Enter the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Enter the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

We want to recognize your landscape – show off your water saving yard for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate to the nursery of your choice.

The 15 annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest seeks to recognize Helix Water District customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes. Judging criteria for landscapes includes overall attractiveness, design, efficient use of irrigation methods, plant selection and maintenance.

Applying is easy – simply take photos of your water-wise landscaping, share a brief story about why you installed your WaterSmart landscape, and upload your story and pictures to landscapecontest.com   

The deadline to submit contest application and photos is Friday April 26, 2019.

For more information, visit the contest website:  landscapecontest.com or contact us at 619-667-6226.

POSTPONED: April 3 landscape workshop

POSTPONED: April 3 landscape workshop

Back by popular demand! Helix is hosting a WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at our Nat L. Eggert Operations Center in El Cajon.

The free, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. workshop will show you how to have a beautiful landscape that needs a fraction of the water, and a fraction of the maintenance, that a traditional landscape needs. The workshop is taught by one of our local landscape experts and brought to you by Helix and the San Diego County Water Authority.

You will learn:

  • How to convert your turf area to water efficient landscape
  • How to select plants that thrive in our Mediterranean climate
  • How to analyze your yard, identify your soil type, remove turf and irrigate efficiently
  • How to create a professional landscapewith planting and irrigation designs ready for installation

We encourage you to reserve your seats now as seating is limited and these workshops fill up fast. It’s easy to do: click on the link below and complete the registration form.


Grow more fruit trees in a small landscape

Grow more fruit trees in a small landscape

Have you ever heard of planting three different fruit trees in the same hole, with the trunks about two feet apart? This is called high-density planting and it is a useful technique when you have a small landscape. It’s also proven. During our recent droughts, California’s avocado growers learned that they could increase pollination and fruit yield without increasing water use by simply planting trees closer together.

Watch the 2:23 Video at NatureHills.com

2019 Trends in Garden Design

2019 Trends in Garden Design

Which would you rather spend your weekends on:

A yard that doesn’t need much water?
A water efficient landscape?
A wonderful garden?

Water utilities prefer the term water efficient landscaping. But, honestly, the idea of a wonderful garden is far more intriguing. After all:

Yardwork is a chore — “work” is half the word. 
Landscaping is maintenance — so much work, so often, that we usually outsource it.
Gardening is a passion — people love their gardens.

It’s not hard to understand why people love their gardens — they are a creative endeavor full of possibilities. While a water efficient landscape saves water, a wonderful garden immerses us in color, feeds us, creates a home for birds and butterflies, gives us a place to enjoy dinner with friends under the stars, provides cool shade on a hot day and quiet sanctuary after work — and saves water, too.

If the idea of turning your yard or landscape into a wonderful garden sparks your imagination, then you’ll like 2019 Trends in Garden Design in Garden Design Magazine. The article reports on 10 trends shaping the world’s wonderful gardens, from “Keeping it Low Maintenance” to “Creating a Staycation Spot”, and provides a list of ideas for incorporating each of the trends in your own wonderful garden.

Read 2019 Trends in Garden Design in Garden Design Magazine

And, don’t forget our WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop is coming up on Saturday, February 9 at 9:00 a.m.  If you’re raring to jump into your new gardening hobby, this workshop is a great place to begin. Reserve your seats!

Reserve Your Seats for Events at Helix and The Water Conservation Garden

Reserve Your Seats for Events at Helix and The Water Conservation Garden



The Lore of the Kumeyaay
Native Americans have inhabited San Diego County for over 10,000 years. Find out how they lived, their history, and spirituality, with long time student of Kumeyaay culture, Jan Tubiolo.

January 26 @ 10:30 a.m.
The Water Conservation Garden

Learn More and Register



Helix Water Talks: Helix Then and Now
Tour our 3-floor collection of historic photography and learn about the history of east county, Helix and our water supply, and what has changed over the years.

February 2 @ 8:30 a.m.
Helix Administration Office in La Mesa

Learn More and Register



WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop
This free, 3-hour workshop will show you how to have a beautiful landscape that needs a fraction of the water, and a fraction of the maintenance, that a traditional landscape needs. 

