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

Threat Emerges to Reduce Water Supply Reliability, Fracture Region

Thank you for your support over the past two years. It’s been an honor to serve as the chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. While some may not realize it, this 36-member Board plays a critical role in sustaining San Diego County’s quality of life and economy.

And I’m pleased to say that this Board engages in the difficult discussions and decisions to make sure our children and grandchildren enjoy the same safe and secure water supplies that we enjoy today. Unfortunately, it’s also true that efforts are underway that would undermine decades of successful planning that has served our county well from Fallbrook to San Ysidro.

This week, the Water Authority filed a formal response to address a proposal by the Fallbrook and Rainbow water districts to detach from the Water Authority and annex into Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. These proposals would increase costs for water ratepayers in San Diego County, reduce the county’s voting power, and decrease water supply reliability for farms and residents.

Our detailed filing with the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) spells out how the Fallbrook and Rainbow detachment proposals contain significant areas of misleading or incomplete information that must be addressed before LAFCO and all of the interested parties countywide can understand the full scope of impacts that would be created by detachment. The LAFCO process is expected to take at least another year.

As proposed by Fallbrook and Rainbow, the detachments would allow Fallbrook and Rainbow to avoid paying for water supplies and infrastructure that have been developed in collaboration with those agencies and are currently being used by those agencies to meet their customers’ needs. Abandoning those cost obligations would force other ratepayers countywide to cover their portion of the bills already incurred for decades of investments in supply reliability.

Our agency’s analysis shows that detachment, as proposed, would reduce water reliability and increase risk for Rainbow and Fallbrook customers, create environmental impacts that haven’t been studied, and impair the successful long-term planning efforts that have served our county well. And it would give Riverside County water agencies more control over San Diego County’s water future, including water rate and property tax impacts. The Water Authority’s formal response to the Fallbrook/Rainbow reorganization proposals and related documents are at www.sdcwa.org/lafco-reorganization.

It’s critical that LAFCO and all the interested parties across San Diego County take the time to address the full scope of consequences created by these unprecedented proposals so we avoid unintended harm to our region. The Water Authority, its member agencies and regional planning agencies such as SANDAG have worked together for more than 75 years to provide this region with safe and reliable water supplies. Trying to turn back the clock now is a costly, difficult process with numerous impacts to Fallbrook and Rainbow customers and across the region.

As we transition to the new Board leadership in October, I trust that you will give incoming Chair Gary Croucher and Vice Chair Christy Guerin the same support that you’ve given to me over the past two years. And don’t forget that whatever the challenges, San Diego County is stronger together.

2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest-Olivenhain Municipal Water District-WaterSmart

WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winner Creates Wildlife Habitat

The winner of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest created a wildlife habitat by removing grass and replacing it with climate-appropriate plants.

The District’s Board of Directors honored Laura Lisauskas as the winner of the contest during its September 9 meeting.

Lisauskas purchased her home in 2018 and decided to remove the existing grass and replace it with a more attractive, climate-appropriate landscape. In addition to being water-efficient, the new layout has created a habitat for pollinators and local wildlife, provided fruit for her family, and enhanced the beauty of her neighborhood.

Water-efficient, WaterSmart landscape

The new landscape is water-efficient, eye-catching and has created a habitat for pollinators and local wildlife. Photo: Olivenhain Water District

The new landscape is water-efficient, eye-catching and has created a habitat for pollinators and local wildlife. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Her design divided the garden into multiple interest points and color schemes to highlight different plant collections. Lisauskas even designed and constructed the dry-stacked retaining wall herself.

“Ms. Lisauskas has captured the range of textures and colors found in some of our most beautiful local natural landscapes,” said Bob Kephart, Olivenhain Municipal Water District board director. “Her inspiring, water-efficient landscape is a prime example of using climate-appropriate plants and rainwater harvesting elements to conserve water and reduce pollution from runoff.”

The colorful winning WaterSmart design was inspired by the diversity of San Diego County’s ecosystems and features a variety of native and low-water-use plants including California Poppy, Blue Bells Emu Bush, and Pink Rockrose. The landscape utilizes drip irrigation and onsite rainwater collection, further reducing outdoor water use.

