You are now in Education category.

The new skills lab for the Cuyamaca College Wastewater Studies program. Photo: Courtesy GCCCD

College Students Get Their Feet Wet at New Center for Water Studies

RANCHO SAN DIEGO – Cutting-edge training facilities unveiled for spring classes at Cuyamaca College help tomorrow’s water and wastewater workforce gain the hands-on experience necessary for successful careers in the industry. Additional upgrades are on the way by fall, as the college continues expanding its legacy of preparing workers for careers in water.

Cuyamaca’s new Center for Water Studies features an innovative Field Operations Skills Yard – an above-ground water distribution system and an underground wastewater collection system that provides students with practical challenges they will face in today’s complex water and wastewater facilities.

“These fully operational water and wastewater systems will be used to replicate many of the entry-level tasks employees perform as they begin their careers in the water and wastewater industry,” said Don Jones, who helped spearhead the creation of the Center for Water Studies. “It’s the culmination of a many years long pipe dream.”

Cuyamaca students also will benefit from a $1 million renovation to Water & Wastewater Technology program facilities, including a water quality analysis classroom and a shop area for backflow prevention and cross-connection control training. Renovations started this spring with completion anticipated by fall 2018.

Skilled water professionals are in high demand as the current workforce ages. Water and wastewater agencies employ more than 60,000 workers statewide, including 5,000 in San Diego County, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But the Water Research Foundation and the American Water Works Association anticipate one-third of the current water utilities workforce nationwide will retire over the next decade, offering numerous opportunities for 20-somethings to start careers.

The industry offers other benefits. In San Diego County, wastewater treatment and system operators earn an average annual wage of more than $66,000, according to the federal BLS.

Filling the Water Career Pipeline

Cuyamaca College’s Water & Wastewater Technology program is the oldest and most comprehensive program of its kind in the California Community Colleges system, educating the state’s water utility workforce for more than a half a century. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 35 students at Cuyamaca earned associate’s degrees or certificates in water and wastewater fields.

The college works closely with local water agencies, and the new Center for Water Studies evolved through discussions among members of the Cuyamaca College Water & Wastewater Technology Program Industry Advisory Committee. The committee comprises representatives from the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, the San Diego County Water Authority, Helix Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the City of Escondido Utilities Department, Olivenhain Municipal Water District and other agencies.

Funding for the recent upgrades at Cuyamaca comes from several sources:

  • A California Community College Strong Workforce grant provided $192,000 for the Field Operations Skills Yard.
  • A grant from the National Science Foundation provided $72,000 for the skills yard.
  • Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s Proposition V, approved by voters in 2012, provided $1 million for renovating classroom space.

Cuyamaca College has received a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant to encourage Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) students to consider careers in water and wastewater. Those funds also will help recruit veterans, women and students from underrepresented communities to start careers in water and wastewater management.

GUHSD and water industry experts currently are collaborating on lesson plans related to water and wastewater management skills for local high school science classes. High school teachers will be invited to activities at the Center for Water Studies as soon as this summer – another way that Cuyamaca’s investment is paying off for the community.

Irrigation Sprinkler Head

Gardeners, Do You Know Your ETo?

People around the world know San Diego for its beautiful, sunny and mild weather. San Diego residents know our daily weather has more variety than visitors might imagine.

Climate is defined as the average weather conditions in an area over a long period, generally 30 years or more. German climate scientist Wladimir Koppen first divided the world’s climate into six regions in the early 1900s.

Since then, U.S. climate zones have been defined in more detail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines climate zones according to the lowest average temperate in the region. You may also be familiar with the 24 climate zones identified in Sunset Magazine’s iconic Sunset Western Garden Book.

Focusing on the critically important water management aspect of climate, the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) has also identified 24 climate zones.

Evaporation + Transpiration = Evapotranspiration

Depending on the amount of rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind, shade, and the nature of the soil, water in the ground evaporates at different rates. When evaporation is higher, the soil becomes dry more quickly.

Evapotranspiration (ET) is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces, and by transpiration from plants.

