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A pioneering education partnership inspires students regionwide to pursue careers in the water and wastewater industry. Photo: San Diego County Office of Education

Education Partnership Inspires Future Water Leaders 

The San Diego County Water Authority and San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) have embarked on a pioneering education partnership to inspire students regionwide to pursue careers in the water and wastewater industry. This new program is the latest initiative in a long history of regional education outreach reaching hundreds of thousands of students in the last two decades.  

At the Innovation Center in Linda Vista, SDCOE hosts groups of students, many of whom come from underserved and underrepresented communities, for weeklong innovation programs. These programs are designed to help students identify their individual strengths through an assessment, which highlights several strength areas: Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C).

Priority Career Sectors Critical to Region’s Economic Future 

Students are grouped into teams that have complementary strengths to work together on water-related activities and learn about possible water industry career paths. Photo: San Diego County Office of Education education partnership

Students are grouped into teams that have complementary strengths to work together on water-related activities and learn about possible water industry career paths. Photo: San Diego County Office of Education

“At the Linda Vista Innovation Center, we aim to inspire kids to find their strengths, interests, and values and match those with San Diego Workforce Partnership priority sector careers,” said Dr. Matthew Tessier, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation at the San Diego County Office of Education. “Partnerships with organizations like the San Diego County Water Authority are crucial to our mission, and we look forward to working together to build a brighter future for all.”

These programs give students a glimpse into the opportunities available in various industries, many of which are on the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s priority list. The industries on the list are critical to the region’s economy and will need to hire substantial numbers of capable new employees in the foreseeable future.  

Education Partnership Informs Students About Water Industry Careers 

The Innovation Center also supports SDCOE’s goals to significantly reduce the number of students living in poverty and reduce overall unemployment in the region over the next decade. By matching students with potential career paths and inspiring them to lean into their strengths early on, thousands of students from elementary to high school leave the program knowing about opportunities that they may not have known about otherwise.

Organizations like the Water Authority and its member agencies benefit from generations of students becoming interested in water-related careers, which are essential to the region’s economy and quality of life.  

The Fairways HOA landscape makeover in Lake San Marcos retains some turf mixed with low-water use plants for substantial water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Fairways HOA Achieves Savings Through Landscape Optimization

A Lake San Marcos homeowners association successfully upgraded its community landscape to achieve water savings and cost savings with assistance from a joint program offered through a partnership between the San Diego County Water Authority and the County of San Diego.

The original Fairways HOA landscaping included large areas of unused grass. Photo: Vallecitos Water District savings

The original Fairways HOA landscaping included large areas of unused grass. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Landscape Optimization Service (LOS) offered through the Waterscape Rebate Program is a technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The program helps applicants with large landscapes, such as HOAs, parks, and commercial properties, to navigate the requirements, overcome any barriers, and maximize their rebate eligibility.

Members of the Fairways Homeowners Association (HOA) in Lake San Marcos within the Vallecitos Water District recently took advantage of this program to facilitate a water-saving landscape makeover project. Upgrades replaced large grass areas with attractive low-water-use plants inside the property. Drip irrigation was upgraded, and swales act as a water retention feature.

Learn more about the Fairways HOA transformation in this new video.

Saving Costs, Saving The Environment

Fairways HOA president Terry Brown said her community was introduced to the program about 18 months ago.

“We removed 23,000 square feet, and then we got three dollars for each square foot that we removed, plus we got 40 cents for the drip irrigation system. We’re going to receive one dollar per square foot for at least 10,000 square feet of California native plants. So, we did all of that. And we’re pleased with everything that has happened,” said Brown.

New landscaping includes low-water use plants, decorative dry riverbeds and low-water use plants along small areas of grass for walkers and pet owners. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

New landscaping includes low-water use plants, decorative dry riverbeds, and low-water use plants along small areas of grass for walkers and pet owners. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

While rebates defrayed the initial costs, the real savings will be realized in the years ahead on one of the HOA’s major expenses. “Within ten years, we’ll save $40,000 on water,” said Brown.

Maggie Knol, chairperson of the Landscape Committee, is also a Master Gardener. She understood the need to balance the needs of everyone in the community while planning their landscape makeover.

