GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Del Mar’s new civic center

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 14, 2018

The recently-opened Del Mar Civic Center welcomes the public with attractive design and hangouts with a view.

Posted in Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Viewing the Pine Valley Creek Bridge from the Secret Canyon Trail

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 17, 2018

If you’ve driven on Interstate 8 east as far as Pine Valley you’ve almost certainly taken notice while driving over the high-altitude Pine Valley Creek Bridge just before the Pine Valley exit. Formally known as the Nello Irwin Greer Memorial Bridge it is considered one of the highest bridges in the U.S. (450 feet high).

Looking to get some photos of the bridge we learned that the Secret Canyon Trail goes beneath it. We found the trailhead by getting on Old Hwy 80 in Pine Valley and driving a few miles west to Pine Valley-Las Bancas Road where there’s a big Cleveland National Forest sign announcing the “Pine Creek Trailhead” on the south side of the road.

It’s a short drive south to the end of the road where there’s ample parking and restrooms. A US Forest Service Adventure Pass must be displayed in the windshield in order to park here. A sign marks the beginning of the trail just south of the restrooms.

The trail starts on the west side of the canyon and quickly drops to make a crossing at Pine Creek. If it has rained recently you may not feel like trying to cross, but when we went it was about 3 weeks since the last significant rain and there was just a moderate flow. It’s usually pretty easy to cross as long as the water isn’t running too deep. We’ve hiked the trail a number of times over the years and only once did we have to turn back because of unexpected high water.

The trail continues south above the east bank, sometimes gaining elevation in the canyon above the creek, sometimes descending to creek level. It’s an attractive and pleasant trail with oak and willow trees, manzanita groves, and numerous other plants. It’s approximately 2 miles (one-way) to the bridge and I’d classify the trail as moderately difficult because of the elevation gain and loss which is about 600 feet according to various trail guides. You can always take it more slowly to make it easier, it’s not that far.

Here are the photos (click images for an enlargement to open in a separate browser tab).

Here’s our parking spot above the creek. The canyon goes south to the right.


Sign marking the beginning of the trail.


This is the creek crossing when it’s pretty easy to hop across.


This was the same crossing on another day when a decision was required about getting wet up to the knees!


This is on the trail at about the halfway point, looking back towards our starting point.


Continuing along the trail the bridge comes into view.


Getting closer.


Almost there.


Sun in our eyes.


The bridge appears to mark a popular jet route too.


Looking up from the creekbed.


This was taken from the south side after passing beneath the bridge.


We hiked another 1/4 mile further south beyond the bridge so we could get this clear view of the whole thing (looking north).

As you can see from that last picture, once you cross south of the bridge the trees pretty much disappear and the trail gets hot and dry so unless you’ve planned a much longer hike it’s a good place to turn around.

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

A stroll in Pacific Beach down Garnet Ave from Ingraham St to Crystal Pier and back again

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 31, 2017

A slideshow of photos taken on December 22, 2017.

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

Here’s what bicycling in San Diego should be like

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 1, 2017

During our recent visit to Canada we saw a considerable number of bicycle commuters in downtown Montreal and Vancouver, far more than we ever do in downtown San Diego and vicinity. I think their street accommodations and strategic use of one-way streets might have something to do with it!

René Lévesque Boulevard in Montreal about 1/2 km east of Chinatown.


Downtown Montreal, Blvd de Maisonneuve at Rue Peel.


Downtown Montreal. Sometimes there were more bicycles than cars on the road.


Downtown Monteral. This was typical at all times of the day.


Vancouver is a role model for what support for bicycling can do. In 2015 the city reported 131,000 bicycle trips (


Downtown Vancouver.

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

Lake Hodges Dam

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 11, 2016

(click image for full size)


Posted in San Diego Places & Things, Water | Leave a Comment »

Dulzura Conduit: San Diego’s fragile link to an important East County water resource

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 24, 2016

[Note to email subscribers: click the article title link to view in browser for better appearance.]

