DIY Energy Saving and Sustainability Toolkits now available for La Mesa residents

DIY Energy Saving and Sustainability Toolkits now available for La Mesa residents

The City of La Mesa, in conjunction with Helix Water District and SDG&E, is making it easy for its residents to save energy, conserve water and reduce waste by providing DIY Energy Saving and Sustainability Toolkits which are available for free checkout at La Mesa City Hall and Helix Water District.

 What’s in the toolkit

The DIY toolkit includes step-by-step instructions and all of the tools and free resources that you need for a do-it-yourself home energy, water and sustainability assessment. You’ll install the free resources at your home and return the tools when you’re done. The toolkit includes:

Free Resources (you keep and install)

LED light bulb

Weather stripping

Outlet gaskets

Detect-A-Leak toilet tablets

Low-flow showerhead

Low-flow faucet aerators

 Tools (return with the kit)

Kill-A-Watt meter

Infrared laser thermometer

Refrigerator thermometer

Water flow rate bag

Water pressure gauge


Plumbers tape

 and more!

 How to check out a toolkit

The DIY toolkits are available to City of La Mesa residents and can be checked out for up to two weeks. Make your online reservation and choose your pick-up location – either La Mesa City Hall or Helix Water District’s administration office at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa. When you’re done with kit, simply return it to the pick-up location.

 The toolkits are a partnership between the City of La Mesa, Helix Water District and SDG&E to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the City of La Mesa meet their climate action plan goals. Help make your community cleaner and greener by making your reservation today!

You can learn more about the program and watch the City of La Mesa’s video here.

Helix launches smart leak detector rebate program

Helix launches smart leak detector rebate program

Customers of Helix Water District are now eligible for a $100 rebate when they purchase a qualifying smart leak detector device.

Smart leak detectors allow you to monitor your home’s water use in real time, 24/7. They sync to your smartphone and alert you if there is high consumption or a leak at your property. This can help you manage your daily water use and protect your home from expensive leaks. There are two types of smart leak detectors: plumbed devices and external devices. Learn more about plumbed versus external devices and the rebate program here.


It’s easy to apply!

  1. Purchase a qualifying device on or after August 1, 2019.
  2. Complete the application.
  3. Submit your application and a copy of your sales receipt to


Qualifying devices

A qualifying device requires all of the following characteristics:

  1. Automatically records water use at a minimum of five minute intervals;
  2. Automatically alerts or notifies users of unusual water usage including spikes in usage and continual flows; and
  3. Provides customers with a platform to view their water consumption data.

Some devices require tapping into your existing plumbing and may require a licensed plumber for installation, while others simply attach to your water meter.

Examples of models that meet the qualifying device characteristics include:

Plumbed Devices

External Devices


DISCLAIMER: Helix Water District does not endorse individual vendors, products or services. Therefore, any reference herein to any vendor or product by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise does not constitute or imply the endorsement or recommendation of Helix Water District.

Rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are not guaranteed.


Helix shares sustainability practices with local leaders

Helix shares sustainability practices with local leaders

A diverse group of entrepreneurs, business leaders and government employees spent an afternoon learning about Helix’s sustainability and energy saving practices last week.

The tour, hosted by the Port of San Diego’s Green Business Network, visited Helix Water District’s Nat L. Eggert Operations Center in El Cajon and R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant in Lakeside.

Pumping, treating and moving water from its source to customers’ taps requires a tremendous amount of energy. Helix spent $2.2 million dollars on energy costs in fiscal year 2017-18.

Controlling energy costs and their impact on water rates, is a priority for the district. Over the past 10 years, Helix’s commitment to sustainability has resulted in a 25 percent reduction in its electricity consumption while continuing to provide a safe and reliable water supply to its customers.