“We saw certain areas that weren’t really being used where we could definitely have some waterscape landscaping,” said Knol. Now, irrigation water is better managed and used only where needed.

“We have no water in the gutters. That makes us feel better about what we’re doing for our environment,” said Knol. “I would encourage any subdivision or any area to go ahead with it. It’s a wonderful program.

Still Room for Thoughtful Use of Grass 

Grass can still be a useful part of a low-water use landscape. Photo: Vallecitos Water District savings

Grass can still be a useful part of a low-water-use landscape. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Makeovers don’t require eliminating all grass. Instead, grass is retained where it is most useful and practical. For the Fairways HOA board members, this meant accommodating the many residents who like to walk their dogs in the neighborhood and wanted to retain some grassy spaces for them to enjoy with their pets.

“We have tried to be sensitive to the dog owners in the neighborhood because we have a lot of dogs,” said Knol. “When we mapped this out, we left certain areas that could be definitely used as little rest spots for the dogs and the owners as they walk around. They all realize that the water crisis is going to continue and not get better.”

“This project is an ideal example of balancing community needs to create a thoughtful landscape design that saves water but allows room for retaining grass areas when there’s a practical purpose for them,” said Vallecitos Water District Conservation Supervisor Chris Robbins.

The completed Fairways HOA landscape makeover in Lake San Marcos retains some turf mixed with low-water use plants for substantial water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The completed Fairways HOA landscape makeover in Lake San Marcos retains some turf mixed with low-water use plants for substantial water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

As part of the program, LOS staff analyzes estimated water and cost savings, which helps decision-makers justify the investment with an understanding of how quickly the project will pay for itself. The program also offers discounted designs to participants.

The enhanced incentives include rebates for turf replacement, smart controller stations, rain barrels, and cisterns. In addition to offering technical assistance to upgrade larger landscapes on multifamily and commercial properties, a cost-share is available for agricultural growers to make water-saving upgrades.

More information on the Landscape Optimization Service can be found here, or contact your member water agency for details. The program is actively recruiting new participants.

 

Fix a Leak Week is a reminder every March to check indoor and outdoor plumbing systems for leaks. Graphic: EPA

Fix-A-Leak Week 2024 Brings WaterSense To Work

Water leaks don’t happen just in the home. This year, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual Fix-A-Leak Week 2024 program focuses on the importance of repairing leaks and saving water in the workplace and commercial buildings such as hospitals, schools, hotels, retail stores, and community centers.

Fix-A-Leak Week was created in 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program. It serves as a reminder every March to check indoor and outdoor plumbing systems for leaks.

In 2024, Fix-A-Leak Week takes place March 18 – 24. It is supported by the San Diego County Water Authority and many of its 23 member agencies and by other regional WaterSense partners throughout North America.

Leaks can account for six percent of average water use and be the greatest source of water waste within a facility. Leaks and continuously running water may not always be visible, but they can add up quickly and become a major cost in water and energy bills.

Be alert for leaks at work. Here are some ways to help find and fix leaks in your workplace:

Water leaks in the workplace can add up quickly and become a major cost in water and energy bills. Photo: Pixabay/CC fix-a-leak week 2024

Workplace water leaks can add up quickly and become a significant cost in water and energy bills. Photo: Pixabay/CC

  • If you see a leak in the restroom, kitchen, or outdoors, report it to your maintenance staff.
  • During Fix-A-Leak Week, challenge employees and tenants to find leaks and report water waste.
  • Post signs in restrooms, kitchens, and other high-water-use areas to encourage everyone to look for leaks and report problems. Include information on who to contact.
  • Listen and look for unexpected indoor and outdoor water use, such as running water, unanticipated discharge to floor drains, or wet spots and puddling water on floors or grounds.
  • Don’t wait for a high water bill to find the problem. Read water meters during off-peak hours, when water use is lower. If the meter continues to show high use, there may be a leak. Submeters and temporary flow meters can also monitor specific areas or pieces of equipment to detect problems quickly.

Water leaks add up fast, so water use needs to be periodically verified to make sure the fixture is still performing correctly. Get a handle on your facility’s water use to identify and fix leaks before they become a big problem and expense.

