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Background

Introduction

The City of San Diego is located on southern California’s semi-arid coastal plain. San Diego’s pleasant climate attracts large numbers of potential residents, businesses, and tourists every year. Known as America’s Finest City, San Diego is one of the ten largest cities in the USA and the second largest city in California, with a population of approximately 1.3 million.

San Diego relies mostly upon imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River for its water supply. The City currently purchases up to 90 percent of its water from San Diego County Water Authority (CWA), a wholesale agency that provides imported water to member agencies.

The Water System

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department acquires, stores, treats, and delivers safe drinking water utilizing a complex water system that includes:

  • Nine surface raw water storage reservoirs
  • Pipeline connections to CWA aqueducts, which supply both raw and treated water to the City of San Diego
  • Three water treatment plants
  • Thirty-one treated water storage facilities
  • Approximately 3,200 miles of water transmission and distribution pipelines
  • Forty-seven water pump stations

A majority of San Diego’s water system was built during the past century. As a result of a 1993 survey by the California Department of Health Services (DHS), a number of system deficiencies were found. The City and DHS entered into a Compliance Order requiring a number of specific corrective actions be taken. To address these issues, the City set out to develop a plan to identify its future needs for water.

Development of the Strategic Plan

In 1996, the City of San Diego formed a public advisory group to help develop a long-term plan for addressing the City’s current and future water storage, treatment and delivery needs. After identifying the system’s needs, the City invited more than 30 community members to participate in a stakeholder’s group, called the Strategic Plan for Water Supply Public Advisory Group (PAG). The PAG assisted the City in developing an appropriate Capital Improvements Program. This program outlines what the City must repair, replace, upgrade and expand to keep the system running in order to reliably supply San Diegans with safe, clean water today and well into the future.

Over the course of a year, the PAG attended workshops and toured many of the City’s water facilities to see the condition of the system first hand. Based on this work, the PAG concluded the City had to make significant capital improvements to its water system. The PAG then identified the best plan to carry out those improvements and research was conducted. The information gathered was analyzed by Public Utilities Department officials, and an outreach program was structured to include areas where the public had misperceptions or no knowledge.

Since the approval of the Strategic Plan for Water Supply by the San Diego City Council and the landmark issuance of bonds for the Capital Improvements Program, the City of San Diego been busy with construction on several system upgrade, expansion and repair projects.