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FAQ and Key Facts
KEY WATER AUTHORITY FACTS
- Mission: To provide a safe and reliable supply of water to its member agencies serving the San Diego region's $206 billion economy and its 3.1 million residents.
- Who We Are: Independent public agency that serves as San Diego County's regional water wholesaler.
- Formed: June 9, 1944
- First delivery to the region: Nov. 24, 1947
- Imported water: Up to 80 percent of the region's water is imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.
- Service area: of 951,000 acres
- Serves: 95 percent of the county's population.
- Pipelines: Five major pipelines totaling approximately 300 miles
- Board of Directors: 35 members representing 24 member agencies.
- Member agencies: 24 retail member agencies including:
• 6 cities
• 5 water districts
• 3 irrigation districts
• 8 municipal water districts
• 1 public utility district
• 1 federal agency (military base)
- One acre-foot = 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover one acre to a depth of one foot. An acre-foot can supply the average household needs of two four-person families for one year.
The Water Authority is an independent public agency that serves as San Diego County's regional water wholesaler. It is not part of either the city or county of San Diego governments. The mission of the San Diego County Water Authority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of water to its 24 member agencies serving the San Diego region's $206 billion economy and its 3.1 million residents.
The Water Authority was formed in 1944 for the purpose of importing water to the region. At the time of its formation, the Water Authority supplemented local supplies with imported water. The Water Authority is a public agency under the state County Water Authority Act Chapter 45, section 2.
Today, up to 80 percent of the region's water is imported from the Colorado River and Northern California. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is the Water Authority’s largest supplier, providing more than half of the water used in the region in fiscal year 2010. Since 2003, the Water Authority has received a growing percentage of its water supply from its long-term water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District and conserved water from projects that lined portions of the All-American and Coachella canals in Imperial Valley. The remaining water comes from local supply sources including groundwater, local surface water, recycled water, and conservation.
The Water Authority is a water wholesaler that purchases and imports water from various sources and sells the water to its 24 retail member agencies in San Diego County. These member agencies are your water provider, supplying you with the treated (drinking) water in your residential or commercial area, sending you your monthly water bill, monitoring water leaks, and providing you with customer service relating to water issues.
The Water Authority's board of directors consists of at least one representative from each of its 24 member agencies. The representative is appointed by the member agency, with the consent and approval of that member agency. A member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors also serves as a representative to the Water Authority Board.
Large amounts of water are measured by the acre-foot. One acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover one acre to a depth of one foot. An acre-foot can supply the average household needs of two four-person families for one year.
The Water Authority initiated the Capital Improvement Program in 1989 to plan and implement projects to meet the region's future water needs. For many years, the Water Authority received as much as 90 percent of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on a yearly basis. The CIP reduces this overreliance on a single supplier and improves water reliability by diversifying the region’s water supply portfolio. It also enhances the aqueduct system that delivers water to member agencies, which serve more than 3 million residents. Through the CIP the Water Authority:
- Constructs new facilities to increase operational flexibility and capacity to deliver water, increase local storage and provide water during emergencies.
- Rehabilitates existing facilities by replacing or relining aging pipelines to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of water to the region.
The Water Authority solicits competitive proposals and bids for a variety of construction and material procurement projects. To be included on the Water Authority's bid list or to view additional documents including design manuals or the General Conditions and Standard Specifications, visit the Water Authority's Contracting Opportunities web page.
The Emergency Storage Project is a major part of the Water Authority’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The ESP is a system of reservoirs, interconnected pipelines, and pumping stations designed to make water available to the San Diego region in the event of an interruption in imported water deliveries.
The Emergency Storage Project will add 90,100 acre-feet of water storage for emergency use and will:
- Provide up to six months of emergency water storage in the San Diego region
- Establish emergency water storage at Lake Hodges, and the Olivenhain and San Vicente reservoirs for use throughout the county
- Expand the pipeline system to allow region-wide emergency water distribution
To maximize the reliability of the region’s water supply, for the past two decades the San Diego County Water Authority, in coordination with its 24 member retail water agencies, has been diversifying its portfolio of water supply sources promoting greater water use efficiency.
The Water Authority continually works with local agencies to develop local supplies such as groundwater, recycled water, seawater desalination, and conservation. By 2020, local water supplies are projected to meet 40 percent of the region’s water demands.
Why and how should I conserve water? What conservation programs are available through the Water Authority?
