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Faces of the Water Industry-Work For Water-jobs-water industry

Faces of the Water Industry: Work for Water

Water and wastewater professionals across San Diego County are highlighted in October during the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” campaign. Each year, the Water Authority collaborates with its member agencies to showcase regional water industry employees and career opportunities through a series of social media posts and videos.

Since 2017, the Water Authority’s annual campaigns have highlighted nearly 200 employees in San Diego County across multiple water agencies and job types. The 2022 campaign started October 1, coinciding with California’s Water Professionals Appreciation Week (October 1-9). 

Faces of the Water Industry

Nina Tarantino, Human Resources Specialist, Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Adrian Alarid, Plant Systems Technician at the City of Escondido

What advice would you give someone interested in a career in the water industry?  

“Get in now! This industry provides a lifelong career path. There are so many different jobs and certifications to learn about and explore. All education and skill sets can find a great job in water.” 

Adrian Alarid is a Plant Systems Technician at the City of Escondido

Jenny Diaz, Confidential Executive Assistant at Otay Water District 

Who inspired you to work in the water industry?

“One of my undergraduate professors advised that if I wanted an excellent job for the rest of my life, to consider a career in public utilities because those services will always be in demand. I seized the opportunity as soon as I saw it!”

Jenny Diaz is a Confidential Executive Assistant at Otay Water District

Leo Mendez, Accounting Supervisor at Olivenhain Municipal Water District

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

“I enjoy leading a team of bright people and working across different departments to ensure Olivenhain Municipal Water District maintains its strong financial position. The finance and accounting work is challenging, but it keeps my job interesting. It is rewarding to know that my work supports a public agency in providing water, an essential service, to our community in a sustainable and fiscally responsible manner.”

Leo Mendez is an Accounting Supervisor at Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The 2022 Faces of the Water Industry campaign features stories from 18 San Diego County water industry professionals in a series of social media posts and videos. Follow the Water Authority on Instagram (@sdcwa) to read more inspiring stories from the region’s water and wastewater pros – the Faces of the Water Industry.

California Virtual Water Career Fairs

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration and information technology. New and current water professionals can learn more about the industry in an upcoming series of free virtual career fairs hosted by various agencies in October

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

(Editor’s note: The Padre Dam Municipal Water District, City of Escondido, Otay Water District, and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are four of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Veterans Career Day

Water Industry Wants You: Military Career Day at Cuyamaca College

The Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and San Diego County water agencies are hosting a free career day August 10 for military veterans looking to transition into the water and wastewater industry. The in-person career day is 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cuyamaca College Student Center, 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon.

Registration is online at CenterforWaterStudies.org. The San Diego County Water Authority is co-sponsoring the military career day.

Many water agencies are hiring, and veterans have key skills needed to provide safe, reliable drinking water for San Diego communities.

Retirements spur need for water and wastewater industry workers

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region. Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

Veterans will have the opportunity to meet water agency recruiters, learn about industry pay and benefits, and receive advice on different career pathways and fast-track educational opportunities offered by the Center for Water Studies, which provides specialized training in water and wastewater operations.

“Warriors2WaterWorks” career day

The “Warriors2WaterWorks” career day will be filled with many opportunities for veterans entering the civilian work world:

  • Water agencies from throughout the San Diego region will be available at information booths with applications that may be filled out on the spot, job lists, and agency information.
  • An equipment demonstration will be on display for attendees to learn more about what kind of equipment and infrastructure they may work with in water jobs.
  • Tours of the Cuyamaca College Veterans Center and Center for Water Studies.
  • Among other speakers, Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez, a U.S. Navy veteran, will speak on “How Your Military Service Translates to a Career in the Water Industry” and San Diego County Water Authority Director of Water Resources Kelley Gage will give the lunch time keynote on “100 Years of US Military/Regional WaterWorks Collaboration.”
  • Other sessions include a panel of recently transitioned military personnel in the water industry and a panel of human resources professionals detailing the civilian employment process.
  • A Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) session will be given, to help translate the military career of a veteran to a civilian career with applicable skillsets.
  • Breakout sessions designed for active military and veteran/reservists. Military spouses are encouraged to attend.

