San Diego’s in a drought, but not a water shortage

San Diego’s in a drought, but not a water shortage

Is it possible to be in a drought, but not a water shortage? It’s possible here in San Diego County, because Helix Water District and the other water utilities serving this region have worked together for 25 years to conserve water and invest in new water resources. Read on to learn more about the drought and the San Diego region’s water supply.

This drought extends from San Diego
to Seattle to Minneapolis

It extends across Canada, too.  The darker the color on the map, the more extreme the drought conditions.

U.S. Drought Monitor Map issued July 22, 2021 shows drought in the West extending as far east as Minneapolis.

June 2021 was the hottest June
on record in the U.S.

High temperatures make drought conditions worse. The hotter it is, the faster water evaporates from soil and transpires from plants. This is why urban landscapes, crops and forests dry out and the risk of wildfires increases. The map below shows all of the wildfires currently burning throughout the West.

Map from InciWeb

InciWeb map shows current fires burning across the U.S. West.

On July 8, Governor Newsom declared a drought emergency
everywhere except Southern California

The Governor called for all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent, but only declared a drought emergency in the counties in red in the map below. That’s because communities in central and northern California are more likely to rely on a single river, creek or well for their water and are more vulnerable to drought. It’s drier in Southern California and we’ve been developing multiple water resources to meet our needs for over a hundred years. Today, this approach helps protect us against drought.

Map from Cal Matters

On July 8, 2021, Governor Newsom extended his drought emergency declaration to include all 50 counties in central and northern California.

Here in San Diego, water utilities work together
to develop our water supply

Helix and other water utilities in San Diego depend on the San Diego County Water Authority to import water from the Colorado River and Northern California.  When residents and businesses pay their water bills, their water utility pays the Water Authority for the imported water they use. Then, all the water utilities meet at the Water Authority and decide how to invest that money in water resources. By pooling our money over the last 25 years, we invested $3 billion and developed projects no single utility could afford on its own.

San Diego County Water Authority board meeting photo from Water News Network

Board members from member agencies work together as the board of the San Diego County Water Authority.

San Diego residents use half the water
they used in the 1990s.

First, we invested in water conservation. We showed residents and businesses how to reduce their water bills by installing water efficient plumbing fixtures, appliances, landscapes and irrigation, and offered rebates to increase participation. Today, San Diego County residents use half the water they used in the 1990s. As a result, water utilities have been able to reduce the size and cost of new water projects.

Water efficient landscaping at The Water Conservation Garden

Water efficient landscaping at The Water Conservation Garden.

We secured a new water supply
from the Colorado River

In 2003, the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to sell up to 200,000 acre feet of water annually to the San Diego County Water Authority. Water used to irrigate crops was now available to San Diego homes and businesses, and just one acre foot of water can sustain up to four homes for a year. And, the Imperial Irrigation District has the most senior water rights on the Colorado River. If the Colorado River basin states renegotiate how the river’s water is divided up, those senior water rights will help protect San Diego.

Colorado River photo from KUER Public Radio

Muddy Colorado River flowing through Utah.

We developed, and continue to develop,
drought-proof water resources

In 2014, the Water Authority completed the Carlsbad Desalination Plant to turn Pacific Ocean water into drinking water. It’s the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere. Now, we’re focused on turning recycled water into drinking water by using reverse osmosis, just like at the Carlsbad plant, and other advanced water treatment technology. Helix is working with Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the city of El Cajon and the county of San Diego on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, and San Diego and Oceanside are developing “Pure Water” programs.

Reverse osmosis cannisters at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo from Poseidon Water

Reverse osmosis canister arrays at the Carlsbad Desalination

We made more space 
to store water

The more water we can store during a wet year, when a lot of rain and snow falls on California and the Colorado River Basin, the more water we have available in a dry year. Diamond Valley Lake, which Metropolitan Water District of Southern California filled in 2002, stores enough water for Southern California for six months. With the construction of Olivenhain Dam and the raising of San Vicente Dam, we have an additional six month water supply just for the San Diego region.

