San Diego Sacrifices 3.8 Million Gallons of Water So Mission Valley Tourists Won’t Go Without

by on August 22, 2008 · 5 comments

in Energy, Environment, Media, San Diego

Water from damaged fire hydrant is allowed to gush for 5 1/2 hours so Mission Valley tourists wouldn’t lose their bath water

A city water department worker tries to shut off a geyser of water from a broken fire hydrant along Hotel Circle South Wednesday afternoon - EARNIE GRAFTON / Union-TribuneSAN DIEGO, CA. The City of San Diego has admitted that the fire hydrant knocked over on Wednesday, August 20th, by a motorist on Hotel Circle South spewed forth 3.8 million gallons – enough water the Union-Tribune stated today that would fill six Olympic sized swimming pools. The hydrant was struck at about 4 pm, and instead of city crews cutting off the water main, water was allowed to gush until 9:30 pm because of the many hotels and restaurants in the area, Arian Collins of the city’s Water Department told the U-T. [Here’s the link to the U-T.]

Normally, when a hydrant is damaged, the water is cut off using what are called “shutoff gates,” but these were damaged – not by the accident, however. At that point, city crews should have cut off the water main that runs the length of the street, but that would have meant those Mission Valley tourists would have to go without their showers. So, a special crew was brought in but they couldn’t repair it either. So, at some point, city crews determined that they had to shut the water main that runs the length of the street. This caused no water for the hotels and restaurants for less than two hours.

Meanwhile, nearly 4 million gallons of our precious water was allowed to flow west to the mouth of the San Diego River – Dog Beach – and county health officials had to post contamination warning signs at the beach. Even clean water can pick up bacteria and pollutants as it drains to the ocean.

Let’s get this right: at 4 the hydrant was knocked off its base. So water started gushing. The shutoff gates were already damaged so they couldn’t be used to shut down the water. Somebody – who? – decided that if the water main was then shut off, the tourist businesses in the immediate area would not have water until repairs were made. For five and a half hours the water was allowed to gush and flow – water that we are supposed to be saving – so says Mayor Jerry Sanders – water that could fill 6 Olympic pools, enough water for how many San Diego households? “I think we did the right thing in the circumstances,” said Collins. WRONG!

Next time Jerry Sanders wants us to save water, it will be – I predict – after all the tourists have left town.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Richards August 22, 2008 at 8:05 pm

While this was an unfotunate incident, even worse is this “reporting.” Regurgitating a Union-Tribune story? Give me a break. How about you find out what happened on your own. Then you would know that the car that hit the hydrant was stuck on top of the gate valves for two hours. Only after it was towed could the city crew get at the gates, which they then discovered were broken. And while OB people are probably used to not showering for weeks on end, most people like to have their water. Also, no mention here that there were several restaurants that would have had to completely close down without water because of health regulations. And I especially like all the holier than thou comments from someone that has absolutely no experience with water systems, wasn’t at the site where the accident occurred, and didn’t even bother to interview people involved. And where’s the criticism of the driver who somehow managed to run into a big bright yellow fire hydrant and caused this problem in the first place? Calling this a “Rag” is an excellent description. Loser


Susan August 23, 2008 at 10:14 am

Frank: We drove by on the 8 on our way to OB at 5:30 and were astounded at the sight. We drove by again heading east around 8:45 and couldn’t believe the water was still gushing away. We decided exactly what they were doing by not shutting off the main – just what you said – San Diego values it’s tourists comfort level more than they value saving millions of gallons of water – while they ply us with public service announcements not to water our lawns (if we have one).
i guess that saving water does not apply to tourists in SD? What a sham.
Thanks for the great reporting.


Shawn Conrad August 25, 2008 at 10:11 am

San Diego and its surrounding communities pump countless gallon of water into streets and sidwalks just by malaligned sprinkler heads.

Everyday I see water flowing down the streets in this city.

This is just the way life is now. We do not have to do as we say, we just have to say things.


Frank Gormlie August 25, 2008 at 11:22 am

Scott, Susan & Shawn – thanks for your comments.
Susan & Shawn – it is amazing, isn’t it, the waste alongside those official pronouncements of sacrifice.
Scott – you, on the other hand, want us to go out and do our own investigation and do a better job than the Union-Tribune. You are holding us, the OB Rag blog, with not even a full time editor or writer on our staff, up to a higher standard than the U-T which has millions and lots of FT reporters, etc. Well, welcome to the blog world, Scott. You sound like you were there. Are you on the City staff? Were you part of the crew at the geyser? You do miss the point, however. Nearly 4 million gallons of precious liquid lost so a few restaurants and hotels – filled with tourists – don’t lose their water. Finally, when the crew did shut the main down, it was down less than 2 hours. So if the crew had done that originally, before the huge water loss, the hotels and restaurants with their precious cargo would have “been shut down” only acouple of hours. I won’t address your disparagement of residents & citizens of Ocean Beach. But, finally, your comments, suggest you’re really not on board with Mayor Jerry Sanders’ crusade yet with your comment “most people like to have their water.” We all like our water, Scott, but remember, we’re in a coastal desert and we’re in a drought to boot. C’mon, dude, get with the program.


ob wendy September 10, 2008 at 12:41 pm

I was there! Believe me, I’m with the program. I have to be.
Thank you Scott for seeing it for the way it was! Cuz I know I was doing everything in my power to shut that baby down. drought or no drought stuff happens beyound our control.
btw ob is ok and so is the rag


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