The EPA offers a helpful checklist to ensure you identify and find any possible sources of leaks.

Regional water agencies help customers save water, save money

The Vallecitos Water District added a new video for 2024 to its award-winning series, helping customers find and fix leaks to save water and money.

In an effort to help customers save water and money, Sweetwater Authority (Authority) is offering a rebate of up to $100 for customers who find and fix leaks at their homes or businesses. Though available year-round, the Authority is highlighting this special offer in celebration of the national Fix-A-Leak Week.

In addition to its special rebate on leak repairs, the Authority offers customers a $75 rebate to replace or install a new pressure-reducing valve at homes. These valves help to address high pressure that can cause increased wear on fittings, making them more prone to leaks. A rebate of up to $100 is also available for qualifying leak detectors and flow monitors, which can alert customers to potential leaks on a smartphone app. Information on all the Sweetwater Authority’s water-efficiency rebates is at www.sweetwater.org/rebates.

The Otay Water District also offers helpful tips to fix leaks and save water on its website and its social media, including a new video.

  • Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes, you may have a leak. Visit otaywater.gov/how-to-read-your-meter to learn how to track your water use.
  • Place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 10 minutes without flushing. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.
  • Examine faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of the pipe to check for surface leaks.

Check WaterSmartSD.org for tips and more information about Fix-A-Leak Week.

The Water Authority’s WaterSmart spring Landscape Makeover Program classes are now open for registration. free landscape makeover classes

Register Now For Free Spring WaterSmart Landscape Classes

Following a winter with generous rainfall, this spring is an ideal time for San Diego County residents to turn their water-thirsty landscaping into a beautiful, sustainable landscape ideal for the region’s Mediterranean climate.

The Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program’s classes are open for registration. The free WaterSmart landscaping classes offer several choices designed to give you the skills and knowledge to create a landscape that saves water and will thrive in our region.

With help from design professionals, learn to transform your landscaping into a beautiful, colorful space and use less water. Photo: Helix Water District free landscape makeover classes

With help from design professionals, learn to transform your landscaping into a beautiful, colorful space and use less water. Photo: Helix Water District

“The workshops are designed to help residents create and maintain their own beautiful and water-efficient outdoor spaces,” said Debby Dunn, a senior water resources specialist for the Water Authority. “Most of our residential water use is outdoors in our landscapes. This is why learning how to create water-efficient spaces is a great way for San Diegans to continue doing their part to use water efficiently.”

Choose from in-person or virtual workshops scheduled from March through June. The in-person five-class series will run each Wednesday starting March 20 from 2-5pm at the Water Authority’s headquarters at 4677 Overland Avenue in Kearny Mesa.

Workshops taught by design professionals

Workshops are taught with a do-it-yourself approach by local landscape design professionals. They cover landscape design and maintenance, soil identification and health, turf types, and removal tips, plant selection, rainwater catchment, irrigation retrofits, and project installation. Topics include:

  • Plan Ahead: Understanding Soil and Site Assessments
  • Design: Shape Your Space
  • Plants: Inspiring Choices for our Region
  • Water & Irrigation: Utilizing a Precious Resource
  • Installation and Maintenance: Protecting Your Investment

Participants can attend individual workshops or all five. Participants who attend all five workshops and meet other program criteria can sign up for the Designer At Your Door program.

For more information and to register, visit sdcwa.org/your-water/conservation/classes

Landscape makeover video series offers convenient tips

For a self-paced program or as a supplement to the workshops, the Water Authority offers short, educational on-demand videos with step-by-step advice. The topics mirror the workshops. To watch the videos go to sdcwa.org/your-water/conservation/classes and click on the videos link.

Watch one of the videos below.

Since 2014, the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program has helped the region’s homeowners replace 1.5 million square feet of turf with sustainable landscaping, saving more than 51 million gallons of water per year.

San Diego offers the ideal climate for indoor-outdoor living. The Water Authority and its sustainability partners are committed to helping you design a garden to live in and support a healthy environment.

For questions about the Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape classes, email

EPA WaterSense-Excellence Award-QWEL-water conservation

Women in Water Conference Speakers List Announced

The speakers list for the 2024 Women in Water Symposium, “Empowering The Next Generation of Women,” is now set.

