EPA Announces $18 Million WIFIA Loan to Helix Water District for Drinking Water Resiliency

EPA Announces $18 Million WIFIA Loan to Helix Water District for Drinking Water Resiliency

Photo: from right to left: Mark Gracyk, Helix Board of Directors; Hector Aguirre, EPA; De Ana Verbeke, Helix Board Vice President; Bruno Pigott, EPA; Joel Scalzitti, Helix Board of Directors; Kathleen Coates Hedberg, Helix Board President; Dan McMillan, Helix Board of Directors.

Nationally, 91 WIFIA loans issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are financing over $33 billion in water infrastructure upgrades, creating 101,000 jobs

From EPA Press Release Issued September 13, 2022
WASHINGTON
 – Today, at an event in Southern California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an $18 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to Helix Water District in San Diego County, California to support the Drinking Water Reliability Project. With EPA’s WIFIA loan, Helix Water District will increase the region’s drinking water resiliency by expanding water reuse opportunities and reducing reliance on imported water.

“Helix Water District’s project represents the future of water in the West,” said EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Bruno Pigott. “EPA is proud to help finance these infrastructure upgrades that will increase water reuse and help secure reliable safe drinking water for generations to come.”

Helix Water District will modernize existing pump stations, conveyance infrastructure, and distribution pipelines as well as install an aeration system in Lake Jennings to meet state surface water requirements. By completing this project, Helix Water District will replace 30% of its water needs that are currently met by strained regional sources with an alternative source of purified water conveyed from the East County Advanced Water Purification project, which received a separate WIFIA loan. This project also supports California’s Title 22 “Pure Water” objective to increase use of recycled water by at least 2 million-acre-feet per year by 2030.

“In California, we are purifying recycled water and ocean water to replace the water that nature used to provide,” said Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “The only way we can afford to keep rates as low as we can and develop these new projects is through collaboration – multiple agencies working together and securing capital from multiple funding sources. We are partnering with neighboring agencies to develop a new, drought-proof water supply and we are so pleased that the EPA selected our project for funding.”

As a result of the WIFIA program’s flexibility and competitive rates, Helix Water District will save approximately $3.2 million by financing with a WIFIA loan. Construction is expected to be completed in 2027 and construction and operation are estimated to create nearly 400 jobs.

EPA Deputy Asst. Administrator for Water Bruno Pigott speaking at Lake Jennings on September 13, 2022.
Asst. Director for Tribal and State Assistance, Office of Water, Pacific Southwest Division Office
Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg speaking at Lake Jennings on September 13, 2022.
Sunset at Lake Jennings on September 13, 2022.

Photos: Clockwise from top left: EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Bruno Pigott; EPA Assistant Director for Tribal and State Assistance for Water Hector Aguirre; Lake Jennings at sunset; Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg.

Background

Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. The WIFIA program’s aim is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.

The WIFIA program has an active pipeline of pending applications for projects that will result in billions of dollars in water infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. With this WIFIA loan closing, EPA has announced 91 WIFIA loans that are providing over $15 billion in credit assistance to help finance over $33 billion for water infrastructure while creating approximately 101,000 jobs and saving ratepayers over $5 billion.

Earlier this spring, EPA announced the availability of $5.5 billion under the 2022 WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability and an additional $1 billion under the State Infrastructure Financing Authority WIFIA (SWIFIA) program. Together, this newly available funding will support more than $13 billion in water infrastructure projects while creating more than 40,000 jobs. Visit the NOFA webpage for more information.

For more information about the WIFIA program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/wifia.

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Do you check our current construction map?

Do you check our current construction map?

We invest about $15 million annually in major construction projects to replace pipes, valves, reservoir tanks and other infrastructure that we put in place decades ago. This is how we ensure the reliability of your water service, and your water bills provide the funding. Would you like to see what you pay for?

Go to our website at hwd.com, hover on “Infrastructure” in the main menu and click on “Current Construction” in the dropdown menu. What you’ll find on our Current Construction page is an interactive map.

Location Markers
Each location marker on the map represents a major construction project we scheduled for the current fiscal year — the map we have now shows projects that we have scheduled through the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, 2022.

Click on a Location Marker
When you click on a location marker, a pop-up window shows you:

  • A short description of the project
  • When construction will start and end (end date is estimated)
  • A link to a detailed map showing the streets the project will impact
  • The contact information for the Helix engineer managing the project

Click on the Impacted Streets Link
Click on the Impacted Streets link and we’ll show you:

  • The streets and blocks where construction will occur
  • A detailed description of the work we’ll do, why we’re doing it and the cost of the project

Below the interactive map on the Current Construction page we have a link to our Capital Improvement Program. Explore this document if you want to know more about how we invest your water bill payments in the reliability of our water storage, treatment and distribution systems. It shows the projects we already completed, explains how we manage risk and prioritize projects, and describes the work that lay ahead.