Most everyone around these parts knows that the San Diego River, starting in the mountains to our northeast near Julian and captured at El Capitan Reservoir about 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, is a significant water resource for the city, but a lesser-known also important source, Cottonwood Creek, starts in the Laguna Mountains farther south.

Cottonwood Creek first drains into Morena Reservoir, about 45 miles east/southeast of San Diego near the community of Campo. The reservoir also captures water from Morena Creek. Because the reservoir is very wide and shallow, losses from evaporation are considerable so when it’s feasible the City prefers to release most of the water downstream to Barrett Reservoir which is narrower and much deeper, where evaporation is less of a problem. Barrett Reservoir is positioned just below the confluence of Cottonwood Creek and Pine Valley Creek, about 10 miles west of Morena.

Morena Reservoir.

Morena Reservoir.

Barrett Reservoir

Barrett Reservoir


During very wet seasons if Barrett is in danger of flooding the excess water is released down the dam’s stair-stepped spillway back into Cottonwood Creek. Such events are rare; normally all the water is reserved for San Diego. But Cottonwood Creek, as part of the Tijuana Watershed, is a tributary to the Tijuana River south of the Mexican border, so how does the water in Barrett end up in San Diego instead?

Barrett Dam spills into Cottonwood Creek which continues south down the canyon to the right.

Barrett Dam spills into Cottonwood Creek which continues south down the canyon to the right.


Answer: the Dulzura Conduit.

The Dulzura Conduit is a 13.38 mile-long aqueduct built to divert water from Cottonwood Creek to San Diego. Originally comprised of dirt channels, redwood flumes, and nearly two miles of tunnels through rugged territory (all dug by hand), the conduit was constructed in the years 1907-1909 by the Southern California Mountain Water Company under a plan devised by John D. Spreckels.

A portion of the Conduit consists of a dirt channel lined with concrete.

A portion of the Conduit consists of a dirt channel lined with concrete.


The Conduit remained operational through the mid-1980s by which time the wooden flumes were so deteriorated and maintenance costs so high that it was taken out of service.

The Conduit was renovated in the mid-1990s and the wooden flumes were replaced with new steel pipelines on concrete and steel supports. Because it was impossible for ground vehicles and equipment to reach some locations, helicopters were needed to supply concrete and to place a steel truss bridge and large pipe sections.

A renovated segment of the Conduit.

A renovated segment of the Conduit.

Covered channel transitions to pipeline where the slope becomes too steep.

Covered channel transitions to pipeline where the slope becomes too steep.

Flume emerging from small tunnel.

Flume emerging from small tunnel. Yes, the narrow dirt road halfway up the steep canyon was scary!

Scraps and debris from the renovation project.

Scraps and debris from the renovation project.

My wife bravely came along while I was doing these photographs.

My wife bravely came along while I was doing these photographs.


The Dulzura Conduit extends to Dulzura Creek which joins the Otay River which flows west until it reaches its destination at Lower Otay Reservoir in Chula Vista, where a water treatment plant initiates the distribution of water to San Diego customers.

Lower Otay Reservoir and dam.

Lower Otay Reservoir and dam.


In 2004-2005, runoff from heavy rains severely damaged the Conduit and it again was out of service. Before repairs could be performed the Harris Fire in 2007 caused further damage and it was some time before extensive and expensive repairs could be carried out.

Starting in 2009 a large section of the Conduit’s open channel was outfitted with paneled concrete covers placed by Sikorsky helicopter. Along with other upgrades the Conduit again became operational in January 2011. Although it has a capacity to move up to 40 million gallons per day, diversions are sporadic and the amount varies considerably depending on how much upstream water is available and whether it’s needed.


* Many thanks to Brent Eidson of the San Diego Public Utilities Department for arranging my access to areas that are closed to the public.

Additional references:

1. Rehab By Helicopter. Civil Engineering (American Society of Civil Engineers), volume 66, no. 1 (January 1996).

2. Surface Water Supply of the Pacific Slope of Southern California / H.D. McGlashan. Washington: US GPO, 1921.

3. Fowler, L. C. 1953. A History of Dams and Water Supply of Western San Diego County. Univ. of California. MS Thesis. 233pp. ISBN 3 1336 04945 8764.

