GrokSurf's San Diego

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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

San Diego separate storm sewer system workshop April 25

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 9, 2012

The San Diego Water Board is considering the development and adoption of a Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Storm Water NPDES Permit (Regional MS4 Permit) that will be issued to municipal Copermittees in San Diego County, Southern Orange County and Riverside County. Currently, each of these counties within the San Diego Region has its own municipal storm water permit. In order to better achieve regulatory consistency as well as maximum efficiency and economy of resources, the San Diego Water Board developed a single Regional MS4 Permit based on the boundaries of the San Diego Region instead of county political boundaries. Under this approach, the permit will uniformly regulate all three counties within the San Diego Region.


Posted in Environment, Stormwater management, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

San Diego River Bend project draft EIR open for public comment

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 29, 2012

The City of San Diego has announced that the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Diego River Bend project (aka the proposed Shawnee/CG7600 Master Plan redevelopment project) is now available for public review and comment. The deadline for comments is Monday, April 29.

The 22.88-acre project is located alongside the San Diego River in Grantville near the intersection of Mission Gorge Rd. and Old Cliffs Rd.

The project would redevelop the site with 996 multi-dwelling units, 27 single-dwelling units, 37,500 square feet of accessory commercial, a 2.57-acre population based park, 1.55 acres of open space, and associated infrastructure.

The EIR indicates the project would result in significant but mitigable impacts with land use, biological resources, historical resources, noise, and paleontological resources.

Project impacts to air quality, hydrology, water quality, and other areas of concern were determined to be less than significant.

The EIR also found the project would result in significant unmitigated impacts related to transportation/circulation and parking. In particular, it states that “eight street segments and five intersections are anticipated to operate at an unacceptable level of service under the Year 2030 without Project condition….” Although the report allows that those conditions might ultimately be mitigated through construction of the Santo Road and Tierrasanta Blvd. connections, “there is no way to assure these connections would be constructed…”

The draft EIR is available on the city’s website here and Appendices can be found here.

Additional information about the project can be found at these websites:


Posted in Environment, Land use, Navajo Community, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s indirect potable reuse proposal without the hype

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 27, 2012

The City of San Diego is studying the feasibility of using purified recycled water to bolster its reservoir supply through its Water Purification Demonstration Project (originally called the Indirect Potable Reuse Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project).

Potable reuse has been a controversial and emotional topic in San Diego’s quest for new water resources. Provocative stands by certain politicians and pejorative headlines in some news media obscure a key underlying fact: for San Diego the real issue is unplanned vs. planned indirect potable reuse.

San Diego imports about 80% of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River. Imported water from these sources contains treated wastewater from over 345 municipal wastewater facilities [citation] — and when we get it, it only gets standard water treatment before delivery to customers. This is called unplanned indirect potable reuse. We’ve been doing it all along.

By contrast, under San Diego’s planned indirect potable reuse proposal, recycled water (aka treated wastewater) would subsequently go through a multi-staged advanced purification process rendering it similar in quality to distilled water. The purified water would be blended with our imported raw water in the San Vicente Reservoir. So, in fact we would actually improve the overall quality of the imported water before it goes to the final water treatment plant.

The goal, if the demonstration project is successful, is to produce 16 million gallons per day via the potable reuse process. That’s 16 million gallons per day less in imported water purchases, and 16 million gallons per day less in wastewater discharge into the ocean.

The Demonstration Project is also performing a limnology study to determine the reservoir mixing and dilution dynamics associated with adding the purified recycled water.

Over the last year the City of San Diego has been conducting educational presentations and guided tours of the advanced purification facility. The Water Reliability Coalition, a broad-based coalition of community organizations and groups has formed to further educate the public about potable reuse in San Diego. Polls indicate growing public acceptance of the process.


Reprinted from a page in the Topical Guide section of this blog. That page includes the latest news reports on the subject and a selected bibliography on potable reuse and related topics.


Posted in Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Water, Water Purification Demonstration Project | 8 Comments »

Equinox Center releases new “Regional Quality of Life Dashboard”

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 3, 2012

San Diego’s non-profit Equinox Center (actually it’s located in Encinitas) has published a new 2012 report Regional Quality of Life Dashboard on its website.

The Dashboard front page (which also has reports for 2010 and 2011) states that it aims to

“…shine a spotlight on the questions that truly matter to San Diegans: Are we leaving our children a heritage of thriving, rejuvenating nature? Will our businesses have access to resources such as energy and water so they can provide economic opportunities to all of the region’s inhabitants? Do we have efficient and adequate transportation options? Simply, is our quality of life improving?”

As you can see, a variety of relevant topics are addressed in the dashboard. You have the choice of clicking a specific topic from the left-hand sidebar or you can download the entire report as a PDF (clicking the above image will take you to the main Dashboard page).

