San Diego’s Crumbling Infrastructure Trumps Peninsula Water-Saving Efforts

by on September 10, 2015 · 6 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach, San Diego

OB flood Nimitz 9-8-15

Screen capture of video of Nimitz flooding, 9-8-15. 6News

It’s a horrible realization, but one that was abruptly shoved our way the other day when a 24-inch water main broke and caused massive flooding down Nimitz Boulevard for hours.

No matter how much water we save, it can all be trumped by just one pipeline failure.

No matter all the showers not taken, all the lawns removed, all the plants not watered, all the turning off of the faucets – all these water-saving efforts by OBceans and Peninsulans – can go for naught because San Diego has a crumbling infrastructure. The area has had all kinds of water main breaks.

Consider the following:

The most recent occurred on Tuesday, Sept. 8, when a 53-year-old water main flooded near intersection of Nimitz and Famosa Boulevards; a sidewalk caved in, a river of water flowed north down Nimitz Blvd. Water availability at Pt Loma High and Correia were both effected.

May 5, 2015 – A busted pipe flooded a restaurant in Point Loma on Ollie Street near Venus Street. The pipe broke because of “wear and tear”. One inch of standing water was seen inside the restaurant.

February 27, 2015 – A water main broke at Ingraham Street near Missouri. A  major road in Pacific Beach was shut down for several hours.

January 9, 2015 – Water main break, involving a 12-inch cast iron water main, happened at  Catalina Boulevard and Canon Street.

December 19, 2014 – A broken water main flooded intersection of Canon Street and Anchorage Lane. Here a construction crew accidentally ruptured the 8-inch-diameter concrete pipeline while digging.

August 17, 2014 – A broken water main occurred in Ocean Beach at the 4100 block of Voltaire Street.

November 26, 2013 – A sinkhole was reported on North Harbor Drive near Laning Road and Nimitz Boulevard – about 10 feet by 15 feet in size.  A 16-inch cast iron pipe broke causing a portion of North Harbor Drive near Nimitz Boulevard to collapse.

February 18, 2013 – A water main break in the 2700 block of Nimitz Boulevard was caused by the rupture of the 16-inch cast iron water main – called one of the water department’s largest in recent memory. It caused extensive flooding and damage to different apartments in the area. The cause of the main break was under investigation at the time of the report, but staff believe it could be attributed to corrosion.

This is 8 just in our area. Doesn’t count the ones in Serra Mesa or other places within the City.

A recent report, in fact, attempted to quantify just how much water San Diego loses in its too-many water main breaks.

City Councilman Mark Kersey is reported to have stated that in 2014 San Diego lost about 12 million gallons of water – which Kersey estimated :

“That’s about what 100 homes use for water a year.”

As chair of the Council’s Infrastructure Committee, he collects data on water main breaks as part of budget preparation. He said:

“Last year in 2014, we had 75 water main breaks, which is a little more than one a week.

The report echoed city’s Water Department statement in 2014 that there were 75 water main breaks, 89 in 2013, and 131 in 2010.  The culprit? The pipes blamed for the water main breaks are the old cast iron pipes –  part of the city’s original infrastructure, and which make up about 10 percent of the water main network, but account for 60% of the breaks.

Kersey said:

“We lost about 12 million gallons of water last year — we’re talking about clean drinking water — just going down the storm drains. That’s significant, but even more when we’re in a drought.”


Now, another totally different look at the costs of water main breaks is this tidbit:

From 2004 to 2012, according to a report by online news organization iNewsource, the City of San Diego paid over $10 million to settle claims filed by property owners and general contractors for damages incurred as a result of water-main breaks — as reported by the grand jury, the money to pay for damages comes from ratepayers and not the city’s general fund. San Diego Reader

What we are facing are the costs of our crumbling infrastructure – the City knows about it. The politicos know about it. San Diego has a terrible reputation of living with a poor infrastructure and not spending the funds needed to ensure a viable and safe environment.

But no more visible is the absolute inadequacy of our infrastructure then when it floods at our doorstep during a drought.

Call your political representatives – and have them speed up the repair and replacement of our pipes, so that our water-saving efforts mean something.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Patty Jones September 10, 2015 at 7:47 pm



Nancy Yuen September 11, 2015 at 7:43 am

Not to be nit-picky, but at the very beginning of this essay, the term “can go to not” is an incorrect use of an English turn of phrase. The correct phrase is “go for naught.” Point taken about the crumbling infrastructure. However, the infrastructure of language ought to be maintained, as well.


Frank Gormlie September 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

Nancy – thanks for the correction – we’ve made it in the text.


Gregg September 11, 2015 at 11:33 am


You should do an article about the OB Pier. It has major structural issues and needs repair. A few major storms could cause it to collapse. Every time I surf there it looks worse. There are major cracks in the structure with exposed rusted rebar, chunks of concrete have fallen and today I noticed water leaking from the bottom in a couple of places meaning there is a broken water line buried in the concrete. Also while standing on the pier I noticed the wood railings are infested with dry wood termites. The pier needs a major make over.


Frank Gormlie September 11, 2015 at 11:47 am

Gregg – Next year is its 50th anniversary.


tj September 14, 2015 at 9:14 pm

many areas have added ammonia as an additional poison (chlorine, fluoride, etc) to our drinking water supply, creating the toxic & corrosive chloramine.

public & private sector infrastructure failures – once a rarity – are now commonplace.

correlation – NONE… according to the water agency’s so-called “experts.”





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