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Join Helix Water Chats and Explore East County Advanced Water Purification

Join Helix Water Chats and Explore East County Advanced Water Purification

Update
The Helix Water Chats scheduled for March 3 and 8 will only happen once — on Tuesday, March 8 at 5:30 p.m. Join us!

Do you have questions about East County Advanced Water Purification (AWP)?  Join Helix Water Chats on zoom.com at 5:30 p.m. on March 8. We’ll start with a presentation, then discuss and answer customer questions.

East County AWP will use proven, state-of-the-art technology to purify recycled water and provide up to 30% of east county’s water supply. The project is a collaboration between Padre Dam Municipal Water District, City of El Cajon, County of San Diego and Helix Water District and is scheduled to go online in 2025. The presentation will explore:

– Advanced water purification (AWP)
– How this project will work
– The benefits it will provide for east county

Join Us!

Click on this link

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88369959483?pwd=QzU1NnN5UU1ON0R1RjR0eFBhbTBOQT09

Here is another way to access Zoom:
– Go to zoom.us
– Enter the Meeting ID: 883 6995 9483
– Enter the Passcode: 488488

You can also listen in:
– Dial 213-338-8477 (toll free)
– Enter the Meeting ID: 883 6995 9483
– Enter the Passcode: 488488

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Helix invited to apply for $15.8M WIFIA loan

Helix invited to apply for $15.8M WIFIA loan

From December 3, 2021 Press Release

Today, Helix Water District was invited by the US Environmental Protection Agency to apply for a $15.8 million low-interest loan to help finance major water infrastructure upgrades in East County.

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan will help the district pay for over $32 million worth of needed capital improvement projects and facility upgrades. The projects improve water reliability, quality and increase energy efficiency throughout the district’s 50 square mile service area.

A low-interest loan offers flexibility by allowing the district to tackle larger capital improvement projects while also keeping other projects on schedule. Financing the district’s upcoming projects also benefits customers by providing rate stability.

Capital improvement projects include replacing 20,000 linear feet of aging cast-iron pipe with PVC to reduce unplanned water outages and expensive emergency repairs.  The district also plans to upgrade its 50-year-old Johnstown Pump station, which provides water to the district’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant in Lakeside.  The new station will improve reliability and energy efficiency.

Additional projects are in preparation for East County Advanced Water Purification, a potable water reuse project that will create a local, drought-proof drinking water supply for East County. Funding will be used to modernize critical facilities including the district’s Chet Harritt Pump Station and the inlet/outlet tower piping at Lake Jennings before East County AWP goes online in 2025. Lake Jennings also will see improvements for water quality and monitoring, including adding aeration, installing on-site water quality monitoring facilities, a stormwater inflow retention system and providing backup generators for the lake.

“At Helix, we’re always planning ahead,” said Helix Water District Board President Joel Scalzitti. “This WIFIA loan will help us modernize our current infrastructure and ensure our future generations have access to safe and reliable drinking water. We are honored that our projects were selected for the EPA’s application process.”

The US EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation loan provides selected borrowers with innovative financing tools to address pressing public health and environmental challenges in their communities. Helix is one of 43 projects in 24 states that the EPA invited to apply or waitlisted for $6.7 billion in available WIFIA loans. Upon approval, the low-interest WIFIA loan will cover half of the district’s $32 million in infrastructure upgrades.

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.

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Our Cast-Iron Pipeline Replacement Program

Our Cast-Iron Pipeline Replacement Program

Water leaks at your home are inconvenient and costly. Now, imagine leaks happening at the utility scale where large pipes run in streets. That is why Helix Water District proactively maintains and replaces pipe through our cast-iron pipeline replacement program. We reduce the risk of expensive breaks and unexpected interruptions to your water service.

About Cast-Iron Pipe

When East County was expanding in the late 1920’s through the 1950’s, water utilities typically installed cast-iron pipes to deliver water. It is now the oldest pipe material in our distribution system. Most failures from cast-iron pipes are due to age-related corrosion. Although the majority of cast-iron pipes have a protective cement mortar interior lining, underground elements like harsh soils, moisture and movement can cause the outside of the cast-iron pipe to corrode.