Landscape makeover attracts pollinators

The winning landscape was inspired by diverse San Diego County ecosystems and features a variety of native and low-water-use plants including California Poppy and Pink Rockrose. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The winning landscape was inspired by diverse San Diego County ecosystems and features a variety of native and low-water-use plants including California Poppy and Pink Rockrose. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Watersmart Landscape Contest is held annually by water agencies throughout San Diego County to showcase attractive landscapes that use less water than conventional turf-heavy landscapes. Winning entries exhibit excellence in curb appeal, climate-appropriate plant selection, design, efficient irrigation, and environmental considerations.

The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program offers free, online classes: https://landscapemakeover.watersmartsd.org/

WaterSmart-Landscape Makeover-Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Before and after view of the 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner’s home. Photos: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on its Rattlesnake Tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Fallbrook Rattlesnake Tank Artwork Honors High School Seniors

Each year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road is painted with new numbers. There’s a story about local Fallbrook history behind the fresh design on the “Rattlesnake Tank.”

The Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Staff recently painted over the “20,” changing it to “21” to welcome the graduating class of 2021.

The reason for the annual external makeover dates back 35 years. Prior to painting the tank, Fallbrook High seniors took on a longstanding dare. They would climb up the hill in the middle of the night, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.

“Since it’s a long way down, our staff of more than 35 years ago became concerned for their safety,” said Fallbrook’s Noelle Denke. “So we installed a fence around the tank.”

But it didn’t deter the energetic students. Instead, they just began jumping the fence in the middle of the night. So the District struck a deal with the students. If they would stop risking their safety for the dare, the district would safely paint the tank every year to commemorate them.

“And we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.

Safely saluting seniors with 25-foot high signage

Fallbrook Public Utility District utility workers Colter Shannon and Bryan Wagner do the honors changing the painted numbers on Rattlesnake Tank for the Class of 2021. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Fallbrook Public Utility District utility workers Colter Shannon and Bryan Wagner do the honors of changing the painted numbers on Rattlesnake Tank for the Class of 2021. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

It takes District staff about eight hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank. Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, the Fallbrook Public Utility District makes arrangements with them to power-down their towers. Then crews safely hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work painting.

Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of Fallbrook’s oldest and most visible water tanks.

Second place winner Kylie Barbosa created a colorful illustration of bright flowers surrounded by a rainbow and multi-colored rain drops. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District water awareness poster contest

Fourth Grade Artists Win Water Awareness Poster Contest

Three fourth grade student artists were honored by the Olivenhain Municipal Water District Board of Directors at its September 9 meeting as the winners of the District’s 2020 Water Awareness Poster Contest.

This year’s theme asked students to illustrate how they “Love Water, Save Water.”

The district annually invites fourth-grade students living or attending school within the Olivenhain Municipal Water District service area to enter the contest. Because of the change to distance learning in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the contest deadline was extended to June 15. Six classes from the district’s service area participated.

“We have been holding this poster contest for nearly three decades,” said OMWD board member Bob Topolovac. “This year, the classroom setting may have changed, but it’s reassuring to see that the students’ creativity and excitement for water conservation is as strong as ever.”

The 2020 water awareness poster contest winners

 

Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District water awareness poster contest

Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

First Place – Ruchika Kench, Stone Ranch Elementary. Ruchika Kench’s poster depicts the planet Earth surrounded by handwritten messages portraying the value of water and the importance of preserving water for all to enjoy.

Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Second Place – Kylie Barbosa, Stone Ranch Elementary. Kylie Barbosa created a colorful illustration of bright flowers surrounded by a rainbow and multicolored raindrops. She pledges to drink water from a reusable bottle and to take shorter showers.

Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District water awareness poster contest

Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Third Place – Ryan King, Flora Vista Elementary. Ryan King drew an image of a person fishing with a sunset and a heart in the background. He recommends collecting rainwater to irrigate plants as a way to conserve water.

Kendra Jones, the first place winner’s fourth-grade teacher, also received a $50 gift card to Lakeshore Learning Store for classroom supplies. New 2021 calendars featuring the winning artwork will be available to the public for free from the Olivenhain Municipal Water District in December.

First place, High Schools: Sofia Perez Valles, 12th Grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay WD poster contest

Otay Water District Poster Contest Winners Illustrate Water-Use Efficiency

Six student artists from schools in the Otay Water District’s service area were named as winners of the district’s 2020 Water is Life Student Poster Contest. Entries were selected as those best demonstrating creativity and awareness of water-use efficiency through art.

