New video helps you program your controller and water efficiently

New video helps you program your controller and water efficiently

As we enter the summer season with its longer and hotter days, your landscape will require more water to stay healthy.

Correctly programming your irrigation controller is key to keeping your plants thriving, and your water bill low.

Before you start adjusting your irrigation controller, watch our video. We will show you how your controller operates and functions so that you can water like a pro, keep your landscape thriving and save a lot of water.

Take control of your irrigation timer and water with confidence.

For more watering tips on how to water, visit our website

Regional collaboration will expand drought-proof water supply

Regional collaboration will expand drought-proof water supply

Helix Water District is pleased to announce its next steps towards participation in the East County Advanced Water Purification Project.

The Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification project at a special meeting on May 27, 2020.

The project is a collaborative, regional effort that will diversify the district’s water portfolio, provide a drought-proof supply and further enhance reliability by purifying treated wastewater using the district’s Lake Jennings and other facilities.

The $681 million project, led by the ECAWP Joint Powers Authority, will recycle daily wastewater flows from Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Winter Gardens and Alpine. Treated water will undergo membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

The purified water will be piped into Helix’s Lake Jennings before undergoing additional processing at the district’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant and be distributed as safe, clean drinking water.

“I’m looking forward to the development of this project and I believe it’s an investment that strengthens our district’s water supply reliability and security. This is a great example of what can be accomplished by working with our neighboring agencies,” said Helix Water District Board President Mark Gracyk.

ECAWP project water will reduce east San Diego County’s dependence on imported water by almost 30 percent once full operations begin in 2026. The project will create a local supply for the East County at about the same cost as what the district pays now for imported water. Deliveries of imported water from the Colorado River and State Water Project can be significantly curtailed during times of drought, making them less reliable than local sources.

“The project was conceived by JPA members as a way to reduce rising wastewater costs for their customers. For Helix to participate, the project had to make financial sense for our ratepayers as well,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “By expanding our local supply, the ECAWP project water will help ensure that we are better able to navigate future droughts.”

The 30-year purchase agreements establish the cost and quantity of water that Helix will purchase from the ECAWP JPA under the proposed project.

Helix and the JPA members – Padre Dam Municipal Water District, San Diego County Sanitation District and the City of El Cajon – have been working together to evaluate the ECAWP plan since 2014. Each JPA member has until 2021 to make a final decision on the feasibility of the project and participation.

Helix has invested $850,000 and significant board and staff resources to study the feasibility of the project, including a tracer study with Scripps Institute of Oceanography to learn how water moves and mixes in Lake Jennings.

“We are committed to exploring sustainable projects that benefit our customers,” said Gracyk. “The ECAWP project will be a great complement to our other ongoing investments in regional water supply projects, such as the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, to ensure we have enough water to meet demand.”
About Helix Water District
Helix Water District provides water treatment for over 500,000 residents in San Diego’s east county suburbs, and water distribution for 277,000 people in the cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon, the Spring Valley community and unincorporated areas of the county.

Watch the East County Advanced Water Purification Project video

Learn about the advanced treatment process


14 reasons to feature California native plants in your landscape

14 reasons to feature California native plants in your landscape

Photo: A honeybee in the garden of La Mesa resident Jim Julius. (Source: San Diego Chapter of California Native Plants Society)

The San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plants Society is doing something wonderful. They are featuring on their website 14 California native landscapes in the San Diego region, including two on Mt. Helix, and the homeowners who created them. Each profile includes photos of the plants and landscape, and the homeowner, in their own words, describing why they went native and the journey since then.

Plants and trees that are native to California, our deserts and northern Mexico are excellent choices for your east county landscape. First, they bring the beauty of California into your own property. Second, these plants and trees evolved over centuries with the water supply, soil and pests we have in east county, so they need low levels of irrigation after their first 6-12 months of growth, and little to no fertilizer. They evolved with California’s birds, bees and butterflies, as well, and will turn your landscape into vibrant habitat.

Helix’s new demonstration landscape at our administration office in La Mesa will feature Mediterranean, desert and California native gardens. This summer, when the gardens are open, you will be able to see a variety of California native plants and trees up close and identify each plant by scanning a QR code with your smartphone.

Until then, enjoy this article.



WaterSmart Phone Consultations Now Available

WaterSmart Phone Consultations Now Available

Are you interested in learning how you can reduce your indoor or outdoor water use, from the comfort of your home? We’re now offering WaterSmart phone consultations to district customers.

