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Bond Sales-Credit Ratings-Desalination Plant

Strong Water Authority Credit Saves $67.4 Million for Ratepayers

Strong credit ratings for the San Diego County Water Authority will save water ratepayers across the region $67.4 million on bond sales executed Wednesday in New York — $27 million more than staff forecasted in May. All three major rating agencies – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch – recently affirmed the Water Authority’s positive ratings and stable outlook, creating the opportunity for ratepayers to benefit from lower financing costs for critical water infrastructure.

The savings resulted from the Water Authority’s refinancing of $283.5 million in Series 2020A Bonds (Green Bonds) and $117.7 million in Series 2021A (Green Bonds) senior-lien water revenue refunding bonds. Technical factors in the market provided favorable conditions – including more demand for bonds than supply – that the Water Authority team moved quickly to capture.

Most significant savings in bond refundings in the past decade

The Water Authority bonds were priced July 8 – a week ahead of schedule – and the strong credit ratings, strong bond policies, and swift action by the Board of Directors in June, helped lower the interest rates compared to what the Water Authority would have had to pay with downgraded credit. Since 2010, the Water Authority has saved a total of $235 million through 10 bond refundings, including the latest transactions.

“Thanks to strategic, courageous action by the Water Authority Board of Directors in June to set rates for 2021, the agency has secured the most significant savings from bond refundings in the past decade,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “The Water Authority maintains a strong financial position even in these difficult times, and that ultimately benefits everyone who calls San Diego County home.”

Credit ratings: Strong financial leadership, prudent strategies

In affirming their credit ratings over the past few weeks, the three rating services cited the Water Authority’s strong financial leadership, including prudent strategies to manage issues related to COVID-19, its success diversifying water supply sources, its commitment to infrastructure maintenance, and its financial reserves for managing contingencies, among other factors.

‘Investments in water supply diversification, conservative financial practices’

  • S&P affirmed its highest rating – AAA– June 25. “The authority has been successful in their efforts to increase control over their supply and diversify the source of their supply. Management has also demonstrated an ability to navigate volatile hydrological cycles through adopting rate increases as needed and building prudent financial reserves and storage to mitigate variability.”
  • Fitch Ratings affirmed its AA+ rating July 2. The Water Authority’s “significant investments in supply diversification, have allowed the Authority to continue to meet water demands in its service area.” Fitch also said “the SDCWA benefits from very strong purchaser credit quality.”
  • Moody’s Investor Service affirmed its Aa2 rating June 29. Moody’s praised the Water Authority “for increasingly diverse sources for water supply purchases; and conservative financial practices with adopted reserve and debt policies.” Moody’s also said that “liquidity, including a rate stabilization fund, remains satisfactory and serves to insulate the San Diego County Water Authority from risks associated with variable water supplies, including California’s current drought conditions, as well as unanticipated events such as the coronavirus crisis. The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the Authority’s favorable operating performance will continue.”

“In the midst of a global pandemic and a challenging economy, the Water Authority continues proactively managing its finances and lowering the cost of debt,” said Lisa Marie Harris, finance director for the Water Authority. “We have strong debt coverage, healthy reserves and an experienced management team to sustain our fiscal health.”

For more information about the Water Authority’s finances go to: www.sdcwa.org/finance-investor-relations.

Series 2020A – Taxable Refunding

Issue Size: $283,470,000

Bond maturities: 2024-2034

Bond yields: .59% – 1.95%

Refunding savings: $38.7 million

Savings as % of refunded bond par: 15.3% (board min savings 2-5%)

Top Investors: Progressive, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and State Farm

Series 2021A –Tax-Exempt Refunding (Forward Delivery)

Issue Size: $117,690,000

Bond maturities: 2022 – 2031

Bond yields: .45% – 1.13%

Refunding savings: $28.7 million

Savings as % of refunded bond par: 19.7% (Board Min savings 2-5%)

Top Investors: Vanguard, Alliance Bernstein, Seix Investors, and MIZUHO Bank

Water Utility Hero-City of Escondido-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby, City of Escondido

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Carrie Selby, City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby

Job/Agency: City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I worked security at Lake Skinner for MWD in 2002, and very much wanted to advance my career but was not sure how. Until, I came across a flyer for an operator position. This interested me, so I asked one of the operators who worked there, how to get into the field. He provided me some materials and this immediately peaked my interest. I ended up applying at another agency and was hired as an Operator-In-Training. Eighteen years later, I am still in the field and currently hold a Grade 3 Certification.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Although we regularly practiced extremely good hygiene at the plant. We now have taken extra precautions such as, wearing facemasks, and maintaining social distancing. Temperature stations are now our new norm. We have to take our temperature prior to starting our shift.

