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Routine droughts mean San Diego County is on a continuous hunt for enough water to serve its nearly three million residents and businesses, Gary Toushek discovers from deputy general manager Frank Belock 94 www.bus-ex.com May 08 San Diego County Water Authority serves nearly three million residents in the county. Deputy general manager Frank Belock is responsible for three departments: engineering (accountable for executing a $3.6 billion capital improvement program); operations and maintenance (keeping facilities running and ensuring that the daily needs of member agencies are met); and right of way (ensuring that the Water Authority’s large underground aqueducts carry the water without anyone encroaching on the easements or interfering with the flow). There are more than 270 miles of largediameter pipeline, with more than 1,600 aqueduct-related structures, occupying about 1,400 acres of right of way in the county. Routine maintenance activities involve not only the water delivery systems, but include two hydroelectric plants, three pump stations, two flow regulatory structures, and extensive rights of way. San Diego County has always been plagued with bouts of water shortages, mainly due to periodic, sometimes long-term droughts in southern California. In 1942, after the United States had been drawn into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, San Diego representatives went to Washington, DC, to pressure Congress into allocating funds gallon challenge The twenty

May 08 www.bus-ex.com 95 SanDiegoCountyWaterAuthority for a Colorado River connection to San Diego County, because of extensive water use by the US military in the region. Water use during the war rose sharply as San Diego became a major aircraft production center, and state studies were conducted to determine the best method to ‘import’ water from the Colorado River. The San Diego County Water Authority was formed in 1944 by the California state legislature (under the jurisdiction of the State Water Resources Control Board) as a public agency to administer the region’s water rights for the Colorado River, acting as a water wholesaler for its 24 member agencies, which in turn were concerned with securing and delivering a safe, reliable, cost-effective supply of water to homes and businesses throughout the county. The new Water Authority worked with the US Navy to construct the first pipeline linking San Diego County and the Colorado River Aqueduct, owned and operated by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California (which provides water to all of southern California), of which the Water Authority is a member. In 1947 the San Diego Aqueduct opened, bringing the first of the Colorado River water to San Diego, and filling the San Vicente Reservoir. San Diego’s second aqueduct was completed in 1960, and the expanding population and persistent droughts led California legislators to approve a proposition to import water from mountainous rivers in the northern part of the state. “We’ve always imported more water than our regional sources provide,” says Belock. “We’re now negotiating agreements—one-time spot transfers—with a few sources in the northern part of the state as certain agencies have more water than they need, especially in winter, but it can get complicated because first we have to be certain that we can actually move the water here, since we have to arrange transfers via various aqueducts, which we don’t own. We’re also developing more capacity to store that water, such as raising the dam of the San Vicente Reservoir by 117 feet providing 152,000 acre-feet of additional storage.” That’s only one example of the on-going capital improvement projects that the Water Authority undertakes as part of its mandate. The largest component of its capital improvement program is the Emergency Storage Project, which includes the 318-foot Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir that the Water Authority built as part of an overall effort to ensure the county has sufficient water to endure a prolonged, emergency interruption of its imported water supply without severe economic damage. Other projects include lining the two canals running from the Colorado River with concrete to prevent seepage into the ground, and working with farmers in the Imperial Valley, paying them to use irrigation water more efficiently, which allows the Water Authority to purchase the water the farmers save—which has to be tricky when the earth is relatively dry to begin with. Securing alternate sources of water is always a priority, especially after six rough years of varying drought that ended in 1993, which included widespread property damage due to forest fires. “We had relied on the MWD for 95