Celebrating 65 Years as Your Water Service Provider
In 2021, the Otay Water District is proud to celebrate its 65th year of providing communities of southeastern San Diego County with reliable water service.
HOW IT STARTED:
On an overcast summer day in 1955, a plumber, a civil engineer, an attorney, a newspaper publisher, and two owners of large tracts of land gathered for lunch at Christie’s Restaurant in Chula Vista. They met to discuss how they could bring life-giving water to an arid region of southeastern San Diego County. By the end of the day, they had a common vision, a few thousand dollars to spend, and the framework for what later became the Otay Water District.
The Otay Municipal Water District was established in 1956, serving a population of less than 1,200, and by 1960, it had approximately 700 water connections and delivered about 500 acre-feet of water annually.
In the early years, its service area was mostly a scrub- and cactus-covered backcountry.
HOW IT’S GOING:
The availability of water has helped transform the District’s service area into a blend of diverse environments and backgrounds shared by people and nature. Today, the District provides reliable water, recycled water, and sewer services to more than 226,000 people. Its service area includes parts of eastern Chula Vista, Bonita, Jamul, Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, east Otay Mesa, and unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa. The District purchases water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the Helix Water District to provide these communities with potable water.
Throughout the 65 years, the District hit various milestones to continue serving the growing population in its service area.
One major highlight in Otay’s history includes the construction of its Ralph W. Chapman Water Recycling Facility in 1979. The plant is used to irrigate a portion of eastern Chula Vista and can produce up to 1.1 million gallons of recycled water per day. The District is committed to increasing the use of recycled water in its service area to minimize the overall demand for potable water.
To assure efficient operations, comply with regulations, and replace aging infrastructure, the District regularly invests in capital improvement projects. One important undertaking includes the 14-Inch Force Main Improvement Project located in the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and completed in 2017. After the pipeline’s 37 years of service and a recent leak, the District used advanced technologies and sophisticated analysis software to discover that it was still in excellent condition. With proactive maintenance and repair measures, the District preserved the remaining useful life of the existing three-mile-long pipeline facility and saved its ratepayers potentially nearly $8 million.
Also in 2017, the District began taking advantage of manufacturer warranties to upgrade more than 49,600 automated meter reading (AMR) registers, which were originally installed between 2004 – 2012. Replacing registers instead of the entire meters as well as taking advantage of existing warranties helped save ratepayers approximately $3.3 million in meter replacement costs. Benefits of utilizing AMR meters include reduction of full-time meter reading staff, increase in the safety of staff, allowing staff to store historical water-use data, and identifying unexplained usage by providing leak, tamper, and back-flow detection alarms.
In 2018, after a two-year study and evaluation period, Otay began using drones to assist with the preliminary inspection of water facilities, including 40 potable water reservoirs. Drone technology can provide time savings with initial inspections and allows for a safer examination process of the District’s assets.
Many milestones have also been instrumental in helping our service area do its part in reducing water waste and overall water use — which is especially important during drought. In recent years, San Diego County has been better prepared for drought than other parts of California. This is partially due to the District’s heavy investment in water conservation, water recycling, seawater desalination, and transitional storage over the last 20-plus years.
Although it may look different today, the District remains as dedicated to community service as in its early roots. Responsible resource planning, sound fiscal management, respect for the environment, and paying close attention to its customers’ needs are necessary to ensure its future looks as good as its history.
A TIMELINE OF OTAY’S HISTORY:
Chapman and Hansen meet with Ray Coyle, vice chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority and publisher of the Chula Vista Star News, in search of a solution for the South Bay’s declining quality and quantity of well water.
On Memorial Day, the water committee — of what later became part of the Otay Municipal Water District — holds its first meeting at Christie’s Restaurant in Chula Vista to contribute the necessary funds for the formation of the water district.
Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Filtration Plant begins delivering filtered water to Otay customers.
Otay dedicates its current headquarters at 2554 Sweetwater Springs Boulevard, Spring Valley, CA.
Otay signs an agreement to purchase recycled water from the City of San Diego’s South Bay Water Reclamation Plant in San Ysidro, CA.
The State Department grants Otay a presidential permit to build a potable water pipeline from the U.S.-Mexico border to import desalinated seawater.