GrokSurf's San Diego

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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 5, 2023

On one of the many spur trails in the southern section of the park below Point Loma Nazarene University.

Posted in Environment, San Diego Places & Things, Water | 1 Comment »

Water discharges into San Diego storm water system: public hearings scheduled for this week

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 10, 2015

The City of San Diego is preparing 2015 amendments to its Storm Water Management and Discharge Control Ordinance. The ordinance regulates all water flowing into the storm water system, including that from non-storm water sources.

Examples of residential water discharges that are regulated:

  • Discharge of vehicle, boat, and equipment wash water to the storm drain system shall be contained, captured, and reused, or disposed of to the sanitary sewer, an appropriate waste hauler, or to landscaping or other pervious surfaces. No drains within wash areas shall be connected to the storm drain system.
  • Irrigation runoff to the storm drain system shall be eliminated through proper landscape maintenance and watering practices.
  • Water from swimming pools, spas, fountains, reflective pools, ponds, and filter backwash water shall be properly disposed of to prevent pollutants from entering the storm drain system.

Two public information sessions are scheduled for this week:

January 12, 2015
6:00PM – 7:30PM
San Diego Concourse
North Terrace Rooms #206-9
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101

January 13, 2015
1:00PM – 2:30PM
San Diego Concourse
North Terrace Rooms #206-9
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101

For full information about San Diego’s storm water regulations and the 2015 amendments, see


Posted in Environment, Storm water management, Water | Leave a Comment »

100-acre restoration project at Upper Otay Reservoir to improve water quality and native habitat

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 8, 2015

Upper Otay Reservoir. Picture taken from trail near northwestern side of the lake.

Upper Otay Reservoir. Picture taken from trail near northwestern side of the lake.

SAN DIEGO – The City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department is working with local nonprofit River Partners to restore approximately 100 acres around the City’s Upper Otay Reservoir.

The three-year project will restore five small urban streams and the main drainage to the reservoir, totaling nearly 6,900 linear feet of streambed. A significant benefit will be that the restored drainages will ease urban runoff and remove pollutants and trash; thus, helping to protect water quality. The $ 1.2million project is funded by state and local grants.

“The Public Utilities Department is committed to improving water quality and the environment,” said Halla Razak, Director of Public Utilities. “This project is a great example of our continuing work in protecting and enhancing watersheds that connect to our reservoirs.”

River Partners will remove invasive and non-native plants such as eucalyptus, tamarisk, Giant Reed and non-native grasses. To establish healthy riparian and upland plant areas along and adjacent to the streams, the organization will plant native tree and plant species, including California sycamore, Fremont cottonwood, black willow, arroyo willow, and mulefat.

The replacement of non-native flora with native ones will enhance the habitat for many bird species of special concern, such as the cactus wren, tricolored blackbird, yellow breasted chat, yellow warbler California gnatcatcher, least Bell’s vireo, and southwestern willow fly catcher. Because eucalyptus trees are often used by hawks for nesting and perches, some large trees will be left for this purpose.

The smallest of the City of San Diego’s impounding reservoirs, Upper Otay Reservoir was established in 1959 as a fish hatchery. The reservoir has been open to the public for fishing since 1996.

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department provides safe, healthful drinking water to the 1.3 million residents of San Diego, and regional wastewater treatment and disposal services for more than 2 million residents of San Diego County. More information:

River Partners creates wildlife habitat and protects the environment by implementing large scale restoration projects along streams and rivers. More information:

[Text from the Public Utilities Department news release. Photo is mine.]

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After a long hiatus, Morena Reservoir is back in service…for now

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 11, 2013

[updated with an additional image of Barrett Dam]

After a nearly 7-year break in operations—with a brief restart in February this year only to be halted again—water from Morena Reservoir is again flowing toward the City of San Diego.

From Morena to San Diego

Morena is an expansive, but relatively shallow, lake.

Morena is an expansive, but relatively shallow, lake.

Morena Reservoir is located in East County about 45 miles from San Diego, near Campo. Water released from Morena flows down Hauser Canyon and into Barrett Reservoir (all photos can be clicked for enlargement).

Barrett Dam seals a deep narrow canyon with steep walls.

Barrett Dam seals a deep narrow canyon with steep walls.

