San Diego completes major water pipeline project

Published 24 January 2011

San Diego county has completed the San Vicente pipeline which will provide residents with fresh water in the event of a disruption; San Diego receives 90 percent of its water from distant sources thousands of miles away; the pipeline is part of a larger $1.5 billion project designed to provide San Diego county with water for up to six months if supplies are cut off by a major earthquake or natural disaster; these projects are becoming increasingly important as San Diego’s two primary sources of water, the Colorado River and the San Joaquin-Sacramento river delta begin to dry up

The San Diego County Water Authority has just completed the San Vicente Pipeline, which will provide the region with fresh water in the event of a major earthquake, drought, or other disruption.

San Diego currently receives 90 percent of its water from two distant sources, making it susceptible to disruption in the event of a major disaster.

Snow melt from the Rocky Mountains feed the Colorado River which in turn supplies Lake Havasu with water which is where the San Diego County Water Authority has built a 242-mile long aqueduct to provide water for thirsty residents.

A 444-mile long aqueduct stretching from Northern California is San Diego’s other primary source of water. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta provides the water for the aqueduct with snow melt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The San Vicente Pipeline, an 11-mile, 8.5 foot diameter pipe, was funded as part of a $1.5 billion Emergency Storage Project that was initiated to ensure that the San Diego region would have access to fresh water in the event of a major disaster and supplies from the north were interrupted.

The new pipe begins in Lakeside and ends in Mira Mesa where it will provide residents of the southern half of the county with water.

The county is also expanding the San Vicente dam, raising it an additional 117 feet so that its walls will tower at nearly 340 feet. The project was initiated two years ago and is expected to be completed by early 2013.

When finished the reservoir will hold an additional 152,000 acre-feet of water and provide roughly 300,000 homes with fresh water a year.

With San Diego’s primary sources of water drying up, local water projects like the San Vicente Pipeline will become increasingly important.

San Diego residents depend on melting snow from the distant Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains to provide it with water, but even the most optimistic climate models show that 30 to 70 percent of the snow pack will disappear in the second half of this century.

“There’s a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster and that’s in the best scenario,” says Steven Chu, Nobel laureate and the current Energy Secretary.