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.

Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

Water Quality and Safety

Water Quality and Safety

Following this week’s water treatment plant hack in Florida, we received some inquiries as to whether this could happen at Helix.

The FBI has determined that the Florida plant security breach was due to outdated Windows 7 software, passwords that had not been updated, and the use of off-the-shelf, publicly available software to allow operators to access the plant’s control system remotely.

We would like to assure our customers that the above issues are not issues at Helix.  We have made investments in infrastructure and have systems in place to protect our facilities against these types of attacks.

The safety and quality of the water we provide is our top priority.

Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

Helix launches virtual school programs

Helix launches virtual school programs

Third and fifth grade teachers in the Helix Water District service area can now enroll their classes in one of Helix’s virtual school programs. 

We have a hands-on activity for third graders and a virtual tour of our R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant for fifth graders. Each one-hour program meets next-generation science standards and STEAM curriculum requirements.

Our third-grade program, “Dams, Lakes and Rivers,”  offers a live presentation for third graders to learn about natural water supplies and storage reservoirs, including Lake Jennings, the district’s reservoir and recreational area located in Lakeside. We provide classes with materials so students can be engineers and build a functional dam.

We transitioned our fifth-grade treatment plant tour to a live, virtual tour. We will take students virtually through the R.M Levy Water Treatment Plant and go step-by-step through our drinking water treatment process. Students will see the plant inside and out, learn the process and hear from actual experts at the plant about what it takes to supply clean drinking water to our faucets each day.

“Our interactive virtual school programs introduce students to our water resources, infrastructure and water quality,” said Helix Water District’s Director of Administrative Service Jennifer Bryant. “We designed our programs with the students in mind, and made them engaging, informative and fun.”

Teachers can book a virtual activity by contacting our Education Assistant, Francine Thompson, at 619-667-6264 or Francine.thompson@helixwater.org

About Helix Water District

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.

Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

Our 2020 Water Quality Report is Available

Our 2020 Water Quality Report is Available

Helix Water District’s tap water met all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and State of California health standards for drinking water in 2019. The district’s 2020 Water Quality Report documents the quality of our treated water throughout calendar year 2019 and is now available at hwd.fyi/wqr2020-english and hwd.fyi/wqr2020-espanol.

The annual Water Quality Report, also known as the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), contains important information about the sources and quality of the drinking water we provide to the cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon, the Spring Valley community, and areas of Lakeside and the county.

If you have questions regarding the report, call 619-667-6248 or email wqr@helixwater.org. To have a paper copy of the report mailed to your home, call 619-466-0585.

Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

Concerned about Coronavirus?

Concerned about Coronavirus?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is known to spread from person to person through close contact, similar to how the flu is transmitted. There is currently no evidence to support that Coronavirus (COVID-19) is transmitted through drinking water. Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be disinfected through use of ozone, chlorine and other treatment processes used in processing your tap water.

Drinking Water Safety

Treatment Process

We utilize multiple steps in our treatment process that physically remove, disinfect and chemically inactivate viruses, bacteria and other living organisms from our drinking water. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is susceptible to drinking water treatment processes.

Continuous Sampling

We continuously monitor and test our water throughout the treatment process and distribution system to ensure its quality and safety.

Flu is Not Spread Through Tap Water

The flu, which is a respiratory illness, is not spread from tap water. The coronavirus, also a respiratory illness, is not any different.

What can you do?
According to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, coronavirus, like the flu, is spread from person to person contact, breathing or contacting respiratory droplets from an infected person, and contacting surfaces contaminated with a virus. If you are concerned about the spread of viruses, look to taking these preventative steps to keep you healthy:

Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds

Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose with unwashed hands

Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or sneezing

Clean high-contact surfaces like phone screens, keyboards, doorknobs, steering wheels etc.

Get plenty of rest to keep your immune system healthy

For more information about virus prevention and treatment, please go to the CDC’s website at

Want to see for yourself?

Sign up for our next Helix Water Talks on Saturday, May 2, for an in-depth look at our water treatment process. You will tour our treatment plant and laboratories and have your questions answered by the very men and women who ensure the safety and reliability of your drinking water.

