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SDG&E Has Plans in Place to Maintain Service Reliability

With California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order calling for all individuals living in California to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego Gas and Electric announced Friday, March 20, several steps the company has taken to protect the health and well-being of its employees, customers and communities and to maintain service reliability.

“We have a special responsibility to continue our operations in challenging times like these and the last thing we want our customers to worry about is having essential services like electricity and natural gas,” Caroline Winn, chief operating officer of SDG&E, said. “SDG&E has robust contingency plans in place to maintain reliable service and our highly skilled and dedicated employees will see our community through this crisis. The energy industry has a lot of real-world experience managing crises, and while COVID-19 is different, we are well prepared and here for you.”

(L to R) Vallecitos Water District employees at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility: Ivan Murguia, Arturo Sanchez, Dawn McDougle, Chris Deering, Marc Smith, and Matt Wiese. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Customer Thanks Vallecitos Water District Employees for Their Efforts

Most Americans take a safe and reliable water supply for granted. Dedicated water and wastewater professionals, including Vallecitos Water District employees, work to provide a secure, plentiful supply of drinking water.

Vallecitos Water District customer Manisha Bambhania has a deeper appreciation. A native of India, Bambhania grew up in a home where running water was only available three hours per day, and sometimes much less.

Bambhania frequently posted favorable comments on Vallecitos Water District Facebook posts. “She would commonly write words like, ‘We all need to conserve, regardless of the drought,’ or ‘Thank you for all you do. We are so grateful for the services you are providing,’” said Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe.

“After more than a year of continued praise from Manisha, the public information staff reached out to her to thank her in person for her comments,” said Urabe. “We met at her house where she proceeded to tell us her story of growing up in India. Even though she lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood, water scarcity and lack of reliable water and wastewater infrastructure was a very real part of daily living.”

Vallecitos staff created a video to share Bambhania’s story about the work of Vallecitos Water District employees.

Vallecitos Water District employees ‘inspired’

Vallecitos employees viewed the video at a recent all-staff meeting. One of those employees is Dennis Richardson, who has worked for the agency the past 13 years.

“I thought it was incredible for a customer to actually thank the employees for the jobs that they do, and also to give us her past life experience of living in India and the importance of the water to the community,” said Richardson. “I was really inspired by her video.”

Other staff were also pleased at the positive remarks for their work.

“We all enjoy our jobs, and take great pride in what we do in serving the public,” said Shawn Askine, a water systems supervisor. “We’re happy citizens recognize the hard work we do providing clean reliable water to your tap everyday.”

The original video featuring Manisha Bambhania has also won statewide recognition from the California Water Environment Association Film Festival.

Vallecitos Water District waterwater technicians Chris Deering and Matt Wiess at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Vallecitos Water District wastewater technicians Chris Deering and Matt Wiess at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Utilities Aim to Keep Specially Trained Employees Healthy and Working

Some municipal water utilities are taking emergency measures to sequester some employees to assure that they can keep the water flowing as the coronavirus spreads.

In this country, millions of Americans can follow advice to stay at home so long as the electricity stays on and the water and the phone service. Utility workers need to keep moving about. And to stay on the job, they also need to stay safe. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports that some utilities are taking extraordinary measures, including locking in employees at work.

MASTERS: After two weeks, a new group of workers with the same set of skills, who are currently sitting at home, will switch with the current onsite crew. Something similar is happening at a desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, that produces 50 million gallons of water a day. Ten workers are living there for three weeks. Sandy Kerl is general manager for the San Diego County Water Authority.

SANDY KERL: “These are critical services, highly trained individuals, not easily replaceable, so they have to be protected to ensure that water continues to flow.”

Select Download File to hear the 3-minute story as featured on National Public Radio.

 

EPA Urges States to Support Water, Wastewater Operations During COVID-19

In a letter to Governors in all 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler asked states to ensure that drinking water and wastewater employees are considered essential workers.