Job Opportunities

In October 2020, The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies launched a website – SanDiegoWaterWorks.org – that provides the first comprehensive posting of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location. The San Diego Water Works website includes:

  • Current water and wastewater job postings in the San Diego region
  • Training and education resources, career advice and internship programs
  • Featured jobs that highlight rewarding careers in the water industry
  • Information about special training programs and internships for military veterans
  • Tips and resources for transitioning military

Edwin McBride-SkillBridge Program-Water Industry

Smooth Sailing Into SkillBridge for Navy Veteran Edwin McBride

Edwin McBride decided 20 years in the U.S. Navy wasn’t enough time in the water, so he dove into the SkillBridge Program to intern at the San Diego County Water Authority. The program is helping military veterans transition to career-track training opportunities, including work in the water and wastewater industry.

Despite his two decades away from the civilian workforce, McBride said he experienced an easy transition into his role as a Rotating Equipment Technician Intern as a part of the SkillBridge program.

“The day-to-day job I’m doing with these guys at the Water Authority in the rotating shop is really no different than what I’ve done on the ships,” said McBride. “Still working on pumps, piping valves, stuff like that.”

Smooth transition for Edwin McBride

Part of his smooth transition can be attributed to McBride coming into the internship with applicable training and job duties during his time in the Navy. Since the work he did in the Navy was skills based, McBride was able to gain multiple qualifications and certifications during his time there that are applicable to the water industry.

“Every time you rotate from one unit to another in the Navy, which is about every 3-5 years, you’re expected to take on a new job … and the Navy recognizes you’re going to need these skills to be proficient in that trade so you would do what we would call trade school,” he said.

After three to four months of school in between units, another certification or qualification is earned, and this is what McBride attributes to his collection of certifications in numerous mechanical disciplines.

SkillBridge Program a “win-win”

Since joining the federal program in June 2020, the Water Authority has had five SkillBridge interns working in various departments. The program is a win-win for both employers and the transitioning military service member – the military service member can work fulltime in a participating agency for the last 180 days of their active duty gaining valuable civilian work experience, and the employer gains early access to the extensive experience, skills, and unmatched work ethos service members bring to the workforce, all at a very low cost. The service member continues to earn his wages and benefits from the military during the internship.

McBride said he discovered the program after hearing a few of his friends talk about it and did his own research to see if there were any opportunities to intern in his desired field.

“I started digging around a little and there were a few mechanical ones [internships] and the Water Authority was one. In my career in the Navy I worked a lot with pumps, water movement, filtration, water treatment and figured it would be a pretty easy transition from military to civilian skills,” McBride said.

Job opportunities in water industry due to “silver tsunami”

Just two months into the program, McBride decided he would like to continue working in Southern California’s water industry, preferably at the Water Authority, after his time in SkillBridge and the Navy is complete.

“It’s been fun so far, two months in, four to go. I hope this leads to a full-time job in the industry,” McBride said.

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region.

Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

Ismael Hernandez-Skillbridge-military

SkillBridge Interns Explore Career Opportunities After Military Service 

The San Diego County Water Authority is providing training opportunities to military veterans looking for new careers in public service as part of the SkillBridge Program. The program is helping military veterans transition to career-track training opportunities, including work in the water and wastewater industry. 

Transitioning out of the military from a foreign county and coming back to the states is not an easy task, said Ismael Hernandez. In the case of Hernandez, now finishing his service in the Marine Corps, this involved finding new connections upon returning, leaving behind the military mindset of consistency in day-to-day life and figuring out his future career. 

Ismael Hernandez is interning at the San Diego County Water Authority as part of the Skillbridge Program. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

“I was lucky enough to have SkillBridge, but for other [military] members it’s not as easy,” Hernandez said.  

The Water Authority is the first public agency in California to participate in the U.S. Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, whichconnects transitioning military service members to career-track job training opportunities. Skillbridge interns continue to be paid their military salary and benefits.  The program was developed by the federal government to provide experience and future career opportunities to military members as they transition to civilian life.

Skillbridge Program a “win-win” for service members and employers 

Since joining the federal program in June 2020, the Water Authority has had four SkillBridge interns working in various departments. The program is a win-win for both employers and the transitioning military member – the military servicemember can work fulltime in a participating agency for the last 180 days of their active duty gaining valuable civilian work experience, and the employer gains early access to the extensive experience, skills, and unmatched work ethos service members bring to the workforce, all at no cost.

Hernandez heard about the program from a few of his fellow service members who saw the work he was doing and recommended he look into the program to prepare himself for the future.  

