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Archive for the ‘Newspapers’ Category

San Diego regional water news roundup Sep 8-14, 2011

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 15, 2011

( Selected regional water news reports. Click headlines to read.)

Power outage reports dominated the news but some other interesting developments as well.

1.9 million gallon sewage spill closes beaches / SignOnSanDiego : “All beaches north of Scripps Pier through Del Mar and Solana Beach have been closed for at least two days because of suspected sewage contamination from a spill caused by Thursday’s power outage.”

Sewer, water problems highlight utility weak spots / SignOnSanDiego : “Thursday’s electrical outage did more than expose vulnerabilities in the region’s power system. It also highlighted the lack of backup power at some sewer and water pump stations across the county.”

How the power outage may have affected your water / OB Rag : “The city of San Diego has issued a precautionary measure, called a “Boil Water Advisory“, for water that the public will consume for the foreseeable future.”

Water system operational, but boil order in effect for some in San Diego following power outage
/ Association of California Water Agencies : “San Diego County Water Authority reports its regional water treatment and delivery system is fully operational in the wake of a massive power outage in Southern California Thursday.”

RAMONA: Water use curtailment called off / Ramona Patch : “Assistant General Manager David Barnum reported there is no longer any need for customers to conserve water or to take any safety measures before turning on the tap.”

Water main break reported in Escondido / SignOnSanDiego : “Escondido police have issued a traffic advisory in the area Valley Parkway west of Fig Street because of a water main break that was reported about 5 p.m. Friday.”

Nearly 800 food operations to be inspected for water safety / SignOnSanDiego : “The county began a door-to-door inspection Friday of nearly 800 food facilities — from luxury restaurants to mom-and-pop food stands — to make sure they are complying with a boiled-water order from the city of San Diego stemming from the Thursday power outage.”

REGION: Residents continue to curb water use / North County Times : “After peaking in 2007, water use across Southwest County has dipped more than 20 percent, thanks to the economy, Mother Nature and a rate structure that penalizes homeowners when they consume large amounts of the liquid resource.”

Boil-water advisory lifted in San Diego neighborhoods / SignOnSanDiego : “A boil-water advisory for eight San Diego neighborhoods has been lifted after tests revealed no contamination, city officials said Sunday.”

DEL MAR: Lagoon water contaminated during blackout sewer spill / North County Times : “Bacterial concentrations exceeded the maximum level Coastkeeper’s test can detect at 241,920 E. coli/100ml. That’s more than 600 times the maximum limit for healthy human contact, set at 406 E. coli/100ml, the report stated.”

Sewage spills still haunt county coastline / SignOnSanDiego : “Sewage pollution from last week’s accidents is dissipating in places but growing worse in other areas as wastewater moves from a lagoon to the shoreline, environmental health officials said Monday.”

San Diego Coastkeeper’s water quality data reveal severity of 1.9-million gallon sewage spill into Los Penasquitos Lagoon / San Diego Coastkeeper : “In addition to Coastkeeper’s data showing high levels of fecal indicator bacteria, ammonia and phosphorous, volunteers noted grey-colored water, a strong sewage odor and a fish kill in the lagoon.”

Pump station failures during blackout raise questions about backup power / KPBS : “”City and state agencies are wagering human and environmental health against the odds of another emergency,” said San Diego Coastkeeper’s Executive Director Gale Filter in a news release.”

CARLSBAD: Council approves contract with county water authority / North County Times : “The agreement spells out how the county water authority — the
region’s main water supplier — will treat the city of Carlsbad, both during and after construction of a $700 million desalination”


Imperial Irrigation District board: Salton Sea mitigation cannot wait / Imperial Valley Press : “…talks have morphed into a discussion about mitigation of the effect of the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water transfer, the Quantification Settlement Agreement, on the Salton Sea and how to mitigate it. Another option…would be to cut San Diego County Water Authority’s water in half and use that water for mitigation.”

Local experts discuss region’s future water supply / San Diego News Room : “Three San Diego water officials joined Water Authority Board Chair Michael T. Hogan and the North County Chamber of Commerce to discuss existing water supplies and proposed future water supplies, including indirect potable reuse…”

Lake Hodges project begins pumped storage and power generation operations / San Diego County Water Authority : “Facility improves emergency water storage and distribution; provides reliable power to SDG&E; revenues from operation will offset Water Authority costs”

Generator set backs up new secondary treatment operation / WaterWorld : “The International Border and Water Commission (IBWC) is installing a new emergency standby power system at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment plant in California. [The plant]…is a joint effort between Mexico and the U.S. to treat sewage from Tijuana, Mexico, and eliminate environmental concerns in the Tijuana River Valley just south of San Diego”

Questions about sewage spills grow as beach closures end / SignOnSanDiego : “City wastewater officials are expected to address last week’s 1.9 million-gallon sewage spill in Los Peñasquitos Lagoon at a meeting Thursday night of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board.”