The annual contest is one of many educational programs offered by the district as an opportunity for students to learn and reflect on the importance of water conservation and stewardship. Students are encouraged to create a poster depicting the theme “Water is Life” which relates to using water wisely.

In February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, the district invited students from elementary through high schools in its service area to participate in the contest. Despite the pandemic forcing many people to work and learn from home, the contest remained open as a stay-at-home activity students could enjoy.

“At a time when most are working or learning from home during the pandemic, it was refreshing to see students, parents, and our Board members excited about this educational, creative, and fun project,” said Eileen Salmeron, communications assistant, and contest coordinator.

Local winners move on to Southern California competition

The district selected first through third-place winners from elementary and high school. The district recognized all winners from each category with a certificate, art kit, and goody bag of items with the Otay Water District logo and a conservation message. First and second place winners also received gift cards.

The Otay Board of Directors honored its winning student artists at its monthly virtual meeting on Sept. 2.

“As I grew up, I started learning that the Earth has an expiration date,” said Sofia Perez Valles, first-place winner in the high school category. “Through this poster, I was able to continue the passion of mine to help save the Earth because I was able to inform people of the different ways that we can support water-use efficiency.”

The six local winners will now compete in the regional Metropolitan Water District of Southern California annual student poster contest for a chance to be selected among entries from participating water agencies and featured in its 2021 Water is Life Calendar. In 2020, district calendar poster contest winner Maya Santana, a fifth-grade student from Wolf Canyon Elementary School, was selected to appear in the regional calendar.

This year’s poster contest winners include:

First place: Zahraa Alzayadi, Fifth grade, Jamacha Elementary School

First place: Zahraa Alzayadi, Fifth grade, Jamacha Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

 

Second place, Elementary Schools: Amy Coghill, third grade, Tiffany Elementary School.

Second place, Elementary Schools: Amy Coghill, third grade, Tiffany Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Third placem Elementary Schools: Sophie Coghill, kindergarten, Tiffany Elementary School. Photo: Otay WD poster contest

Third place, Elementary Schools: Sophie Coghill, kindergarten, Tiffany Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

First place, High Schools: Sofia Perez Valles, 12th Grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay WD poster contest

First place, High Schools: Sofia Perez Valles, 12th Grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Second place, High Schools: Stephenie Pace, 12th grade, Olympian High School.

Second place, High Schools: Stephenie Pace, 12th grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Third place, High Schools: Lucia Perez Valles, 10th grade, Olympian High School.

Third place, High Schools: Lucia Perez Valles, 10th grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay Water District

To learn more about the Otay Water District’s annual poster contest and other educational programs, go to otaywater.gov/education.

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

Help Us Reduce Water Rates

As my two-year term as the Water Authority Board chair winds down, it’s my pleasure to update you on two important efforts that are underway for the betterment of the San Diego region.

First of all, our Board voted unanimously last week to spend a few more months discussing and assessing a study of a new regional water conveyance system to deliver our high-priority Colorado River supplies from the Imperial Valley. The work we’ve done over the past year shows the project would produce billions of dollars in potential savings over several decades – and we plan to use the next few months to outreach to stakeholder communities about this study, address questions raised in recent weeks and seek Board direction in November.

Ultimately, the questions are bigger than a new aqueduct – they are about how we sustain our economy and quality of life at a reasonable cost. A new multi-benefits conveyance system is one potential solution – but if not that, then we must grapple with equal intensity over whether it makes sense to pay ever-increasing costs (over which we have no control) to the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to deliver our water for generations, or whether a plan based mainly on local water generation is financially feasible.

The other big issue this month is related – my request that MWD adopt rate relief measures this fall that reduce our water costs. Put simply, despite the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic MWD has not enacted the same kind of rate relief as the Water Authority, which froze hiring, deferred non-essential projects and significantly reduced travel – among other steps. In the end, we limited rate increases to 4.8-4.9 % for 2021 – and more than 60% of that is directly attributable to MWD.

Now, we’re asking MWD to take a similar approach, recognizing that we’re all in this together. We aren’t prescribing the strategies for MWD. We’re just asking that the nation’s largest water agency help its customers, and we’re pledging that any rate relief MWD provides will be passed directly to our member agencies. You can view the letter I sent to MWD at www.sdcwa.org/support-rate-relief-mwd.