Barrett is situated about 10 miles west of Morena, at the confluence of Cottonwood and Pine Valley creeks. Water is then released from Barrett and conveyed via the Dulzura Conduit to the Lower Otay Reservoir where it is treated and delivered to San Diego residents.

The concrete conduit snaking down the steep canyon below the dam. Access is from the service road below.

The concrete conduit snaking down the steep canyon below the dam. Access is from the service road below.

The Dulzura Conduit is a critical component making the whole system work.

The Dulzura Conduit is a 13-mile-long aqueduct beginning at Barrett, mostly concrete-lined but partly flumes, pipelines, and tunnels. Passing through remote and rugged terrain the Conduit diverts water west to Dulzura Creek leading to the Otay River. The water then flows through the river channel into the Lower Otay Reservoir.

Without the Dulzura Conduit serving as a diversion at Barrett, water released at the dam would otherwise continue down Cottonwood Creek which flows south into Mexico and joins the Tijuana River.

The Conduit was originally built in 1907-1909 by the Southern California Mountain Water Company under control of John D. Spreckels.

Rain and fire

The Conduit was renovated in the mid-1990s to replace the original wooden flumes and trestles with steel pipe on concrete and steel supports. Because of the remote location, helicopters were needed to support many aspects of the project.

_DSC6462A _DSC6436A

In 2004-2005, however, heavy rains severely damaged the Conduit. Before repairs could be performed, the Harris Fire in 2007 caused further damage. Extensive repairs had to be planned, funded, and carried out.

The Conduit, with a capacity to move close to 40 million gallons per day, finally became operational beginning January 2011.

This picture (better enlarged) shows a segment of partly covered conduit, pipeline, and hair-raising service road etched into the steep canyon wall.

This picture (better enlarged) shows a segment of partly covered conduit, pipeline, and hair-raising service road etched into the steep canyon wall.

The Conduit came online just in time because that’s when Mayor Jerry Sanders ordered the Public Utilities Department (PUD) to absorb the 2012 rate increase for imported water purchased from the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) instead of passing along the increase to San Diego ratepayers. PUD was to absorb the expense in part by drawing down local reservoirs (including Morena) so that less imported water would need to be purchased, and also by cutting staff and implementing “efficiencies.” In 2012, Sanders renewed ordered PUD to continue absorbing costs when SDCWA announced imported rate increases for 2013.

Morena drawdown encounters resistance

By 2013, enough water had been removed from Barrett that the City could start taking water from Morena. The original plan was to release about 20 million gallons per day from Morena to Barrett between February and June 2013. This was expected to save about $5 million in avoided imported water purchases. However, objections from the County of San Diego caused operations to halt in March 2013.

The low-water boat dock at Morena. Another boat ramp higher up doesn't reach the water at this level.

The low-water boat dock at Morena. Another boat ramp higher up doesn’t reach the water at this level.

While the City owns the Morena dam, reservoir, and land around the reservoir, it has a lease agreement with the County which maintains the area for recreational purposes. The County said it felt that drawing down the reservoir would have negative consequences for recreational users, local residents, and the environment, and it requested that less water be taken. The ensuing controversy about this is documented in this East County Magazine story by Miriam Raftery and discussed further in this Reddit thread.

The City responded it was willing to limit the drawdown at Morena if the County would be willing to buy the water needed to keep the reservoir at the requested higher level, at a cost of about $1.7 million.

Receiving no further response from the County, the City resumed releasing water from Morena on December 1 (also noted by Fox5 San Diego). The drawdown is expected to continue for another 2 months or so until Morena’s level reaches 2,000 acre-feet.

Besides saving money for San Diego water customers, lowering the water level at Morena will facilitate a Capital Improvement Program project at the dam required by the California Division of Safety of Dams. As explained by Brent Eidson, PUD’s Deputy Director of External Affairs:

“Much of the mechanical equipment inside the existing outlet tower was installed in 1912 and has managed to operate well past its service life. In the interest of safety, the California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) is requiring the Department to renovate the outlet tower and add improvements to the dam.

