What you missed from last week’s Water Chat about meter accuracy:

What you missed from last week’s Water Chat about meter accuracy:

Last week we hosted a live event on Facebook explaining everything you need to know about your Helix water meter. We also shared a video of Helix construction and meter shop supervisor Dan Baker answering some common questions about water meters and accuracy. 

The 4-minute video shows our testing procedures, how we read meters, why we replace meters and how to use your meter to find a leak.

Q. First off, how accurate are water meters?

New water meters must meet industry-specific guidelines and must fall between 98.5 and 101.5 percent accuracy across three different flow rates. For an added layer of quality control, Helix tests a sample of new meters before field installation to verify the manufacturer’s test results.

Q. Are old water meters accurate?

Old water meters actually under-read water consumption, allowing more water to flow through the meter than the meter registers and work as expected for approximately 17 years. For this reason, Helix staff replaces water meters once they are 15-20 years old. We replace around 3,000 water meters per year to maintain the replacement cycle of our 56,500 water meters.

Q. How do we test meters?

At our El Cajon Operations Center, Helix staff test meters on a testing bench. The bench allows staff to run varying flows of water through the meters into a tank with a known volume. We record the meter’s reading before starting the test and then again after the flow test. We then compare the readings, which provides us with the accuracy of that meter for that flow rate. For residential water meters, we test using a high flow at 25 gallons per minute, a medium flow of 3 gallons per minute and a low flow of ¼ gallon per minute.

Q. How do water meters work?

Water meters are 100 percent mechanical, meaning you have to use water for the meter to register use. We mostly use a type called a positive displacement meter. These meters have a disk inside of a chamber with a known volume. As water flows through the chamber, it rotates the disk and the meter register records the rotations, just like a car’s odometer.

Q. How do we ensure our meter reads are correct?

Our meter readers visit each address – and meter – every two months, and use a handheld device to enter the meter reading for each account. The device informs readers of the meter address, location, serial number and previous reading. The device also alerts the reader if the reading is too high or too low based on that property’s historical consumption and prompts the reader to reenter the actual reading. Once we upload the reading data, our customer service team runs a separate analysis of high and low readings for an extra layer of quality control. If our customer service team determines that the read seems too high or low, we send out a different meter reader to the property to verify the read.

Q. What should I do if I have a high bill or think my reading is wrong?

Give us a call. We would be happy to assist you. We can help you troubleshoot possible reasons for high use or send out a representative for a free water use evaluation. Call us at 619-466-0585 

Upcoming Water Chats

Started in 2019, our Water Chats series invites customers for a conversation and in-depth look at what we do. These smaller “chats” focus on single water-related subjects like distribution, supply, meters and infrastructure.
We are hosting our next Water Chat on January 28 at 5:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. We will take you on a virtual tour of our tanks and discuss how we use gravity to deliver water. We started doing Water Chats on Facebook Live in July to allow customers to participate during the pandemic.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

Check out our construction map and see where we are improving our system

Check out our construction map and see where we are improving our system

We updated our construction map so that you can see where and how we are putting your rates to work. Our interactive map shows project details, the timeframe for construction, and how to contact the project manager.
We have 10 construction projects scheduled for this year. Each one of these projects is part of the district’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This plan prioritizes the design and replacement of specific infrastructure over a 10-year horizon.

Our CIP helps maintain over $1 billion in assets required to ensure the district’s 24/7 water delivery—from our dams, water treatment plant and pump stations to our pipes, valves and meters. Our goal is to manage our assets as efficiently as possible. That is why we replace infrastructure before it fails, so we can keep the water flowing to your homes and businesses.

This year, we scheduled five cast iron pipe replacement projects, two water storage tank improvement projects, replacement of two transmission pipeline valves and 45 distribution system valves, and a service lateral replacement project. By reinvesting your water rates, we can improve our water system’s operation, reduce emergency repair costs and make our communities more resilient.

Image shows new pipe and valves in the ground
Image shows Helix Water Tank.