Each topic is organized into four units, with the headings asking:

  1. What is the measure?
  2. How are we doing?
  3. Why is it important?
  4. How can we improve?

In the unit on water, here’s a map from the “How are we doing?” section. The map portrays each water district in the county in shades of green, with dark green indicating the highest water consumption (clicking the image will display the version on the Equinox website).

In addition to the Dashboard reports, the Equinox Center website is well-worth exploring for reports on other research it has conducted. One that is quite revealing is the 2010 report San Diego’s Water Resources: Assessing the Options. It drew quite a bit of attention from community leaders and activists. For my summary of that report please click here.


Posted in Environment, Government, Land use, Water | Leave a Comment »

San Diego Water Reliability Coalition launches website

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 14, 2011

The Water Reliability Coalition (or WRC), an association of San Diego County environmental, technical, business, and ratepayer organizations formed to perform public outreach in support of Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) research and development announced yesterday the launch of its new website at

When WRC came together in late 2009 as the Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) Coalition, the City of San Diego was embarking on its Indirect Potable Reuse Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project (IPR/RA Demonstration Project). Lani Lutar (San Diego County Taxpayers Association) and Bruce Reznik (at the time at San Diego Coastkeeper) were instrumental in organizing the coalition. Lutar is still at it, and Gabe Solmer is the new leader from Coastkeeper.

In March 2010 the Coalition received a special recognition award from the California WateReuse Association for its efforts.

The Coalition believes that potable reuse shows great potential as a component of San Diego’s water supply strategy because it represents a steady reliable source of high-quality potable water and has the environmental benefit of reducing the amount of wastewater dumped into the Pacific, among other reasons.

In early 2010 San Diego began to publicize its IPR project as the Water Purification Demonstration Project partly to simplify saying the name and partly to get some distance from lingering impressions caused by negative politics and press during IPR initiatives in 2007 and earlier (the original name is still used for internal documentation and official Council business).

Consequently, the IPR Coalition changed its name to the Water Reliability Coalition in September 2010, partly in response to the City’s project name change and partly because the name echoes sentiment behind a long-time San Diego goal to improve supply reliability by reducing its 80% dependence on water imports. The Coalition then decided to build a website, not an easy task with numerous coalition members with other priorities and economic challenges to deal with. It took a bit longer than they hoped, but it’s here now. It’s good to see it up.

(see also this writeup about the Coalition from Bradley Fikes at the North County Times)


Posted in Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Potable reuse, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Helix Water District may close the tap on the El Monte Valley Project

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 4, 2011

This Wednesday September 7 the Helix Water District Board of Directors will consider a staff recommendation to suspend the El Monte Valley Project. The project is a groundwater recharge and recovery operation that would generate 5,000 acre feet of water per year using an advanced recycled water purification process known to water professionals as Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR).

The eastern part of El Monte Valley. El Capitan reservoir and dam are around the bend to the right. The greenery heading down the valley marks the course of the San Diego River. The valley grows considerably wider with distance from the reservoir.

The purification process for potable reuse includes micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and UV disinfection. San Diego is also developing an IPR project through the Water Purification Demonstration Project at the North City Water Reclamation Plant.

The Helix project has (or had) a lot going for it.

Whereas Helix currently meets 3.3% of its demand for water from local resources, the project would increase that figure to 15%. For all practical purposes, it would create a permanent drought-proof water supply for 15,000 families according to the project’s FAQ — and there would be a corresponding decrease in imported water purchases. Wastewater discharges to the Pacific Ocean would also be reduced.

Another project component would be to mine about 12 million tons of sand from the valley over a 10-year period and sell it to to help fund the project. Much of the sand was deposited by the San Diego River which flows through El Monte Valley west of El Capitan Reservoir. The sand would help ease local shortages of Portland Cement Grade Sand. Upon completion of the mining, the valley would be recontoured and reclamation/restoration plans would be implemented for habitat and recreation purposes.

The staff recommendation to suspend the project (initiated by all four district staff directors and signed off on by General Manager Mark Weston) must have been difficult to decide after the considerable time and resources invested, not the least being preparation of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that has been underway for more than a year. Still, to put it simply, the project conditions have changed so much that it no longer seems feasible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environment, Helix Water District, Indirect potable reuse, Water | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

San Vicente Dam will soon begin rising for real

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 30, 2011

Prepping the dam's face with water blasting to ensure a good surface for the new concrete (photo taken March 2010).

It has been two years since groundbreaking for the San Vicente Dam Raise Project took place, but the dam is still at its original height.

Everything is going according to plan, though, and right on schedule.