Cast iron pipe installation in 1960s

1960’s cast iron pipe installation

Showing a modern development with pvc pipe installation

New development project with modern PVC pipe

Our Cast-Iron Pipeline Replacement Program

We have been replacing cast-iron pipes since the 1970’s. In 2006, we launched our cast-iron replacement program, a multi-year project to replace the remaining cast-iron pipe with PVC pipe. Our new PVC pipe does not corrode and is expected to last over 150 years. Our goal is to replace 15,000 linear feet of cast-iron pipe each year, and we replaced 15,140 feet last year.  This leaves us with 50.6 miles completed and 16.6 miles to go, and we are on track to remove all cast-iron pipe from our water distribution system by 2027.

We are committed to maintaining our distribution system to ensure reliable service for decades to come.  This investment in maintaining the infrastructure that delivers water to your home is one example of how Helix puts your rates to work.

To see where we are working this year, visit hwd.com/current-construction

 

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Read the latest edition of our Helix Highlights newsletter.

Read the latest edition of our Helix Highlights newsletter.

Our September-October newsletter highlights the investments your water bills have paid for and how they are providing reliable water supplies and a resilient water delivery system. We also share our Helix Helps Customer Assistance Program, as well as easy steps every resident can take to use water efficiently.

Articles include:

Water Shortage in Effect for Arizona Nevada and Mexico.

What does this mean for Helix customers?

Helix Valves Program Controls More Than Flows

Learn about the benefits of our valve program.

Emergency Preparedness at Helix

We share how we have prepared and how you can get prepared, too.

Do your part, be WaterSmart

Six ways to be WaterSmart at home and in the garden.

Helix Helps Customer Assistance Program

We’re offering a one time credit of up to $300 for eligible customers.

Read the Sep/Oct Newsletter

 

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Read Two Fiscal Outlooks on Water

Read Two Fiscal Outlooks on Water

Financing the ongoing operation and maintenance of a water system is an important focus for any water provider. It is how we can replace pipes, secure reliable water supplies and continue to provide service to our customers 24/7. The Public Policy Institute of California recently prepared two briefs discussing just that.

In the first report, the PPIC explains how customers of local utilities, like Helix Water District, provide 84 percent – or the majority – of the funding for water infrastructure. We get a lot done locally in collaboration with our wholesaler, the San Diego County Water Authority. Your water bills pay for projects that protect the health, quality and quantity of our water supplies. And, we do it without much assistance from the state or federal government.

Read the PPIC’s Paying for California’s Water System and see how vital local funding is for California’s water

The second report by the PPIC looks at the factors increasing local water costs, what they mean for water affordability and how they impact low-income residents.

“To cover rising costs, water bills have been rising faster than inflation in many parts of California. Investments to replace aging infrastructure, meet new treatment standards, diversify supplies, and maintain a well-trained workforce will continue to raise costs.”

Affordability is important to us at Helix, and we have already taken many of the recommended steps the PPIC provides, like using non-rate revenue to fund the district’s first ever customer financial assistance program and having an affordable rate design.

Read the PPIC’s Water Affordability summary and learn about why we take water affordability seriously   

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Honoring our Public Works Professionals

Honoring our Public Works Professionals

Helix is celebrating National Public Works Week and the accomplishments of public works employees. Their dedication and work make our lives better and our communities safer.

National Public Works Week takes place the third week of May and recognizes public works employees who build, manage, maintain and improve critical infrastructure that we all depend on and use each day. Public works are roads, water systems, flood control, wastewater collection, airports, parks, sidewalks and much more.

Examples of water use including industries, and services that we all depend on

As a water provider, Helix Water District knows the importance of public works. Water keeps us going from the time we turn on the faucet in the morning, throughout our day and when we need it at night. Even though we all depend on water, most of our infrastructure, like pipes, valves, tanks, pump stations, and other facilities, is underground or out of view. This makes it easy to take our safe and reliable water system for granted.

As we celebrate public works week, we want to encourage you to see what it takes to safely and reliably deliver water to your homes and businesses 24/7.

Watch our video below and thank your public works professionals.

Video Transcript: Understanding the Delivery System

We don’t necessarily understand or see the inner workings of water delivery from the source water to your tap. We all too often take that process for granted.

It’s more complicated than you actually might think.  Our water comes from several sources: 1) in the Colorado River; 2) up in northern California from the state water project; 3) from desalinated water in Carlsbad; and 4) we’re blessed here in the Helix Water District to have several reservoirs and a treatment plant.

We’re very fortunate in that we own Lake Cuyamaca up in the foothills in the Lagunas, and when we do get rain in the area, we take advantage of that.  We capture the water in Lake Cuyamaca, run it down into Lake El Capitan where we share rights with the city of San Diego, and from there we draw water into our treatment plant.

