January Water News


News from Jan. 21st Board Meeting – Allocations and Penalties Suspended: The Board voted unanimously to suspend Allocations that were imposed at the May 2015 meeting. The allocation penalties imposed in May have also be suspended. Water bills mailed out after February 1, 2016 will not have penalties. 

“Customers have successfully established a pattern of generally meeting the allocations. Given the remarkable response of customers to date, it is reasonable to expect that this level of conservation will continue.”   –  S.F.I.D.

The Level 3 Drought use restrictions are still currently in place – irrigation two days/week on assigned days. While the financial penalties for exceeding one’s allocation are suspended, please be aware that fines for violating use restrictions – watering on wrong day, wrong times, water running off property, hosing off decks and sidewalks, etc., – are still in effect.

State Water Resources Control Board Recent Action: The SWRCB will meet on February 2nd to take action on proposed adjustments to their emergency regulations. You might recall that S.F.I.D. was required to reduce our overall water usage 36% from 2013 usage. During the State Board’s December hearing, San Diego County Water Authority member agencies appear to have been effective in making the SWRCB acknowledge the nearly one billion dollars ratepayers invested in the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Desal created a “new source” of water, and the SWRCB proposal appears to allow all S.D. Water Authority member agencies to receive an 8 point reduction in their targets.

Therefore, S.F.I.D.’s target should be reduced from 36% to 28%. The expectation is that this action will become effective mid-February if they vote to approve this proposed adjustment at the February 2nd meeting. Unfortunately, the SWRCB did not allow further reductions by taking into account the considerable investment in Imperial Valley water transfers, stating the proactive Imperial Valley water transfer program was in existence prior to 2013. 

San Diego County Water Authority Legal Action: The SDCWA January 28, 2016 Closed Session agenda had the following item: “Item 12-E  Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation – Government Code 54956.9(d)(4)  Potential Initiation of Litigation / One Case / State Water Resources Control Board Emergency Regulations”. Additionally, it was reported at our January Board there are preliminary discussions with regional water purveyors about possible collective actions. It has been ten months since Gov. Brown’s Executive Order, and the SWRCB’s far-reaching actions are becoming more intrusive. 2016 should see water purveyors pushing back against SWRCB’s advancing regulations. 

El Nino: “The only El Nino driven storms that have hit California arrived in the first week of January and then ended, said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert. ‘That was the trailer for the movie.’ Patzert said.” Rancho Santa Fe received about 3.5” the first week of January. We still need the jet-stream to shift southward and line up in the vicinity of California for the much anticipated increased El Nino rainfall. We’ll stay tuned.

What might happen if/when Lake Hodges Spills?: Long time residents of this area no doubt have viewed Lake Hodges when it really overflows…cars parked along Del Dios Hwy. observing the powerful effect of all that water falling over the spillway, down through the river valley, going out to the ocean…not being captured. If we get lucky, this year might be a test-run for setting in place cooperative agreements between a number of agencies to move around and sell water that would have otherwise been lost to the ocean. 

S.F.I.D. owns a little more than 25% of all water in Lake Hodges; the City of San Diego owns 50%; and the San Dieguito Water District owns a tad less than 25%. Viewing Lake Hodges from Del Dios Highway gives one the impression Lake Hodges is a rather deep reservoir. However, viewing Lake Hodges from I-15, when it is nearing full capacity, gives one a greater appreciation that Lake Hodges, while deep near Del Dios, is rather vast and shallow towards I-15. Why is this important? While it takes a long time to full up the deep end of Hodges, powerful storms can rather quickly fill the vast shallower eastern end, putting the reservoir into overflow condition. With the recent construction of the Olivenhain Reservoir, S.F.I.D., S.D.W.D., the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority have the ability to pre-emptively pump water out of Hodges, through Authority Aqueduct, to San Vicente, which needs to be filled after the dam was raised last year, or possibly to other entities which might wish to purchase the extra Hodges water. 

Lake Hodges, with its vast watershed, is challenged by upstream sediment, etc., causing Hodges water to be a little “dirtier” than raw water. This is a challenge to be overcome when moving Hodges water through the San Diego County Water Authority Aqueduct: not blending Hodges water with raw water. Scenario planning anticipates cooperation with other entities temporarily shutting down raw water transfers, allowing a big “slug” of Hodges water to move through the Aqueduct. (Are you visualizing those large control rooms where electricity is being bought and sold and moved through the most efficient pathways? This is kind of what might happen, as the Aqueduct has any number of previously scheduled transfers that must be taken into account and juggled.)  

Long story short…the powers that be who can make this all happen have put the word out to their staffs to work cooperatively during this El Nino to see if the agencies can take their fixed assets out for a spin to capture/prevent Hodges spills, and sell that captured water during the winter when our customers’ demand for outdoor irrigation water is very low. Could result in a pretty penny for S.F.I.D. 

Normally these sorts of collaborative efforts take a long time to work through legal documents, but all parties are taking a “let’s make it happen attitude for the 2016 El Nino” and are determined to later iron out finely crafted permanent legal agreements. It will be an intricate dance to determine the most opportune time to schedule interrupting raw water transfers, shooting a big “slug” of drawn down Hodges water through the Aqueduct, to be sold to other agencies. We’ll have to wait and see if El Nino delivers and puts Hodges into spill conditions. Note, even if all systems are “go” for drawing down Hodges and storing and/or selling excess water, you will still view water over the spillway…you hopefully should not be viewing the extraordinary spillage of 2005, 1998, 1995, 1993, 1983 and 1979, the year of the highest spillage in the last 50 years.