I invite you to help move this conversation forward by encouraging MWD to find meaningful cost savings this fall that are reflected in its budget. Please take a moment to do so at www.sdcwa.org/support-rate-relief-mwd by submitting a letter of support for rate relief.

The winning landscape makeover features a lush palette of plants in place of a thirsty lawn. Photo: City of Escondido waterwise landscaping

Waterwise Landscaping Blooms in Escondido

A lush native garden low on water use but not on style won first place in the City of Escondido’s 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

To encourage customers to reduce outdoor water use, the City of Escondido recognizes its customers whose yards best exhibit the beauty of California-friendly, low-water gardening in the annual competition.

The Brants' landscaping before its award-winning waterwise landscaping makeover. Photo: City of Escondido

The Brants’ landscaping before its award-winning waterwise landscaping makeover. Photo: City of Escondido

Winners Todd and Susie Brant said when they moved to Escondido and experienced its hot, dry weather, they began to reconsider whether they wanted to waste water resources watering a thirsty front lawn. They took advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority’s landscape makeover classes, then learned about the Turf Replacement Program, which could help cover the costs of removing their lawn and replacing it.

The Brants selected plants they loved and "found a place" for them. Photo: City of Escondido

The Brants selected plants they loved and “found a place” for them. Photo: City of Escondido

“We followed all the instructions carefully and were able to get the entire project paid for from the plants to the labor, and even some help from a landscape design professional,” said the Brants.

A little bit of everything

Waterwise plant choices don't have to be boring. Photo: City of Escondido

Waterwise plant choices don’t have to be boring. Photo: City of Escondido

The transformation is dramatic from a featureless patch of lawn to a palette bursting with agaves, succulents, sage, bird of paradise, dwarf bougainvillea, and more.

“As you’ll see in the photos, we have a little bit of everything!” said Susie Brant. “We just wander around the nursery, and if we like a plant, we’ll take one home and find a place for it.”

The Brants also retrofitted their irrigation system’s sprinkler heads with new ones that use much less water.

Virtual landscape makeover classes

The Brants took advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority's Landscape Makeover classes to help them plan their project. Photo: City of Escondido

The Brants took advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority’s landscape makeover classes to help them plan their project. Photo: City of Escondido

The Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscaping Makeover classes are now available online. The next class is scheduled for September 12. The free, three-hour workshops teach the basics of how to do a landscape makeover. Each workshop covers topics different topics. Topics include soil, design, turf removal, plant selection, planning, irrigation, rainwater catchment, and implementation — all the elements needed to convert high-water-use turf to a beautiful, water-efficient landscape.

All weekday workshops are held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday workshops from 9 a.m. to Noon. Workshops are free, but participants must register in advance at WaterSmartSD. Courses are also scheduled for October and November.

A new County of San Diego online resource can help you protect watershed by diverting it from the storm drain system. Photo: NIH.gov

San Diego County Website Helps Residents Protect Watershed

Because San Diego County gets so little natural rainfall, most residents must artificially irrigate their landscaping. Rainfall becomes a welcome sight when it occurs.

But rainfall turns into an unwelcome problem when it enters the storm drain system. After the first heavy rain in several months, stormwater runoff gathers pollutants building up on surfaces like rooftops, parking lots, sidewalks, and streets. This polluted water gets carried into street drains that dump out directly into the Pacific Ocean. Pollutants harm waterways and affect sea animals, plants, and the people who surf, swim, or dive in the ocean.

Residents may be contributing to this problem between rainstorms without realizing it. Your yard drainage system including French drains, weeping tiles, and sub-surface drains should not be used for non-stormwater water runoff.  They are intended only to prevent flooding by diverting rainwater from your property to the road or street.

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, runoff water may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Wikimedia

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, runoff water may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Wikimedia

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, or wash water runs off hardscapes or sidewalks, these non-stormwater activities may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same negative effects as runoff from rainfall.

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC says new information is added monthly.

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC says new information is added monthly. Photo: SDCounty.gov

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC, says new information is added monthly. Photo: SDCounty.gov

Stormwater diversion tips

The website shares these tips to prevent non-stormwater runoff from carrying pollutants into our waterways.

