Helix asks customers to continue conservation

Helix asks customers to continue conservation

In response to drought conditions, the State Water Resources Control Board directed all water utilities in California to implement additional water conservation measures.

Helix’s additional, voluntary water conservation measures are listed below. We are pleased to report that most of our customers already use these measures in their landscapes.

“Since the 1990s, Helix customers have reduced their water use by almost half through their commitment to using water efficiently,” said Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “We appreciate your efforts and encourage everyone to keep up the good work.”

In fact, over the last 30 years, Helix and the other water utilities in the San Diego region invested $3 billion in water conservation and new water supplies. We have the water we need, even in dry years like this one, for decades to come.

Water Conservation Measures

  • Water landscaping before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
  • Water landscaping up to three days per week – customers may choose which days work best for them.
  • Limit landscape watering to 10 minutes per station per day unless you are using drip/micro irrigation, stream rotors, rotating nozzles or a weather-based irrigation controller.
  • Use a hose and automatic shutoff nozzle when watering by hand.
  • Use recirculated water in fountains.
  • Repair all leaks within five days.

The state also banned watering of decorative lawns at commercial, industrial and institutional properties, including homeowner association common areas. This does not apply to residential lawns, sports fields, school fields or areas regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events.

The state may require mandatory conservation if drought conditions worsen. Check out our Sustainability menu at hwd.com for tips, rebates and more to help you save water.

 

 

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East County Breaks Ground on Advanced Water Purification Project

East County Breaks Ground on Advanced Water Purification Project

East County Advanced Water Purification broke ground this week. Helix Water District joined program partners, elected officials and water industry leaders to celebrate this key milestone on the project that will create a new, local, sustainable and drought-proof drinking water supply for East County.

East County AWP benefits: provides clean, safe source of drinking water, creates a new, local sustainable drinking water supply, and reduces teh region's dependence on imported water.

From the East County Advanced Water Purification Project’s June 1 Groundbreaking Media Release:

Today, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program broke ground, marking an important milestone for the project, East San Diego County, the region and the entire water industry.

Program representatives, elected officials and water industry leaders gathered at the future site of the treatment facility in Santee to celebrate the Program that will create a new, local, sustainable and drought-proof drinking water supply using state-of-the-art technology to purify East San Diego County’s recycled water. Officials in attendance included representatives from the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority, San Diego County Water Authority, Bureau of Reclamation, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The groundbreaking follows approval of project construction on May 19, 2022, by the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority that owns and operates the Program and is a collaborative partnership between four agencies: Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the City of El Cajon, the County of San Diego and Helix Water District. The overall cost for the project is $950 million and estimated to create 2,500 jobs in the region.

Scheduled to be complete in 2026, the East County AWP Program will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County residents and businesses. The Program will use four advanced water purification steps to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

“Today marks an exciting moment for our East San Diego County customers!” said Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam and JPA Administrator CEO/General Manager. “We are now one step closer to creating a local, reliable and sustainable drinking water source that will reduce our dependence on increasingly expensive imported water. The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is a smart investment that provides a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life.”

After the advanced water purification process, the purified water will be blended with water in Lake Jennings and treated again at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant before being distributed as drinking water.

“In addition to providing a new local water supply, the Program will eliminate the need to send most of East County’s wastewater to the City of San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it is currently treated and then discharged into the ocean,” said Kyle Swanson, Padre Dam Incoming CEO/General Manager. “The East County Advanced Water Purification Program will benefit not only our customers and the community, but our shared environment too.”

To date, the Program has already secured more than $123 million in grant funding and up to $796 million in low interest loans to help finance the Program. East County AWP Program officials anticipate receiving additional state and federal grant funding to help pay for the Project.

For more information about the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, please visit eastcountyawp.com.

 

Officials in hard hats break ground on East County Advanced Water Purification project surrounded by confetti at ceremony.

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State Adopts Emergency Drought Regulation

State Adopts Emergency Drought Regulation

On May 24, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a statewide emergency drought regulation.

The new regulation requires urban water suppliers to implement Level 2 demand reduction measures from their water shortage contingency plans, regardless of local water supply conditions. The order also bans irrigation of non-functional grass at commercial, industrial and institutional properties, and in homeowner’s association common areas. The ban does not apply to residential lawns, community spaces or sports fields.