What you missed from last week’s Water Chat about meter accuracy:

Water Chats – We’re talking about the accuracy of water meters on Nov. 5

We read your meter every two months to calculate your water bill. Meters have to be accurate, and making sure they are is the responsibility of meter shop manager Dan Baker.

Watch our interview with Dan on Facebook Live at noon on Thursday, November 5. He’ll show us how meters work, how we maintain accuracy and how to use your meter to check for leaks on your property. We’ll also discuss what happens to meters as they age and why we replace water meters.

Grab your lunch and join us on Facebook.

Date and Time                                                                                                                                                                                          Thursday, November 5                                                                                                                                                                              12 p.m.

Location                                                                                                                                                                                            Watch on facebook.com/helixwater

 

New Partnership Improves Public Safety in East County

New Partnership Improves Public Safety in East County

Helix Water District recently collaborated with Heartland Communication Facility Authority to improve communications for firefighters and first responders operating in East County by installing a new radio repeater on Helix Water’s Calavo tank, located near Mt. Helix.

“When public agencies work together to improve the lives of our citizens, everyone benefits. We are delighted with the outcome and are very proud to participate in making East County a safer place to live,” said Helix Board President Mark Gracyk.

The HFCA provides public safety communication services to 13 different fire departments and districts in San Diego’s East County. They use a universal radio system – known as a VHF radio – to communicate with different firefighters and first responders. Though reliable, our hills and mountains can interfere with VHF radio communications. HCFA wanted to improve communication in the El Cajon and Spring Valley areas, but they did not have a place to install a radio repeater between these two communities. Recognizing that Helix’s Calavo storage tank was in a strategic location to install a new radio repeater, the HFCA approached Helix to work out an agreement.

“Heartland Communications Facility Authority knows the needs of our local emergency communication infrastructure,” said Helix Water District Board Member Dan McMillian. “When HFCA approached Helix, our board saw this as an opportunity for our two agencies to work together for the benefit of the communities that we serve.”

Above: New onsite radio repeater unit

Above: New conduit leading to top of the Helix Calavo tank

Above: New sky blue radio antenna at top of the Helix Calavo tank

Construction started in March 2020 and completed in June 2020.  Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a 4-foot antenna at the top of the tank. As part of the project, San Diego Gas and Electric installed a new electric service and meter at the site so that the HFCA’s equipment can operate independently from Helix’s pumps and monitoring equipment.

“The HCFA/Helix partnership will enhance communication capability throughout El Cajon and Spring Valley. The HCFA and its member agencies are proud to partner with Helix Water District in improving fire protection and firefighter safety in the East County,” said Carlos Castillo, director of communications for HFCA. “Communications are an integral part of the firefighting effort in suppressing wildland fires, and firefighter safety relies on an effective communication infrastructure.”

The Heartland Communication Facility Authority provides emergency communication services for its member agencies, which include Alpine Fire, Bonita Fire, San Miguel Fire, City of El Cajon, City of La Mesa, City of Lemon Grove, Lakeside Fire, City of Santee, Barona Fire and Viejas Fire.

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.

Q. Is there a way to visualize household water use?

Q. Is there a way to visualize household water use?

A. Yes, picture a 40-foot shipping container.

Helix’s average residential customer uses 21 units of water over a 60 day billing cycle. That much water would fill a 40-foot shipping container to about a foot from the top.

Now try to visualize 46,752 shipping containers — one for every single family home Helix serves. Delivering 46,752 shipping containers would take a fleet of six ships like the one in the photo above.

This is the scale of Helix’s operations, and the value of a water distribution system that delivers this much water on demand, in your home, 24/7 — at a cost of less than one cent per gallon.

Helix Boardmember Joel Scalzitti Joins Joint Powers Authority

Helix Boardmember Joel Scalzitti Joins Joint Powers Authority

Photo: Helix Boardmember Joel Scalzitti with East County Advanced Water Purification Joint Powers Authority members. Left to right: Padre Dam Municipal Water District Boardmember August Caires, Scalzitti, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and El Cajon Councilmember Gary Kendrick.