How are you keeping safe?

I come to work in proper attire and practice extra sanitizing precautions. I always make sure to change out of anything that I wear at work prior to going home.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I am looking forward to getting back to traveling and adventuring out to some hiking trails. Nature is fuel to my soul! I also look forward to spending time with family.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

The Montgomerys' blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Photo: Helix Water District

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

Compared to the previous lawn, the Montgomerys’ blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size. The thriving landscape creates privacy from the road, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Over the two-month billing period ending in May 2020, this home used 40% less water than the average Helix Water District customer.

Privacy and low-maintenance style took priority

The Montgomerys' new design incorporates a variety of native and low water use plants. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomerys’ new design incorporates a variety of blooming flowers and herbs. Photo: Helix Water District

They purchased their home in 2014. The couple were not happy with the existing lawn’s water consumption, or the lack of privacy it offered. The front window faces two streets. They made unsuccessful attempts on their own to reduce the lawn’s water use. In addition, the front yard sloped towards the house, causing moisture to form in the home’s basement during rainy weather.

The couple toured numerous gardens in East County with the California Native Plant Society’s native garden tours to collect design ideas. They hired a landscape designer in fall 2018, who worked to create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants, while still matching the charm and character of their 1950s cottage style home.

The Montgomerys worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants. Photo: Helix Water District

Tim and Brianna Montgomery worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring a green color palette. Photo: Helix Water District

“Our landscape designer gave us the design to meet our needs and created a plan so that we could do most of the work ourselves,” said Brianna Montgomery. “We only had to hire a contractor to do hardscape work and install the new water-efficient irrigation system. We did all of the other work ourselves, including grading the front, amending our soil with fresh compost, purchasing and installing the new plants, and adding mulch according to the design.”

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District La Mesa Landscaping

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District

The year-old landscape boasts a filled-in appearance and a wide variety of vibrant and colorful plants.

To offer privacy, create shade, and height, the landscape has a fruitless olive tree and a bright desert willow. Low water use daisies add lushness to the landscape. Shrubs and groundcover provide contrast with the home’s red brick front, including soft blue-greens from lavender, Mexican bush sage, and fescue grasses; emerald-colored rosemary; yellow-green rockrose; and splashes of purple, yellow, white, reds and pinks among the landscape’s many flowers.

Efficient new irrigation completes the transformation

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The efficient irrigation system includes micro sprays, drip irrigation, and a smart, weather-based irrigation controller. The landscape diverts and captures rainwater from the front roof and diverts the water to the back yard through a series of French drains. The new rainwater diversion prevents moisture from forming in the home’s basement and also provides additional water for the plants in the home’s backyard.

The new landscape is now more welcoming both to people and pollinators, birds, lizards, and other wildlife now calling the landscape home.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better landscape,” said Brianna Montgomery. “Our landscape fits the energy of our home and ourselves, and we loved being a part of the transformation every step of the way.”

Lavender and daisies brighten the winning landscape design. Photo: Helix Water District

Brianna and Tim Montgomery were recognized at the June 17 Helix Water District virtual board meeting. They received a $250 gift card, an award certificate, and a WaterSmart contest winner sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the winning landscape project will appear in the winner’s section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other participating local water agencies, and on the district’s website.

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City of Oceanside-Ron Lutge-Water Utility Hero of the Week-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge

Job/Agency: City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I became interested in the water industry in a round-about way. After leaving the military, I found it difficult to find work that was both mentally stimulating and challenging. I was looking for something that would allow me to work at an operational tempo I was used to. I definitely wasn’t looking for anything easy or slowed paced. At the time I was working at the General Electric aircraft engine overhaul facility in Ontario. Unfortunately, that industry proved to be unstable and did not offer a promising career. While searching for something new, I found Oceanside had a couple of openings for office workers. Since I had some experience working with spreadsheets and databases, I was offered a position in the water department. I figured this would keep me employed while I looked for something different. I soon discovered there were many disciplines within the water industry. I soon began researching career options in the water industry. Inspiration came from the supervisor I was working for at the time. I sat down with him and asked what were the requirements necessary to become an operator. I also received encouragement from the operators I came in contact with on a daily basis. That’s all it took. After that, I hit the ground running and have never looked back. The water profession is honorable, rewarding, and has offered me everything I have been looking for in a career – just like the military – another opportunity to continue being of service to others. And isn’t that what we as water professionals are here for – to be of service?