All this time has been devoted to prepping the dam and foundation, setting up the quarry where the ingredients for the concrete will be mined, constructing a new access road to the future new marina, and building a small “saddle dam” (because the eventual higher water level will reach a saddle-shaped depression in the hills on the reservoir’s west side).

San Vicente Dam is currently 220 feet tall and when completed, will be 117 feet taller, increasing the reservoir’s capacity from 90,000 acre-feet to 242,000 acre-feet. Although the larger capacity is billed as being enough to supply 300,000 households, the expansion is not really to accommodate additional customers from growth and development as might be implied by that statement.

Because around 80% of San Diego’s water must be imported it could be disastrous if something happened to cut off that supply. Our water managers take that risk very seriously. The real point of expanding the reservoir, therefore, is to have more water stored locally for use if something (like an earthquake) breaks the imported water infrastructure and repairs take months to complete. A secondary reason is to provide carryover storage to be used during extra dry years.

Reservoir level drawn down during construction. Large cleared area on left is site of quarry mining operations (photo from August 2010).

While the City of San Diego owns and operates San Vicente Dam and reservoir, the dam raise project is actually being managed and paid for by the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) which will also own the rights to the additional water. The dam raise is one of several projects SDCWA is doing as part of its countywide Emergency Storage Project.

Work on the saddle dam was recently halted halfway at about the 20 foot mark (again, as planned) because the conveyor system that will deliver concrete from the quarry and concrete mixing operation to the big dam needs to go through that space. The conveyor will cross right over the top of the half-finished saddle dam. After the main dam raise is completed, the conveyor will be dismantled and work on the saddle dam will resume to bring it up to its full height.

Since the precisely formulated concrete will be delivered by conveyor instead of trucks it will minimize contamination from soil and other material. By mining the aggregate for the concrete from the hills next to the reservoir and producing the concrete on site instead of another location, residents living in the vicinity will be spared the dust, noise, and traffic impact that thousands of truck trips would otherwise cause.

Concrete will not be made and poured into forms the traditional way; rather, a technique known as “roller compacted concrete” (RCC) will be used. SDCWA already used this method to build the Olivenhain Dam in northern San Diego County. As explained in the above-linked story about Olivenhain, “Roller-compacted concrete is similar to traditional concrete, but is less expensive, requires less water and is much thicker when placed…Roller-compacted concrete is placed in layers. The layers are compacted with rollers similar to those used in road building. Interruption of work must be minimised to facilitate bonding of the layers. Therefore, crews worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week during a 10-12 month period to construct the dam.”

Similarly, once concrete placement begins at San Vicente Dam (probably in mid-September), work will be non-stop 24/7 until the dam is finished. The dam will rise at the rate of about one foot per day. When I asked about viewing opportunities to see the dam as it goes up, SDCWA Senior Public Affairs Representative Gina Molise told me there’s a possibility that they’ll set up a camera overlooking the job to capture time-lapse images. However, that’s only a possibility at this time.

The project schedule and more information can be found at SDCWA’s project web page.

A few weeks ago SDCWA invited the news media to a photo opportunity of work underway on the saddle dam. I was invited too :-) so I get to share some photos. Click images for enlargements (it makes a big difference with some of them).

About half of the dam can be seen in this view from a nearby hillside.


Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environment, Water | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Chris Austin does Imperial Valley water with style

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 18, 2011

Chris Austin, the tireless maven for the well-known Aquafornia California water news service from the Water Education Foundation has just completed a new slideshow: From Imperial Valley to the Salton Sea: The Story of Imperial Valley’s Water.

Chris decided about a year ago to embark on a project to tell a history of the Imperial Valley and the formation of the Salton Sea in pictures.

This educational and visually stimulating show is another phase in Chris’s ongoing effort. She has travelled to conduct interviews, do research, take photographs, write, edit, get input from members of the Imperial Irrigation District, the IV Cooperative Extension Service, the Salton Sea Authority, and more.

In addition to being of interest to the community that regularly follows California water issues, the show is likely to be useful for others like college professors teaching water resources engineering and other such courses. There’s a good bibliography of resources at the end, too.

Be sure to visit her Maven’s Manor blog that contains a variety of articles and slideshows on California’s Water and other topics, and her Maven’s Photoblog which is filled with wonderful pictures and stories.

I’m embedding Chris’s slideshow below with her permission; I encourage you to switch to full-screen for best effect.



Posted in Environment, Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Keep up-to-date with San Diego Coastkeeper

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 5, 2011

Did you know you can have the latest San Diego Coastkeeper newsletters conveniently delivered to your email address? Just visit any page on the Coastkeeper website and look for the “Join Our Newsletter” signup form that appears. Here’s the latest issue (click image to see the whole thing).