February 9 @ 9:00 a.m.
Helix Operations Center in El Cajon

Learn More and Register

The 3 Things Helix Said to Cleantech San Diego

The 3 Things Helix Said to Cleantech San Diego

Cleantech San Diego is a nonprofit organization that fosters collaboration between companies, government agencies and universities in the San Diego region to encourage investment in the technologies needed to make cities sustainable.

The nonprofit’s 100-plus members include the region’s universities, many of its cities and the likes of Qualcomm and Cisco, Ernst & Young and the Toronto Stock Exchange, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and venture capital firms, and a number of technology and energy startups.

Two water utilities are also members — Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the largest water utility in the United States, and Helix Water District. I asked Helix Facilities Manager Joe Garuba, who helps support sustainability initiatives within the district, to explain.

Joe, why did Helix join Cleantech?

Our board asked us to join over the summer and we did. Cleantech’s meetings are a good place for conversations on how to leverage advancing technologies to achieve sustainability in the region. They are the crossroads of the private sector, education, utilities and government, and they have established themselves across the region.

You and Helix Director of Operations Kevin Miller presented recently at Cleantech’s board of directors meeting. Why?

They asked us to present because we are at the front of the curve on water agency sustainability. We can also serve as a technical resource for the other members and provide opportunities for proof-of-concept projects. Since Cleantech members represent a variety of businesses, Helix has an opportunity to share its expertise with a broad cross-section of organizations.

Helix is seen as a regional leader in water. We bring a lot to the table from the water world, because we manage and operate both water treatment and water distribution systems. Engaging with Cleantech also helps fulfill our mission statement – to be a progressive industry leader. This means not just setting the bar but moving it forward in a cost-effective manner.

Helix Water District Energy Use

2017 Energy Consumption kWh – 12.9 M Total Usage

What were the key points of your presentation?

We recognized that there would be a lot of large companies at the meeting and many didn’t know that Helix has been around for 100 years, or that we are the second largest water agency in the region. We wanted to highlight our longevity and proven track record and reinforce that as a government agency, we set standards of excellence in public service and will continue to do so for decades to come.

We explained how this region’s water supply is managed collaboratively: that retail water agencies like Helix are member agencies of the San Diego County Water Authority, which is a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. And, we discussed our coordinated, multi-agency efforts to shape the regulations that come out of Sacramento.


Helix Water District Electricity Use Down 25%

Energy Consumption kWh

Finally, we talked about our approach to sustainability and the water/energy nexus. Ninety percent of Helix’s electric bill is for the treatment and movement of water.  We outlined how we actively manage our energy use – how we fill our reservoir tanks at night, for example — to reduce our burden on the power grid and to minimize the rates and charges we pay; our installation of a solar panel array at our operations center in El Cajon; and our increasing use of hybrid electric vehicles.

Even though the state of California has mandated that cities reduce their energy use, there is no similar mandate for water agencies. We wanted Cleantech member companies to understand that Helix is proactively pursuing energy efficiency to reduce the cost of water for our customers and are setting the standard for other water agencies to follow.

The Water/Energy Nexus

According to a November 2018 report from the Public Policy Institute of California, about 20 percent of all electricity use in California and 30 percent of the natural gas used in homes and businesses is related to water use. This is the nexus between water and energy.

The PPIC’s diagram below explains the nexus. What may surprise you is that moving billions of gallons of water from Northern California to Southern California accounts for just 10 percent of water’s energy use, and we use four times that much energy heating water in our homes. The takeaway is that conserving water also conserves energy, and that reduces carbon emissions. We have step-by-step instructions on our website to help you get started.

12 water efficient ideas for your front yard

12 water efficient ideas for your front yard

November and December are planting season! Right now is the best time of year to replace thirsty turf and plants with stylish, water efficient plants that will increase your home’s curb appeal and decrease your water bill.

If you’re not sure what to plant, or how to plant, start in the Home and Garden section of Sunset Magazine’s website. Grab a cup of coffee and explore the articles on Garden Basics, Edible Gardening, Landscaping, Green Living and Flowers and Plants. We selected an article for you — to get you started — and to show you the variety of landscapes that use less water than a lawn.

Read 12 Favorite Front-Yard Designs on Sunset’s website

Fall Back on Sunday

Fall Back on Sunday

And, adjust your irrigation settings.