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San Diego regional water news roundup Aug 19-21, 2010

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 22, 2010

(click headlines to see sourced stories)

Note: I’ll be out of town all week on a water facilities field trip. I expect to find time to do a mid-week news roundup and perhaps post a few quick pictures, but that’ll be about it for this week.

Drinking water into the Salton Sea? Not likely / Desert Sun : “And the latest proposal from the Imperial Irrigation District to send some of its leftover 235,000 acre-feet of Colorado River allotment into the state’s largest lake is not a solution either.”

Meeting to focus on in-water hull cleaning / The News : “San Diego Unified Port District has scheduled a pair of public outreach meetings, in hopes of discovering the best way to deal with water pollution that is said to be caused by hull-cleaning divers. The port and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board believe divers who scrub algae and other growth off boat bottoms are the chief source of copper pollution in San Diego Bay.”

Ramona sewage treatment plant lacks capacity for heavy rain / SignOnSanDiego : “The rural community of Ramona has grown by several thousand residents over the years, but the County Board of Supervisors and some Ramona residents have said development, such as the 417-home Montecito Ranch project, has been stunted because of inadequate sewage treatment capacity, among other infrastructure problems.”

San Diego’s IPR demonstration project now has web page / Desalination & Water Reuse : “The City of San Diego, which could be the first city in the USA to use indirect potable water reuse for drinking water, has updated the reuse information on its website and added a page for the renamed Water Purification Demonstration Project.”

San Diego to test alternative water source / San Diego News Room : “At the Pacific Beach Town Council (PBTC) meeting on Aug. 18., Amy Dorman, a senior engineer in the Long-Range Planning and Water Resources Division of the Public Utilities Department for the city of San Diego, presented a wastewater purification process the city is studying for possible future use.”

Picture and a thousand words / : “If the Salton Sea is a jolt to the senses in the desert environment, it has an equally disturbing effect on politics and the economic future of many in troubled California.”

Water management course gaining popularity / San Diego Source : “A water management certification program, run by the San Diego chapter of the California Landscape Contractor’s Association, is making experts out of some local landscape contractors.”

Boating community offers input for hull cleaning activities in San Diego Bay / Port of San Diego : “Members of the boating community, including divers and marina operators, shared their insights and concerns during a public meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, over how best to reduce the amount of copper in San Diego Bay…The Port is under a regulatory order by the State Water Quality Control Board and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to reduce the amount of copper in San Diego Bay over the next several years.”

Helix Water District raises rates in contentious hearing / East County Magazine : ““Get used to it. We’re going to pay more each year,” Helix Water District Board member John Linden told the audience, shortly before the board voted 3-2 to raise the three-tiered rate structure an average of 8% more starting in November. Last year rates increased 21+%.”

Hoover Dam never had ability to solve all Colorado River conflicts / Arizona Republic : “The promise of abundant water and power took the brakes off the growth of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and many other Western cities…Yet the world Hoover Dam made is now facing the era of limits.”


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San Diego encourages development with corporate water discounts

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 30, 2010

Like newspapers facing economic facts, San Diego is facing water facts.

For years now, the news industry has searched for a way to profit (or survive) in the digital environment created by the Internet and still be able to produce high-quality journalism. The financial model that sustained print-only newspapers no longer works today.

Clay Shirky, a well-known analyst on the problem, worries that newspapers are irreplaceable for accountability journalism and hopes they’ll continue performing that function on the Internet but he doesn’t think they’ll ever be able to return to the old model they enjoyed. He doubts that fee-based news (“paywalls”) will work except possibly in certain specialized areas where information is jealously guarded, such as finance. Rather than continue searching for a way to replicate their economic model in a digital age, he says, newspapers need to adapt to the ways of the web by finding a new balance through “vast and varied experimentation” (see his insightful presentation “Internet Issues Facing Newspapers” at Harvard’s Kennedy School). Others have cited organizations such as ProPublica and Voice of San Diego as examples of worthwhile efforts to produce high-quality journalism in the new environment.

Similarly, our relationship with water is changing. Our old assumptions are being challenged. It is becoming more and more obvious that our supply of water has a definite limit in general and also that for whatever reason (e.g., climate change, Delta environmental issues), our supply of imported water could well be reduced in the future.