 “To set yourself up right after the military is very beneficial because the trend for many military members is to not get help at all or have bad living situations and I didn’t want that for myself,” said Hernandez. 

Valuable experience for future career

 Shengliang “Justin” Jin, is also a SkillBridge intern finishing his contract with the Navy. Like Hernandez, he is also working to prepare himself for his future after he leaves military service. SkillBridge is providing him the opportunity to gain experience in the career he wants to pursue.  

Shengliang “Justin” Jin is an intern with in the San Diego County Water Authority Finance Department. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Interning in the finance department while finishing his associates degree was Jin’s first step in getting his foot in the door. After spending some time in budgeting, Jin will move into the accounting division at the Water Authority. The move is important to Jin because he wants to add a wide breadth of experience to his resume while pursuing his college education.  

“I will be finished with my associates by the end of this year and plan on getting into a university by next fall,” said Jin.

Hands-on work for military vet

Currently, Hernandez is gaining experience in heavy equipment operations, vegetation management, and other duties related to construction. Hernandez said his intern experience in construction or electrical work is exactly what he hopes to be doing in the future.   

“I’m more of a hands-on person and I want to learn these trades,” said Hernandez.  

The hands-on work Hernandez has done so far has included working on pipelines, grading roads, as well as laying down cement and wires. While it’s different from the rigid schedule of the same day-to-day tasks Hernandez experienced in the military, he sees this as a learning experience and opportunity for his professional growth. 

Hernandez said his goal is to turn his SkillBridge internship into a job and career at the Water Authority.

“If military members believe that they can do it, that they can make something happen, they make it happen,” Hernandez said. “It’s challenging, but at the end of the day you have to keep pushing through and have that mindset and you’ll make it happen.” 

Water and wastewater industry job opportunities

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region.

Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.  

Veterans Career Day-Veterans Day-Work For Water-Military

Celebrating Veterans with a Career Day in Water

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies recognize military veterans for their service and actively recruit vets to fill new career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry. The San Diego County region employs about 4,500 water and wastewater workers, many of whom have successfully transitioned from the military to a new career.

Water and wastewater career day

The Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and San Diego County water agencies are hosting a free career day on January 19, 2022 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. for veterans looking to transition their careers into the water and wastewater industry. Many water agencies are hiring, and veterans have key skills needed to provide safe, reliable drinking water for San Diego communities.

Veterans will have the opportunity to meet water agency recruiters, learn about pay and benefits, and receive advice on different career pathways and fast-tracked educational opportunities. Registration is online at CenterforWaterStudies.org. The Water Authority is co-sponsoring the in-person event.

A transition to the water world

During a webinar hosted by the Water Authority, Leaders2020, and San Diego Green Drinks in October, Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez, a U.S. Navy veteran, spoke about his experience transitioning from the military to the water industry. One challenge Martinez faced was the difference in terminology used between the military and water industries.

As the Vice Chairperson of the American Water Works Association California/Nevada Veteran Engagement and Transition Committee, Martinez discussed the work being carried out to provide direct pipelines and pathways to the water industry. One such pipeline was Assembly Bill 1588, legislation championed by Otay Water District and the Water Authority that passed in 2019. The bill, sponsored by Todd Gloria and Adam Gray, provides experience and education credits toward State water and wastewater certifications.

Water Workforce Webinar

‘Silver tsunami’ of retirements in water industry

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region. Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

In October 2020, The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies launched a new website – SanDiegoWaterWorks.org – that provides the first comprehensive posting of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location. The San Diego Water Works website includes:

  • Current water and wastewater job postings in the San Diego region
  • Training and education resources, career advice and internship programs
  • Featured jobs that highlight rewarding careers in the water industry
  • Information about special training programs and internships for military veterans
  • Tips and resources for transitioning military

San Diego Water Works Website

(Editor’s note: For a story about the successful transition of military veterans to the water and wastewater industry, including a video of a USMC veteran working for the Vallecitos Water District, one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region, go to: waternewsnetwork.com/veterans-serving-public-in-water-industry-careers/)

Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Veterans Serving Public in Water Industry Careers

Water industry professionals and members of the U.S. armed forces have a shared commitment to serving the public. When they leave active-duty roles, military veterans tap their experience and skills to work in water sector jobs. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, recognizes the contributions of veterans to the San Diego region’s water industry on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

The San Diego County region employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, many of whom have successfully transitioned from the military to a new career. Vallecitos Water District Senior Water Systems Operator Richie Arballo said his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps planted the seed.