San Vicente Dam photo from the San Diego County Water Authority

San Vicente Dam.

Thank you and keep up the good work

Your water bills and your commitment to water conservation are the reason we have the water we need. Please keep up your efforts, and keep using water wisely.

Check out Helix Water District rebates on water saving
toilets, appliances, irrigation equipment and business solutions.

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Remove Grass and Get Cash with Sustainable Landscaping

Remove Grass and Get Cash with Sustainable Landscaping

Helix customers can get $3 – $4 per square foot when they replace thirsty lawn with sustainable landscape. Sustainable landscapes feature low-water-use plants and efficient irrigation systems, use rainwater as a resource and protect the soil with mulch.

Grass requires 25-30 gallons of water per square foot per year while sustainable landscaping needs half that much water, or even a third of that amount. Here is what you need to know to improve your landscape, reduce your water bill and reserve your rebate money:

The Rebate

Customers can receive a rebate of $3-$4 per square foot when they convert 250 – 10,000 square feet of grass to sustainable landscaping with low-water-use plants.

Getting Preapproved

Before removing any grass, customers need to apply for the rebate. You will receive a confirmation email once you are preapproved. From there, you have 180 days (6 months) to complete your new landscape.

Design Requirements

Plant Coverage

To make your landscape beautiful and functional, you need a minimum of three plants per 100 square feet. Picture three plants in a 10’ x 10’ room.

Use Rain Water

When you design your new landscape, design it so that it slows down and holds rainwater. Rain gardens, dry streambeds, berms, vegetated swales, rock gardens, grades and rain barrels are different ways to capture rainwater. Keeping rainwater on your property reduces the amount of water flowing down streets that carry pollutants into local waterways. Visit the SoCal WaterSmart website to see what design works best for you.

Use Efficient Irrigation

When you remove your lawn, it is also a great time to retrofit your irrigation system and water more efficiently. Improvements are easy, like retrofitting your old spray heads with new high-efficiency nozzles or drip irrigation.

Use Mulch

Mulch protects soil from sunlight, keeps it cool and reduces the amount of water your plants need. Just cover bare soil with 3-4 inches of mulch and your new plants will thrive. Mulch is very affordable and we even have a rebate for it. Visit hwd.fyi/mulch for details.

About Hardscapes

Paved areas and walkways are allowed but do not count toward your total rebate. Artificial turf and turf-looking grasses also do not qualify for the rebate.

Want to know more? Take a FREE landscaping class on Zoom

BeWaterWise.com and WaterSmartSD.org are offering FREE classes on Zoom.com. Register for either program. You can ask questions and learn how to transform your grass into a functional, sustainable and enjoyable landscape.

Sign up for a class at bewaterwise.com or watersmartsd.org

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Draft planning document forecasts sufficient water supplies for Helix customers

Draft planning document forecasts sufficient water supplies for Helix customers

Photo: Reverse osmosis cannisters at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

Helix Water District just released its draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan for public comment and review. This document supports the district’s long-term planning efforts to ensure that it has enough water supplies to meet existing and future water needs.

The release is timely as California and the Southwest are experiencing a long stretch of hot and dry conditions. While other areas are facing significant water cutbacks, thanks to decades of planning, the San Diego region has sufficient supplies for dry years like this one.

Over the last 30 years, Helix has worked with the San Diego County Water Authority and neighboring water agencies to prepare for water shortages, including droughts. Thanks to investments in water supply reliability, Helix and the rest of San Diego County have sufficient water supplies to meet demand, even through multiple dry years.

“We are prepared and in a good position,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “Over the last few decades, our customers paid for investments in diversified water supplies to protect us during dry periods and emergencies. Our customers have also become more efficient in how they use water.  Those efforts have paid off as we anticipate having enough water for our customers, even after five dry years.”

Table shows total water supply exceeds water demand through up to five consecutive years of dry conditions

Table: Helix Water District’s 2020 draft Urban Water Management Plan projects that the district’s supplies will exceed demands, even through five consecutive dry years.

