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  • FEATURED STORY

    More storage and renewed calls for conservation

    As local and state officials heighten their calls for conservation, the San Diego Water Authority this month celebrated the completion of a project that goes a long way toward ensuring water reliability for the region.

    The $416 million San Vicente Dam Raise project is finished. Raising the height of the dam in Lakeside greatly increases the reservoir’s capacity. Water managers say the dam raise represents the largest water storage project in county history.

    As the County of San Diego’s representative to the San Diego County Water Authority, I joined my water board colleagues at dedication ceremonies July 16 that were attended by nearly 200 officials from throughout the county and beyond.

    We shared our goodwill and congratulations near a boat ramp and marina that will open once the reservoir is full.

    The blue-green lake is cradled by rocky, bone-dry hills. Standing tall above the water line is more than 100 feet of new dam. The dam raise is the tallest of its kind in the nation. Construction began in 2009.

    California’s secretary for natural resources, John Laird, praised the project while warning about the severity of the drought. The storage at San Vicente will provide our region with critical reserves to carry us through future shortages.

    Laird added that he has taken to watering his entire yard by hand, with a 2-gallon watering can. Officials measure quantities at San Vicente on a much larger scale.

    An acre-foot — that’s one acre of surface area filled to a depth of one foot — is a most-common unit of measurement. The San Vicente reservoir expansion adds capacity for 152,000 acre-feet. That can serve more than 300,000 homes for a year.

    That storage alone exceeds the capacity of any other reservoir in the county.

    The super-sized dam raise represents the final major piece of the water authority’s $1.5 billion Emergency Storage Project, which connects San Vicente, Olivenhain and Lake Hodges reservoirs through a system of pumps and pipelines. The Emergency Storage Project can provide our region with a six-month supply of water if imported water deliveries are interrupted by an earthquake or other disaster.

    Built in 1943, the original San Vicente Dam was owned and operated by the city of San Diego.

    Celebrations for the completed dam raise were held one day after state regulators imposed unprecedented restrictions on outdoor watering that include possible fines for violators.

    Locally, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors is set to consider activating the next stage of the region’s drought response plan by declaring a Level 2 Drought Alert, which orders mandatory conservation measures to prevent water waste. Conservation allows us to keep as much water as possible in storage for 2015 and to comply with mandates of the State Water Resources Control Board.

    To learn more about our water infrastructure and the conservation mandates we face, visit the San Diego County Water Authority website at www.sdcwa.org.