The event returns for its seventh year with a full-day event on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Cuyamaca College. Registration remains open.

Panelists representing a wide variety of disciplines at all levels will discuss career opportunities and paths. The full program is below the article.

 

Sarah Hargis, wastewater utility worker for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, is a featured speaker. Photo: Sarah Hargis speakers list

Sarah Hargis, wastewater utility worker for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, is a featured speaker. Photo: Sarah Hargis

“One of the biggest misconceptions about working in water may be that it’s solely about fixing pipes when in reality, it involves a wide range of roles requiring diverse skills such as engineering, science, management, IT, accounting, public outreach, and so much more,” said Sarah Hargis, wastewater utility worker for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District.

“The most rewarding aspect of working as a construction inspector for a municipal water/wastewater district is knowing that I make a direct impact on the community by improving  the longevity and quality of the water/wastewater infrastructure.”

Zoë Scott, marine biologist in the Ocean Monitoring Program at the City of San Diego, said people often imagine her job might be confined to a testing lab. Photo: Zoe Scott speakers list

Zoë Scott, marine biologist in the Ocean Monitoring Program at the City of San Diego, said people often imagine her job might be confined to a testing lab. Photo: Zoe Scott

Zoë Scott, marine biologist in the Ocean Monitoring Program at the City of San Diego, said people often imagine her job might be boring. “We participate in collaborations with other research entities to answer new and relevant research questions facing our oceans on topics such as ocean acidification, eutrophication, and microplastics. All this together means that our day-to-day can look very different; one day I could be at sea, the next at my microscope, the next at a research meeting, the next writing code to analyze our data and produce reports,” she said.

Specialist Debby Dunn poses with her "Groovy Garden" exhibit at the San Diego County Fair. Photo: Debby Dunn speakers list

Debby Dunn poses with her “Groovy Garden” exhibit at the San Diego County Fair. Photo: Debby Dunn

Debby Dunn, senior water resources specialist at the San Diego County Water Authority, said working for the public is especially rewarding: “By working in water efficiency, I get to create programs and projects that help residents and businesses use water wisely. This includes reducing leaks and helping people design waterwise wonderlands that are beautiful and invite birds, bees, and butterflies.”

Career discussions address varied experience levels

The event includes sessions that address career development, leadership, mentoring, interviewing and negotiation tips, diversity, and dealing with change. The day concludes with a networking opportunity at the Water Conservation Garden.

General admission is $35, but students, educators, and counselors can attend for free. Event registration is available online.

Event details and updates are posted at the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies website.

Wide diversity in career opportunities

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration, and information technology.

Approximately 4,500 professionals serve the San Diego region in water and wastewater careers. More than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age within the next five years. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators in California earn an annual mean wage of more than $77,890 in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. California is one of the states with the greatest employment opportunities in this career field.

 

Vermiculture and vermicomposting using earthworms to help you turn kitchen scraps into compost has multiple environmental benefits including the prevention of stormwater runoff. Photo: Sippakorn Yamkasikorn/PixabayCC

Worms Boost WaterSmart Landscaping

One of the most valuable tools for managing water retention and avoiding stormwater runoff while improving your landscaping soil harnesses the power of worms – earthworks, to be specific.

Vermiculture and vermicomposting are eco-friendly tools using earthworms to transform organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. This process benefits gardeners and the environment.

In the San Diego region, spring’s mild weather is an ideal time to start vermicomposting. Moderate temperatures facilitate optimal worm activity and compost processing. During the hotter summer months, compost bins must be kept in cooler, shaded areas to prevent overheating and ensure worm survival.

Vallecitos Water District 2023 Landscape Contest winner Dean Williams of Carlsbad is a big believer in vermiculture and vermicomposting. In this video, he shows how easy it is to learn how to put worms to work in your landscaping.

Understanding Vermiculture and Vermicomposting

Vermiculture refers to the cultivation of earthworms. The normal activity of earthworms breaks down organic waste. The result is vermicompost, also known as worm castings, a highly nutritious form of compost.