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

My personal day-to-day routine hasn’t really changed; I’m always busy. However, given the current health crisis we are all in, it has made me keenly aware of just how important it is to ensure our team is being taken care of, staying safe and healthy, and doing everything we can to ensure our facility stays operational to provide water to the residents of Oceanside without interruption. Because we operate our facility 24 hours a day, coupled with having a very small staff, we cannot work from home or implement rotating or staggered shifts. Everyone has to be ready, prepared, and available to work.

How are you keeping safe?

By following the guidance recommended by health officials to limit exposure in public, at work and home: social distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, washing hands, etc. By practicing these simple protocols we keep each other safe and minimize ourselves or others getting sick.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

A return to some semblance of normalcy – whatever that may be.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Keith Swiatkowski-Otay Water District-

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Keith Swiatkowski, Otay Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Keith Swiatkowski, Otay Water District Water Systems Operator III, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Keith Swiatkowski

Job/Agency: Otay Water District Water Systems Operator III

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I was working in the Aerospace manufacturing industry at Solar Turbines for 12 years, but felt I wanted to work in a field that served my local community or region. My mother worked for the SDCWA and really enjoyed working in the water industry. She encouraged me to look for a career in this field. A friend of mine knew someone that worked for the City of Escondido, so I was able to contact him and learn what it would take to get into this field. I took a test at Escondido City Hall with about 400 other people, did well enough to get an interview, and eventually got hired by them. I spent 4.5 years learning everything I could working from the ground level, literally, working in excavations making repairs to water mains. I then took classes at Palomar College and State Certification tests to advance my career. I came a long way from my humble beginnings and truly enjoy serving the community as a Water Systems Operator III for the Otay Water District where I’ve worked now for 7.5 years.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

My job function hasn’t changed much. What has changed is how we’re getting it done. We are currently operating with minimal staff reporting for duty in the field so that we limit potential exposure. We are still able to accomplish all of our tasks by spreading more of the field work around and adjusting schedules. This ensures that we continue to provide our customers with same level of service so they don’t notice any difference. The other staff work from home and we do this on a rotating basis. Those working from home have the opportunity to monitor our distribution system via SCADA, stay in touch via e-mail or text, study our mapping program to learn more about pipe sizes/material, pressure zones, and review district policies.

How are you keeping safe?

The District has done a great job providing the latest online training regarding how to stay safe. We have implemented temperature check kiosks at the district to ensure employees are safe to work. Personally I’m wearing my mask in the office, when in public or speaking with customers in person, washing my hands more or using hand sanitizer, wiping down surfaces more often, social distancing in the office or in public, and limiting going to stores during my time at home. Fortunately most of my work day is driving alone in my truck to different sites to test for water quality, so that limits my exposure as well.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I’m looking forward to being able to have in-person meetings. We do get the same things accomplished through video meetings or being far enough apart in the crew room. But there’s nothing like being able to have a crew all come together as a team or have an all-hands meeting and feel that sense of community. I’m also looking forward to my ultra-running trail races being held again soon, working out in the gym, going to concerts, having people over for BBQ’s, going to the movies, and taking my wife out for a romantic dinner on the coast.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Burrowing owls get a helping hand with new habitat from the Otay Water District. Photo: Otay Water District burrowing owl homes

Otay Water District Gives Burrowing Owl Homes a Makeover

Burrowing owl homes maintained by the Otay Water District received a modern makeover this year. As part of its ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, the District managed construction of new nesting burrows to encourage breeding.

Ten acres of the 240-acre, District-owned San Miguel Habitat Management Area reserve, or HMA, and mitigation bank in eastern Chula Vista is a dedicated native grasslands area where the new artificial burrows are located. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has designated burrowing owls as a “Species of Special Concern.” They are also protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A burrowing owl in an old style burrow prior to remodeling. Photo: Otay Water Districr

A burrowing owl in an old style burrow prior to remodeling. Photo: Otay Water District

In 2019 with CDFW’s guidance, the District began planning for the retrofit of existing artificial burrows and installation of several new burrows with the most current burrow design, intending to allow for maximized breeding success. The project also enhances the value of the native grassland habitat by removing invasive plants that surround most of the artificial burrows.

“The District’s project to enhance the existing burrowing owl habitat is so important because the HMA is a protected area where the owls can safely live and breed,” said Lisa Coburn-Boyd, Otay Water District environmental compliance. “Increasingly, in San Diego County, the burrowing owl population is declining because of habitat loss and fragmentation.”

Small raptors active during the day

Burrowing owls are small owls with bright yellow eyes. Unlike other owls, burrowing owls are active during the day.

