Helix awards mini-grants to three schools

Helix awards mini-grants to three schools

Congratulations to the recipients of our 2022 education mini-grants – Bostonia Global Academy, Murdock Elementary and Fuerte Elementary. Each year, we offer three $250 mini-grants to schools within our service area for water-related programs and projects.

It won’t be long before our water supply and water quality will be in the hands of today’s students, which is why Helix seeks to introduce these topics in the schools within our service area. We want these kids to grow up to be stewards of California’s watersheds and hope that our programs start them down that path.

Helix board member awarding an oversized check to teachers at Bostonia Global

Helix Director Dan McMillan (right), awarding a mini-grant to Bostonia Global Academy

At Bostonia Global Academy, students are designing, building and testing their own water filters to purify non-drinking water. They are identifying pollutants, building their own filtration systems, observing what types of pollutants aeration and filtration remove, and learning about the importance of engineers in the water treatment process. The mini-grant is funding materials for the hands-on activities.

Helix board member awarding an oversized check to a teacher and students at Murdock Elementary

Helix Board Vice President DeAna Verbeke (right), awarding a mini-grant to Murdock Elementary

Murdock Elementary is using their grant to expand their school library by purchasing books focused on global water access, conservation and equality. These books will provide their students with access to diverse literature focused on the importance of access to clean water supplies, water conservation and environmental equity.

Helix board member awarding an oversized check to teachers at Fuerte Elementary

Helix Board President Kathleen Hedberg (far right), awarding a mini-grant to Fuerte Elementary

Fuerte Elementary is also teaching its students about water quality. Their fifth graders are building water filters out of a variety of materials and conducting a series of labs analyzing water turbidity after using the different filters.

Congratulations to our three mini-grant winners and their projects that bring water education into the hands of our future. We look forward to sending out applications for our next round of mini-grants beginning Fall of 2022.

Helix Water District’s mini-grant program is part of the district’s education program and is available to schools within our service area.  

Learn more about our school programs

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Helix recognizes two incredible students with scholarships

Helix recognizes two incredible students with scholarships

On April 20, Helix board members and staff honored Steele Canyon High senior Nicole Swallow and Grossmont Middle College High senior Ethan Garrett as the 2022 recipients of the district’s Robert D. Friedgen and Dr. Lillian M. Childs college scholarships.

Swallow, who plans to major in civil engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, invests hundreds of hours in community service each year. She organizes free financial education classes and toy drives for San Diego’s Peruvian community, oversees Steele Canyon High’s Title 1 budget expenditures with teachers, administrators and parents, and volunteers with Sharp Hospice Care and Vista Del Cerro bilingual daycare.

Swallow’s projects caught the eye of Helix’s scholarship committee. She created a Spanish-language science magazine to empower kids to stop deforestation and restore the environment that was distributed to public libraries in the Andes, Amazon Basin and Peru’s major cities. She also partnered with Meals on Wheels and lead a team of photographers to learn what senior citizens want and need. The project and report earned Swallow a Gold Award, the Girl Scouts of America’s highest honor.

Garrett, who plans to major in economics at UCLA, UC Berkeley or Cal Poly Pomona, is a debate champion. He is the only high school student on the Grossmont College debate team and has won debates against adversaries from San Diego State and UC San Diego. He has numerous 1st, 2nd and 3rd place debate awards at the high school and college level.

He is also a legislative intern for San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson and a commissioner on the City of La Mesa Youth Advisory Committee, an advisory body to the city council. Garrett just earned his Eagle Scout ranking and is co-captain of the Grossmont Middle College Academic League and on the school’s mock trial team. At Helix High, he was on the robotics team and represented the school at California’s Model United Nations.

Helix’s scholarships are $1,000. The Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship was established upon his retirement in 1998, after serving as Helix’s general manager for 19 years. Friedgen provided the seed money and the board and others contributed additional funding. The Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship was started by the Helix board a year later to honor Ms. Childs upon her retirement from the board and recognize the 20 years of service and leadership she had given to the district.

Helix reaches out to high school counselors in November to get the word out to students about the annual scholarship contest. Applicants must live in the district’s service area, have excellent academic standing, excel in community service and extracurricular activities, write an essay about the East County Advanced Water Purification Project, and provide a personal goals statement and two letters of recommendation.

Photos
Above: 2022 scholarship recipient Nicole Swallow and Helix board members. Below: 2022 scholarship recipient Ethan Garrett and Helix board members. Bottom: Nicole Swallow and family and Ethan Garrett and his father.

Ethan Garrett and Helix board members after scholarship ceremony.
Nicole Swallow and family posing in Helix boardroom after scholarship ceremony
Ethan Garrett and his father in Helix boardroom.