Vermicomposting is the practice of using earthworms to convert organic wastes into high-quality compost and worm castings. This method is an efficient, odorless, and space-saving way to recycle kitchen scraps, keeping them out of landfills where they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

How Using Worms Works

Adding common kitchen food waste to your vermicomposting system keeps it out of our landfills where it produces greenhouse gases. Photo: Sarah Chai/Pexels

Adding common kitchen food waste to your vermicomposting system keeps it out of our landfills where it produces greenhouse gases. Photo: Sarah Chai/Pexels

As the video shows, setting up a vermicomposting bin is simple and can be done indoors or outdoors. The bin is stocked with material such as shredded newspaper, cardboard, or coconut coir and stocked with earthworms. When organic waste is added, such as food scraps, weeds, or plant trimmings, the worms digest this material and convert it into compost.

Recommended types of worms for vermicomposting are red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and red earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus). Both thrive in compost bins and are efficient at processing waste.

Vermicomposting’s Environmental Benefits

Nutrient-rich compost produced by vermiculture helps soil retain rainwater in your garden, preventing it from picking up pollutants and washing them into stormdrains. Photo: Pixabay/CC

Nutrient-rich compost produced by vermiculture helps soil retain rainwater in your garden, preventing it from picking up pollutants and washing them into storm drains. Photo: Pixabay/CC

Vermicomposting helps protect the watershed and preserves soil in several ways.

  • Safe, Nutrient-Rich Soil Amendment: Vermicompost improves soil structure and enhances nutrient availability. It can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Water Conservation: By improving soil structure and water retention, vermicompost helps conserve water.
  • Stormwater Runoff: Healthy, vermicompost-amended soils absorb water more efficiently. It lessens the amount of runoff washing pollutants into watersheds.
  • Waste Reduction: Vermicomposting diverts organic waste from landfills, helping avoid the production and release of greenhouse gases.

San Diego County Vermiculture Resources

Residents looking for more information and resources can visit the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation website. The Center also holds classes in vermiculture. Check the schedule for available classes.

The County of San Diego also offers information on vermiculture, and offers a compost bin discount program.

Smart Water Management

As vermicompost increases the ground’s capacity to absorb rainwater, it lessens the burden on stormwater management systems. With less water flowing into stormwater drainage systems, vermiculture helps diminish flood risks.

Vermiculture and vermicomposting offer a holistic approach to environmental stewardship for San Diego residents. It’s an easy, practical way for individuals to help preserve resources, enhance soil health, and support sustainable gardening. Vermiculture and vermicomposting offer simple tools to confront the challenges of climate change, including risks to our region’s long-term water supply.

Since the Water Authority’s formation in 1944, engineers have played a pivotal role in the establishment and growth of the agency and its commitment to delivering safe, reliable water supplies to San Diego County.

Water Authority Celebrates National Engineers Week

The San Diego County Water Authority is celebrating National Engineers Week, February 18-24, by highlighting the agency’s engineers and the important work they do. Since the Water Authority’s formation in 1944, engineers have played a pivotal role in the establishment and growth of the agency and its commitment to delivering safe, reliable water supplies to San Diego County.

From designing and constructing regional water facilities to managing energy projects, our engineers are critical in keeping the water flowing for our region.

Emily Troike, Engineer I 

Emily Troike, EIT, is an Engineer I in the Engineering Department at the San Diego County Water Authority. National Engineers Week

Emily Troike is an Engineer I in the Engineering Department at the San Diego County Water Authority.

“As an engineer, my role is to solve problems. I design improvements to our regional conveyance facilities that balance innovation, constructability, maintenance, and cost,” said Emily Troike, engineer I at the Water Authority.

“Although my day-to-day mainly consists of creating construction drawings, writing specifications, and performing calculations, I also spend a lot of my time collaborating with my fellow engineers. I believe it is important to work as a team and share insights to provide a quality service.

“Here at the Water Authority, I am thankful to be surrounded by people who truly care about their work and about providing a safe and reliable water source for our community.” 

Peter Milligan, Engineer P.E.

Peter Milligan (right) is an Engineer P.E., in the Engineering Department at the San Diego County Water Authority.

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is using engineering to maintain and improve the San Diego region’s water supply infrastructure,” said Peter Milligan, engineer P.E., at the Water Authority. 

Sami Sweis, Engineer P.E.