On February 20, the East County Advanced Water Purification Joint Powers Authority swore in Helix board member Joel Scalzitti as a nonvoting, ex-officio member of the JPA. Helix board member Kathleen Coates-Hedberg will serve as an alternate.

The three voting member agencies of the JPA which include Padre Dam Municipal Water District, city of El Cajon and County of San Diego, serve as governing members of the project. Helix’s role in the JPA is to serve as an advisory member, focused on providing input about the drinking water component of this project.

“We look forward to our participation in this project and working with the JPA”, said Scalzitti.

The proposed $528 million project will use advanced water treatment technology to purify the recycled wastewater that the ECAWP JPA will produce. The purified water will be delivered to Lake Jennings and treated through Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant. This program will reduce the discharge of wastewater to the ocean at the City of San Diego’s and expects to produce up to 30 percent of East County’s drinking water supply. This water will create a local, sustainable drought-proof supply and reduce East County’s dependence on imported water.

For more information on Helix’s involvement go to eastcountyawp.com

Photo: Helix board members Joel Scalzitti and Kathleen Coates-Hedberg, who will serve as Helix’s alternate representative to the JPA.

How a Helix team is modernizing the district

How a Helix team is modernizing the district

Before Helix installed a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, field operations staff used to drive to each of the district’s 25 pump stations to turn on a pump.

Helix’s SCADA system consists of remote computers that operate sensors and switches throughout the district’s infrastructure. Staff communicate with the computers to monitor and operate the district’s water treatment plant and water distribution system, which serves 276,000 people.

A supervisor and four Helix employees support the SCADA system and the motors, instruments and controls to which it is connected. The team’s latest accomplishment is standardizing the design, hardware and software of the motor control centers in Helix’s 25 pump stations. Helix Electrical Technician David Reagan, a member of the SCADA team, wrote about the project in a feature article in Flow Control Magazine, and the article gives Helix customers a deep look into the technology behind our operations.

Read David Reagan’s Article in Flow Control Magazine

Investments in water reliability paying off

Investments in water reliability paying off

Every ratepayer in the San Diego region is an investor in a reliable water supply, and today, our investments are paying off. Even if drought grips this region, or the state, we have access to enough water to meet our needs.

THE NEED FOR RELIABLE WATER

We were not always in this solid position. In 1991, after four years of drought, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California threatened to increase water delivery cutbacks  to the San Diego region from 31 percent to 50 percent. Managing drought is always challenging, but the real issue was that Metropolitan was our only water supplier.

Luckily, the drought ended before the 50 percent cutback started. However, the cities and water districts serving the San Diego region – including Helix Water District – vowed never to be in such a vulnerable position again. Over the last 25 years, we’ve collaboratively invested in, and developed a diversified and reliable water supply.

Imported water arrives to San Diego County via the San Diego County Water Authority, our region’s water supplier. SDCWA secures and delivers water to 24 cities, municipalities and water agencies, and its 36-member board of directors is made up of representatives from those 24 member agencies. Helix board members hold two seats on SDCWA’s board, helping to shape regional water policies

WATER TRANSFERS: HELPING FARMS CONSERVE

When SDCWA first looked for a new reliable water source, it turned to its water-secure neighbor in the Imperial Valley, the Imperial Irrigation District.

IID happens to have some of the largest and oldest water rights in the entire southwest. IID receives 3.1 million acre feet of Colorado River water annually – more than Arizona and Nevada receive together each year. Additionally, IID’s Colorado River rights predate California’s and even MWD’s water rights. This means that IID’s water is last in line to receive water supply cuts.

An acre-foot is 325,900 gallons – roughly enough water to submerge a football field one foot deep, or enough water to supply 2.5 single-family households of four for a year.