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Taking care of your trees

Taking care of your trees

A well-cared-for tree will continue to provide value and benefits to your home. One critical part of tree care is watering your trees. With drought conditions and a dry summer ahead, it is crucial to give your trees the water they need. This post will help you keep your trees happy and healthy while still using water efficiently.

Water is valuable, and so are your trees

First off, a healthy tree can increase property values by an average of 7%. Not only do trees make our homes and communities more desirable, but trees also slow down rainfall, reducing erosion and slowing stormwater flows. Trees in the right place can even reduce energy consumption. Deciduous trees (leafless in winter) planted on the southwestern side of a home will provide cooling shade in the summer while also allowing a home to heat during winter. We know that water is valuable, but so are your trees, and you can and should take care of them so they will keep taking care of you.

How much water?

Use our guide to get an idea of how much water your trees will need. When watering, soak the dripline around your tree so that water reaches 12-18 inches down. The dripline is the area at the outside edge of the canopy. Do not water trees at the trunk. Water slowly – for hours, not minutes. Slow watering will allow the water to reach deep into the soil and avoid runoff. 

Shows a tree watering guide for low, moderate and high water use trees

How often should I water my trees?

Once you water your trees, wait to water them again. Give the tree a good soaking every few weeks instead of shallow waterings every few days. Because you watered deeper, it will take longer for the soil to dry out, so you can wait a few weeks to water your trees again. Use our guide to see how often you should water your trees. 

Can I water my trees in a drought?

Yes. Helix Water District’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan allows and encourages tree watering in all but the worst conditions – during a Level 6 water emergency, when demand reductions of 50% or more are needed. This summer, all water agencies may be required to activate Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, regardless of local water supply conditions, following Governor Newsom’s March 2022 emergency executive order. While we have the water we need, we want to encourage you to keep being efficient and take care of your trees, even during droughts.

Photo of dripline arranged in concentric circles under tree.

Resources

Looking for more information? Check out the San Diego Regional Urban Foreses Council’s website for more tips on tree watering, including videos – in English and Spanish –  on how to water trees.

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Spring into these two contests

Spring into these two contests

Helix Water District’s WaterSmart landscape contest and Lake Jennings spring photo contest are open and actively seeking entries. If you enjoy the beautiful blooms of spring, green vegetation and perfect weather, then right now is a great time to enter for a chance to win prizes.

Through these two contests, Helix Water shares the beauty of Lake Jennings and water-efficient lifestyles with the 277,000 people we serve. Your contest entry can inspire others and make lasting changes for our community. We encourage you to enter in one or both contests this year.

WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Entries Due: Friday, May 13

The annual WaterSmart landscape contest recognizes Helix customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes. We would love to hear your story and help inspire others. This year’s contest winner will receive a $250 grand prize to the nursery of their choice.

 

To enter, simply take a few photos of your water-efficient landscaping, share why you installed your landscaping, the types of plants you have and some of the benefits you see. For more information and to enter, visit the contest website at landscapecontest.com or contact us at 619-667-6226.

Backyard garden patio with patio chairs and shrubs
Winner of Helix's 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Lake Jennings Spring Photo Contest

Entries Due: Tuesday, May 31

The Lake Jennings spring photo contest shares the beauty of our reservoir with the local community. Contest participants can get a free day pass to access, explore and photograph the scenic reservoir located in Lakeside. The contest is open to photos taken at Lake Jennings between March 1 and May 31, 2022.

 

This year’s contest theme is Life at the Lake. Photos can capture any aspect of the lake including camping, fishing, lake vistas, wildlife and wildflowers. The district will award prizes in two divisions, adult and youth. First place winners in each division will receive $150, second place winners will receive $100 and third place winners will receive $50.

For a complete set of contest rules and how to visit Lake Jennings, visit lakejennings.org/photo-contest.

Shows lake with sun setting over hillside and green grasses

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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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California Gets another Dry Year; Conservation Ramps Up

California Gets another Dry Year; Conservation Ramps Up

Photo: Scene from California’s Department of Water Resources April 1 snow survey at Philips Station, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Photo Credit: Ken James / California Department of Water Resources
For the state of California’s water resources managers, April 1 marks the end of the wet part of the year and beginning of the dry part. On April 1, they measure how deep the snow is in the Sierra, calculate how much water is in the snow, and announce how much water we have to fill reservoirs, grow crops and support cities and jobs. Today’s announcement: get ready for another year of drought.

What happened?

Our wet season began in October 2021 with generous rain and record snowfall in October and December. But those conditions did not last for long. January, February and March 2022 were the driest three consecutive months in California’s recorded history. California’s largest reservoirs, already low after two years of drought, are not going to refill this year, leaving Californians to rely on other water resources.