As part of this CIP project, the top 23 feet of the outlet tower will be demolished and replaced with a new structure that will include a bridge extending to the top of the dam. All pipes, valves, ladders, and platforms inside the tower will be replaced. This project also includes a seismic stability evaluation of outlet tower and construction of a new parapet wall on top of the dam. The reservoir outlet pipe will be upsized to meet the DSOD emergency drawdown requirements. The estimated cost of this project will be in the range of $8 million. The project construction is scheduled to start in late 2014 and continue through 2017. The timing of this CIP project was set based upon City’s planned operation to lower the reservoir in order to reduce CIP-related costs.”

Although not a deciding factor, high reservoir evaporation at Morena was an additional consideration. Eidson says “It’s not so much that there is too much surface area, in total, but that the lake is relatively shallow (when compared to other lakes), so the combination of these, as well as the drier and hotter climate in the summer at this location is what leads to increased evaporation.

Morena Reservoir for water supply versus Lake Morena for recreation


This isn’t the first time controversy has bubbled up over water withdrawals from Morena. This Los Angeles Times story describes an outcry over withdrawals that took place in 1989, with a similar outcome: the drawdown continued.

Part of the public relations problem, it seems to me, stems from the fact that large water releases from Morena are not a regular occurence. Once several years go by with relatively high and stable water levels, residents and recreational users come to expect it will stay that way. That creates a shock when it becomes necessary to withdraw water.

If the County were to agree to buy water to keep the reservoir level higher, it would likely require negotiating a rather detailed conditional agreement, since the main reason for the reservoir is, after all, to provide San Diego with a local source of drinking water (and as a bare minimum, an emergency supply). My guess is that the County prefers to avoid an expensive and complicated arrangement.

A very wet (but not TOO wet!) rainy season in the coming months would probably ease tensions all around.

Note about the photographs. I took the photos of Morena reservoir in July 2013, and the photos of the Dulzura Conduit on December 5, 2013 during a visit to Barrett Reservoir arranged through the Public Utilities Department with Brent Eidson’s assistance.


Posted in Environment, San Diego Public Utilities Department (PUD), Water, Water rates | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bureau of Reclamation awards $1.025 million toward San Diego watershed basin study

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 29, 2013

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to contribute funding in the amount of $1,025,000 in fiscal year 2013 for a San Diego Watershed Basin Study proposed by the City of San Diego along with two other local agencies.

According to San Diego’s proposal, the study’s two primary objectives are:

  1. Determine how climate change will impact the current and future water supply portfolio of the San Diego region.
  2. Develop infrastructure options within the San Diego Basin that can serve as adaptation strategies to manage climate change impacts, focusing on optimizing the reservoir systems and furthering development of indirect potable reuse.

There are uncertainties associated with Northern California and Colorado River water (regulatory restrictions and dry conditions, respectively) upon which the San Diego region relies for 70-90% of its needs. While previous work has been done to address the potential gap between supply and demand from the above causes, the potential climate change effects were not taken into account. The proposed watershed basin study would analyze those effects.

The San Diego Public Utilities Department (PUD) is the project sponsor, with the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) and the County of San Diego serving as partners.

The San Diego watershed basin study is comprised of six sub-hydrologic units (HU) within San Diego County highlighted above in blue.

The San Diego watershed basin study area is comprised of the six sub-hydrologic units (HU) within San Diego County highlighted above in blue. Click map to enlarge.

Budget: $1 million was requested from Reclamation, a grant of $782,244 was secured from the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Program, and $300,000 would be paid by PUD creating a project total of $2,082,244.

The San Diego IRWM Program, formed in 2005, has a vision for “[a]n integrated, balanced, and consensus-based approach to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Region’s water supply, water quality, and natural resources.”

In addition to approving the requested $1 million, the Reclamation Bureau granted an additional $25,000. In its notification letter to the city, the Bureau said “…funding will be provided in two phases. First, $25,000 will be allocated for the development of a detailed Plan of Study… [and] Contingent upon Reclamation’s approval of the Plan of Study, $1,000,000 will be allocated for conducting the study.”

Work on the Plan of Study and a Memorandum of Agreement begins today at a kickoff meeting between the study partners and a representative from Reclamation. The Plan must be submitted for approval by September 30.