Graph shows that the combined regional water supply provided by local water agencies, the San Diego County Water Authority and MWD exceeds demand through 2045.

Graph: Helix Water District’s 2020 draft Urban Water Management Plan projects that the district will continue to have access to more water supplies than needed to meet demands.

Helix Water District’s draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan was a collaborative process over a year in the making. The approximately 900-page document evaluates land use, water supplies, population forecasts and water conservation trends to evaluate if the district will have enough water over a 25-year planning timeframe. The draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan includes risk and resiliency assessments of the district’s supplies and infrastructure against threats such as earthquakes, drought and climate change. As part of its planning process, the district also updated its water shortage contingency plan, which outlines specific actions the district can take to navigate varying stages of water shortage conditions.

California water utilities are required to prepare and adopt an Urban Water Management Plan every five years. The draft Urban Water Management Plan is available for public comment and review and the district will hold a public hearing via Zoom on June 2.

Read our 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

View our 2020 Urban Water Management Plan Appendices

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Helix Accepting Entries for the 2021 Landscape Contest

Helix Accepting Entries for the 2021 Landscape Contest

With gentle rains and spring blooms, now is the best time to share your thriving landscape and enter Helix Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The contest recognizes Helix customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes. The contest winner will receive a $250 grand prize to the nursery of their choice.

In its 17th year, the contest highlights the beauty and benefits – beyond water savings – that water-efficient landscapes offer. Compared to traditional landscapes, water-efficient landscape designs can be one of the most effective ways to reduce overall water use. When done well, these landscapes can also dramatically improve the appearance of a home.

“We encourage customers who are happy with their water-efficient landscapes to participate,” said Helix Water District Public Affairs Representative Vince Dambrose. “If you or a friend or neighbor have a stunning water-efficient landscape, we would love to hear your story. The WaterSmart Landscape Contest is a great opportunity to get outside, share your landscape and inspire others to make changes in their yards, too.”

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 five to 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 2021 contest is Friday, May 14. For more information, visit the contest website at landscapecontest.com, or contact us at 619-667-6226.

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East county advanced water purification project moving forward

East county advanced water purification project moving forward

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project announced yesterday the approval of two agreements authorizing $19.6 million for design and pre-construction work.

About the Project
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. The recycled water will then go through an advanced treatment process that includes membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to produce purified water.

A 10-mile pipeline will transport the purified water to Helix’s Lake Jennings, where it will mix with imported water stored there. Helix will treat the blended water at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant and distribute it to Helix customers and the other agencies Helix serves.

The project will meet up to 30 percent of East County’s drinking water demands and eliminate the discharge of 15 million gallons per day of treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

The ECAWP Joint Powers Authority includes Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the County of San Diego and the City of El Cajon. Helix will purchase the ECAWP’s purified water. On May 27, Helix’s board directed general manager Carlos Lugo to sign water purchase agreements with the ECAWP JPA.

About Yesterday’s Announcement
The ECAWP JPA approved an agreement with AECOM/Lyles to design, construct and perform transitional operation and maintenance services for a water recycling facility with a 16 million gallons per day treatment capacity, an advanced water purification facility with an 11.5 million gallons per day treatment capacity, a solids handling facility, pump station and visitors center.

The agreement authorizes up to $14.1 million for phase one work, which will provide the JPA with the opportunity to evaluate and price options and value‐engineering (i.e., innovative) ideas, refine the project design, continue to eliminate unknowns, and identify and evaluate project risks.

The JPA also approved an agreement with Orion Construction Corporation to design and construct a 10‐mile pipeline, dechlorination facility and inlet to Lake Jennings. The agreement authorizes up to $5.5 million for similar phase one work on this component of the project.

Read the ECAWP October 1, 2020 Press Release

Explore the ECAWP Website

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California Native Plant Sale Starts September 1

California Native Plant Sale Starts September 1

The Fall California Native Plant Sale, an annual fundraising event for the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, starts next Tuesday, September 1.