Certainly we’ve responded in many ways. We’ve negotiated agreements to buy additional water from farmers and others, we’ve increased voluntary conservation, we’re looking at possible new groundwater resources, we’re considering (sort of) using prices to influence water use, we’re recycling, we’re exploring Indirect Potable Reuse, we’re installing a desalination plant, we’re enlarging the San Vicente Dam. Despite these measures, as long as there is unrestrained growth in our demand for this finite resource we obviously can’t expect a good outcome. And growth is one thing we haven’t dealt with sufficiently in response to the situation.

San Diego’s pro-development position on growth has only softened somewhat. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) projects that the region will have 1.2 million additional residents, for a total population of 4.4 million by the year 2050.

In January 2010, SANDAG’s website had a Housing section listed on their sidebar, where they stated that “SANDAG is working to eliminate barriers to development…[which] may include complex development entitlement and permitting processes, construction defect litigation, and development standards that do not reflect the goal of providing more housing.”

Web page in Jan 2010. Note the Housing sidebar includes Funding and Incentives.

Their tone has changed somewhat now. That housing sidebar of their website is now incorporated in their Land Use and Regional Growth page, and the above quotation no longer appears. Instead, they say they’ll work to “manage our population growth, preserve our environment, and sustain our economic prosperity.”

Housing sidebar is now under Land Use along with Sustainable Communities and other like headings

And in a rare departure from its pro-development endeavors, SANDAG recently denied a permit for a proposed 2,632-unit housing development in the North County. Water availability was just one consideration for that decision, but we’ll need more actions like that in the future.

The City of San Diego has worked to increase its water independence and reduce consumption, although it still gives businesses special programs and discounts.

The Guaranteed Water For Industry Program enables some water customers to become “exempt” from potential mandatory water conservation measures adopted by the City. After certification, such firms are placed on a list of preferred customers who will not be forced to reduce their consumption of potable or reclaimed water during a drought (“water warning”) situation. It applies to all industrial firms located in an “Optimized Zone” which currently includes the communities of University, Mira Mesa, Scripps Miramar Ranch, and Miramar Ranch North.

* Provides a guaranteed supply of potable and reclaimed water for irrigation, cooling, research, product development, and production activities during drought conditions.

* Provides ongoing cost savings to businesses through discounted rates for reclaimed water usage (.80/HCF, currently a 50 percent discount).

There’s also a Business & Industry Incentive Program. In order to “improve the business climate of the city,” this program gives businesses a 40 percent reduction in water capacity fees and a 60 percent reduction in sewer capacity fees (Council Policy 900-12).

Both of these programs are ripe for reconsideration in view of the growth problems we’re facing.

April 16 update: Since publishing this story, I was told by a representative from the San Diego Water Department that their web pages contain incorrect information:

First, the Guaranteed Water for Industry Program no longer has any bearing on the price of reclaimed water. As things now stand, the discounted rate of $0.80/HCF applies to ALL buyers of reclaimed water. Here’s the updated flyer for the program.

Second, the fee reductions indicated in the Business & Industry Incentive Program were invalidated by a Supreme Court ruling and the City has not authorized any fee reductions under this program since 2007.

Third, the exemption from drought water conservation rules now extends to ALL users of reclaimed water–it is no longer a benefit of the program.

As author Robert Glennon observes “Our existing supplies are stretched to the limit, yet demographers expect the U.S. population to grow by 120 million by midcentury…To understand the depth of the water crisis, consider that more than thirty-five of the lower forty-eight states are fighting with their neighbors over water” (from Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It, Island Press, 2009).

In addressing its water future, San Diego has been doing almost everything that’s been thought of. However, its entire water pricing system could use a complete overhaul with an eye towards incentives to conserve; and, San Diego has to redouble its resolve in confronting powerful forces for growth and expansion, because given the size of our population, even significant restraints could take decades before there is a visible reduction in the growth rate. It’s good to see that SANDAG is possibly reducing its aggressive promotion of development, but that’s not enough.

Just as newspapers need to face the realities of the digital world, San Diego needs to adapt to the realities of water. In his presentation, Shirky draws a parallel with the control of ideas, saying the news media ultimately cannot succeed in “attempting to treat an infinite good as if it were a finite good.” With water, it’s the same thing in reverse with a twist: even though water is an infinite (recirculating) good, we should be (but haven’t been) treating it as a finite good. Shirky said news needs to find a good balance. With water, well, they say it always seeks its own level.

