Chaldean American Chamber brings local water districts together for community forum
People who attend the monthly meetings of Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce always enjoy the networking with each other, but the meetings are also valued for its relevant topics. Last week, at BJ’s in Grossmont Center, people networked for just a short while before sitting down to listen to some speakers on a very hot topic—the California drought.
Ben Kalasho, founder and president of the Chamber, introduced speakers from three water districts of the area: Carlos Lugo of the Helix Water District, Melissa McChesney of Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Mark Watton of Otay Water District.
Lugo said that although the Governor’s mandate to conserve water is drastic for San Diego County, everyone has to abide by it.
The drought actually began in 2012, Lugo reminded everyone, with 2013 as the driest year on record, 2014 the warmest year, and this year the driest winter on record. The drought reaches into the northern parts of California and the great Central Valley, which grows some of the nation’s most important crops. The levels of Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, both of which are part of the State Water Program, have shrunk drastically low.
“And take a look at this picture of Sequoia National Park, taken in April of this year,” Lugo said, indicating the images in handouts. “You can see the peaks of the mountains here. But they should all be covered with snow.”
In past years, the area covered the San Diego County Water District has not been impacted by the drought measures and regulations. But that has all changed with sweeping regulations that took effect June 1.
The district serves the cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon, Spring Valley, areas of Lakeside and Santee and some parts of unincorporated San Diego County.
Lugo said that Helix Water District is not against turf or tree but does want customers to have functional turf through practical means such as adjusting rotary sprinklers. The district also encourages reduction of use of water inside the house. The average domestic use of water is 26 units per billing cycle; one unit is 747 gallons.
Because trees are vital to the health and livability of cities statewide, the district does want homeowners to do what they can to save their trees. To water them, Lugo said customers need to use slow, deep irritation such as drip lines, soaker hose or trickling hose.
Seven hundred citations have been issued to customers who need to fix leaks or reduce water, but nobody has been fined yet.
“Our main goal is not to impose fines, but to increase public education,” Lugo said.
Melissa McChesney, communication officer for Padre Dam Water District, agreed.
“Our main message at Padre Dam is the enforcement of two days a week for watering lawns on assigned watering days,” McChesney said.
McChesney also recommends replacing spray heads with rotary nozzles and drip irrigation.
Padre Dam is a 100 percent Automated Meter Reading of daily and hourly use.
“So if we know a customer has a leak, we can let them know. We’ve sent out over 1,000 letters to customers who have continual flow, which indicates they have leaks,” she said. “In fact, Padre Dam customers have fixed more than 300 leaks. Only one fine out of all those letters has been imposed. Fixing those leaks will help Padre Dam reach its 20 percent reduction goals. Unfortunately, our customers had already cut back 29 percent during the 2009 drought, and now they are being told to cut back more. We try to work with customers as best as possible who find it difficult to fix their leaks, like the young Navy wife, who lived alone with her two small children,” McChesney said.
Serving 100,000 customers mostly within El Cajon and Lakeside communities, 100 percent of its water is imported.
“We don’t have a potable water source in our district,” McChesney said. “However, we do have a new purification system to help bring in more local water.”
McChesney said that the district does have its own tanks for firefighters’ use.
General Manager Mark Watton of Otay Water District reported that 208,000 customers from Helix to Jamul to the Mexican border are feeling the effects of severe cutbacks. This is not the first drought the district has suffered. In 1991, a drought severely affected the economy.
“That was our wake-up call to not be dependent on one supplier,” Watton said. ”So as a result of ’91, we use lots of recycled water.”
Over the last ten years, San Diego County customers’ water rates have doubled.
“But you all have 99 percent of reliable water supply. If we took no water from Northern California, we would have 97 percent,” Watton said. “At a workshop for the public recently, one lady said that she was sure that she would out of California because of the drought. But there is no need to move away. We have the water, but the Governor has mandated that we don’t use it.”
For more information about the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, go to www.chaldeanamericanchamber.com. For more information about how to save water, go to www.whenindrought.org.