Reference Evapotranspiration (ETo) is a baseline formula. All your plant water needs are measured against this baseline in a complex series of measurements and calculations.

Why Is Understanding Evapotranspiration Important?

In metropolitan San Diego County, our annual ETo rate increases as you move inland, meaning the soil becomes dry more quickly.

Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about making these calculations on our own. CIMIS maintains a statewide system of weather stations and reference plots. From these, it has identified the six main ET Zones in San Diego County.

Understanding your ETo zone and gardening climate zone are important first steps toward deciding how much water your landscaping will need. Working against the ETo and gardening climate zones can greatly increase your need for irrigation.

Learn more about the specifics of your ETo climate zone and gardening microclimate on the California Irrigation Management Information System website, and the Sunset Western Garden Book website.

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at Hardcopies are available free of charge at the Water Authority’s headquarters, 4677 Overland Ave., Kearny Mesa. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at

Report: How Los Angeles Could Source Its Water Locally

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti believes his city is poised for a “second Mulholland moment.” William Mulholland was responsible for the construction, over a century ago, of the 200-mile-long aqueduct to Owens Valley that helped drive L.A.’s growth. In a recent op-ed, Garcetti wrote, “we have launched a second opportunity to reimagine our water infrastructure.” But this time it will take place closer to home. The city announced a plan in 2015 to reduce imported water 50 percent by 2025 and produce half of the city’s water supply locally by 2035.

Recent Storms Put California’s Water Supply In Good Shape For Dry Season

Despite a dismal start to the rainy season, recent storms have helped to ease fears of water shortages across California during the upcoming drier months. The extended fire season and unusually dry start to the winter may have worried many residents about the state’s water supply for the dry season. California has a distinct wet and dry season. After the wet season typically peaks between December and March, the state relies on reservoirs and melting snow from the mountains for its water supply in the drier months that span late spring to the fall.

The ‘Nightmare’ California Flood More Dangerous Than a Huge Earthquake

California’s drought-to-deluge cycle can mask the dangers Mother Nature can have in store. During one of the driest March-through-February time periods ever recorded in Southern California, an intense storm dumped so much rain on Montecito in January that mudflows slammed into entire rows of homes. Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, and at least 21 people died.

Tijuana Sewage Spills Have Been an Environmental Problem for Decades so What’s the Solution?

There was not a cloud in sight on this winter morning as surfers rode the waves south of the U.S. border fence, off of Playas de Tijuana. Anna Lucía López Avedoy stood on the street above, focusing instead on the stream pouring from a storm drain, splashing down a small rocky cliff, trickling down the sand and finally into the Pacific Ocean.

A Strong Tunnel Vision

Two tunnels, one or none? The question continues to swirl around plans to perform major surgery on the sickly heart of California’s water system. Confronted with a shortage of funding, state officials announced last month that they would move ahead with the construction of one giant water tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta rather than two. But the announcement did little to settle the fate of the project, which Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration considers vital to sustaining water deliveries to one of the country’s richest agricultural regions and the urban sprawl of Southern California.

Giant Rosarito Beach Desalination Plant Celebrated in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Saying desalination will guarantee the drinking water supply for future generations of Baja California residents, Gov. Francisco Vega de Lamadrid on Friday celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony for a desalination plant envisioned as the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

Sierra Snowpack Water Content More Than Triples In A Month

A series of supercharged storms that blasted the Sierra in March has bolstered the snowpack that was alarmingly low before the start of the month. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento tweeted Saturday that the water content of the snowpack has more than tripled in the past month. On Feb. 22, an average of 4.6 inches was measured and on March 23 an average of 15.5 inches was recorded, going from 16 percent to 56 percent of the April 1 average.

Trump Could Force $1.3B California Dam Expansion

The Trump administration is pushing for a $1.3 billion expansion of the 602-foot Shasta Dam in Northern California even though state officials are dead set against it, according to the Los Angeles Times. Plans include a vertical expansion the equivalent of two stories, although California state law prohibits an increase to the dam’s current height. The dam is on federal land, but similar projects in the past have deferred to state law in the permitting and construction processes.