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Navajo Community area news

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 9, 2010

There’s a possibility that both the San Carlos Area Council and Del Cerro Action Council will soon be implementing a dynamic presence on the web, but in the meanwhile, the Mission Times Courier recently published these updates:

San Carlos Area Council news report for February
Del Cerro Action Council news report for February


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Voice of San Diego fills gaps in local news…

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 8, 2010

…and so does the OB Rag.

If you’re not a big fan of online news media, you probably haven’t heard that our own Voice of San Diego just turned five years old. In an age where we read about the dinosaurs of the old media dying daily, our home town of San Diego hosts one of the bright shining lights of what many consider the future of news reportage.

What the Voice has successfully achieved over its first five years is a reputation for doggedly digging the public record for actual facts combined with skillfully executed interviews that give its reporting a sense of depth and credibility not often found in today’s world of repackaged links, sound bites and (not-so) hidden agendas…

Click to read the entire article at the OB Rag

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LA Times morphs again

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 2, 2010

Newspapers are loath to make reference to their competitors, lest their readers flee their own pages, but for the record this development might be of interest to readers who occasionally pick up a print edition.

Last fall the LA Times changed its layout by moving its California news section into the main “A” news section which became considerably thicker as a result; today the California news moved back out into a new LATEXTRA section. According to the blurb on their front page, the new section will contain not only California stories but also “the latest possible reporting from throughout the nation and world” and “showcases our 24-hour newsroom.” I can’t see a big difference overall though; I think they may have decided the main news section with the embedded California section was just getting too thick and wanted to break them back into more easily-handled sections.

Meanwhile, the SD Union-Tribune devoted a full-page ad to its thinning paper the other day to proclaim how much effort they are putting into publishing better-quality news. Since an earlier piece I wrote about the U-T last fall, I’ve seen little change although there has been a slight trend towards putting more local reporting on the front page and an insertion of a new “Bright and Early” column on the front page to highlight inside stories, weather, and a random tidbit or quote. [Update Feb 4: today the U-T announced a revamp of their ” Night&Day” entertainment guide. I don’t see any change in the printed version but online looks jazzed up with slideshow headlines and full-color animated advertising]

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News scoops, sources, producers, consumers

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 19, 2010

Two local news editors of publications I follow recently exchanged tweets that touched on the issue of competition for stories. One editor took the position that stories aren’t owned; rather each publication tells part of the bigger picture. The other editor responded, does that mean you’ll tell me what [reporter’s name] is working on right now?

This got me thinking how that competitive tension can affect the reader. Certainly all news publications seek to be first with important stories and to stand out as having the best coverage. But sometimes that impulse leads to the suppression of information the reader could use. It may be they’ll hide the fact they’re working on a certain story so they can get a scoop, or perhaps they won’t reveal sources for which they invested considerable effort. They may feel that monopolizing information will help secure more readers willing to pay subscription fees or make donations. This tension probably helps energize news reporting to some degree, but too often it’s at the expense of the reader.

For me, one of the more frustrating things about what appears in news reports is the seeming policy against citing sources or acknowledging competitors or linking to related stories (a notable local exception, Voice of San Diego links to “competing” news stories as in this example).

Stories without links to sources or other related information force readers to take everything at face value.

Here’s an example from KPBS, “Judge’s Ruling Could Limit San Diego’s Water Supply.” Just enough information to tease an uncomfortable feeling in the reader, but nothing of real substance, no mention of the Quantification Settlement Agreement behind the issue or explanation of its purpose in allocating water among western states, even misspelling the judge’s name (it’s Roland). Or this story about an “allegedly savage drug gang boss” (allegedly savage?) with no citations for assertions made.

SignOnSanDiego ran a story that briefly described a bust of what seemed to be an major identity theft operation in San Diego but omitted details, names of defendents, and case information. The story’s writer did not respond to my email query for those details. Unexpectedly I found a television news report that provided a much more informative report. Here’s another article that’s typical…it discusses a new report from the city’s pension system without linking to the report (VoSD does) — instead it makes links for “San Diego,” “Donna Frye,” “Jerry Sanders,” “the Great Depression,” and “Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Useless links, too, because they only lead to a list of articles containing those names/terms! Links to “earthquakes,” “wind,” or “prisoners” would have been as helpful. It sort of gives new meaning to the technical term “symbolic link.”

They gave you a story, what more could you want?

I can excuse the absence of links to sources and additional information in print publications but not the withholding of important data in the online edition. Online I expect lots of links to sources. On that front I once wrote to the U-T to complain that they ran as their own a story that VoSD broke a week earlier and got a response that “we do news, not investigative reporting!” Blogs and blog-like news sources, especially technical ones, have been much better in this regard, but at least some local news outfits extend attribution to online journalism and are alert to other ways to improve the online reader’s experience. That’s a good thing.