The new basin study might be able to consider aspects of a four-reservoir intertie project for which San Diego and Sweetwater Authority tried to execute a feasibility study in 2011 but were unsuccessful partly because, according to PUD Principal Water Resources Specialist Cathleen Pieroni, hoped-for funding from the Bureau of Reclamation fell through because the Bureau was unable to get an allocation from Congress did not appropriate the funding necessary to complete the Study that it authorized.

Tasks for the San Diego Watershed Basin Study include basin water supply and demand projections, climate change evaluation, development of adaptation strategies, and a trade-off analysis. The final report is expected to be ready in mid-2015.


Posted in Environment, Land use, San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), San Diego Public Utilities Department (PUD), Water | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

San Vicente hydropower proposal gathers momentum

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 15, 2013

The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) announced on July 8 that it is soliciting bids to conduct an economic/financial assessment of a proposed pumped-hydro energy storage (PHES) facility based at the San Vicente reservoir. SDCWA hopes the proposed energy storage facility will be helpful in balancing SDG&E’s power load during peak demand, especially since the San Onofre nuclear power plant is now offline (20% of its output went to SDG&E), and that it would generate extra dollars to boot.

PHES facilities have reversible pump/generators connecting an upper and lower reservoir, with connections to the electrical power grid. The pumps use low-cost electricity during off-peak hours to move water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir, creating stored energy. During hours of peak electricity use, water is released from the upper reservoir to generate power at a higher price.

For the proposed PHES facility, the San Vicente reservoir would serve as the lower reservoir and an upper reservoir would be constructed nearby.

The idea isn’t new. Use of the San Vicente reservoir for a PHES project was first contemplated by the City of San Diego in 1993, when it worked with another entity to apply for a preliminary permit for a similar project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). That permit expired and no extension was requested.

The San Vicente Dam Raise Project shown here nearly completed, increases reservoir capacity from 90,000 to 242,000 acre-feet.

The San Vicente Dam Raise Project shown here nearly completed, increases reservoir capacity from 90,000 to 242,000 acre-feet.

Meanwhile, SDCWA’s massive Emergency Storage Project (ESP) was creating a system of reservoirs, interconnected pipelines, and pumping stations. The Authority imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California waterways in aqueducts that cross three earthquake faults and the flood-prone San Luis Rey River before reaching San Diego County, and a major earthquake or flood could cut the region off from imported water deliveries for between two and six months. The ESP was designed to ensure sufficient local water supplies are available to the San Diego region for up to six months in the event of an interruption in imported water deliveries. Expansion of the San Vicente reservoir and construction of the Olivenhain dam were part of the ESP.

As early as 1996 a PHES facility at Lake Hodges had been identified as complementary to the ESP. In 2000 SDCWA filed with FERC for a preliminary permit and the proposal evolved into the Olivenhain-Hodges Pumped Storage Project, about 15 miles northwest of San Vicente Reservoir. By 2006 late 2000 the Olivenhain dam with a 24,000 acre-feet (AF) reservoir was under construction in an Elfin Forest valley above Lake Hodges, along with a pipeline connecting the two. The PHES facility began operating in the fall of 2011.

In addition to energy storage and new reservoir capacity, the Olivenhain-Hodges connection serves a water resource management function by making it possible to transfer water from Hodges that would otherwise be lost over the Hodges dam spillway during wet seasons if rain runoff exceeds the lake’s capacity. Further, when SDCWA operates the pumps for ‘water purposes’ (i.e., saving water that would otherwise spill from Lake Hodges by pumping it to SDCWA’s aqueduct during a rain event) it pays for the energy at the wholesale rate, not the retail rate.

All of the power generated at Olivenhain-Hodges is sold to SDG&E under a power purchase agreement. The facility operates on a daily schedule, per requests by SDG&E that typically are filed by 2 p.m. for the following day. In general, the project generates power from noon to 4 p.m., while pumping upstream occurs around midnight.

Olivenhain Dam creates a reservoir with 24,000 acre-feet capacity.

Olivenhain Dam creates a reservoir with 24,000 acre-feet capacity.

As for the cost of energy for pumping versus the money earned from power generation at Olivenhain-Hodges, SDCWA says: “Prices change daily. What’s more important is the delta between the two, which typically is in the range of $5 to $8 per MWh.” SDCWA also receives a “standby” fee of $70 per KW year.