The regulation was in response to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-7-22 issued on March 28, 2022.

In California, droughts are part of life, and so is using water wisely. Helix Water District and the other water utilities serving the San Diego region have worked together for decades to plan for water shortages, encourage conservation and invest in new water resources. These steps help protect us against drought and are the reason why we have sufficient supplies to meet demand through at least five consecutive years of drought.

Many water supplier representatives from throughout the state, including Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Hedberg, attended the May 24 SWRCB meeting to request that local water supply and demand be taken into account and that Level 2 watering restrictions should only apply to areas with an actual water shortage.

Despite the requests of representatives whose agencies have sufficient water supplies, like Helix, the SWRCB unanimously approved the regulation. The state expects the new regulations to go into effect in June 2022.

 

Learn about our water supplies

View our Level 2 demand reduction measures and Water Shortage Contingency Plan

Check out our rebate programs

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Helix locks in stable prices for renewable energy

Helix locks in stable prices for renewable energy

Helix Water District recently renewed its electricity-purchasing contract with San Diego-based Calpine Energy Solutions, a company that sells electricity but relies on utilities like SDG&E, Edison and PG&E to deliver it. Helix has worked with Calpine since 2007 to manage the district’s energy costs and its move to renewable resources.

Helix negotiates contracts with Calpine that allow the district to lock in the price it pays for electricity. This limits the district’s exposure to events that cause energy costs to increase, like reduced hydropower production due to the drought, and higher natural gas prices due to the war in Ukraine.

Calpine has also secured the renewable energy supply we need through 2030. Calpine sources renewable energy from a portfolio of developers, including a new solar power facility in Riverside County. This will protect Helix and its customers over the next eight years, as market prices respond to increased demand and competition for renewable energy.

“For the last several years we’ve seen double-digit savings as high as 18% on electricity,” said Helix Assistant General Manager Brian Olney. “This year, with all that’s going on in the world and the market, we are doing very well for our customers.”

“We want stable prices for electricity because that helps stabilize water rates for our customers,” said Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “And we want the district to do its part to meet statewide goals for the use of electricity from renewable resources.”

Energy Efficiency

Helix also reduces costs by improving energy efficiency. In 2011, the district installed solar panels on its operations center in El Cajon that generate 90-100% of the facility’s electricity. In 2012, they retained DHK Engineers to perform an energy audit of all of the district’s facilities and operations.

“Implementing the recommendations from the audit reduced our annual energy use by 11%,” Olney said.

The next step at Helix is transitioning into electric vehicles. The district began the transition in 2019, with a grant from SDG&E to install electric vehicle charging stations, and rebates from the State of California on six Toyota Prius.

“This year,” said Helix Operations Director Kevin Miller, “we are testing Ford’s new electric pickups. We like to see companies move in this direction, because when they take a step forward, Helix Water District takes a step forward.”

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State Water Project Cutbacks Don’t Impact San Diego Region

State Water Project Cutbacks Don’t Impact San Diego Region

This week, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced new water restrictions for millions in the Los Angeles area, including limiting outdoor watering to one day per week. MWD’s restrictions apply to communities that are dependent on water from the State Water Project, which has severely reduced deliveries over the last three years because of the state’s historic drought.

These cuts do not apply to the San Diego region because we are not currently receiving any water from the State Water Project. Thanks to decades of conservation and investment in diversified supplies, we continue to have reliable water supplies from other sources to see us through multiple dry years.

Map showing where impacted areas of MWD's 2022 shortage on the State Water Project

Map showing impacted areas in Metropolitan Water District’s northern region

However, the ongoing drought is a serious concern for the state, and we can all do our part to help. Last November, Helix Water District declared a Level 1 water shortage calling for voluntary conservation efforts. Governor Newsom also issued an emergency executive order last month calling for all water agencies to move to a Level 2 water shortage, regardless of local water supply conditions. The state has until May 25 to implement the order. In the meantime, Helix remains at a Level 1 while we await final direction.

We encourage all of our customers to help our water supplies go further and last longer. Use water wisely, fix leaks immediately and take advantage of rebate programs for high-efficiency appliances, WaterSmart irrigation components, turf removal and more.

