The drought. It’s an ongoing issue. It’s getting progressively worse. And, if you haven’t felt the impact during the last few years – you are feeling it now.
Last August, Vallecitos Water District moved to a Level 2 Drought Alert prompting mandatory water-use restrictions for all of its customers. And then, in April of this year, Governor Brown kicked it up a notch with an Executive Order requiring all residents and several state agencies to immediately reduce use to safeguard the state’s remaining potable urban water supplies.
Maybe you have been doing your part to cut back, but then you walk down the street and see someone hosing down their driveway or you watch water running down sidewalks from over-watering and you wonder if you are all alone in your efforts.
Does anyone else care? Is anyone else taking this crisis seriously? (The answer is a resounding – yes!)
One May 13, Vallecitos Water District hosted its free award-winning Water Academy Tour. Local residents gathered at the water district offices, toured the Water Operations Department, got to see specialized equipment and how it is used to keep water flowing efficiently.
From there, they hopped on a charter bus and toured the Twin Oaks Reservoirs and the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. From 8:30AM to 4PM, these residents saw the inner workings of how our drinking water is treated and delivered to homes and businesses and how the water from toilets and sinks is recycled to such high standards that it can be used for irrigation.
Maybe the thought of a full day water district tour makes your eyes glaze over. Or maybe you’re totally bummed you missed out. Either way, here are a few takeaways that we think you will find fascinating about water here in San Marcos.
Where it Comes From
We have no local water supply. 100% of our water is imported. Obviously, this is a scary statistic. Our current water sources are shared by seven states and we are all impacted by the drought. Aqueducts are susceptible to disaster. These vulnerabilities in our limited supply are why the word ‘diversification’ is the mantra of the day. It was fascinating to learn how Vallecitos Water District is diversifying its portfolio to ensure we continue to have water even if one of these sources is suddenly interrupted.
The desalination plant in Carlsbad will come online this fall. When that happens, this water will become about 29% of our supply. While this is the most expensive water, it also reduces our reliance on current (and restricted) resources. While the cost of imported water will continue to skyrocket over the next 10 years, desalination is a more fixed cost.
Largest in the World
Did you know San Marcos houses two award-winning massive water tanks in the northern part of the District? Twin Oaks Reservoir #1 is a 33-million gallon tank and Reservoir #2 is a 40-million gallon tank – and is said to be the largest pre-stressed concrete tank in the world! These tanks sit side-by-side with a combined capacity of 73 million gallons and most of us don’t even know they are there because they are underground – an engineering feat that has garnered several awards for Vallecitos Water District. Both of these tanks provide over five days of emergency storage for the District while blending into the rural area around them.
WATER Quality & Efficiency
80% of our water supply is delivered utilizing gravity. It’s also comforting to see the massive backup generators onsite at the reservoirs and the reclamation facility. When we have a massive blackout, Vallecitos can switch over to the generators to keep things running smoothly. Vallecitos also has their own fuel station to fuel the generators. There is constant communication between the water district and SDG&E and this ability to operate off the grid is a tremendous asset in an emergency.
Vallecitos staff is constantly monitoring valves, pumps, pipes, water quality, water supply and numerous other variables from weather predictions to use patterns to ensure a constant supply of the highest quality water. Taking a very proactive and preventative approach, this team of professionals takes amazing pride in their work and the importance of every decision and its impact on the end-user and the environment.
Meadowlark Water Reclamation facility was recently expanded and upgraded. It is now capable of processing up to 5 million gallons/day. And, it has to be one of the cleanest facilities of its kind. Surrounded by homes, keeping odors to a minimum is key. The air is scrubbed constantly and even walking around the facility you would find it hard to believe that over four million gallons of sewer are being processed through that site every day.
No solid waste is processed at this site, it is sent to Encina Waste Water Authority, where it is recycled into bio-fuel or fertilizer. The Meadowlark Facility separates the solid from the liquid and then cleans the liquid to the standards required for landscape watering. This site is capable of recycling up to 74% of the waste-water generated in the District’s service area which we then sell to Olivenhain and Carlsbad to irrigate the Carlsbad flower fields, area golf courses, Legoland and more. This helps reduce our area’s reliance on imported water sources as well.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Water Academy is to see the transparency not only of the water, but of Vallecitos Water District as a whole. Touring their conservation garden – a sustainable garden that has not required any water since November of 2014. Seeing their Solar Carport – which generates up to 90% of the electricity used on their site – an operational savings that can then be passed down. Opening their doors to customers for behind-the-scene tours and school field trips. The staff on every site is professional, friendly and clearly passionate about excellence.
From award-winning conservation to out-of-the-box thinking, Vallecitos Water District is truly a leader in our community. Next time you see one of them out patrolling your neighborhood, give them a smile and say thank you.
How Can You Help?
- Don’t put trash down the toilet or sink. Egg shells, dental floss, coffee grounds and oils present big problems down the line. Don’t let them down the drain.
- Adhere to the water restriction mandates. www.vwd.org/drought
- Monitor your irrigation and plumbing and quickly fix any leaks.
- Report any water waste you see in your neighborhood. You can do so
anonymously at www.vwd.org/waterwaste.
- Take advantage of available rebates for water-saving appliances, landscaping
- Schedule a free landscape irrigation audit to locate leaks and other water waste
at your property: www.watersmartcheckup.org.
- Conserve! Visit www.watersmartsd.org for loads of tips that will save water and
save you money at the same time.