Helix’s conservation specialists are available to provide personalized recommendations over the phone regarding your water use and ways to improve your water efficiency. Possible topics include:

  • Troubleshoot possible causes of high bills
  • Indoor water use efficiency
  • Outdoor water use efficiency, including efficient irrigation technology and water-wise plants
  • How to check for leaks
  • How to monitor your water use

The phone consultations replace the district’s free in-person home water use evaluations, which have been temporarily suspended to help keep both staff and customers healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

District customers can email to schedule an appointment. Please provide the following information:

  • Name and phone number of the person who will be on the phone
  • Water account number (if known) and/or service address
  • A brief summary of the water-related questions you would like to discuss

5 garden trends Sunset Magazine is watching in 2020

5 garden trends Sunset Magazine is watching in 2020

Photo: Sunset Magazine

If you need landscaping ideas, click on the link below and explore the five garden trends Sunset Magazine is watching this year. The article begins with a photo of a beautiful landscape of succulents and herbs that is perfect for east county, and offers lots of links to lots of ideas for firescaping, native plants, indoor and vertical gardens, and soil improvement. Enjoy.

Go to

These online workshops are just in time

These online workshops are just in time

The Water Conservation Garden is hosting online workshops on May 14 and 16, just in time to get your landscape ready for summer.

How to Hire a Landscaper, on Thursday, May 14 at 10 a.m. will offer an informative, common-sense approach to hiring a landscape professional. The Water Conservation Garden Director of Programs Pam Meisner will show you which questions to ask, how to properly plan, and money-saving tips! This free workshop is made possible by the San Diego County Watershed Protection Program.

Learn more at

Meeting ID: 999 6323 5088
Password (REQUIRED): 052316

The Spring Tune Up workshop on Saturday, May 16 at 10 a.m. will show you how to get your irrigation dialed-in for the dry months ahead. Discover how pairing efficient irrigation, with proper landscape techniques, leads to an irrigation system which can work in harmony with our plants. Identify irrigation issues early in the season for repair or retrofit so systems operate as efficiently as possible before summer.

Registration is required. This event is free for Garden members and $5 for non-members.

Register at

For more information, call The Water Conservation Garden at 619-660-0614, ext.10.

Image of promotional flyer for How to Hire a Landscaper Workshop on May 14, 2020.

Tune in to “Tune-Up Your Irrigation” tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Tune in to “Tune-Up Your Irrigation” tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Tune-Up Your Irrigation, a new, online workshop from The Water Conservation Garden, will debut tomorrow, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. If you can’t make tomorrow’s workshop, it will happen again on Saturday, May 16.

The workshop is designed to get your landscape and irrigation system ready for the hot months of the year. You’ll learn how to identify issues and make repairs and retrofits. And you’ll explore how to pair irrigation and landscaping techniques to produce happier, healthier plants. 

Tiffany Faulstich, President of Botanicon, a landscape consulting and management company, will lead the workshop. Faulstich has 25 years of experience in the landscape industry and 10 years of experience teaching horticulture at the university and college level.  

The workshop is free for Garden Members, $5 for non-members, and reservations are required. Sign up at  

How much water we use when we are home

How much water we use when we are home

Now that most of us are at home more, you may be wondering “how much more water am I using?” The good news is, it’s probably less than you think. This is because the activities that use the most water  – such as outdoor irrigation, showering and doing laundry – happen at the same weekly frequency regardless if you and the family are spending your days at home or not.

Your water use will increase only slightly

Unlike our use of electricity, which we use continuously as we light our rooms, run our computers or stream shows, our water use is more intermittent. This means that although we are home the entire time, we only use water when we get up to use the restroom, wash your hands, clean dishes or do laundry. This is good news for your water bill.

What about all the handwashing?

Surprisingly, washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds does not use that much water. If you have faucet aerators or a newer faucet, each 20-second hand wash with the water running uses less than half of a gallon of water. Even still, faucets are responsible for 18% of the typical indoor water use. It takes 24 extra handwashing events per day over a 60 day billing cycle to increase your bill by one unit, which equals 748 gallons and costs you $4.98. You can use less water if you shut the faucet off while you soap up your hands, but you don’t have to. Public health is more important than water conservation. Wash your hands and stay safe.

What about additional toilet flushing?

