Chris Robbins, Vallecitos Water District, Talks Drought and Conservation

Chris Robbins, Public Information and Conservation Supervisor, Vallecitos Water District

Chris Robbins, Public Information and Conservation Supervisor, Vallecitos Water District

In this time of severe drought club members heard an informative presentation from Chris Robbins, Public Information and Conservation Supervisor for our local water district, Vallecitos. Amazingly, 42% of customers in their district don’t know who they are or their mission, according to Chris.

He provided a great overview of both the company as well as our local water infrastructure. Vallecitos’ mission is “To serve as water and wastewater specialists, providing exceptional and sustainable services.” How do they do that? By having a 20-year master plan that is updated every few years, so it is always forward looking. That’s quite a task for a service that provides drinkable water to over 95,000 customers via 350 miles of pipe, 10 pump stations and 19 reservoirs!

One thing on everyone’s mind given the drought is just where does our water come from and how at risk are we? The two major sources of our water are from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via the 444-mile California aqueduct and from the Colorado River via a second aqueduct. Both deliver our water to our wholesaler, the San Diego County Water Authority. From there, our deliveries enter the San Marcos area and are stored in two huge subsurface reservoirs, Twin Oaks I & II, each of which holds 73 million gallons of treated water. Each of these is large enough to contain Qualcomm’s entire football field! From there it travels to our individual homes via various pipelines.

Foreseeing that drought could compromise the future amounts we can expect, Vallecitos has also worked to diversify water sources. Two new sources will be added in the near future reducing our dependence on imported water by 41%. The first is via a direct purchase agreement with the Carlsbad desalination plant that comes online in November of this year. That will provide 20% of our supply. Additionally a new agreement for water has been secured from the nearby Olivenhain district.

Vallecitos also recycles water for non-drinking purposes, although future use of recycled water for drinking is planned pending the outcome of the San Diego Water Authority’s ongoing pilot program. 3.5 million gallons a day is currently recycled, and recent upgrades will increase that to 5.25 million gallons.

However, challenges remain. We are in our 4th year of drought, and in spite of the potential for El Nino-driven rains coming this winter, the depleted resources will not be easily replenished and will take more than one wet winter to resolve. In addition to the drought, there is also increased demand for water from ongoing development, although that could be halted should we move to the next higher level of Drought Alert Level III.

To respond to the drought, Governor Brown declared a drought emergency in April and Vallecitos adopted emergency conservation measures. The reduction target given Vallecitos is 24% which was well exceeded in the month of July with a 38% reduction.

The drought restrictions include watering only 2 days a week for a maximum of 8 minutes per station (and cannot be further divided into 4 days at 4 minutes per station for example), and only watering between 10 pm and 6 am. There are additional restrictions as well, with “drought patrols” making the rounds during the night looking for leaks or obvious problematic runoff. Over 800 notices for violations have been issued so far.

Although the funds for turf replacement are now exhausted, there are still numerous rebates available for such efficiency measures as toilet replacements. Additionally there are other services, many for free, that can provide auditing for leaks and information about residential conservation techniques. The full list of available rebates and services can be found on the Water Smart San Diego website. Additionally Chris advised that since only one rebate per product category is provided, be sure you apply for everything in that category via one application (e.g., if you want to purchase two low-flow toilets, buy them both at the same time using the same rebate application).

The bottom line? Make water conservation a permanent way of life as it is not likely to dramatically change in the future.

For more information on Vallecitos Water District, drought statistics, maps and interesting facts on our water infrastructure view Chris’ presentation below.

Chris Robbins Presentation

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