This year, you’ll order plants online. You can preview the plants on the society’s website right now and start buying plants on September 1. Your plants will be ready for pick-up the last weekend of October.

The sale includes more than 300 species of California native plants, trees, seeds and bulbs that use little water and attract native birds, bees and butterflies to your landscape. The society’s website features a photo directory of the plants on sale, a plant list in Excel, and lists of plants that are easy to grow, edible, succulents, good in a container and rare. The society also offers a Native Landscape Planting Guide.

Because the sale is a fundraiser, there is a $75 minimum on orders, and the sale ends when 180 orders have been received, or on September 15 — whichever comes first.

Learn More on the Society’s Website

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Get paid to save

Get paid to save

Helix Water District customers are now eligible to receive a $3 per square foot rebate when they remove grass and replace it with sustainable landscaping.

The additional funding is great news for homeowners and businesses looking to save water and improve their yard with sustainable landscaping. Sustainable landscaping includes water-saving plants and designs that improve irrigation efficiency, capture stormwater, improve soils and create habitat for native plants and animals.

The additional funding that increases the rebate amount from $2 to $3 per square foot is the result of a recent grant received by the region’s wholesale water supplier, the San Diego County Water Authority. It is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The $3 rebate is open to both residential and commercial customers who have existing lawns and meet program eligibility requirements. Customers must apply after July 1, 2020 and be preapproved before removing grass. Funding is subject to change without notice.

To begin your application and reserve your funding, visit www.socalwatersmart.com.

For design ideas and information about sustainable landscaping, visit hwd.com/sustainable-landscape.

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Our Demonstration Landscape is Complete

Our Demonstration Landscape is Complete

Helix Water District’s new demonstration landscape, located at its administration office in La Mesa, is complete. The project beautifies the neighborhood and inspires others to install WaterSmart landscaping.

The demonstration landscape includes three unique water-wise gardens on the streets around the building, including a Mediterranean garden on University Avenue, a desert landscape on Lee Avenue and a California native landscape along the building’s main entrance on Quince Street. Each is full of flowers, colors and textures.

 

“Our new demonstration landscape shows customers that water-efficient landscaping is not just one style,” said Helix Water District Board President Mark Gracyk. “You can choose plants that compliment your home and personal taste – there is an option for everyone.”

 Plant markers provide the name of each plant and a QR code, which when scanned with a smartphone, provides each plant’s name, sun and water needs, mature size and photo.

 The district also created an interactive webpage where customers can make a list of their favorite plants and download each garden’s design plan. Information on efficient irrigation and rebate programs is also available.

“We’ve made it easy for customers to learn about WaterSmart plants and landscaping,” said Gracyk.

 The plants in all three of the gardens are adapted to San Diego’s climate and need half to a fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs. In addition to requiring less water, WaterSmart landscapes also require less maintenance and provide habitat for local wildlife like honeybees, birds and butterflies.

 “Outdoor water use typically accounts for half of a home’s total water use,” said Helix Water District Board Vice President DeAna Verbeke. “With our new demonstration garden, we’re encouraging people to upgrade to a WaterSmart landscape by showing them that water-wise plants are not only sustainable but beautiful as well.”

 The project was partially funded through a grant from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

 

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New Video: Easy fix for a common outdoor leak

New Video: Easy fix for a common outdoor leak

When it comes to outdoor water leaks, irrigation valves are one of the first places to look.

Irrigation valves use moving parts to control water flow. Over time, the continued operation of these parts makes the valve more vulnerable to leak.

When an irrigation valve leaks, the water leaks out of the valve itself or out of the lowest sprinkler.  These types of leaks can cause water waste, drown plants and even cause property damage. It is important to fix leaking valves as soon as you can.

Our video shows you how to make this simple repair so that you can keep using water efficiently and keep your plants happy.

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California Native Plant Sale Starts September 1

California Native Plant Sale Starts September 1

The Fall California Native Plant Sale, an annual fundraising event for the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, starts next Tuesday, September 1. This year, you'll order plants online. You can preview the plants on the society's website right now...