Sami Sweis is an Engineer P.E. in the Water Resources Department at the Water Authority.

Sami Sweis is an Engineer P.E. in the Water Resources Department at the Water Authority.

Engineer P.E., Sami Sweis also shares the most rewarding part of his job working in the water industry.  

“Working together as a team to accomplish our goals, typically a capital improvement project, and seeing the work we do benefit the San Diego region.” 

Karla Sanchez, Senior Engineering Technician

Karla Sanchez is a Senior Engineering Technician in the Engineering Department at the San Diego County Water Authority.

“As a senior engineering technician, I split my time between meetings, planning, reviewing documents, and maintaining a presence on a construction site,” said Karla Sanchez, senior engineering technician at the Water Authority.

“My favorite part of my role is being out in the field, monitoring construction, and working with various talented individuals in the water industry.” 

Choose a career in water 

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration, and information technology. 

For job openings, internships and education opportunities across the San Diego region’s water and wastewater industry, go to sandiegowaterworks.org.

The 2024 Women in Water Symposium welcomes everyone interested in exploring water and wastewater industry careers at all experience levels. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

2024 Women in Water Conference Fosters Workforce Diversity

Registration is now open for the 2024 Women in Water Symposium. The event returns for its seventh year with a full-day event on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Cuyamaca College.

While open to all participants, the full-day, in-person program theme is “Empowering The Next Generation of Women.” It offers valuable opportunities for networking, education, and career growth. The program combines insightful panel discussions with dynamic speaker sessions.

The conference is designed to help participants develop new skills, connect with their industry colleagues, and make meaningful strides in their careers.

“Our Women in Water Symposium brings together exceptional women from all areas of the water industry, along with talented women in training and those interested in water industry career opportunities,” said event chairperson Maria Rose, a management analyst with the San Diego County Water Authority.

“This annual symposium offers an unparalleled opportunity to listen and learn from your peers and leaders across San Diego County.”

Sessions address all experience levels

Attendees at the 2024 Women in Water Symposium on March 21, 2024 have an opportunity to speak with water and wastewater industry leaders. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Attendees at the 2024 Women in Water Symposium on March 21, 2024 have an opportunity to speak with water and wastewater industry leaders. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Planned sessions address career development, leadership, mentoring, interviewing and negotiation tips, diversity, and dealing with change. The day concludes with a networking opportunity at the Water Conservation Garden.

General admission is $35. Attendance is free for students, educators, and counselors. Event registration is available online.

Event details and updates will be posted at the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies website.

Explore career opportunities

City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Carrie Selby is among a growing number of women working in water and wastewater industry careers. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Carrie Selby is among a growing number of women working in water and wastewater industry careers. Photo: City of Escondido

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration, and information technology.

Since 2017, the Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” campaign has highlighted nearly 200 employees in San Diego County across multiple water agencies and job types.

The informational campaign is designed to introduce the wide variety of career opportunities available at all skill levels with an emphasis on welcoming a wide-ranging talent pool of candidates, including women.

Approximately 4,500 professionals serve the San Diego region in water and wastewater careers. More than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age within the next five years. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators in California earn an annual mean wage of more than $77,890 in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. California is one of the states with the greatest employment opportunities in this career field.

Board members Mark Gracyk and Joel Scalzitti, Board Vice President Don McMillan, Lily Martinez, and Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. Scholarship programs throughout San Diego County and California for 2024 are now open. Photo: Helix Water District 2024 scholarhip applications

2024 Scholarship Applications Open for Aspiring Water Professionals 

Water agencies across San Diego County and California water associations offer multiple college scholarship opportunities in 2024 to help candidates secure their education as water and wastewater professionals.

The acceleration of industry retirements, as well as the increasing need for a skilled workforce trained to implement new technologies, result in an increased effort to develop more skilled individuals for water and wastewater industry jobs, including in San Diego County. For more information, visit sandiegowaterworks.org.

Scholarships are available for community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and graduate-level programs. The following examples are due in the coming weeks for study in the 2023-2024 academic school year.

San Diego regional water scholarships

 Helix Water District will recognize two outstanding graduating high school seniors living within the district’s service area with $1,000 scholarships for university studies next fall.

The Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship and $1,000 Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship honor two past leaders of Helix Water District. Friedgen retired in 1998 after 19 years as the district’s general manager and Childs retired in 1999 after 20 years on the board of directors.

Applicants must graduate in spring 2024 and attend a four-year college or university starting in fall 2024. Students submit a two-page essay exploring potable reuse and the East County Advanced Water Purification project. The scholarship committee reviews each applicant’s grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, academic and career goals, and financial need.

Deadline: 5 p.m. on March 15, 2024. Learn more about eligibility and find the online application here.

Vista Irrigation District scholarship winners (left to right): Monica Lozada, Naia Riggenbach, Sarai Rojas, Samantha Harris, Colin Gastauer. (Not pictured: Riley Robbins) Photo: Vista Irrigation District. 2024 scholarship

Vista Irrigation District scholarship winners for 2023 (left to right): Monica Lozada, Naia Riggenbach, Sarai Rojas, Samantha Harris, Colin Gastauer. (Not pictured: Riley Robbins). 2024 scholarship applications are now open. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Vista Irrigation District invites local high school seniors to compete for up to six scholarships from the District in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. The purpose of the scholarship program is to increase knowledge and awareness of how water-related issues influence our daily activities.

Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a one-page personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service, and letters of recommendation from high school faculty.

Applications must be received via email or at the district’s office by 4 p.m. on Friday February 23, 2024. Eligible students must live or go to school within the Vista Irrigation District service area. Find the application link here.

Contact Brent Reyes at (760) 597-3107 ">or email Reyes with questions or to request application information.

Scholarships were issued to local students by the Vallecitos Water District to help them continue their higher education. (L to R): Board Vice President Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, scholarship winners Phlavia Oyrem, Caitlyn Hansen, and Julianna Stipica-Kelecic, Board President Jim Hernandez, scholarship winners Daniel Baza, Evan Fox, and Board Member Erik A. Groset. Not pictured: Board Members Craig Elitharp and Jim Pennock, scholarship winner Brook Sannella. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Scholarships were issued to local students by the Vallecitos Water District in 2023 to help them continue their higher education. (L to R): Board Vice President Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, scholarship winners Phlavia Oyrem, Caitlyn Hansen, and Julianna Stipica-Kelecic, Board President Jim Hernandez, scholarship winners Daniel Baza, Evan Fox, and Board Member Erik A. Groset. Not pictured: Board Members Craig Elitharp and Jim Pennock, scholarship winner Brook Sannella. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District invites local high school seniors and students at Palomar College and California State University San Marcos to compete for scholarships from the district. Up to six scholarships may be awarded in amounts up to $1,000 per scholarship. The purpose of the scholarship program is to encourage students to learn more about water-related issues impacting their community.

Eligible students must live or go to school within the Vallecitos Water District’s service area. Students must complete an essay and provide a personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service, a financial needs worksheet, and letters of recommendation from faculty or an associate.

">Email Chris Robbins for application materials. Applications for the 2024 scholarship must be emailed or delivered to the District office by the deadline*.  Note: The 2024 scholarship deadline has not yet been announced.

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board awarded the 2022 Work for Water Scholarship to two local students: David Inchaurregui Jr. of Chula Vista and Kassandra Beltran of National City. Photos: Sweetwater Authority 2024 scholarship applications

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board awarded the Work for Water Scholarship to two local students: David Inchaurregui Jr. of Chula Vista and Kassandra Beltran of National City. Photos: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority’s “Work for Water” scholarships are now open for applications.

Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to new or currently enrolled students at the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College or another accredited college, community college, or trade school with a career goal in the water industry.

The application deadline has not been determined. For questions regarding the scholarship, application, or uploading documentation, email or call Alessandra Angelone, Senior Public Affairs Representative, at (619) 409-6721.

The Mark Watton Scholarship Fund through the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges supports students attending the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College. It honors former Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton’s four decades of service to the district.

Applicants must be currently enrolled for at least six units at Cuyamaca College, verify financial need, and complete the general application and essay. Scholarships of $1,000 are available. Application dates are March 25 to May 4, 2024.

Students should ">contact scholarship specialist Shirley Hughes with questions.