Burrowing owls are also quite social. This small raptor lives among others of its own species in loose groups of up to several hundred individuals. They measure seven to 11 inches long and weigh five to nine ounces. Their diet consists of insects, small rodents, amphibian and reptile species, and carrion.

Burrowing owls will take over old mammal burrows as their homes. But in areas where small mammals aren’t present, they will also nest in shallow, underground, human-made structures.

Burrowing owl homes remodeled using new design

This year, the Otay Water District used the updated burrow design recommended by the CDFW and developed by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Photo: Otay Water District

This year, the Otay Water District used the updated burrow design recommended by the CDFW and developed by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Photo: Otay Water District

Originally, the District constructed 15 artificial burrows in 2003 as mitigation for impacts to burrowing owl burrows due to reservoir construction and the creation of the former Salt Creek Golf Course. The original burrows used an older design of the artificial burrows and their native grasslands habitat. Although the HMA had regular burrowing owl visitors during that time, breeding success was limited with no owl breeding pairs.

This year, the Otay Water District used the updated burrow design recommended by the CDFW and developed by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. The District retrofitted and enhanced five existing burrows and installed six new burrows. During construction of the burrows in January and February, two burrowing owls seemed interested in the construction. No breeding pairs have used the burrows this season. The District hopes they will be back to move into the newly completed burrows.

See burrowing owls on the San Diego Safari Park’s live webcam.

Cooper's Hawk chick-Pipeline 5-May 2020-habitat

Cooper’s Hawk Chick Gets Special Handling near Pipeline 5 Project

A Cooper’s hawk chick and its nest received special attention after being discovered recently near a San Diego County Water Authority construction project.

Environmental surveyors spotted the nest on March 27 south of Gopher Canyon Road during the Pipeline 5 repair project in Moosa Canyon in North San Diego County.

Water Resources staff worked with construction and right-of-way staff to minimize and monitor work activities in the nest area.

Conservation strategy protects wildlife, environment

Limiting disturbance to the Cooper’s hawk chick and nest is part of the Water Authority’s commitments to its Natural Communities Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan, or NCCP/HCP.

The NCCP/HCP plan, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game in December 2011, provides goals, guidelines, and specifications that comprise the Water Authority’s Conservation Strategy for biological resources within its San Diego County Service Area and a portion of southwestern Riverside County.

When the repair work was completed, Water Resource staff contacted the nonprofit group Bloom Research Inc. and biologists with Bio-Studies Inc., who are studying raptors in Southern California.

“I met with biologist Dustin Janeke May 25th at the nest location and the single chick was retrieved by climbing approximately 35 feet up the nest tree and carefully placing it in a travel bag and bringing the chick down,” said Summer Adleberg, Water Authority environmental biologist.

Cooper’s hawk chick data check

Cooper's Hawk Chick-WNN-May 25, 2020, conservation, wildlife

Biologist Dustin Janeke, with Bio-Studies, Inc. of Escondido, is banding the Cooper’s hawk chick on May 25. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

 

Banded Cooper's hawk chick-wildlife conservation-WNN-Pipeline 5

The timing of banding is important. The Cooper’s hawk chick’s band is big enough to allow its leg to grow to full adult size. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Adleberg said biologists collected data from the chick, including approximate age, size, sex and overall health, and they attached a USGS band to the bird’s right ankle. The band has a unique eight digit code that is entered into a federal bird banding database.

In general, bird banding allows scientists to study the Cooper’s hawk migration, behavior, survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

If this bird is ever encountered again in the future, the band number will provide information as to exactly where and when this bird was banded. Pete Bloom, of Bloom Research Inc. is studying the natal dispersal behavior of raptors throughout Southern California. Biologist Janeke with Bio-Studies is a permit-authorized volunteer assisting Bloom’s research projects.

The ‘chick check-up’ showed the Cooper’s hawk was a male estimated to be 2-3 weeks old, weighed about two ounces, and it had started developing tail and wing feathers, with a wing about 2 inches long.

When the data collection was completed, the chick was returned to its nest. Adleberg said the chick was expected to stay in the nest for another 2 to 3 weeks before it fledged and moved out on its own.

