A 25-year-long, $1.5 billion effort to upgrade San Diego County’s water system was recognized Thursday with one of the worlds’ top civil engineering awards.

The San Diego County Water Authority project beat out the iconic One World Trade Center in New York to receive the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Emergency and Carryover Storage Project was designed to ensure up to six months of water is available and can be moved around the San Diego region after a major earthquake or other emergency disrupts outside water supplies.

“We’re proud to receive this distinguished recognition of the world-class infrastructure that our ratepayers have invested in over the last 25 years,” said water authority Chairman Mark Muir. “It’s allowed us to put more water into local storage, even as the state grappled with devastating drought conditions for the past several years.”

“This system will continue to enhance the reliability of our region’s water supplies for generations to come, protecting residents and businesses from supply disruptions caused by natural disasters or the return of prolonged dry periods,” he added.

Other finalists for the award in addition to the new trade center tower were Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2 in Mumbai, India; the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, CT; and the Oak Cliff Dallas Streetcar Project in Texas.

Components of the winning San Diego project include the Olivenhain Dam, pipeline and pump station; Lake Hodges pipeline and pump station; San Vicente pipeline and pump station; and the San Vicente Dam raise

“Anticipating problems and finding solutions is at the heart of a civil engineer’s work,” said Norma Jean Mattei, the engineering society’s president. “The water authority planned for the future, making an investment that ensures the public’s health, safety and welfare in case of disaster.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.