 10 minute watering cycle into smaller cycles.


#4 Regulate Your Water Pressure

The optimal water pressure for drip irrigation and sprinklers ranges from 20-40 psi. But a home’s water pressure can be as high as 70 psi.

What Happens

Below is an excerpt from a spray nozzle performance chart. The nozzle’s optimal water pressure is 30 psi, and at 40 psi the nozzle’s flow rate increases by 0.4 gallons per minute. That’s wasted water. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly.


Gallons wasted by one sprinkler in 10 minutes


Gallons wasted by 60 sprinklers in 10 minutes


Gallons wasted by 60 sprinklers in one year

Measure Your Water Pressure

Water pressure gauges are available at hardware and irrigation supply stores. Screw a water pressure gauge on to a hose bib outside your home and turn the water all the way on. If your pressure is higher than your sprinklers’ optimal pressure, you’ll save water by installing pressure regulation devices in your irrigation system.

Install Pressure Regulation

Manufacturers make pressure regulators and valves and sprinklers with built-in pressure regulators. Learn more by watching videos on manufacturer websites and ask one of the experts at an irrigation supply store what they recommend.


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