Register here

Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

Water Supply Update

Water Supply Update

Here is the first of our water supply updates for winter 2020, documenting our water supply conditions at the end of January. We will post two more updates the first week of March and the first week of April. The goal of the reports is to show you the status of our three primary water resources: the Colorado River, California’s State Water Project, and Lake Cuyamaca here in our local mountains. 

Colorado River

Most of the water in the Colorado River comes from the snowpack in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Utah’s Uinta and Wasatch Mountains and Wyoming’s Wind River Range. This winter’s snowpack is, so far, above the median.

Colorado River Upper Basin Snowpack / February 5, 2020

The above-the-median snowpack is encouraging, because Lake Mead, which provides water storage for Arizona, Nevada and Southern California is only 43 percent full.

Lake Mead Level / February 4, 2020

California’s State Water Project

California’s State Water Project captures snowmelt and precipitation in the Feather River Basin in the Northern Sierra and stores the water in Lake Oroville. Blended water from the Feather River and the Sacramento River is transported to Southern California in the 444 mile California Aqueduct. The northern Sierra snowpack is currently just 70 percent of normal for the first week of February.

Northern Sierra Snowpack / February 4, 2020

Even though California experienced a dry January, Lake Oroville and other major reservoirs in California are at or above their historical average for the first week of February. This is due in large part to the storms that hit the state in November and December.

Reservoir Conditions / February 4, 2020

Lake Cuyamaca

The historical average for October through January rainfall at Lake Cuyamaca is 14.28 inches. This year, over that same four months, we received 13.02 inches. So, despite dry conditions in January, we are only one inch below average.


Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

New law creates path to water industry jobs for military veterans

New law creates path to water industry jobs for military veterans

Assembly Bill 1588 has been signed into law, making it possible for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

State legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates, businesses and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park on Wednesday to celebrate the signing of AB 1588 by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (San Diego), Adam Gray (Merced) and Tasha Boerner Horvath (Oceanside).

The bill was co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and Otay Water District as the water and wastewater industries face a wave of retirements statewide. Known as the “silver tsunami,” more than 30 percent of the San Diego region’s 4,500 water and wastewater professionals are expected to reach retirement age by 2024.

“What we are missing, and what this bill addresses, is a pathway in which we honor the experience of our veterans and allow that experience to qualify them for a career path in our civilian water systems,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Thanks to Governor Newsom, that pathway now exists. California will now properly credit the service of our veterans and enable them to secure good-paying jobs here in our water system. In this time – when the importance of clean water and good paying jobs is undeniable – let’s create bridges not barriers.”

AB 1588 provides a pathway for veterans – who worked in water and wastewater while in the military – to apply their advanced skills and experience toward state and industry certifications in the civilian water and wastewater treatment and distribution operator fields.

Helix Water District’s board has supported AB 1588 since its introduction. “This bill is a win for both veterans and the water industry,” said U.S. Army veteran and Helix’s Board Vice President Mark Gracyk. “It provides veterans with a clear career path as they transition to civilian life, and it provides water agencies with an expanded hiring pool of experienced and dedicated individuals.”

Helix helps restore water system in Paradise

Helix helps restore water system in Paradise

Photo: The crew from Helix and Padre Dam with Paradise Irrigation District employees. The banner is signed by Helix and Padre Dam board members and employees.

Helix Water District sent four operations employees to Paradise, the northern California town leveled by the Camp Fire in November 2018, to help restore the community’s water distribution system.

They left Helix’s operations center at 3:30 a.m. on August 18, with two employees from neighboring Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and worked Monday through Friday in Paradise.

“If you closed your eyes, all you heard were friendly people. Everyone in town was very positive,” said Helix Utility Crew Supervisor Dan Baker. “But, when you looked around, there were trucks and workers everywhere — rebuilding.”

At the end of July, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) reported that they had removed 75 percent of the structural debris from the Camp Fire in Paradise and Butte County, including 1.6 million tons of ash and debris, over 518,000 tons of concrete, 37,000 tons of metal and over 446,000 tons of contaminated soil.