Since you are at home and not at work, you are flushing your home’s toilets more, this is where you may see a slight increase in your indoor water use. After all, toilets make up an average of 20% of the typical indoor water use. The good news – it takes a lot of flushes to really increase your bill.  The most common toilets in everyone’s homes use 1.6 gallons per flush, while newer toilets use 1.1 gallons per flush or less. It will take 467 flushes of al 1.6 gallon per flush toilet to use one unit of water..  Note that older toilets can use 4-6 gallons per flush, and that changes the picture dramatically. It’s also important to note that you should not use your toilet as a garbage can. DO NOT FLUSH “flushable” wipes, paper towels or disinfecting wipes down the toilet. These items wreak havoc on sewer systems. The last thing any of us need at this time is a backed up sewer.

What about the dishes from extra cooking and snacking?

You may be creating more dishes due to extra cooking and snacking, but fortunately, dishwashing does not use much water either. If you want to use less water, use the dishwasher. Dishwashers recirculate water and are highly efficient, only using 4-5 gallons per load.

Showering and Laundry

The good news is that even though you and your family are home all day, you’re most likely not showering any more than you typically would. This is good because showers are a larger portion of our indoor water use, around 21 percent. The same is true for your laundry, which can be around 22 percent of indoor water use. But, not dressing up for work each day may reduce your weekly laundry and offset other water use increases.

Our home’s “other half”

The big piece that is missing from our water use what we use on our landscapes, and thankfully, this should not change. Outdoor water use is responsible for half of our customers’ total use. So, while we may be concerned that being home will increase our indoor water use, the largest potential for savings is still outdoors. An irrigation controller has more to do with the typical home’s water use than our indoor behaviors. If you have not been outside lately, the soil is still wet and most of us can leave our irrigation controllers in the off position for the time being.

We’re here for you

We are in unprecedented times, and we are all adapting to these changes. We want you to know that Helix is here for you. We have suspended water shut-offs and late fees through April 30, and Helix’s board voted to not raise rates this year. If you‘re experiencing difficulties paying your water bill due to the pandemic, feel free to call us at 619-466-0585 to make a payment arrangements. In the meantime, keep up the handwashing and we will continue to ensure that there is safe water available for you and your families at your faucet.


Stay updated on everything we are doing at



This article was written by Helix’s Water Conservation Technician Vince Dambrose, whom is currently working from home to keep his coworkers safe and healthy so that the district can keep your water flowing.

April Water Supply Update

April Water Supply Update

Photo: Toulumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park on March 13, 2020. Source: National Park Service.

Colorado River

Ninety percent of the annual water flow in the Colorado River comes from the river’s upper basin — Colorado, southern Wyoming and eastern Utah. Much of this area is 7,000 feet or higher in elevation, and the winter snowpack in the Rockies, Wasatch and Uinta ranges feeds the Colorado River and its tributaries, including the Yampa, Gunnison, Green and Duchesne.

On April 1, the snow water equivalent in the upper basin (the amount of water in the snow) is 91 – 130 percent of the median.

The following diagrams from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation show that Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest water storage reservoirs on the Colorado River, remain less than 50 percent full. These reservoir levels are the outcome of an extended dry period in the Colorado River Basin that began in 2000.

Lower Colorado River Drainage Basin

State Water Project

For California’s water resources managers, April 1 marks the end of the state’s wet season and the start of the warm, dry part of the year.

According to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR),  “75 percent of California’s annual, statewide precipitation occurs from November through March”. In April, DWR officials look at Sierra snowpack levels, the amount of water in the snow (this is called the snow water equivalent) and the amount of water stored in reservoirs, and they decide how much water to deliver to farms and cities through the State Water Project.

DWR’s map below shows the April 1, 2020 snowpack levels in the Sierra, and a snowpack in the northern Sierra that is just 57 percent of average. This is important to agriculture and cities because the northern Sierra snowpack is the water supply for the State Water Project.

Sierra Snowpack on April 1, 2020

While California’s snowpack is below average, the state’s water supply outlook for 2020 is favorable because State Water Project reservoirs are at or near average.

Local Resources

Lake Cuyamaca received just over 26 inches of precipitation this fall and winter and we collected 2,567 acre feet of local water supply in El Capitan Reservoir.

Lake Cuyamaca

Just under 422 acre feet of the water we collected this spring in El Capitan Reservoir is from Lake Cuyamaca, and there is adequate water in Lake Cuyamaca to release another 400 acre feet if needed.

San Diego River & Creeks

Just over 2,146 acre feet of the water we collected in El Capitan Reservoir is water collected from the San Diego River at our diverting dam, and from local creeks.