“Water, potable water, is always a great mission”

“My job in the military was a water support technician,” said Arballo. “I didn’t really know much about water. I just knew I loved working with water.”

At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Arballo worked with water distribution, water purification, and water installation.

“As a veteran, you’re trained to always complete your job,” he said. “You never leave anything undone. In the military, you never leave anyone behind. We know the mission comes first. Water, potable water, is always a great mission.”

Water and wastewater careers are a good fit

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Dr. Stuart Karasik, former training manager for the City of San Diego, listed these reasons why water industry careers are so well suited to veterans:

  • They develop leadership responsibilities early in their careers. Military squad leaders are frequently in their early 20s.
  • They respond calmly in stressful situations and maintain focus on their mission. Stressful situations can be the norm in the military and standard in the water sector.
  • They possess a personal sense of responsibility and duty.
  • There is consistent reinforcement of the importance of teamwork and individual responsibility to complete any mission.
  • They have good organization skills. Scheduling, planning, and workflow are critical activities in the water sector.
Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transitionn to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transition to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Arballo encouraged veterans to seek training at one of the many San Diego regional programs at community colleges, including Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies, Palomar College, CSU San Marcos, and National University. Options range from certificate programs to public administration and engineering degrees.

“If you are making the decision to get out of the military, don’t be scared,” said Arballo. “The military has prepared you to be very reliable and responsible. Employers out here, that’s what they’re looking for.”

For current jobs in the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry, go to: www.sandiegowaterworks.org/

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Members of the Rasmusssen family (L to R) Ed, Eric, and Howard Rasmussen. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Dinner Table Lessons Launch Water Industry Careers

Jobs in the water and wastewater industry provide stable employment in meaningful careers, delivering a vital resource families and businesses depend on. With half of all current employees expected to retire in the next 15 years, recruitment efforts hope to fill many of these essential positions.

Family ties provide a positive influence in filling these roles with the next generation of water professionals in several water agencies in San Diego County.

In many professions, exposure to career choices at the dinner table has a statistically significant influence. For more than four decades, the University of Chicago has tracked family and career trends in its General Social Survey. The survey found that younger generations often pursue careers due to early exposure to career paths, how they value certain skills, and even inherited aptitudes for building things or language.

Rasmussens share sense of pride

The Rasmussen family represents a collective 35 years of employment at the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water AuthorityThe Rasmussen family represents a collective 35 years of employment at the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Rasmussen family – (L to R) Eric, Craig, and Howard – represents a collective 35 years of employment at the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Three members of the Rasmussen family are currently employed at the Sweetwater Authority.

Howard Rasmussen started 24 years ago after several attempts to land an entry-level job. He was working in construction and looking for a change.

“They’re really great jobs,” said Rasmussen, who is now a Maintenance Lead Worker helping maintain multiple facilities. “It’s quite amazing and pretty gratifying knowing I’m contributing to my community.”

Seven years ago, son Eric Rasmussen followed his father into the profession after working for a decade at a home improvement retailer and pursuing an electrical apprenticeship. His water career started as a Utility Worker, and four years ago he was promoted to Equipment Operator.

“I really do love operating,” said Eric Rasmussen. “To tag along with what my dad said, it’s so awesome. You have a sense of pride. You want to make everything so perfect when it’s in your district. You don’t want to take any shortcuts.”

Eric’s brother Craig became the third Rasmussen to work at Sweetwater Authority after earning a college degree at San Diego State University. He works as a Watershed Caretaker.

Craig Rasmussen said he applied multiple times over five years before he was hired.

“It’s not like I was a shoe-in,” said Craig. “It gave me time to do some schooling. You just don’t want to let the family name down.”

Craig and Eric’s father is proud of his sons and co-workers.

“To have two boys work for the same company, for me it’s been a blessing,” said Howard Rasmussen. “Being here with my kids I hear how they work; I hear about their attitudes. I get complimented all the time what a great job I’ve done with my kids. Not many people experience that firsthand.”

All three Rasmussens encourage others to consider water industry careers.

“My dad taught me, this is your opportunity, you have to take it,” said Eric Rasmussen.