  • Redirect sprinkler heads and hose down items such as patio furniture away from your yard drain.
  • Temporarily cover your yard drain with a bowl or mat when watering.
  • Use dry methods such as sweeping to clean your gutters, patio, and yard.

Your property should also integrate best practices to slow down and divert natural stormwater runoff after heavy rains. Three common methods include:

  • Detention: Protect against flooding by temporarily pooling runoff on your property, allowing pollutants to settle before being discharged to the storm drain system.
  • Infiltration: Divert stormwater runoff to areas where water can soak into the soil and benefit from natural filtering such as gravel, mulch, or grassy trenches.
  • Vegetated: Uses landscape plants and soil to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff through flow-thru planters, buffer strips, and vegetated swales.

Yard drains and diversion methods should regularly be cleared of debris so they operate properly and are ready for a storm event. It’s a good time to do it now while the sun is shining in San Diego.

Litsa Tzotzolis-Water Utility Hero of the Week-Essential workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Litsa Tzotzolis, San Diego County Water Authority

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. Litsa Tzotzolis, San Diego County Water Authority Public Affairs Representative, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Litsa Tzotzolis

Job/Agency: San Diego County Water Authority Public Affairs Representative

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

I always wanted to work for a  governmental organization. When moving back to the U.S. in 2010, I discovered a website that promoted government jobs. I saw that the Water Authority was hiring and they were looking for someone that had my skills and I applied. Working for a governmental organization impacts the lives of others and I wanted to impact the lives of others. At the Water Authority, we provide water to people, so it is public service work.  I worked at San Diego State University for nearly four years before coming to the Water Authority. Like working for water, at the university I was able to impact the lives of students in a positive way.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Not much, 100% of my job is done on the computer. The only thing that has changed is the way I interact with colleagues. We have moved to interacting virtually. I connect with colleagues through Microsoft Teams which I am able to train and advise them on graphic matters.

How are you keeping safe?

I’m usually always home and only go out to walk, play tennis or grocery shop. I try to exercise daily, eat home cooked meals, eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can.

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

To go visit family in Chicago, Italy and Greece.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by the San Diego County Water Authority and 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

Major Water Rate Case Victory; San Diego County is Stronger Together

As you know, the Water Authority has been working for years to conclude lawsuits over rates set by the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – and this week, we have taken a big step forward with the entry of final judgment in two major cases.

Yesterday, a Superior Court judge has awarded the San Diego County Water Authority $44,373,872.29 for two cases covering rates paid by San Diego County ratepayers during 2011-2014. The award included $28,678.190.90 in damages for MWD’s breach of contract for the four years at issue, plus pre-and post-judgment interest. As these first two cases are finally concluded, the Water Authority is also working to narrow the scope of the remaining 2014, 2016 and 2018 cases (a 2017 case has already been dismissed).

Entry of final judgment caps a 10-year effort by the Water Authority Board of Directors on behalf of San Diego County ratepayers, proving once again our region is stronger together in charting our water future. While the damages and interest award is important, the entry of judgment will also help avoid future overcharges and thereby minimize future disputes based on rulings by the Court of Appeal. MWD’s improper charges – if they had continued – would have cost San Diego County residents more than $500 million over the life of the Water Authority’s water delivery contract with MWD.

The lawsuits generated other substantial benefits, such as requiring an increase in the Water Authority’s preferential rights to MWD water by approximately 100,000 acre-feet a year, equivalent to about twice the annual production of the $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project.

In February, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted to dismiss certain issues from the litigation after securing more than $350 million in local project subsidy benefits for the San Diego region, beginning late last year. In doing so, the Water Authority acknowledged the MWD Board action to stop imposing the district’s Water Stewardship Rate as a charge for transporting the Water Authority’s independent water supplies through MWD facilities, thus resolving for now that issue in future rate years. Consistent with the Water Authority Board’s direction, its attorneys are taking the steps necessary to narrow the litigation and have recently dismissed one case in its entirety.

As the lawsuits continue to wind down – which remains my personal goal – the Water Authority is working collaboratively with MWD member agencies across the district’s six-county service area to update MWD’s long-term water resource and financial planning. MWD’s Integrated Resources Plan, or IRP as it is called, will be its roadmap for the future, factoring in updated data and plans by many MWD member agencies who are working to develop their own local water supplies like the Water Authority and its member agencies have done over the past two decades and we will continue to do in the future.