The Olivenhain-Hodges PHES facility has a 40MW capacity, while the proposed San Vicente facility would have a 500MW capacity.

The newer San Vicente PHES proposal took a separate track. In 2006, in cooperation with the City, SDCWA filed an application for a preliminary permit from FERC that was approved in 2007.

After conducting preliminary studies, in 2010 SDCWA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for someone to conduct a power market analysis optimization, siting of the upper reservoir, applicable laws, land acquisition, geotechnical, and financial and economic analysis services. For some reason, a contract never materialized from this RFP.

The idea remained alive, however. The 2010 preliminary permit was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2013 so SDCWA applied for a new permit on June 24. As quoted in the July 8, 2013 SDCWA news release announcing the study RFP, Frank Belock, deputy general manager at the Water Authority said: “The concept of pumped storage at San Vicente has been on our radar for years and is a natural next step now that the San Vicente Dam Raise project is almost complete. An independent economic review will help the Board of Directors determine whether we should make it a priority.”

The scope of work in the new 2013 RFP for the $150,000 contract calls for study completion within about six months:

“In general, the scope of work includes technical, financial, and economic evaluation services and includes but is not limited to, identifying project constructability issues and potential risk including potential pipeline or tunnel alignments; approximate intake structure locations and configurations; geotechnical and seismic condition considerations; potential location of powerhouse; facility cost estimate ranges; development schedule; potential impacts to the existing power reservoir; estimate ranges of annual operations; licensing requirements; upper reservoir constraints; environmental permitting process requirements; evaluation of the regional power needs based on existing and planned generation facilities; and an analysis of the power demand.”

In short, the study is largely for return-on-investment and energy market calculations to see if there is a good financial benefit from the PHES facility.

About thirty individuals attended an RFP “pre-proposal” meeting at SDCWA headquarters on July 10 to hear about the project background, scope of work, insurance requirements, etc. Answers to questions revealed that the study project can be managed by a qualified person but technical reports must be signed and stamped by a professional engineer, and that successful bidders on the project will remain eligible to bid on RFPs for further studies (e.g., engineering, geological, environmental) that are possible following completion of this study. Proposals are due July 30.

The RFP identifies four potential sites for a new upper reservoir near San Vicente (SDCWA says it is open to suggestions for other sites):

Alternative Site A (Figure 4) is located near Iron Mountain, approximately three miles northwest of the San Vicente Reservoir. This site’s full pond elevation is approximately 2,110 feet above mean sea level (MSL). The water surface area at full pond is approximately 93 acres.

Alternative Site B is located near Foster Canyon, approximately one-half mile northwest of the San Vicente Reservoir. This site’s upper reservoir’s full pond elevation is approximately 1,490 feet above MSL. The water surface area at full pond is
approximately 100 acres.

Alternative Site C is located approximately 0.8 miles northeast of the San Vicente Reservoir. This site’s full pond elevation is approximately 1,600 feet above MSL. The water surface area at full pond is approximately 60 acres.

Alternative Site D is located approximately 1.8 miles southeast of the San Vicente Reservoir. This site’s full pond elevation is approximately 1,800 feet above MSL. The water surface area at full pond is approximately 80 acres.

The map below shows the possible sites in relation to San Vicente reservoir (click for enlargement). Although SDCWA says it doesn’t have a preference, the location just east of Iron Mountain (Alternative A) might be a favored spot because it has the highest elevation to provide “hydraulic head”.


According to the FERC preliminary permit application, “In a typical year, the Project would likely generate 15-20 percent of the time, usually within relatively short, daily two to four-hour periods. The Project also has the capability to generate continuously at different power levels from 100-500 MW. Assuming Site Alternative A is used as the upper reservoir, if the Project began generating at full load (500 MW) without any weekday pump-back operations, the upper reservoir would contain sufficient storage to provide over 3.5 hours of daily generation between Monday and Friday.”

Depending on the site selected, the upper reservoir capacity would approach 10,000 acre-feet, roughly twice the capacity of Lake Murray.

