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San Diego Water Authority Dedicates Raised San Vicente Dam

Evening Edition

Above: State water managers have approved fines up to $500 a day for folks who waste water by doing things like hosing down the driveway. While the state struggles with a three-year drought, San Diego now has a lot more space for storing water. KPBS Reporter Susan Murphy explains.

Aired 7/17/14 on KPBS News.

A massive expansion of the San Vincente Dam and Reservoir will provide more water reserves in time of drought, like now. San Diego water officials and city leaders on Wednesday dedicated the $416 million project.

A day after mandatory outdoor water restrictions were approved across drought-ridden California, nearly 200 San Diego leaders and community members gathered in East County to dedicate a vital increase to the county’s water storage system.

The capacity of the San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside was doubled in size after the dam was raised 117 feet; the dam is now 337 feet high.

The additional height will enable the region to capture more water during wet years to use in times of drought.

It’s the final piece of San Diego County Water Authority's $1.5 billion emergency water storage system of reservoirs, interconnected pipelines and pumping stations, that will ensure the region has a six month supply of water in the case of an emergency or future drought.

"This super-sized San Vicente Dam holds an additional 152,000 acre feet of water storage for our region," said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the Water Authority."Fifty-two thousand acre feet will be held for emergency purposes only, and the additional hundred thousand acre feet will be used for what we call dry year or carry over storage,"

Filling the reservoir is expected to take two to five years depending on water supply availability and statewide demand.

Most of the water to fill the reservoir will be imported from the Colorado River and Northern California via the Metropolitan Water District, said Kelly Rodgers, Water Authority's project manager and principal engineer.

"So we have two ways to fill the reservoir with imported water via our first and second aquaduct," Rodgers said. "The exciting thing about this project, we not only raised the dam but we’re actually able to fill the reservoir faster because we’ve connected it via an 11 mile pipeline."

While the ceremony was about all about water, the backdrop of tinder-dry hillsides kept drought at the forefront of discussions.

"The general public is a little behind the severity of the situation," said John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. He said the extreme drought conditions highlight the need for more forward-thinking projects like the San Vicente Dam Raise.

"This was done on local initiative with local resources," Laird said. "Not waiting for somebody to mandate it, not waiting for someone else to pay for it, and it really is making a fundamental difference."

The Water Authority and city of San Diego will share the cost of operating the expanded reservoir.

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