Three winter aqueduct shutdowns lie ahead

The map shows the area that will be impacted by the three water shutdowns.

Valley Center Municipal Water District and its customers are long accustomed to dealing with periodic aqueduct shutdowns which allow the district’s sole wholesale water supplier, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), to inspect, repair, and make improvements to our imported water aqueduct system. 

However, this coming winter will be especially challenging, as there will be three consecutive aqueduct shutdowns in fairly rapid succession: (1) December 4 –14, 2022, (2) January 22 – February 1, 2023, and (3) February 26 – March 8, 2023.

At play is the fact that the three tunnels on the 1st San Diego Aqueduct (“1st Aqueduct”) need to be relined to protect the quality of the treated water traveling north to south through the enclosed aqueduct, and restore its operational integrity. The 1st Aqueduct serves five of VCMWD’s seven Aqueduct Connections, spanning the full length of the District’s 100-square-mile service area. Although VCMWD does have a connection to the 2nd San Diego Aqueduct (“2nd Aqueduct”), the 1st Aqueduct provides water to approximately 85% of the District’s service area. Completed in the early 1950s, the 1st Aqueduct began serving the fledgling Valley Center Municipal Water District soon after its formation election in 1954 and has served the district continuously for 67 years.    

As in past shutdowns, the district will notify large agricultural customers in the impacted area (see map), reminding them to pre-water before the shutdown, and then stop watering during the shutdown periods. Unrestricted agricultural watering will resume after each of the shutdown periods are complete and the aqueduct resumes full operation. Residential, commercial, and fire protection needs will be provided by a combination of water from the district’s over 140 million gallons of enclosed water storage and flows from the 2nd Aqueduct. 

“With the customary cooperation from our growers, as well as cooler and hopefully even wet weather, we should be able to make it through the three shutdown periods with comfortable water supply safety margins to adequately meet the District’s domestic and fire protection purposes,” according to VCMWD Director of Operations and Facilities Brian Lovelady. Notices will first go out to large growers in mid-November, with a second reminder notice going out towards the end of November. There will be future notifications for the subsequent shutdowns for January 2023, again in late February 2023, and in early March 2023.

This aqueduct repair is the latest in a series of repairs and relining projects conducted by the SDCWA over the last 20 or so years to reline, refurbish, extend the life and improve the reliability of the five major water pipelines connecting San Diego’s 3.2 million people to water sources from the Colorado River, and to a lesser extent the State Water Project. Just recently, the SDCWA spent over $41 Million to refurbish the 1st Aqueduct pipelines and structures and is now working on repairing the three tunnel leaks. Over the next 10 years, the SDCWA plans to spend nearly $1 billion to strengthen and extend the life of 5 critical pipelines and other facilities which reliably bring imported water to all of the San Diego County Water Authority Service Area, including the 30,000 people, as well as the hundreds of farms and businesses served by the Valley Center MWD.  

As stated above, the District will start notifying large agricultural customers later in November and then ready its operation, distribution, and storage systems to prepare for the December, January, and February shutdowns.

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