SFID celebrates 100-year anniversary of reservoir, new pump station


The Santa Fe Irrigation District and San Dieguito Water Districts celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the San Dieguito Reservoir and the dedication of the new pump station with a ceremony on May 30.

Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) General Manager Michael Bardin said the reservoir is the centerpiece of the joint partnership between the two water districts and the new pump station is a critical piece of their local water supply system that they have continued to improve throughout the years.

“This is important to us to celebrate the accomplishments we’ve had here and the history we’ve had going back 100 years,” Bardin said. “The reservoir and pump station have been important assets from the beginning for ensuring customers of our two districts have high-quality water.”

Looking back on the long history of the water districts was a theme for the ceremony. On display on the shores of the reservoir was a piece of the original 25-inch redwood mainline built in 1923 that stretched from the reservoir to Santa Fe Drive.

Joe Mosca, president of the San Dieguito Water District board, told a story about growing up in North County San Diego and being served water in restaurants in amber-colored glasses because of brown hue of the water back then.

Michael Hogan, the president of the SFID board who has lived in Solana Beach since 1954, remembered those same amber glasses. He recalled in the early 1960s when the Larrick Reservoir in Solana Beach was drained and water was discharged down the streets—he and friends waded in water and caught fish as water ran down the street.

“It just demonstrates how far we’ve come in regard to what safe and high-quality water is,” Hogan said, noting how the two districts have partnered to improve their joint facilities to be more durable and efficient.

The San Dieguito Dam was constructed in 1918 for just $160,000. The hollow gravity, multiple arch dam created the reservoir which receives water from Lake Hodges. The reservoir has the capacity to store 850-acre feet of water and is used for operational storage of local Lake Hodges water and serves as emergency storage.

Mosca said the reservoir was the turning point for the partnership between the two agencies, purchased from the city of San Diego in 1969.

The pump station at the reservoir was originally built in 1964 to convey raw water to customers—Hogan said that it was upgraded in 1967 in the same year that the R.E. Badger Filtration Plant was constructed as a joint venture between the two districts. The pump station began pumping low cost, local water from the reservoir to the plant for filtration and delivery to customers.

“The original pump station served the district well for over 53 years, it ultimately reached the end of its useful life and was taken out of service in August 2017 when it was demolished to make room for the new one,” Hogan said.

Mosca described how several environmentally-friendly processes are used to pre-treat the reservoir water prior to pumping it up to the filtration plant such as solar bees, aqua mats and floating islands.

The solar bee, a floating solar-powered device, draws water up from the lower depths of the lake and spreads it out over the surface.The process improves water quality through aeration which prevents blue-green algae blooms, reduces taste and odor problems. Aqua mats use strips of porous fibers that provide a surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow that consumes organic and ammonia compounds. The floating islands made of recycled materials are home to plants that naturally cleanse water.

“Using these products results in less chemical use and less costs in the filtration process,” Mosca said.

When reviewed recently, Mosca said the reservoir was found to be in good condition and only at its mid-life use.

Construction of the new pump station began in July 2015 and completed in September 2017 for a total cost $7.5 million. According to Hogan, it is equipped with the latest technology, including two 4.5 million gallons per day pumps and two 6 million gallons per day pumps for a total rated capacity for 15 million gallons per day.

Over 60,000 North County residences and business rely on the water pumped from the reservoir to filtration pump by way of the pump station.

“These shared facilities that are operated and maintained by the Santa Fe Irrigation District on behalf of both districts demonstrates that partnerships between government agencies can work successfully together to leverage our mutual assets, provide efficiency and reduce costs to ratepayers,” Hogan said