 

 

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Spring into these two contests

Spring into these two contests

Helix Water District’s WaterSmart landscape contest and Lake Jennings spring photo contest are open and actively seeking entries. If you enjoy the beautiful blooms of spring, green vegetation and perfect weather, then right now is a great time to enter for a chance to win prizes.

Through these two contests, Helix Water shares the beauty of Lake Jennings and water-efficient lifestyles with the 277,000 people we serve. Your contest entry can inspire others and make lasting changes for our community. We encourage you to enter in one or both contests this year.

WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Entries Due: Friday, May 13

The annual WaterSmart landscape contest recognizes Helix customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes. We would love to hear your story and help inspire others. This year’s contest winner will receive a $250 grand prize to the nursery of their choice.

 

To enter, simply take a few photos of your water-efficient landscaping, share why you installed your landscaping, the types of plants you have and some of the benefits you see. For more information and to enter, visit the contest website at landscapecontest.com or contact us at 619-667-6226.

Backyard garden patio with patio chairs and shrubs
Winner of Helix's 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Lake Jennings Spring Photo Contest

Entries Due: Tuesday, May 31

The Lake Jennings spring photo contest shares the beauty of our reservoir with the local community. Contest participants can get a free day pass to access, explore and photograph the scenic reservoir located in Lakeside. The contest is open to photos taken at Lake Jennings between March 1 and May 31, 2022.

 

This year’s contest theme is Life at the Lake. Photos can capture any aspect of the lake including camping, fishing, lake vistas, wildlife and wildflowers. The district will award prizes in two divisions, adult and youth. First place winners in each division will receive $150, second place winners will receive $100 and third place winners will receive $50.

For a complete set of contest rules and how to visit Lake Jennings, visit lakejennings.org/photo-contest.

Shows lake with sun setting over hillside and green grasses

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Our WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape, Two Years In

Our WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape, Two Years In

Have you ever looked out at your yard and felt that all the empty space needed some retooling and revival? Nearly two years ago we did just that when we replaced the tired and overgrown groundcover at our administrative offices in La Mesa with a WaterSmart demonstration garden. What started as a collection of small plants and a lot of mulch has grown into a lush, colorful and diverse landscape. Small plants can quickly blossom into a fantastic garden.

“Our demonstration landscape is here to show customers that water-efficient landscaping can compliment everyone’s personal taste,”

Our demonstration garden has three unique plant palettes: a Mediterranean garden on University Avenue, a desert landscape on Lee Avenue and a California native garden on Quince Street.

“Our demonstration landscape is here to show customers that water-efficient landscaping can complement everyone’s personal taste,” said Helix Water District’s Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg during the installation in 2020. “There isn’t just one single style of landscaping that saves water and money. It’s a great showcase out in the community that we too are doing our part saving water with this beautiful landscape.”

Flowers, soft colors and fragrant plants from Mediterranean climate zones, including rosemary, catmint and flax lily fill our Mediterranean garden. The desert landscape contains vibrant and airy plants like ocotillo, barrel cactus and Palo Verde trees, and our California native garden has plants that grow naturally in California and are drought tolerant and wildlife friendly, like monkey flower, bush sunflower and the strawberry madrone tree.

Use the side arrows to see our landscape grow.

Native Garden 2020
Native Garden 2022
Mediterranean Garden 2020
Mediterranean Garden 2022
Mediterranean Garden 2020
Mediterranean Garden 2022

Outdoor landscape water use accounts for 30-60% of an average household’s total water usage, with higher volumes of usage coming from homes that have water-dependent plants and less efficient irrigation systems. The plants featured in our three gardens are right at home in eastern San Diego County’s climate and flourish on half, a third or a fifth of the water that traditional lawns need. You can save a significant amount of water and save money on your water bill, too.

The demonstration garden makes it easy to learn about the WaterSmart plants that inspire you. Plant markers, placed along the sidewalk with each plant, show the plant name along with a QR code, which when scanned, shows more photos and gives information about the plant’s name, sun and water needs, and mature size.

red yucca plant

QR codes on the plant markers link to information about each plant in the garden. 

We recognize that relandscaping can be daunting – especially because of the length of time it can take for some plants to grow. Within eight months it was filling in nicely, and now, two years in, our garden has blossomed and is lush, full and rich with color.