Photo – Tour visitors got a close-up look at Helix’s energy efficiency practices, including:

  • A 240 MW solar shade structure, which produces 100 percent of the Nat L. Eggert Operations Center’s electricity
  • 10 electric vehicle-charging stations, funded through SDG&E’s Power Your Drive program
  • Improved motor control and electrical efficiency at the district’s 25 pump stations
  • Scheduling of major pumps and motors to operate during the off-peak hours
  • Installation of efficient lighting and HVAC systems at district facilities

“We enjoy sharing our energy saving practices with community members,” said Joe Garuba, Helix’s Facilities Manager. “We hope other businesses and agencies can apply some of our practices in their own fields of work so that they can also succeed with their energy-related goals.”

This past April, Helix was honored by San Diego Gas & Electric at their Annual Energy Showcase for Excellence In Energy Leadership. The Port of San Diego’s Green Business Network is comprised of businesses and facilities looking to reduce energy, water and waste, reached out to the district following the awards ceremony.

Learn more about Helix’s sustainability efforts and view SDG&E’s video here.

Native gardening workshop – September 14

Native gardening workshop – September 14

The San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society will present The Resilient California Native Garden, a day-long workshop on September 14.

The workshop will feature five presentations on how to enhance the natural resilience of native landscapes, whether you are planting for the first time or are redesigning parts of your established landscape. Whether it is planting native trees or plants to attract birds as an important part of your ecosystem, or designing your area to make best use of water, this workshop will assist you in looking at the larger ecological picture and being creative in your decision making.


Gardening Is for The Birds — Birdscaping Your Garden Using Native Plants 

Watering for Health, Fire Resistance, and Conservation in The California Native Landscape

Landscaping with Native Trees

Horticultural Valor in the Native Garden —Be Bold!

I Will Survive – A Panel Discussion on Strategies for Creating a Flourishing and Durable California Native Garden  

Date and Time

9:00 a.m.
September 14, 2019
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego campus
4190 Front St, San Diego, CA 92103

Visit ticket page:

Visit the CNPSSD website:
for full schedule, speakers and details

Affordable succulent landscapes

Affordable succulent landscapes

We know that most customers who try to save water outdoors do it to save money. We also know when it comes to landscaping projects, grass removal is cheaper than new plant purchases.  To help you along in your water savings projects, we would like to share with you some affordable ways you can use succulents in your new landscaping project.

The secret is through propagation. Propagation involves taking cuttings of a healthy plant to clone new plants and is especially easy to do with succulents.

  1. Cut off one of the stems, offsets, or clusters of the succulent you want to use.
  2. Let the wound from the cut dry for 3-5 days.
  3. Plant in soil.
  4. Water normally.

Once you understand this simple propagation, you can use the cuttings elsewhere in your landscape. This way you don’t have to purchase multiples of the same plant, or in many cases avoid purchasing plants at all!

Know Which Plants to Look For

If you are considering buying plants, know the full size of the species first. This will help you to know how much room they need to grow. Then look for smaller pots of that species since smaller potted plants are cheaper. They may be small at first, but they will grow to full size in no time. You can also look for pots that have more than one plant in them. Look for succulents with offsets, pups or multiple clusters. Each of these groupings can easily be cut to create a new plant.

Look for Vendors Who Sell Cuttings

These are typically much cheaper than what you would pay at a garden store or nursery. The Water Conservation Garden sells cuttings at $5 per bag, which is a great way to get started. In addition, you will have a diverse selection to continue to propagate from.

Use Your Own Cuttings

Succulents can grow quickly and require trimming every now and then. This is a perfect opportunity to create more cuttings and fill in other areas.

Talk With Your Neighbors

Asking a neighbor if they could offer you a succulent cutting is a great way to stay in touch or meet your neighbors. One of the added benefits to this is that they can see their plants growing across the street.

Look for Succulent Swaps or Social Groups

Two groups in the area are the Grossmont- Mt. Helix Improvement Association and the San Diego Succulent Swap. Grossmont- Mt. Helix Improvement Association hosts an annual “Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Succulents” event where neighbors donate cuttings, bulbs and seeds and offer them free to the public. Look for their next event and feel free to donate some cuttings of your own!