Water conservation is a critical part of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy for meeting water supply needs of the San Diego region. The goals of the Water Authority’s water conservation program are to: (1) reduce demand for more expensive, imported water; (2) demonstrate continued commitment to the Best Management Practices and Agricultural Efficient Water Management Practices; and (3) ensure a reliable future water supply. In addition, in 2009 the state Legislature passed SBX7-7, which calls for per capita water consumption to be cut 20 percent by 2020.
Click below to learn more about conservation programs and/or incentives available to you at your residence, business, or public agency.
Customers should contact the water agency that sends their water bill. To find out which member agency serves your area, use the “Locate Your Water District” tool on the right side of this page.
The Water Authority receives both treated and untreated water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. This water originates from the Colorado River and from Bay-Delta area of Northern California.
Untreated water must be treated prior to use by the public. One of the treatment plants, the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant, located within the county is owned by the Water Authority. This plant utilizes the latest technology to produce up to 100 million gallons of potable water each day.
In addition to the Water Authority, other agencies that own and operate treatment plants within the county include:
- Escondido (City of) - joint ownership with Vista Irrigation District
- Helix Water District
- Oceanside (City of)
- Olivenhain Municipal Water District
- Poway (City of)
- San Diego (City of)
- Santa Fe Irrigation District- joint ownership with San Dieguito Water District
- Sweetwater Authority (operating for South Bay Irrigation District and National City)
Treated water is purchased by the Water Authority from the Metropolitan Water District, the Helix Water District, the Olivenhain Municipal Water District and the cities of Oceanside, San Diego, and Poway. Treated water sources can be delivered directly into member agency’s distribution systems for customer use. Whether the water is treated by MWD, the Water Authority, or a local agency, all treated water served in San Diego County meets or exceeds rigorous state and federal water quality regulations.
Yes, as a water wholesaler the Water Authority is responsible for maintaining high-quality potable (drinking) water for its 24 member agencies. The Water Authority performs routine bacteriological testing on the treated water to ensure that there has been no degradation of quality as it's transported from MWD to the member agencies. The water quality in the Water Authority’s Olivenhain Reservoir is routinely tested to ensure it meets all regulatory requirements. Water produced by the Water Authority at the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant is subject to daily, monthly, and annual water quality tests to ensure it also meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements.
The Water Authority performs bacteriological testing on the treated water throughout the aqueduct system. The Water Authority’s member agencies, as the direct supplier to the consumer, perform other required water quality monitoring and must provide reports to the California Department of Public Health and directly to the consumer. Some of the constituents tested include: organics, inorganics, trace metals, disinfection by-products and aesthetics.
The Water Authority is regulated by the California Department of Public Health as a permitted public water supply agency. The Water Authority must comply with all applicable state and federal drinking water regulations. State Certified Water Distribution and Water Treatment Operators make all decisions directly affecting water quality and quantity at the Water Authority, as required by state and federal regulations. The certification regulations require various certification levels (1 - 5) based on the complexity of the water distribution system, the size of the population, and the size of the water treatment plant. A smaller-population, non-complex distribution system, is a level one system. The largest-population, complex distribution system, is rated at a level five. The Water Authority is a level five distribution system, which requires shift operators to carry at least Grade 3 Water Distribution Operator Certification and Chief Operators to carry Grade 5 Water Distribution Operator Certification. In addition, the size of the Water Authority’s treatment plant requires shift operators to carry at least a Grade 3 Water Treatment Operator Certification and the Plant Manager to carry a Grade 5 Water Treatment Operator Certification. The certified operators are responsible for ensuring that the Water Authority complies with all applicable water quality regulations. This is done by monitoring all current and proposed water quality regulations, maintaining a strong professional relationship with the regulators and taking part in the development of regulations.
Quality-wise, the answer is no. Bottled water originates from wells, springs, even the faucet and is often treated to improve taste, not necessarily for quality or disinfection. Considering bottled water costs up to 500 times more per gallon, tap water is a bargain. You can improve taste of tap water by chilling it.
Who do I contact if our organization would like a speaker to make a presentation on the Water Authority's plans and programs?
The speakers' bureau is an important component of the Water Authority's efforts to inform and create public awareness about its plans and programs to provide a safe and reliable water supply for San Diego County's $174 billion economy and its 3.2 million residents. The speakers' bureau is a free service to the community. If your community group or organization would like to invite a speaker to a meeting, please make arrangements at least three weeks in advance by submitting a speakers’ bureau request.