On August 6, Paradise residents gathered to hear the progress reports from all of the local and state agencies involved in rebuilding the community. The California Office of Emergency Services is developing a plan to remove the hazardous trees still standing, the town is opening a resource center to streamline the permitting process for residents rebuilding their homes, and the school district is making sure the new school year begins on schedule.

Top: Fire damage in Paradise, California. Below: Helix employees John Wilson, Eric Hughes, Dan Baker and Bryan Watte, and Padre Dam workers Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley.

But a safe water supply is still an issue. The water distribution system was contaminated during the fire with Benzene, a known carcinogen. Fire officials believe that the system depressurized during the fire and sucked in a toxic mix of gases from burning homes. This also happened in Santa Rosa during the Tubbs Fire in 2017.

Paradise Irrigation District General Manager Kevin Phillips reported to residents on August 6 that the district lifted water advisories on 133 standing homes and is testing and restoring water quality at 30-50 standing homes each week.

When Helix offered mutual aid assistance through the Office of Emergency Services, Phillips said they had cleared the gases from their water mains, but could use help testing and restoring water quality in customer service lines — the small pipe that connects a home to the water main. Helix sent Baker and Bryan Watte from its meters and valves section and John Wilson and Eric Hughes from its construction section to provide that help.

From 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the four went from one water meter to the next, collecting a water sample at each standing home and installing a highline to deliver safe water to the home until the sample was tested and the customer service line approved for use. They also assisted with the installation of backflow prevention assemblies to prevent contamination from the ongoing construction throughout the community. Phillips reported to residents on August 6 that PID had installed 275 backflow prevention assemblies to date, and had 400 more to install.

Monday evening, after their first day in Paradise, Baker emailed Helix Operations Director Kevin Miller that, “There’s a lot of work up here but the town is healing. I think I speak for all four of us when I say I’m proud to be a part of this.”

In fact, Baker was speaking for everyone at Helix. Field Supervisor Paul LaFalce said, “We lost four valuable people here at Helix for a week, but everyone was so supportive of what was happening in Paradise that they covered for them and made up the difference. It was good to see.”

The four took with them to Paradise a “California Strong. Paradise Strong.” banner signed by board members and district employees at both Helix and Padre Dam. Helix engineer Jeff McMaster emailed, “Sending a crew to help, the banner, this definitely reinforces the pride in working here.”

Helix Water District provides water treatment for much of San Diego’s east county suburbs and water distribution for the 276,000 people in the cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon, the Spring Valley community and unincorporated areas of the county.

Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.

Helix launches smart leak detector rebate program

Helix launches smart leak detector rebate program

Customers of Helix Water District are now eligible for a $100 rebate when they purchase a qualifying smart leak detector device.

Smart leak detectors allow you to monitor your home’s water use in real time, 24/7. They sync to your smartphone and alert you if there is high consumption or a leak at your property. This can help you manage your daily water use and protect your home from expensive leaks. There are two types of smart leak detectors: plumbed devices and external devices. Learn more about plumbed versus external devices and the rebate program here.


It’s easy to apply!

  1. Purchase a qualifying device on or after August 1, 2019.
  2. Complete the application.
  3. Submit your application and a copy of your sales receipt to conserve@helixwater.org.


Qualifying devices

A qualifying device requires all of the following characteristics:

  1. Automatically records water use at a minimum of five minute intervals;
  2. Automatically alerts or notifies users of unusual water usage including spikes in usage and continual flows; and
  3. Provides customers with a platform to view their water consumption data.

Some devices require tapping into your existing plumbing and may require a licensed plumber for installation, while others simply attach to your water meter.

Examples of models that meet the qualifying device characteristics include:

Plumbed Devices

External Devices


DISCLAIMER: Helix Water District does not endorse individual vendors, products or services. Therefore, any reference herein to any vendor or product by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise does not constitute or imply the endorsement or recommendation of Helix Water District.

Rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are not guaranteed.


Stay Connected

Be the first to know about construction, community events and more. We post links to our latest news on Facebook and Twitter, and we will use these platforms to communicate during emergencies, as well.