So when the water falls from the sky, we’re actually able to treat that water and put it through our distribution system through our pump stations, and our pipes, and our treatment systems right to your tap.  

The water delivery system is quite complex.  It starts from your raw water coming into the system through major transmission lines.  Those transmission lines feed into our treatment facility.  The water is treated to an incredibly high level that meets and or exceeds oftentimes, state and federal mandates.  From there it goes through a series of pump stations to feed up to pump water reservoirs or tanks, the stuff that you see in your community, the big steel structures, and then from there the water gravity feeds to the actual houses.  And I like to kind of compare that to somebody’s individual irrigation system where if we have a sprinkler system watering your plants, there’s a lot just involved in maintaining and repairing those things.  So this water system is on a much larger scale, 733 miles with a wide variety of materials.  So we have to be prepared to really respond, assess, maintain all of that in a moment’s notice.  It’s quite a complex process but we, we love what we do.

Our pipeline is distributed throughout the neighborhoods.  Our pump stations make sure those pipelines are always under pressure.  The tanks make sure we always have adequate supply and can and serve our customers, and every customer has a small pipeline that’s tapped to our mains in the streets.  So when you open your faucet you’re always receiving water, really from our tanks and distribution system.  

The Helix Water District is a, is a large agency.  We serve over 270,000 customers, you know through 56,000 connections.  We have a lot of infrastructure.  The infrastructure in today’s dollar amounts to about $1.6 billion.  We have over 700 miles of pipelines, 25 tanks, 25 pump stations, and about 56,000 services that we feed.

As public servants, our job is to make sure that your water is delivered.  As part of that goal, you never know we’re here and that means we’re doing a great job.

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New Video: Understanding the Delivery System

New Video: Understanding the Delivery System

You may not notice it, but we use a lot of infrastructure to move water from the source to your faucets.

We receive water from hundreds of miles away, as well as operate our own local water system. We move water in massive transmission lines to our treatment plant, where we treat it and send it through more pipes, pumps and storage facilities until it is ready for use.

Our new video shares the scale and complexity of what we do and why we love doing it.

Learn what it takes to deliver water and what Helix is doing to provide safe, reliable water to your faucets every day.

Video Transcript: Understanding the Delivery System

We don’t necessarily understand or see the inner workings of water delivery from the source water to your tap. We all too often take that process for granted.

It’s more complicated than you actually might think.  Our water comes from several sources: 1) in the Colorado River; 2) up in northern California from the state water project; 3) from desalinated water in Carlsbad; and 4) we’re blessed here in the Helix Water District to have several reservoirs and a treatment plant.

We’re very fortunate in that we own Lake Cuyamaca up in the foothills in the Lagunas, and when we do get rain in the area, we take advantage of that.  We capture the water in Lake Cuyamaca, run it down into Lake El Capitan where we share rights with the city of San Diego, and from there we draw water into our treatment plant.

So when the water falls from the sky, we’re actually able to treat that water and put it through our distribution system through our pump stations, and our pipes, and our treatment systems right to your tap.  

The water delivery system is quite complex.  It starts from your raw water coming into the system through major transmission lines.  Those transmission lines feed into our treatment facility.  The water is treated to an incredibly high level that meets and or exceeds oftentimes, state and federal mandates.  From there it goes through a series of pump stations to feed up to pump water reservoirs or tanks, the stuff that you see in your community, the big steel structures, and then from there the water gravity feeds to the actual houses.  And I like to kind of compare that to somebody’s individual irrigation system where if we have a sprinkler system watering your plants, there’s a lot just involved in maintaining and repairing those things.  So this water system is on a much larger scale, 733 miles with a wide variety of materials.  So we have to be prepared to really respond, assess, maintain all of that in a moment’s notice.  It’s quite a complex process but we, we love what we do.

Our pipeline is distributed throughout the neighborhoods.  Our pump stations make sure those pipelines are always under pressure.  The tanks make sure we always have adequate supply and can and serve our customers, and every customer has a small pipeline that’s tapped to our mains in the streets.  So when you open your faucet you’re always receiving water, really from our tanks and distribution system.  

The Helix Water District is a, is a large agency.  We serve over 270,000 customers, you know through 56,000 connections.  We have a lot of infrastructure.  The infrastructure in today’s dollar amounts to about $1.6 billion.  We have over 700 miles of pipelines, 25 tanks, 25 pump stations, and about 56,000 services that we feed.

As public servants, our job is to make sure that your water is delivered.  As part of that goal, you never know we’re here and that means we’re doing a great job.

Connect

We're on social media every day with the latest news from Helix. It's also where you'll find us, and the latest news, during an emergency.