There may be environmental concerns about a new upper reservoir and no doubt groups like San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider San Diego, Equinox Center, and others will provide input when environmental reviews begin. Although he wasn’t prepared to issue a position statement, Coast Law Group co-founder Marco Gonzalez, a long-time advocate for sustainable water policy in San Diego, said “I’m always concerned when someone wants to destroy habitat for a reservoir and dam. However, given the need for cleaner power, the hydroelectric/pump paradigm isn’t so bad.”

The economic outlook for PHES projects is somewhat uncertain, which is why SDCWA wants this financial study.

According to Soma Bhadra, CEO of Proteus Consulting, a consultant who is considering the RFP, “After the evaluation, the chips will fall where they will. I sense that the news will not be in favor of pumped storage. Due to the proliferation of solar and wind in the region, the nature of peak is changing, and the value of peak energy production is decreasing. The energy market for regulation or ancillary services are not yet open in California. There may not be enough off-peak differential to make the numbers work for pumped storage projects, unless we fuel the project with only renewables and take the advantage of some tax credit.”

Unconventional natural gas production may significantly lower natural gas prices for gas-fired power plants (which also can provide quick response power during peak loads, thus competing with PHES), while a legislated price or cap on carbon dioxide emissions could improve the outlook for PHES.

An article in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews states: “”Most low-carbon electricity resources cannot flexibly adjust their output to match fluctuating power demands. For instance, nuclear power plants best operate continuously and their output cannot be ramped up and down quickly. Wind power and solar energy are intermittent and their operators sometimes have no control over the schedule of electricity output. Utility-scale electricity storage to maintain balance and prevent blackouts remains a significant barrier to a de-carbonized power system. There are only two large-scale (>100 MW) technologies available commercially for grid-tied electricity storage, pumped-hydro energy storage (PHES) and compressed air energy storage (CAES). Of the two, PHES is far more widely adopted.”

Still, a PHES facility is not a hydroelectric plant generating new electricity as implied by some media reports. PHES stores energy that was already generated elsewhere but recaptures only 70 or 80% of the power input. In other words, 20-30% energy is lost. Further, as San Diego physicist and fluid dynamicist Dr. Burton Freeman notes, the new reservoir would mean additional water loss from evaporation. Evaporation rates are very difficult to estimate and vary according to the weather, size and depth of reservoir, etc., but water loss can be significant. Freeman also observes that moving water in and out of San Vicente might change the reservoir’s circulation in ways not anticipated by the city’s indirect potable reuse project reservoir limnology study. Plus, unlike the Olivenhain-Hodges facility, it’s not clear if a San Vicente facility would create water resource management benefits (e.g., Olivenhain captures water that could have been lost over the Hodges spillway).

So, as Bhadra said above, “the chips will fall where they will.”

UPDATE July 2021: SDCWA has a new map showing the proposed location of the proposed reservoir at


Background material for this story:

Water Authority To Study Viability Of New Hydroelectric Plant / KPBS

Hydroelectric dam may substitute nuke power / U-T San Diego

Water Authority considering hydroelectric power at San Vicente / San Diego Reader

San Diego May Build 500 Megawatt Reservoir Hydroelectric Plant / Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Federal Register, April 15, 2010

Raising San Vicente Dam: Why and How / HydroWorld

Opportunities and barriers to pumped-hydro energy storage in the United States / Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

Thanks to Mike Lee, SDCWA public affairs representative (formerly U-T’s environmental reporter), for obtaining answers to my queries about this project.


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

A visit to Lake Poway reservoir and dam

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 27, 2013

Lake Poway, located in the City of Poway, is a relatively new addition to San Diego County’s collection of reservoirs and dams (not counting Olivenhain). The 165-foot high earthen dam was completed near the end of 1971 creating a reservoir capacity of 3,800 acre-feet providing a local emergency water supply in the event of a disruption to imported water sources. Water for Poway is purchased from the County Water Authority, stored in the reservoir, and treated at the nearby Lester J. Berglund Water Treatment Plant. A small amount of surface storm runoff reaches the reservoir.

Lake Poway presents opportunities for hiking, fishing, and a variety of other recreational activities. The adjacent hillside park has lots of green grass, trees, benches, and picnic tables, some with BBQ grills. The reservoir has a 2.75 mile loop trail (moderate difficulty with a few steep areas) that offers good exercise and enjoyable views. The loop trail also connects with other trails, including the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve trail leading up to Lake Ramona (the dam for that lake is visible in the background of a few photos below) and a more difficult 3-mile (one-way) trail leading to the summit of Mount Woodson.