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

Proposed changes to City of San Diego water rates

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 21, 2015

The Public Utilities Department delivered on Monday, July 20 a presentation to the Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) showing proposed water rate changes for the City of San Diego. Here are selected slides from that presentation. For further details, see also this San Diego Union-Tribune article For slightly larger pictures click slide images.


Posted in Recycled water, Water, Water rates | Leave a Comment »

Countywide water use decreases 29 percent in December

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 15, 2015

January 15, 2015 – Water use in the San Diego region plummeted by 29 percent in December 2014 compared to the same month a year earlier, evidence that many residents, businesses and farmers turned off their irrigation systems for long periods following a series of rainstorms. The savings totaled 10,636 acre-feet, enough to serve more than 21,000 typical four-person households for a year.

“People across the county capitalized on the wet weather and achieved an extraordinary reduction in water use last month,” said Mark Weston, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “That effort highlights our region’s long-term commitment to water conservation, which has driven down per capita water demand by more than 20 percent since 2007. While we won’t always have the benefit of rainstorms, we must continue to aggressively pursue every chance to conserve water indoors and outdoors.”

The dramatic decrease in water use was achieved even though December was the fourteenth consecutive month of above-normal temperatures in San Diego. Last year was the hottest year on record in San Diego County and California (dating back to 1895), and 2012-2014 was the driest three-year period on record for the state.

December’s decrease in potable water use is based on figures reported to the Water Authority by its 24 member agencies. Water agencies across the county have adopted mandatory water-use restrictions and they are preparing for the potential of a fourth consecutive dry year.

It would take a series of major storms over the next few months to pull the state out of drought. Precipitation is about 130 percent of average at Lindbergh Field in San Diego since the start of the “water year” on Oct. 1, though it’s important to note that the region only gets a small percentage of its annual water supply from local rainfall. Precipitation in the northern Sierra Nevada is just above average since Oct. 1, while the northern Sierra snowpack, a pivotal component of the state’s water supply, is at only 42 percent of average water content for this time of year. Officials with the California Department of Water Resources said in December that it would take 150 percent of normal precipitation in the northern Sierra for California to recover from the drought.

The initial 2015 allocation from the State Water Project – an important water source for San Diego County – has been set at 10 percent of requested supplies. The figure may fluctuate up or down depending on precipitation over the next few months.

The San Diego region’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, withdrew approximately 1.1 million acre-feet of water from storage in 2014 to meet demand in its service area, reducing its reserves by about half. MWD may impose water supply allocations in 2015 if conditions don’t improve this winter. However, two decades of San Diego regional investments in water supply reliability, such as independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project, will help reduce the impacts of any reductions in imported water supplies from MWD.

“While rainstorms over the past several weeks are welcome, don’t be fooled into thinking that the drought is over,” said Dana Friehauf, an acting water resources manager for the Water Authority. “Reservoir storage levels remain low, and it’s far too early to be certain about our water supplies for 2015. That means we all need to redouble our efforts to improve stored water reserves in coming months.”

Jason Foster, director of public outreach and conservation for the Water Authority, said the agency is working closely with its member agencies on a public information campaign that will ask the region’s residents and businesses “How Low Can You Go?” and encourage them to reduce water use as much as possible this winter. Online and radio ads will roll out in coming days.

“There are lots of ways to lower water use,” Foster said. “Go low by taking shorter showers, lower by promptly fixing indoor and outdoor leaks, and lowest by turning off irrigation systems as long as possible before and after rainstorms.”

As a wholesale water agency, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for San Diego County. The regional Model Drought Response Ordinance, adopted by the Water Authority’s Board in 2008, established four levels of drought response with progressive restrictions. The strategy was designed to foster regional consistency and to align demand with supply during water shortages, while minimizing harm to the region’s economy.

In July 2014, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures. Restrictions vary by member agency. For information about water-use rules by community, along with details about drought conditions and conservation-related resources, go to

[Text from San Diego County Water Authority news release]

Posted in Drought, Water | Leave a 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.]

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