Another is the Facebook group SD Succulent Swap, which is full of succulent enthusiasts who share cuttings at various tables all across the county. It is a great way to find succulents and learn other creative landscaping ideas.

Affordable landscaping takes patience and creativity, but in the end, you can have a beautiful water-saving landscape. The best part is that your landscaping improvements can beautify your home and neighborhood.

Stay tuned for other tips and tricks by following our blog at the bottom of this page.

Your guide to the turf rebate

Your guide to the turf rebate

There’s a new turf rebate program in town
The Turf Replacement Program now offers $2 per square foot when you replace existing lawns with sustainable landscaping. If you want to upgrade your landscape and save water, this quick guide will help you claim your rebate money today!

Reserve your rebate, then remove your grass
Before you start your project, submit photos of your grass and your rebate application to receive a rebate reservation. Once you receive a reservation, you have 180 days to complete your project.

What qualifies
Residential and commercial properties are eligible to receive $2 per square foot of grass when replaced with sustainable landscaping.

Grass must be alive and in place before your landscaping project begins. Only planted or permeable areas count towards your rebate. Residential customers are eligible to replace 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.

This program promotes the best of both worlds: water savings and sustainability. These requirements will help you save water and have a healthy sustainable landscape with benefits beyond water savings.

Soil and Plant Coverage
The program requires you to include a minimum plant coverage of 3 plants per 100 square feet of transformed landscaping – think 3 plants for each 10’x10’ room. In addition, cover all bare soil areas with a 3 inch layer of mulch. Mulch 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, prevents weeds and is inexpensive.
About Hardscapes 
You can include hardscapes in your design, but they will not count towards your rebate. Examples of common hardscapes include artificial turf, turf look-a-likes, impermeable walkways, and patios.

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 and claim an additional rebate. See our video to learn how.

Capture Rain Water
Part of the benefits of removing your grass is that you can now capture, slow and sink rainwater for your other 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 Water$mart website for more information.

Ready to Get Started?
Start your rebate application today. Go to to reserve your funds.

Or, if you are looking for assistance in planning and designing your project, Helix is hosting a FREE four-part landscape makeover series. Class times are 6 – 9 p.m. September 4, 11, 18 and 25. Go to to register or find other open classes across the county.

Native garden wins Helix’s 2019 landscape contest

Native garden wins Helix’s 2019 landscape contest

Helix Water District has named Matt and Lauren Kirkpatrick of La Mesa as this year’s winner of its WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

Compared to the Kirkpatricks’ previous lawn, this growing, colorful and entirely native landscape requires very little water and creates a place of inspiration and peace for these outdoor enthusiasts. Over the two-month billing period ending this April, this home used just 13 units of water, which is almost 40 percent less than the average water use of other Helix customers.  One unit is 748 gallons.

The Kirkpatricks purchased the home in 2014 with a front yard full of grass that required frequent watering and mowing just to maintain a modest appearance. In the end, the lawn’s appearance was lackluster and proved to be too costly and time consuming for the couple. Taking advantage of SoCal WaterSmart’s grass removal rebate program, the Kirkpatricks tossed their turf for a landscape that requires less maintenance, less water and offers more beauty.

The two chose a native plant pallet so that they can bring home the look, feel and smell of what they love – the California outdoors. “California natives were an obvious choice,” said Matt Kirkpatrick. “They are a reflection of our love for the plants we know closely from our experiences outdoors. Native plants make us feel at home and give us an appreciation for the beauty of our state.”

Although only a few months old, the yard already displays a wonderful spring bloom with a wide variety of colors that native landscapes can offer. There are vibrant oranges from hundreds of California poppies, reds from sticky monkey flower, blues from ceanothus, purples from lupine, yellows from yarrow and plenty of green and golds from various shrubs and grasses. At the center of the landscape is a young but promising Engelmann Oak, a signature Southern California tree among wild and urban landscapes.