What supplies do we have?

Thankfully, the San Diego region is not solely dependent on supplies from Northern California and has sufficient water supplies to make it through this drought. Over the last 30 years, Helix has worked with the San Diego County Water Authority and neighboring water agencies to prepare for water shortages like this one.

First, we negotiated with Imperial Valley farmers in 2003 to buy partial rights to their Colorado River water and use it in San Diego. Then we invested in desalination, recycled water, and potable reuse projects to give us reliable, drought-proof supplies. We are all using water more efficiently, too. We use 40% less water than we did in 1990. This is important because our water supplies go further and last longer when we use less water.

Shows the back side of Hoover Dam and low levels at Lake Mead
Most of the imported water Helix purchases comes from the Colorado River, which is experiencing over two decades of drought

What can we do to help?

Keep up the excellent work. Your water bills and commitment to water conservation are the reason we have the water we need. Our continued efforts to use water efficiently and conserve our precious water resources will ensure we have water for our future. Here are some ways that you can keep doing your part.

Good

1. Wash only full loads

Save time, water and energy when you wash only full loads in your clothes washing machine. Clothes washers use almost 20% of indoor water use. You can get a rebate for up to $85 on a new High-Efficiency Clothes Washer at socalwatersmart.com.

2. Shorten showers

Showers account for another 20% of all indoor water use. You can use less by keeping your showers short and using an efficient showerhead.

3. Water when needed

Water your plants when they need water. One easy way to do this is to install a weather-based irrigation controller. Regular controllers use the same weekly schedule to water your plants, regardless of the weather. Weather-based irrigation controllers automatically adjust your watering schedule based on local weather conditions using your home’s Wi-Fi or real-time sensor data. They can help reduce your outdoor water use by as much as 15%. Get a rebate of up to $200 on select controllers at socalwatersmart.com.

 

Better

1. Check your sprinklers

Test your irrigation system by running each zone. Walk each zone; look for wet areas, leaks or broken equipment. Look for low pressure in sprinklers, which often means that there could be a leak in that zone. Make repairs as needed.

2. Mulch your plants

Using mulch in your landscape helps your soil retain water, and reduce evaporation and damage from the sun. Place mulch above the soil in a 3 to 4-inch layer. Keep 3 to 5 inches away from the base of any shrub or tree. Use mulch to cover the soil in planters, walkways and bare soil areas between plants. Helix customers can still get a rebate of $25 per cubic yard, up to $100, when they install plant-based mulch and apply for the rebate.

3. Fix leaky toilets

Toilet leaks are a very common source of water waste. A leaking toilet can use over 3 gallons per minute, costing up to $45 per day in water use. Check for leaking toilets by placing food dye inside the toilet tank and waiting 30 minutes. If there is a leak, the dye will flow into the toilet bowl. Watch our video on how to check for toilet leaks and make repairs. 

walkway in home front yard showing mulch between low water use plants
Water-efficient landscapes can use up to 80% less water than traditional landscapes.

Best

1. Get a flow monitoring device

One of the best ways you can save water is to know how much you are using by using a flow monitoring device. These devices attach to your water meter or water line and give you real-time information about your water use. Get a rebate of $100 at socalwatersmart.com.

2. Upgrade to a WaterSmart landscape

WaterSmart landscapes use 50% or even up to 80% less water than traditional lawns. Get more beauty and function out of your landscape while using less water. You can also get a rebate of up to $3 per square foot at socalwatersmart.com.

3. Seek (free) professional help

Contact us for a free home water-use evaluation. We’ll send out an expert to look at your landscape, irrigation system and water-using fixtures, and provide you with site-specific water-saving recommendations. The service is free. Schedule an appointment with us at [email protected] or call us at 619-667-6226.

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Your 60-second video could win two college scholarships

Your 60-second video could win two college scholarships

Hey, high school students! Your one-minute video could win a $2,000 college scholarship from the National Special Districts Coalition and a $1,500 college scholarship from the San Diego Chapter of the California Special Districts Association.

Update: The deadline to enter the national contest is March 31, and the deadline to enter the San Diego contest has been extended to April 30.

Both organizations want the same video – up to 60 seconds – highlighting the ways special districts “Make the Difference” in a community.

Special districts are local government organizations formed by communities to provide an essential service, like drinking water, parks and recreation or fire protection. Helix Water District is a special district and there are over 30,000 special districts across the U.S.

Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg and the San Diego Chapter of the California Special Districts Association launched the original video contest here in San Diego. It grew into a statewide contest, and now the National Special Districts Coalition is rolling it out across the U.S.