Coronavirus: Is the Drinking Water Supply Safe?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, water agencies across the Bay Area and California are taking unprecedented steps to keep the water flowing that millions of people need for drinking and washing their hands, but which is also critical for fighting fires, serving hospitals, running sewer systems and other vital uses.

California Rules Anger Water Agencies, Environmental Groups

California regulators on Tuesday set new rules about how much water can be taken from the state’s largest rivers, angering water agencies for restricting how much they can take and environmental groups for not making those limits low enough to protect endangered species.

The Future of Water: Onsite Desalination for Hyperlocal Reuse

People have dreamed of turning salty water into drinking water since the early 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy famously said, “If we could produce fresh water from saltwater at a low cost, that would indeed be a great service to humanity, and would dwarf any other scientific accomplishment.” Today this technology is routine worldwide, with about 120 countries operating desalination plants. Now, Peter Fiske wants to take desalination technology even further than Kennedy envisioned.

Colorado River Flow Dwindles as Warming-Driven Loss of Reflective Snow Energizes Evaporation

New USGS research indicates that streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) is decreasing by about 5% per degree Fahrenheit as a consequence of atmospheric warming, causing a 20% reduction over the past century.

The State’s New Delta Water Rules Don’t End Conflict with Washington

When the Trump administration rolled back endangered species protections in the Bay Area delta that serves as the hub of California’s water-supply system, the state decided to go its own way.

Carlsbad Desalination Plant-WNN-primary

Water Utilities Aim to Keep Specially Trained Employees Healthy and Working

Some municipal water utilities are taking emergency measures to sequester some employees to assure that they can keep the water flowing as the coronavirus spreads.

In this country, millions of Americans can follow advice to stay at home so long as the electricity stays on and the water and the phone service. Utility workers need to keep moving about. And to stay on the job, they also need to stay safe. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports that some utilities are taking extraordinary measures, including locking in employees at work.

Water utilities take special steps to keep water flowing

MASTERS: I’m standing next to Fleur Drive, which leads into downtown Des Moines. And normally, this is a pretty busy road. It’s not right now because, well, a lot of businesses are shut down. And right next to it is the Des Moines Water Works treatment facility. And what’s different about the grounds right now is that there are 10 campers just parked out front on the lawn.

Water treatment process effective

TED CORRIGAN: At our three treatment plants, we have a total of 21 people who will be living onsite 24/7 in those campers that we’ve placed.

MASTERS: That’s Ted Corrigan. He’s the interim CEO for the Des Moines Water Works that provides drinking water for more than half a million customers. He says they’ve gone deeper into their contagious disease response plan than ever before.

CORRIGAN: But the treatment process is unchanged. It’s unaffected by what’s going on. And it is very effective against viruses, to be sure.

MASTERS: Behind the tall, barbed wire fence, a skeleton crew of operators is doing things like running the control centers and testing the water. Kyle Danley heads water production here. He’s part of the crew that’s putting in at least 12 hours a day before leaving the facility and walking to his isolated camper for the night. He says while some of the workers aren’t used to camper life, the utility can’t take the risk that they get sick. And he says most of the jobs require unique skills and licenses.

KYLE DANLEY: We’re in a specialty field. There’s always a shortage of operators throughout the country, trying to get people interested in this field, but it certainly is something that takes months and years to be able to get those licenses needed. And then just even if you have a license, every plant is specific.

Workers sequester-in-place at Carlsbad Desalination Plant

MASTERS: After two weeks, a new group of workers with the same set of skills, who are currently sitting at home, will switch with the current onsite crew. Something similar is happening at a desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, that produces 50 million gallons of water a day. Ten workers are living there for three weeks. Sandy Kerl is general manager for the San Diego County Water Authority.

SANDY KERL: “These are critical services, highly trained individuals, not easily replaceable, so they have to be protected to ensure that water continues to flow.”