Water Authority Environmental Biologist Summer Adleberg-Cooper's Hawk Chick-WNN

Following data collection, Water Authority Environmental Biologist Summer Adleberg takes the Cooper’s hawk chick back to its nest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Water Utility Hero of the Week-Olivenhain MWD-COVID19

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Gary Briant, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Gary Briant, Olivenhain Municipal Water District Purchasing/Warehouse Clerk, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Gary Briant

Job/Agency: Olivenhain Municipal Water District Purchasing/Warehouse Clerk

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I spent many years working in the private sector. I noticed that my friends and family that worked in the water industry showed a real sense of pride in what they did. I wanted to stop the “rat race” in the private sector and join a team in the water industry where I could grow, contribute my skills, and be a part of something important. Working at OMWD feels like I’m part of a family, and I am very happy in my new career.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

One of my duties here is to procure materials and supplies for Olivenhain. We have only had a few challenges finding supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our general manager had the insight to make sure we were prepared very early on, so I was able to secure many items before vendors ran out and/or items became backordered for months. When some supplies were not available, we thought “outside the box” to find solutions. For example, we used the recipe from World Health Organization to make our own hand sanitizer when it was sold out everywhere.

How are you keeping safe?

It’s really important to me that I keep myself safe so I don’t put another team member or family member in jeopardy of getting sick. I’ve been focusing on maintaining social distance, sanitizing, and staying healthy. Safety and education has been the main priority at OMWD since the pandemic began. I make sure all needed safety items are well stocked so everyone at OMWD stays well. We have also transitioned to accepting deliveries in a no-contact manner.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I look forward to seeing everything go back to as close to “normal” as possible. I understand we will have to modify many ways that we operate regarding socialization and maintaining a safe work environment. But I look forward to the challenge of helping my co-workers stay healthy so OMWD can continue being successful in its mission to deliver safe and reliable water service to the community.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Jeromy Langdon-Padre Dam MWD-Water Utility Hero of the Week

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Jeromy Langdon, Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Jeromy Langdon, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Utility Worker, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Jeromy Langdon

Job/Agency: Padre Dam Municipal Water District Utility Worker

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

After twenty years working in masonry, I was planning on a career change and was looking for a career that was just as rewarding as my current trade but had more longevity. A good friend of mine in the water industry suggested this field and I began my research. I found it peaked my interest and I enrolled in some water classes at Palomar College. When I learned what was involved in operating and maintaining a distribution system I knew I had found the beginnings of my new career.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

The way we work in the Field Operations Department has changed quite a bit during this pandemic. We have had to separate our crews to maintain social distancing and implement new work safety protocols. Additionally, our valve replacement program has been temporarily put on hold in order to limit water service disruptions to customers. Even with all of these changes, we have been able to continue with our daily work without any issues while maintaining essential water service to our customers.

How are you keeping safe?

I am keeping safe by limiting my exposure. During this pandemic, I have only been coming to work to complete my essential service and going home. In the workplace, we are focused on keeping safe social distance and sanitizing work stations and frequently touched surfaces.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I am looking forward to asking our children the question “OK kids, now where do you want to go?” I’m guessing the answer will be Disneyland.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

 

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Jim Madaffer: Supporting Protections for Ratepayers and Property Owners

I hope this finds you safe and healthy despite the challenging circumstances that we face as a region, state and nation.

While our hearts are heavy, we continue working on several critical issues at the Water Authority this month, and I would like to share three of them with you briefly.

  1. The Water Authority’s Board of Directors on May 28 voted to support a comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of detachment proposals by the Rainbow and Fallbrook water districts to ensure that ratepayers and property owners in those districts and the rest of the county are protected from potential impacts and given a meaningful opportunity to engage in the process. That evaluation – under development by the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO – should cover financial, water supply reliability, governmental, and environmental impacts, and it should ensure that the public and all affected agencies across the region can weigh in, according to the Water Authority Board resolution. I encourage you to read the entire resolution at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-detachment.
  2. Our Board has set a public hearing on 2021 rates and charges on June 25. As you know, this has been a very rough stretch financially for almost every business and agency – and water utilities are no exception. Staff has proposed a strategy that would raise the rates we charge our member agencies by about 6 percent next year. That recommendation is the result of cost-cutting, using our Rate Stabilization Fund and other measures. It’s a thoughtful and careful proposal, and I’m expecting our Board will have robust discussion before voting on this issue that affects us all.
  3. On the financial front, we are also doing our part to attract more state and federal economic stimulus funds for a long list of shovel-ready water projects. The Water Authority has coordinated a letter from several water agencies asking Congress for COVID-19 financial relief for public water utilities and ratepayers. At the same time, I am pleased to announce that several regional water supply projects in San Diego County are on track to receive a total of more than $15 million in state grant funds, pending a final decision this summer. The money would help local agencies advance conservation, environmental enhancements, water purification and other initiatives.

As always, I will continue to update you on these critical issues and others in the weeks ahead.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.