Posted in Environment, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Mexico might receive Colorado River water via the All-American Canal

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 1, 2011

A proposal to build a turnout on the All-American Canal in order to convey some of Mexico’s Colorado River water to Mexicali, Tecate, Ensenada, and Tijuana during an emergency (like another catastrophic earthquake) disrupting the existing delivery system is being considered through the Colorado River Binational Discussions process — an ongoing series of discussions between Mexican and U.S. agencies working on Colorado River water supply and water management issues

[This account is based on a briefing on the Mexico-U.S. Binational Discussions given at the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) Imported Water Committee meeting last Thursday, July 28 [agenda packet]. Colorado River Program Director Halla Razak delivered the update.]


East of El Centro. The newly-lined All-American Canal is wide, deep, and swiftly flowing.

All-American Canal

The Colorado River is the main source of water for the state of Baja California. After the river enters Mexico, an aqueduct starting in Mexicali brings water west for Tijuana and other locales.

In the aftermath of the 2010 Baja California earthquake, the aqueduct and other canals were damaged, and for a time Tijuana was in a vulnerable position. Later, looking for ways to avoid dependence solely on the single aqueduct, Mexico expressed interest in using the All-American Canal to convey some Colorado River water to Mexico during emergencies so as to provide an extra margin of supply reliability.

The idea was presented at the Colorado River Binational Discussions and a workgroup was set up to work out a plan. Members of the workgroup are:

  • San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA)
  • Imperial Irrigation District (IID)
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD)
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
  • Central Arizona Project (CAP)
  • Various Mexican government agencies

For the next year or so the workgroup will work on design, permitting, and funding. It will also work with the International Boundary and Water Commission (which oversees the 1944 treaty with Mexico regarding water deliveries between the two countries) to determine terms and conditions for implementing the project, and the Bureau of Reclamation which coordinates the Colorado River Basin States’ input to the negotiations.

Ms. Razak indicated that the workgroup is looking at a connection with 200 CFS capacity beginning at the western end of the All-American Canal, near the turnout for the Westside Main Canal.

If all goes well, it is hoped that construction could be completed in early 2014.

Although the City of San Diego isn’t a member of the workgroup, it will have some say in the project because it owns a portion of the capacity rights in the All-American Canal. That’s another story in itself — here’s a fact sheet explaining it. San Diego shoulders some expense in maintaining those capacity rights and will be looking for an agreeable financial outcome should this project be implemented.


The April 2010 Baja California earthquake, as many of us are aware, devastated Mexico’s water infrastructure in the region. An Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) newsletter said an estimated 300 km of canals were knocked out of service [link]. Details on the effects of the earthquake are documented in this EERI Reconnaissance Report.

What was the fate of the water heading toward the unusable canals? Would it just be diverted out to sea?

That brings us back to the Colorado River Binational Process. In normal times they work on long-term strategic issues but during the last year their main focus has been dealing with the impacts of the earthquake. The All-American Canal project was an idea that came recently, relatively speaking. An earlier development was a U.S. suggestion that Mexico be permitted to temporarily store up to 200,000 acre feet in Lake Mead, as summarized in this Colorado River Board report:

“…with the large magnitude earthquake that occurred in the Mexicali Valley in early April, water deliveries from a large number of the canals in the Mexicali Valley have been disrupted. To assist Mexico in coping with this situation, the United States has suggested that, in the interest of international comity and as a one-time program, Mexico would be allowed to store up to 200,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir system in the United States this year and then be allowed to request the delivery of the stored water during calendar year 2011. […] Mexico has considered this offer made by the United States and is proposing that this offer by the United States be incorporated into a more comprehensive deal that includes the concepts that are currently being discussed by the two countries to pursue Bi-National projects that could benefit both countries.”

As things turned out, however, the temporary storage wasn’t much needed. According to Mark Watton, Chair of the Imported Water Committee, Mexico has been slow to take advantage of that offer because the farmers, not wanting to wait for canal repairs, began digging their own diversion ditches and were able to irrigate their crops.

Mr. Watton observed that wasn’t the first time Mexican farmers were able to wrangle some extra water. He said a number of years ago (mid 90s?) the Colorado River had surplus water and about 3 million acre feet (MAF) went to Mexico that year (the U.S. treaty obligation to Mexico is 1.5 MAF). Despite doubling the usual volume of water entering Mexico, Watton recalled, not a single drop made it to the Gulf. Why? The upstream farmers captured and used all the extra water.

A short video documenting damaged and then repaired canals and other water conveyance work was also played for the committee. San Diego County Water Authority kindly gave me a copy with permission to post it here (I added the credits at the beginning).


Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Videos, Water | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »


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