Related posts:

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We can’t emphasize this enough…

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 18, 2010


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San Diego news websites revamped, but with a few glitches

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 7, 2009

As part of their recent website redesigns, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Voice of San Diego implemented a new system for naming URLs for their stories. My experience is that U-T’s site has problems redirecting users trying to access legacy URLs. The Voice also has a minor issue with that, as well as difficulty with its calendar.

Legacy URLs are the original URLs for older stories that appeared on the previous website. Without a redirect from the legacy link to the new URL, the result is a “404 Page Not Found” error message.

“Page Not Found” is bad for the user and bad for a website. The frustrated user may not be inclined to do extra digging to find the article; instead, (s)he may abandon the search and go elsewhere.

I checked some of my old blog posts that cited articles in the Union-Tribune, and many of them led to a 404 error. When I reported the problem to the U-T, they told me I should change the “www” to “legacy” on the bad links.

The U-T said they are working to get redirects operational. I think those links shouldn’t have broken in the first place. Not ensuring functional automatic redirects before implementing a new website suggests haste in getting the new product out. As of today, I’m still getting those 404 errors.

The Voice of San Diego for the most part seems to have redirection working though I did encounter a dead link the other day. They indicated to me they are still working on the issue. For a while their calendar wasn’t working. Although it’s up now, it contains very little information and calendar navigation is messy and difficult to use. They’re not alone in that though–I think event calendars just inherently defy good design and perhaps website owners don’t think they’re worth the trouble. One thing is sure–calendar widgets on the cheap aren’t going to get you very much.

The U-T also has problems with their search function. For a few days after the new site rolled out, my search for “Sanders budget” turned up no hits at all for 2009 and almost all searches failed to sort results by date correctly. The date sorting problem seems to be fixed now, but the search utility still does a poor job of locating documents. Today, the “Sanders budget” search on U-T’s site listed only 6 documents for all of 2009. The same search on Google gets 91 documents–for the last month alone (site-specific searching is available on Google as an advanced option). It makes me reluctant to use U-T’s search at all.

The Voice of San Diego redesign is still morphing. Sunday morning’s home page devoted a huge chunk of space at the top to a marquee slideshow, a technique I consider superfluous. By afternoon the slideshow was near the bottom of the page, visible only after scrolling down.

Sunday morning version

Sunday afternoon version


The Union-Tribune allocates a generous amount of screentop real estate to advertising, some animated, also an unwelcome distraction in the way it competes with the news.


A major change in Voice of San Diego’s site was to enable comments on all individual articles, but unlike the U-T, anonymous comments are not permitted. While the U-T requires commenters to sign in through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, or OpenID, it’s still easy to maintain anonymity. On Voice of San Diego you can use a pseudonym for your comment display name but your profile page will show your real name. The reaction I’ve seen to the policy against anonymous comments has been supportive because having to reveal one’s identity encourages responsible discourse.

Overall I’d say the changes to both websites represent an incremental improvement in appearance and functionality but there’s still lots of room for improvement. As for their journalism and editorial direction, I guess my opinion leaks out between the lines on some of my other blog posts from time to time!


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Getting things fixed around town

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 24, 2009

The U-T has a “Just Fix it” column you can contact if there is “a problem government hasn’t taken care of despite your complaints.” The column’s writer selects cases and follows up by contacting the appropriate agency and resolving communication issues or other impediments to the solution. Good PR for the U-T although the scope of service is by necessity limited by space and time.

I wonder why the U-T or another news organization (or the city, for that matter) doesn’t take advantage of one of the online services that let people easily request 311-type government services, facilitating the process of getting requests routed to the appropriate agency and tracking them for follow-through.

Such services allow people to report problems from their mobile devices in addition to their computers and even to include photos in their reports. People can see what else is being reported in their areas and add their “vote” to issues already submitted that they are also concerned about.

Take a look at some of these offerings.
A neighborhood reporting system that has been established for some time
Another reporting system
Another reporting system
An example from Great Britain
A website meant to facilitate an international effort to build open interoperable systems that allow citizens to more directly interact with their cities.

On the live SeeClickFix map you can hover a spot to view details


Having such a system for San Diego could lead to better service, reach new constituents, and facilitate interagency collaboration. Wouldn’t something like this be a handy resource for our community?

Apr 12, 2010: O’Reilly Radar just published this review of SeeClickFix.


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