Join Helix Water Chats and Explore East County Advanced Water Purification

Join Helix Water Chats and Explore East County Advanced Water Purification

East County Advanced Water Purification (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.

Have questions? Join Helix Water Chats on zoom.com at 2 p.m. on March 3 or at 5:30 p.m. on March 8. We’ll start with a presentation, then discuss and answer customer questions. The presentation will explore:

– Advanced water purification (AWP)
– How this project will work
– The benefits it will provide
– Why Helix customers don’t have to worry about its impact on water rates

Join Us!

Choose Your Chat

2 p.m. on Thursday, March 3, or
5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8

l

Please Register

We’ll email to you the meeting link and passcode in advance of the event.

Click Here to Register

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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.

Watch New Video: Why We’re Investing in Upgrades

Watch New Video: Why We’re Investing in Upgrades

Helix Water District engineers and operations crews manage a continuous cycle of maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement of tens of thousands of assets in our water storage, treatment and distribution systems.

It never stops and we always strive to improve efficiencies and hold costs down. Watch our new video to see how preventing emergency repairs, upgrading systems and leveraging technology keeps the water flowing.

Video Transcript: System Upgrades

One of the things that is near and dear to our heart here at Helix is to make sure that our system is maintained on an annual basis.

If you don’t continually invest in the infrastructure, you end up within very aged infrastructure and service delivery can be interrupted.

It creates more emergencies where you’re reacting in a reactive state rather than in a controlled environment in a preventative maintenance state.

So that includes replacing our pipes. We have a pipe replacement program, whether it’s cast iron or other types of pipes in our system, that’s part of our annual capital improvement program. And then as  part of our operating improvement program we exercise and turn our valves, as well as maintaining and cleaning our tanks and our pump stations.

We’re constantly evaluating our tanks like the one behind me.  This tank was recently rehabilitated several years ago and the same with our pump stations, when they get old we replace them or rehabilitate them.

Obviously Helix Water District with long history has had a lot of improvements through technology and infrastructure over the years. One of those is our treatment plant process.

A treatment plant of this size is expensive. It’s a lot of infrastructure and it takes a lot of money and resources to keep it up and running. At Helix we’ve done extensive measures and evaluations to try to maintain operation and quality, while also implementing cost saving aspects.  Examples include the SCADA system that you see behind us.

Technology is critical in what we do, day in day out. As technology advances, we’re always looking to see how we can incorporate that to improve our efficiencies from an operational perspective that can in effect keep our staffing levels down and keep the costs at a minimum to provide drinking water to the customer.

Not only do we invest in our infrastructure, such as pipelines and tanks and pump stations, we also invest in technology to improve how we bill for water, how we complete our GIS, our mapping systems within the organization.

Our mission at Helix is always to provide our customers at a reasonable cost, however our track record of never having a violation of the operation of this facility demonstrates that we will not compromise quality for cost.

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Emergency Preparedness at Helix

Emergency Preparedness at Helix

You have probably heard from the news or a friend or relative that many in Texas were without water after last week’s polar vortex. While the utilities now have power, many are under a boil water notice. The boil water notice was required after some utilities lost power to pump stations, which help maintain adequate pressure and water quality in a distribution system.

Our hearts go out to the impacted communities and the utility workers who are working tirelessly to restore water for their residents and customers. While there is less of a threat of an icy polar vortex hitting San Diego, our region has its own natural disasters. Some emergencies occur less frequently, like a global pandemic. Others can occur more regularly, like droughts, earthquakes, pipe breaks, wildfires and power outages.

Knowing which emergencies to prepare for and how much to prepare for them is a complex task. Emergency preparedness balances the likelihood of an emergency, prevention costs, and the cost of not being prepared. At Helix, we continually evaluate our risks and costs to ensure we are taking adequate and reasonable action to be prepared and protect our customers.

For example, following the 2011 Southwest blackout, we invested in developing more robust backup generators for our critical infrastructure like our treatment plant, buildings and critical pump stations. We can now withstand a prolonged power outage. We also invested in emergency fuel storage and stock extra parts and supplies to allow for continued operations without an electrical grid.

Installing generator with a crane
Backup generator installed at El Cajon Operations Center
Filling of fuel tank at Helix Operations Center
Installation of district’s emergency fuel tank
Deployable emergency generator at Helix pump station
Deployable, emergency generator

Helix also engages in proactive maintenance and emergency training so that when an emergency arises, we are ready. We maintain our valves, equipment and machinery so that our infrastructure works reliably. We use the opportunities of planned shutdowns and maintenance to simulate an emergency and train our staff on how to move, treat and deliver water under different scenarios.

Emergency preparedness and ensuring water reliability is an ongoing investment. We prepare because we want to keep your water flowing to you. Through our planning, building and training, we are ready to keep serving you.

We can help you prepare, too. Go to hwd.com/emergencies for vital information on how to make a plan for your famhwd.com/emergenciesly.

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