Plants receive water from rainwater catchment and through an efficient irrigation system, which the couple installed. The landscape captures rainwater from the roof and diverts it into two separate swales designed to absorb the water and allow it time to soak into the soil. The two swales provide water for half of the yard and prevent rainwater from running off into the street. The remaining plants receive water through high-efficiency spray nozzles that were retrofitted onto the existing irrigation system and use less water than the previous sprinklers. The Kirkpatricks only run the system once per month during the warm season.

Native gardens are just one of many different designs of landscapes available to homeowners looking to redesign their thirsty and traditional landscapes. In addition to requiring minimal irrigation beyond rainfall, native gardens are colorful, low maintenance and provide a natural habitat for local wildlife.


Helix will invite the Kirkpatricks to receive their prizes—gift cards totaling $250 and an award certificate—at Helix Water District’s Board of Directors Meeting on Wednesday, June 19 at 6:00 pm. Kirkpatrick also will get a WaterSmart contest winner’s sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the Kirkpatricks’ yard will appear in the winner’s section at, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other local water agencies, and on the district’s website at

The landscape contest runs from January through April each year.  Visit Helix’s website at, or Twitter at @HelixWater for more information.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to over 276,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.


SDG&E honors Helix for sustainability

SDG&E honors Helix for sustainability

San Diego Gas and Electric honored Helix Water District yesterday at the energy utility’s Annual Energy Showcase for leadership in advancing energy efficiency and sustainability in the San Diego region. Below is the video they produced about Helix for yesterday’s awards ceremony.

“This is a nice award to receive,” said Helix Board President Dan McMillan, “Because it recognizes the commitment the board made years ago to increase energy efficiency, and it reflects our results.”

Energy – primarily to pump water throughout Helix’s distribution system, which serves 275,000 people in El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and other unincorporated areas of the county – cost Helix Water District $2.2 million in fiscal year 2017-18.  Controlling energy costs, and their impact on water rates, is a priority for the district.

Helix Water District 2017 Energy Consumption

Helix maintains operations and design standards that reduce the district’s energy demand during peak periods when SDG&E’s charges are higher, and the district purchases energy through the State of California’s Direct Access Program, saving an average of 18 percent on commodity costs. Helix staff continually evaluate opportunities to replace aging infrastructure with energy efficient solutions and smart building systems. A solar energy system at the district’s operations center in El Cajon further reduces energy demands and costs.

In 2012, Helix retained DHK Engineers of Escondido to perform an energy audit of the district’s facilities, and the firm worked closely with Helix staff to prepare a list of 150 energy conservation opportunities. A week ago, on April 24, 2019, DHK reported to the Helix board that staff had successfully implemented 148 of the conservation strategies, including:

Constantly monitoring SDG&E rate schedules and schedule alterations

Load shifting to off-peak periods at the treatment plant and pump stations

Equipping pumps with power meters, programmable logic controllers and variable frequency drives for remote monitoring and operation through the district’s supervisory control and data acquisition system

Installing window film on the district’s Administration Office

Installing energy efficient lights in all district buildings

Last year, Helix enrolled in SDG&E’s Power Your Drive Program to install 20 electrical vehicle charging stations through a $225,000 grant. The district also purchased six plug-in hybrid vehicles, received a $3,500 rebate per vehicle from California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, and expects to save $1,000 per vehicle annually based on avoided fuel costs. The district expects the integration of electric vehicles into its vehicle fleet to accelerate when hybrid light-duty trucks become available.

Helix Water District 2005-2017 Energy Consumption

Combined, these initiatives have reduced Helix’s annual energy use by 25 percent over the last 10 years.

“We are reducing operating costs for our customers,” said Helix boardmember Mark Gracyk. “Helix is also becoming part of the solution. We are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the sustainability of the communities we serve.”

Becoming part of the solution was the key message at SDG&E’s Energy Showcase event. “It’s electric in here,” Helix boardmember Kathleen Coates Hedberg half-joked during the event. “Everyone and every company that’s here is pulling in the same direction – towards a sustainable California – and you can feel the momentum.”



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   

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

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