In addition, National University partners with the San Diego County Water Authority to offer a 25% tuition reduction scholarship to employees and employees of all member water agencies. The San Diego County Water Authority Tuition Reduction Scholarship benefits working adults who want to reach specific educational goals but find it challenging to fit classes into their busy life. The tuition-reduction scholarship can be applied to most associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs. Click for more information.

Professional association scholarships

Statewide scholarships are available through several organizations. 2024 scholarship applications

Statewide scholarships are available through several organizations.

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) offers four undergraduate 2024 scholarships, one graduation 2024 scholarship and a fellowship opportunity to qualified applicants attending a University of California or California State University campus. Students must be juniors or seniors pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water-resources related field such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, or public administration. Criteria include scholastic achievement and motivation to the vocation of water-resources management.

ACWA began its scholarship programs in 1961 to motivate committed students to join the effort to ensure California’s water quality through sound management policies. The scholarship program is all about investing in future water leaders.

Deadline: March 1, 2024. Application Link. Questions? Call 916-441-4545 or email .

The California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) awards more than $20,000 in scholarships in support of students and professionals pursuing careers in a drinking water-related field. Two $5,000 graduate scholarships, four $2,500 undergraduate scholarships, and two $1,000 scholarships in support of training as a drinking water treatment/distribution operator are available.

Environmental and civil engineers; water, wastewater, and recycling treatment plant operators; distribution system operators; chemists; laboratory technicians; biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists; and others whose roles support safe and reliable drinking water are all suitable 2024 scholarship candidates.

Deadline: March 15, 2024. Application Link. For information, call 909-481-7200 or email 

The Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Canham Graduate Studies 2024 scholarship provides $25,000 for a graduate student in the water environment field. The scholarship is for education-related expenses such as room and board, tuition, and books. The scholarship may not be used to cover stipends or wages.

The applicant must be a WEF member, complete an online application, and be enrolled in a graduate program. Recipients must commit to working in the water industry for two years following graduation.

Deadline: March 31, 2024. Apply online here. For questions, email

 

Summer 2023 Citizens Water Academy participants tour Olivenhain Dam. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Applications Open for Spring 2024 Citizens Water Academy 

The San Diego County Water Authority is accepting applications for the Spring 2024 Citizens Water Academy class. In three class sessions, participants will learn firsthand about critical water issues affecting the region and go behind the scenes with water planners, managers, engineers, and other staff to gain a deeper understanding of the Water Authority’s life-sustaining mission.

The application period is open from January 29 to March 1, with the class taking place in mid-May. Participants must attend all three sessions to graduate. Applications are available on the Water Authority website 

Spring 2024 Schedule: 

Session 1 – Wednesday lunch hour, May 15 via Zoom. Welcome and overview by Water Authority General Manager Dan Denham.  

Session 2 – Thursday evening, May 16. Dinner, presentations, and activities. Topic: planning for a water-resilient future.  

Session 3 – Saturday, May 18, half day. Breakfast and lunch, and behind-the-scenes tours of the Water Authority’s Control Room, Emergency Operations Center, and Olivenhain Dam and Pump Station. 

Building A Network of Water Industry Ambassadors 

Since the Citizens Water Academy was launched in 2015, nearly 800 civic leaders have participated and become water knowledge ambassadors. The Water Academy is geared toward civic and business leaders. Class participants come from a wide range of backgrounds and professions. They include civic and business leaders as well as elected official representatives from across the region.  

“It’s easy to take our safe, reliable supply of water for granted,” said General Manager Dan Denham. “We turn on the faucet and there’s the water, ready to be transformed into our morning cup of coffee. But how that water gets from point A to point B requires an astounding work of engineering and strategic planning. The Water Academy is all about connecting our community to this intricate world.” 

Citizens Water Academy participants learn about Operations and Maintenance over breakfast. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Citizens Water Academy participants learn about Operations and Maintenance over breakfast. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority.

Award-Winning Program 

The Citizens Water Academy launched in Fall 2014 and was honored with the Silver Bernays Mark of Excellence Award from the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in 2015. 

Graduates give the program top reviews, with 99% of participants saying they would recommend the Water Academy to a colleague and nearly 50% of graduates participating in the Water Authority’s alumni network.