This Sunday, November 4, marks the end of daylight savings time. After you set your clocks back, take a few minutes and also adjust your irrigation timer.

After all, since the days are shorter and the weather is finally cooler, your plants will need much less water. Making seasonal adjustments to your timer not only reduces water waste, but it also helps keep your landscape healthy. Fall is the perfect time to cut back on your watering days and times and helps you save water.

Also, don’t forget to turn off your sprinklers when rain is in the forecast and leave them off for at least 72 hours afterwards.

If you don’t have time to manually adjust your timer, consider upgrading to a weather-based irrigation controller which adjusts watering times automatically based on the changing weather and seasons. These controllers can also automatically delay irrigation before, during and after rain events. Helix customers are eligible for a rebate of up to $200 on weather-based irrigation controllers. Rebates are available at www.socalwatersmart.com.

Come to Our Nov. 7 Landscape Design Workshop

Come to Our Nov. 7 Landscape Design Workshop

Learn how to transform your yard into a beautiful, water-saving landscape at our FREE, 3-hour WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop on Wednesday, November 7, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This is the first time we have offered this popular workshop on a weeknight — for everyone who can’t come on a Saturday morning!  This workshop is filling up, so click on the link below today to reserve your seats.
Why is this workshop so popular? Because it’s taught by a local landscape expert, with an easy-to-follow teaching style and a solid understanding of what works and what doesn’t in east county. You’ll learn:
  • How to plan and design your landscape
  • How to remove your turf
  • How to select water efficient plants
  • How to irrigate efficiently 
  • How to harvest rainwater for irrigation
  • How to install your new landscape

Helix’s Nat L. Eggert Operations Center
1233 Vernon Way in El Cajon


$25 Rain Barrels – Reserve Yours by Oct. 28

$25 Rain Barrels – Reserve Yours by Oct. 28

The County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program and Solana Center for Environmental Innovation have teamed up to offer discounted rain barrels. Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water, prevent pollution runoff, and can help lower your water bill.

Place Your Order by October 28
This is a first come, first served offer — reserve your rain barrel by October 28 at rainbarrelprogram.org/sandiego.

SoCal Water Smart Rebate
Everyone who purchases a rain barrel is eligible for a $35 rebate (limit 2 rebates per household). Restrictions apply. Visit SoCalWaterSmart.com for details and to determine your eligibility.

Please note, to qualify for the SoCal Water Smart Rebate, the customer information you enter for the rain barrel purchase needs to match the name and address on your water bill.

San Diego County Unincorporated Residents Discount
For residents in unincorporated areas, San Diego County is offering an additional $30 discount (up to 2 per household) for the first 200 rain barrels sold! No discount code needed.

Go to Rain Water Solutions for more information

Nov. 3 — Autumn Fest & Plant Sale

Nov. 3 — Autumn Fest & Plant Sale

The Water Conservation Garden’s annual Autumn Fest & Plant Sale is Saturday, November 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to thousands of plants at once-a-year prices, the event includes:

  • Live entertainment
  • Craft vendors
  • Food Trucks
  • Plant sales
  • Kids activities
  • Workshops
  • “Ask the Designer” landscape consultations
  • Advice from partner water agencies

Reservations are recommended for The “Ask the Designer” consultations — call 619-660-0614 ext. 10 to reserve a time. These consultations are extremely popular, especially in early.November, when east county homeowners are designing and installing water efficient landscapes and edible gardens for the first time.

Adults & Kids 12 and Over   $5
Kids 3-11.  $3
Garden Members & Kids 2 and Under.  FREE

The Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West’
El Cajon, CA 92019



A luxe landscape for less: 5 ideas to save money

A luxe landscape for less: 5 ideas to save money

From Garden Design Magazine —
With all of the beautiful projects shown online and in magazines, it’s not hard for your taste level to outstrip your budget. How do professional designers handle this challenge? By cleverly reusing existing materials, amping up the star power on a few key elements, and using inexpensive techniques that actually look better than their pricier counterparts, they are able to get major bang for a little less buck. Here’s how they do it.

Read the Article

P.S. – the San Diego County Water Authority has a new fact sheet listing cost estimates for plants, irrigation and other landscape design materials — great information to help figure out what you can and can’t include in your water efficient landscape design.

See the Cost Estimates