Here are some photos taken from various points around the loop trail (click for enlargements):


Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environment, Water | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

San Diego water policy task force highlights

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 25, 2012

Highlights from the City of San Diego Water Policy Implementation Task Force meeting on Monday September 24, 2012 from 2:00-5:00pm:

The resignation of Dr. Tim Barnett from the task force for medical reasons was announced. Any decision to appoint a replacement for his position will be made by the City Council.

Having spent most of the summer getting organized, listening to informational presentations, reading background documents, and other activities, group members are feeling under some pressure to begin issuing some recommendations, so most of the available meeting time was spent discussing the draft recommendations of the Water Conservation Working Group and trying to vote on as much as possible. Many details in the draft document were debated, wordsmithed, shortened, and simplified to some extent. Ultimately, the task force voted to make the following recommendations:

  • Make provisions of the Level 1 Drought Alert a permanent water conservation standard
  • Ask staff to study and report to the Task Force regarding modifications to the water conservation code requirements for new landscape construction, and explore ways it may apply to existing development
  • Request that an evaluation of an allocation-based billing structure for landscape meters be included in either the city’s Cost of Service Study or the Water Budget-Based Billing Study
  • Study how unmetered water loss can be reduced
  • Ongoing and permanent outreach and education to promote a conservation ethic as a lifestyle
  • Study possible requirement of landscape irrigation fixture retrofits when property is sold

Note that the above is my informal summary of the items voted on; the exact language will be available when the recommendations are formally presented to the Natural Resources & Culture Committee at the October 10 meeting.

Lastly, Bill Harris from the Transportation and Stormwater Dept. gave a brief presentation about his department’s activities. He predicted that water quality issues will lead to further study of stormwater capture and integration with water recycling/reuse systems in the future. He also predicted huge expenses due to regulatory issues such as the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board Resolution (R9-2010-001) called the Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load “TMDL”, or Bacteria TMDL Resolution (see tomorrow’s County Board of Supervisors agenda item #4 for more details). Mr. Harris said this is just the first of many additional California Title 22 rules or the Clean Water Act’s total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements that eventually will require expenditures reaching “into the Capital Bs.”

The next Water Policy Implementation Task Force meeting will be 2-5pm October 30 at the Metropolitan Operations Center II Auditorium.


Posted in Environment, Water | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

City of San Diego issues reminder about outdoor watering restrictions

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 2, 2012

San Diego has been experiencing warmer weather already and summer isn’t even here yet. If you live on property that has landscaping, you’re probably going to use more water during the next few months.

So the City of San Diego released this timely news release to remind everyone that some of the water use restrictions in the city’s water use ordinance are permanent…drought or no drought.

One such permanent restriction dictates what time of day you may do outdoor watering.

The restricted hours vary a little depending on the season, but in a nutshell outdoor watering is permitted only in the early morning or late afternoon/evening. This law is intended to reduce water waste because a great deal of water is lost to evaporation when watering during the warmest hours of the day. Effective June 1, we’re now bound by the summer schedule specified in the ordinance.

I hope San Diego’s major news media will remind the city’s residents about this as well. Lately I’ve been seeing lawn sprinklers turned on at noon or even later during the warmest part of the afternoon. I’ve even seen lawns in city parks being watered during prohibited hours.

Some people seem to be unaware of the law prohibiting outdoor watering during the warmest time of the day (apparently including some employees at the Park and Recreation Dept.), or else they just don’t care.

Below is a copy of the official news release. If the text is too small for your eyes, you can expand the document to full-screen by clicking the rectangular button at the bottom right corner of the document window (don’t bother with the zoom [+] [-] tools, they won’t get you a full screen):


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Report on groundwater contamination at Patrick Henry High School filed by San Diego County Grand Jury

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 31, 2012

Background and current status of the groundwater contamination detected ten years ago from leaking underground storage tanks (removed long ago) at the former Union 76 gas station across the street from Patrick Henry High School is documented in this report recently filed by the San Diego County Grand Jury.

(email subscribers may need to click to the web post in order to see the embedded Scribd document)


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