There are also turf removal rebates of up to $4 per square foot available to help cover the costs when you remove your grass and replace it with WaterSmart, sustainable landscaping. (Visit SoCal Water$mart for more information.)

Now is a great time to upgrade your landscape! Visit our demonstration garden in La Mesa and get inspired to create your own WaterSmart landscape.

Native garden grown in in 2022

Native garden on Quince Steet, filled in after 2 years of growth. 

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It’s Fix a Leak Week

It’s Fix a Leak Week

This Fix a Leak Week (March 14-20, 2022), we’re encouraging you to find and fix leaks at your home or business. Many of us have experienced leaks. Leaks can result in an expensive water bill and even cause damage to your home. Leaks also waste a lot of water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates annual household leaks waste over 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide. A trillion gallons is over 3.6 million acre-feet, and it’s almost enough water to supply all of San Diego for seven years.

We put this post together to help you find leaks when they happen and to help you fix some common leaks. Keep reading so you can save water, save money and avoid the hassle of leaks.

Image, courtesy of U.S. E.P.A

How to look for leaks

Use your water meter to check for leaks. Open your water meter and flip open the protective lid. Take a picture of the numbers and dials on your water meter before and after a two-hour period when you are not using water. If the numbers on the meter change at all, you probably have a leak. Visit our High Use page, where we dive into detail about finding and isolating many types of leaks.

Toilets leaks

Toilets are the most common type of household leak. When toilets leak, it’s usually from a worn flapper or a broken fill valve. These leaks send water to the toilet bowl and down the drain, where you will never see it. Leaking toilets can waste thousands of gallons in a day and they are easy to find. They are also easy and inexpensive to repair. Watch our video on how to find and fix toilet leaks.

Irrigation valves leaks

Irrigation valves are another common source of water leaks. Irrigation valves leak in two ways; either at the valve itself, or out of the lowest emitter in the zone. If you have an outdoor leak, you can find valve leaks by feeling the valve or listening for flowing water. If the valve is leaking, you should replace the valve. Watch our video to learn how to replace leaking irrigation valves.

Go smart and get notified of leaks

You can get a rebate on devices that can alert you of leaks and high use. Flow monitoring devices monitor your water use 24/7 and alert you of high use and leaks as they happen. Getting these alerts in real time – before they show up on your water bill – can help save water and money. The devices start at $150 and you can get a rebate of $100 on select flow monitoring devices at socalwatersmart.com.

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Share your WaterSmart landscape for a chance to win!

Share your WaterSmart landscape for a chance to win!

Photo: Rosalie Dosik, 2021 Landscape Contest Winner 

If you enjoy your water-saving landscape, right now is the best time to share it.

Enter Helix Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest and you could win the grand prize – a $250 gift card to the nursery of your choice. The contest recognizes Helix customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes and inspires others to upgrade their yards, too.

In its 18th year, the contest highlights the beauty and benefits that water-efficient landscapes offer. Water-efficient landscape designs can be one of the most effective ways to reduce overall water use. Compared to traditional landscapes, they use half or one-fifth the amount of water. When done well, these landscapes can also dramatically improve the appearance of a home.

patio furniture in vibrant but low water use garden

2021 Winner, Rosalie Dosik

Winner of Helix's 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

2020 Winner, Tim & Brianna

Front yard of Helix's 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest Mark and Lauren Kirkpatrick.

2019 Winner, Matt & Lauren

Winner of Helix's 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

“If you are excited about your thriving, water-efficient landscape, we encourage you to enter our 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest,” said Helix Water District Public Affairs Representative Vince Dambrose. “The joy your landscape brings you can also inspire others to adopt a water-efficient landscape, too. If you or a friend or neighbor have a water-efficient landscape, we would love to see photos and hear your story.”

Entries are judged for overall attractiveness, design, plant selection, efficient irrigation and appropriate maintenance.

How to Enter:

To enter the contest, customers should visit landscapecontest.com and select their water agency, then apply. Customers can even complete their contest entries using just a smartphone. Simply take 5-10 photos of your water-efficient landscaping, share why you installed your landscaping, the types of plants you have and some of the benefits you see.

The deadline to submit applications for the 2022 contest is Friday, May 13. For more information, visit the contest website at landscapecontest.com or contact us at 619-667-6226.

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