Looking for a secure supply, SDCWA began negotiations with IID in the early 1990’s to create large-scale, farm-to-urban transfers. In 2003, IID, Coachella Valley Water District and SDCWA signed the Quantification Settlement Agreement.  The QSA agreement allows SDCWA ratepayers to pay for on-farm conservation programs in Imperial County and allows IID to transfer the conserved water to San Diego. Last year, SDCWA received 160,000 acre-feet of water from this agreement, providing almost 35 percent of our regional water supply. This amount ramps up to 200,000 acre-feet per year in 2021 and the agreement lasts until 2078.

LINING IMPERIAL VALLEY IRRIGATION CANALS

Another benefit of the QSA is that it allowed for the transfer of water from lining porous canals in IID and CVWD. Prior to these canal linings, earthen canals lost millions of gallons of water each year to soil seepage. SDCWA financed the lining of 23 miles of the All American Canal in IID canal and another 35 miles of the Coachella Valley Canal in CVWD.

In return for the projects, SDCWA delivers to member agencies 80,000 acre-feet of this conserved water annually for the next 110 years. This is enough water to provide 15 percent of SDCWA’s annual water demands.

DESALINATION

In addition to looking for reliable sources, SDCWA wanted a diverse portfolio of water sources. This way if there is a shortage in one water source, other sources may supplement our needs.

Being a coastal community, SDCWA looked towards ocean desalination as a local, drought-proof water supply. In 2015, the Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad opened, producing 56,000 acre-feet per year or 10 percent of our region’s annual water supply.

WATER CONSERVATION

Finally, through regional conservation programs, we use 25 percent less water today than we did in 1990, even though our population grew over 25 percent. This is thanks to almost 30 years of regional conservation programs that encourage residents to install efficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines, faucets, irrigation systems and climate appropriate landscapes.

Water we conserve is water that we do not have to annually purchase or transfer. This makes a big difference; SDCWA’s regional conservation programs conserve about 90,000 acre-feet of water each year. This is about one and a half times the amount of water  the Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant produces; to produce or transfer the same amount of water would be very expensive. Since this plant cost over $1 billion to construct, you can see savings.   

YOU BENEFIT FROM WATER SUPPLY INVESTMENTS

We have come a long way since 1990 when MWD was our sole supplier. By 2020, MWD will only provide 11 percent of SDCWA’s water supply.

With the new water transfers, local supplies,  desalination and a water use efficiency, San Diego shines as a model for long-term water reliability and sustainability. We have more access to water than we currently use. This is water for our homes and landscapes, businesses and industries and water for our growing regional needs.  

For the benefit of our region, our local leaders ensured our future by securing reliable water supplies. Through your water rates and the rates of every water customer in San Diego, we have water.

Use it as you need to, use it wisely and be proud of the future we now have.

As a member agency of the Water Authority, Helix Water District is committed to continuing to secure a sustainable water supply for our customers. To learn more about the steps and actions we are taking, visit hwd.com/sustainable-utility/

See how our water system works — Helix Water Chats is on Thursday, December 5

See how our water system works — Helix Water Chats is on Thursday, December 5

Learn how our water system works and see how we plan, design, and upgrade our vital infrastructure for today and tomorrow. – at Helix Water Chats on Thursday, December 5.

Water is heavy – just over 8 pounds per gallon. That means we need a heavy-duty system to deliver it across 50 square miles and up each hill to 276,000 people. And, we have to design the facilities we build today to provide the water El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley will need in 2070, and connect it to facilities we built in 1970.

Helix Water District’s Director of Engineering Jim Tomasulo will discuss how Helix’s complex water system continuously operates to deliver water to our customers and how we plan, design, and upgrade our vital infrastructure for today and tomorrow. This should be good, and we hope you can join us for an insightful evening.

Date and Time
Thursday, December 5
6 – 7:30 p.m.

Location
Helix Administration Office
7811 University Avenue, La Mesa
(Parking in the back of the building)

Itinerary
6:00         Coffee and cookies
6:10          Welcome and introductions
6:15          Presentation
7:00          Questions and discussion