Enter the National Contest

2022 Districts Make the Difference Video Contest

2022 Districts Make the Difference Video Contest Rules

Enter the Local Contest

2022 San Diego Chapter CSDA Video Contest Flyer_UPDATED_extension

2022 San Diego Chapter CSDA Video Contest Rules_UPDATED_extension

Ideas for Your Video

Videos are scored based on accuracy and effectiveness, creativity and originality, production quality and entertainment value. If you’re wondering what kind of video to make, watch the winning videos from past years and take a look at these webpages to explore what special districts do:

Winning Videos – National Contest
www.districtsmakethedifference.org/about

Winning Videos – Local Contest
https://sandiegocsda.specialdistrict.org/video-contest

California Special Districts Association
https://csda.net/home

Map showing special districts in San Diego County
https://mydashgis.com/CSDA/map

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It’s Fix a Leak Week

It’s Fix a Leak Week

This Fix a Leak Week (March 14-20, 2022), we’re encouraging you to find and fix leaks at your home or business. Many of us have experienced leaks. Leaks can result in an expensive water bill and even cause damage to your home. Leaks also waste a lot of water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates annual household leaks waste over 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide. A trillion gallons is over 3.6 million acre-feet, and it’s almost enough water to supply all of San Diego for seven years.

We put this post together to help you find leaks when they happen and to help you fix some common leaks. Keep reading so you can save water, save money and avoid the hassle of leaks.

Image, courtesy of U.S. E.P.A

How to look for leaks

Use your water meter to check for leaks. Open your water meter and flip open the protective lid. Take a picture of the numbers and dials on your water meter before and after a two-hour period when you are not using water. If the numbers on the meter change at all, you probably have a leak. Visit our High Use page, where we dive into detail about finding and isolating many types of leaks.

Toilets leaks

Toilets are the most common type of household leak. When toilets leak, it’s usually from a worn flapper or a broken fill valve. These leaks send water to the toilet bowl and down the drain, where you will never see it. Leaking toilets can waste thousands of gallons in a day and they are easy to find. They are also easy and inexpensive to repair. Watch our video on how to find and fix toilet leaks.

Irrigation valves leaks

Irrigation valves are another common source of water leaks. Irrigation valves leak in two ways; either at the valve itself, or out of the lowest emitter in the zone. If you have an outdoor leak, you can find valve leaks by feeling the valve or listening for flowing water. If the valve is leaking, you should replace the valve. Watch our video to learn how to replace leaking irrigation valves.

Go smart and get notified of leaks

You can get a rebate on devices that can alert you of leaks and high use. Flow monitoring devices monitor your water use 24/7 and alert you of high use and leaks as they happen. Getting these alerts in real time – before they show up on your water bill – can help save water and money. The devices start at $150 and you can get a rebate of $100 on select flow monitoring devices at socalwatersmart.com.

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Share your WaterSmart landscape for a chance to win!

Share your WaterSmart landscape for a chance to win!

Photo: Rosalie Dosik, 2021 Landscape Contest Winner 

If you enjoy your water-saving landscape, right now is the best time to share it.

Enter Helix Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest and you could win the grand prize – a $250 gift card to the nursery of your choice. The contest recognizes Helix customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes and inspires others to upgrade their yards, too.

In its 18th year, the contest highlights the beauty and benefits that water-efficient landscapes offer. Water-efficient landscape designs can be one of the most effective ways to reduce overall water use. Compared to traditional landscapes, they use half or one-fifth the amount of water. When done well, these landscapes can also dramatically improve the appearance of a home.

patio furniture in vibrant but low water use garden

2021 Winner, Rosalie Dosik

Winner of Helix's 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

2020 Winner, Tim & Brianna

Front yard of Helix's 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest Mark and Lauren Kirkpatrick.

2019 Winner, Matt & Lauren

Winner of Helix's 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

“If you are excited about your thriving, water-efficient landscape, we encourage you to enter our 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest,” said Helix Water District Public Affairs Representative Vince Dambrose. “The joy your landscape brings you can also inspire others to adopt a water-efficient landscape, too. If you or a friend or neighbor have a water-efficient landscape, we would love to see photos and hear your story.”

Entries are judged for overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, efficient irrigation and appropriate maintenance.

How to Enter:

To enter the contest, customers should visit landscapecontest.com and select their water agency, then apply. Customers can even complete their contest entries using just a smartphone. Simply take 5-10 photos of your water-efficient landscaping, share why you installed your landscaping, the types of plants you have and some of the benefits you see.

The deadline to submit applications for the 2022 contest is Friday, May 13. For more information, visit the contest website at landscapecontest.com or contact us at 619-667-6226.

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