North County legacy spans three generations

Ed Pedrazzi (far right) in 1996 with brother Jon Sherwood (second from right) and Vallecitos Water District employees Joe Lomeli and Rocky Eltzroth. Photo: Courtesy Ed Pedrazzi family ties

Ed Pedrazzi (far right) in 1996 with brother-in-law Jon Sherwood (second from right) and Vallecitos Water District employees Joe Lomeli and Rocky Eltzroth. Photo: Courtesy Ed Pedrazzi

Family ties span three generations at four different water agencies in North San Diego County.

Ed Pedrazzi works at the Vallecitos Water District as Operations and Maintenance Manager. His niece, Jessica Sherwood, is a Water Resources Assistant at the Vista Irrigation District. Jessica’s father Jon Sherwood was a Water Operation Supervisor for the Vallecitos Water District. Grandfather Amos Sherwood worked at the San Dieguito Water District from 1960 to 1990, and her uncle Terry worked at the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

Ed Pedrazzi was hired to work in the Construction Department at Vallecitos in 1989. After completing courses at Palomar College, he became certified in Water Distribution and Treatment. Until his recent retirement from teaching, Pedrazzi taught modern water technology courses at Palomar to a new generation of professionals.

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood family ties

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Jessica Sherwood saw an opening at the Vista Irrigation District in 2012 for a meter reader and jumped at the chance, working her way up to her current position. She said her entire family has been a positive influence on her water industry career.

“My dad is a very open and honest person and sometimes it’s hard to follow in his footsteps, but I know he’s proud of me,” said Sherwood. “My Uncle Terry is a quiet and modest man but had the same outlook as my dad.

“I think my dad and uncle’s strong work ethics stem from my grandpa. Everything they taught me comes from him. He had both working for him at San Dieguito Water District during the summers when they were still in high school. I just have to say, that I’m very proud of these guys and it’s a pretty cool legacy to be a part of.”

Because they are at different agencies, Pedrazzi and Sherwood don’t cross paths during their work hours, but they sometimes see each other at training meetings.

“He’s only a city away or a phone call,” said Sherwood.

Study shows families influence career choices

Amos Sherwood worked for the San Dieguito Water District from 1960 – 1990 and rose to become superintendent there. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Amos Sherwood worked for the San Dieguito Water District from 1960 – 1990 and rose to become superintendent there. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Eric Rasmussen said family ties help, but family lessons learned and applied make the difference.

“With my dad leading the way, you can do nothing but give thanks to him and my mom for what we’ve been blessed with, and the ethics we possess,” said Eric.

Father Howard adds, “You may not think your kids are listening, but they do.”

(Editor’s note: The Sweetwater Authority, Vista Irrigation District, San Dieguito Water District, Vallecitos Water District and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District are five of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Career-Otay Water District-Faces of the Water Industry

Learn About Water Industry Career Opportunities From the Pros

Looking for a challenging and satisfying career? Current and aspiring professionals can learn about water industry career opportunities through the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” social media outreach campaign in October. 

The campaign, inspired by ACWA’s California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, highlights the San Diego region’s water and wastewater professionals and the essential work that they do to provide safe and reliable water supplies for 3.3 million people and a $253 billion economy. 

Water Industry Pros Share Their Stories

The Faces of the Water Industry campaign features the stories of 21 water industry professionals through a series of social media posts and videos. Beginning October 1, follow the Water Authority on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to read inspiring stories from the region’s water and wastewater pros.

Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician 

Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician, City of Escondido

“Growing up near the ocean, water always played an influential part in my life,” said Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician at the City of Escondido. “I always knew I wanted to work with water but wasn’t sure how until I was surfing with a close friend one day. He mentioned a nearby community college offered classes focused on water distribution. I decided to take a leap and try it out. The classes were appealing to me. Therefore I began a career in water distribution. Water is one of our most valuable resources, and I’m happy to protect it for the future. I find gratification in protecting the City’s water infrastructure.”

Laura York, Laboratory Analyst 

Laura York, Laboratory Analyst, Otay Water District

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is that it contributes to society. Water is a vital resource that all life depends on for survival,” said Laura York, Laboratory Analyst at Otay Water District. “As a lab analyst, I monitor water quality and protect public health by ensuring the water meets regulatory requirements and is safe for drinking. Working in the industry also provides lifelong learning opportunities as there are continuous challenges and the accompanying need for innovation and improvement.”

Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field) 

Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field), Sweetwater Authority

“I was inspired to work for a water agency because I knew that the work I would be performing on a daily basis would have an immediate impact on our customers and that the service that we provide is vital to everyday life,” said Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field) at Sweetwater Authority. “In addition, I knew that working for the Authority would not only bring me satisfaction but also help me and my family have a bright future.”

Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II 

Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II, San Diego County Water Authority

“Working in the water industry is very rewarding,” said Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II at the San Diego County Water Authority. “In the water industry I have had the opportunity to see and grow so much of San Diego. The people and the innovation that goes into providing water is fulfilling. Building infrastructure to ensure that the people around me can live, work and play is a passion of mine. I take pride knowing that I help provide water to the country. I look forward to continuingly growing in my career in the water industry.”

Upcoming Water Industry Career Webinars

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

The Water Authority and California Water Environmental Association (CWEA) is hosting free career webinars for new and current water professionals. 

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

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District, Sweetwater Authority, and the City of Escondido, are three of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Gerald Moore-SkillBridge Program-Water Jobs

Water Authority Taps SkillBridge Program for Talented Veterans

The San Diego County Water Authority is the first public agency in California to participate in the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, which connects transitioning military service members to career-track job training opportunities. The regional initiative is off to a fast start with two SkillBridge interns starting their civilian careers at the Water Authority this summer.

The Water Authority joined the federal program in June 2020, as part of an effort by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers.

‘Silver tsunami’ of retirements in water industry

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region. Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

SkillBridge Program interns served in Navy

The Water Authority’s Operations & Maintenance Department recently welcomed two SkillBridge interns, Gerald Moore and Jamaal Benjamin, who each bring more than 15 years of experience in the Navy.

“We have seen the skills and aptitudes they learned in the military directly transfer to their work at the Water Authority,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “At a time when a wave of retirements is impacting the water industry, the SkillBridge Program is an important way to meet our need for skilled workers.”

The Water Authority is benefitting from Moore’s background in operating and maintaining computer systems.

“The Water Authority is all about teamwork and service, and they’ve welcomed me to their team with open arms,” said Moore. “This is a new phase of my career and life. I’m excited to find out where this journey will take me.”

SkillBridge Program-Jamaal Benjamin-Military Veterans-Water Industry Jobs

“Having an opportunity to tap my military training and background in a civilian context is an ideal way to increase my career options in the water and wastewater industry,” said Jamaal Benjamin. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Benjamin is using his knowledge and experience working with complex electrical, electromechanical, and electrohydraulic systems to help maintain and repair critical water facilities.

“Having an opportunity to tap my military training and background in a civilian context is an ideal way to increase my career options in the water and wastewater industry,” said Benjamin.

Helping military veterans find jobs

A regional work group is implementing strategies to increase skilled workers for the water industry, with a focus on helping military veterans find jobs. Many of the Water Authority’s member agencies have also expressed interest in the SkillBridge Program.

“This is a unique opportunity to access a huge talent pool that can help us ensure the San Diego region will have the workforce to fill mission critical positions in the water industry,” said Christopher McKinney, chair of the regional work group and the director of utilities/assistant city manager for the City of Escondido.

Other regional efforts to help military veterans include state legislation co-sponsored by the Water Authority and Otay Water District that, when implemented, would provide a future avenue for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

Water industry job website

In addition, the San Diego County Water Authority maintains SanDiegoWaterWorks.org to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date list of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location, along with other information for veterans about career paths and internships.

SkillBridge Program

The Department of Defense created the SkillBridge Program in 2011 to give service members an opportunity to gain real-world training and work experience during their last 180 days of active service by interning at a civilian employer. The cost to partnering employers is minimal; employers pay no wages or benefits as service members continue to receive active duty pay and benefits during their internship.

For more information about regional job opportunities and training programs in the region’s water and wastewater industry go to: www.sandiegowaterworks.org/

Vallecitos Water District-water industry careers-veterans-jobs

Vallecitos Employee Encourages Veterans to Work in Water Industry

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump and Motor Technician Dale Austin is a strong advocate and one-person recruiting program, encouraging military veterans to consider water and wastewater industry careers. As an eighth-generation military veteran with 20 years of service, he successfully transitioned to his current profession and wants to help others do the same.

“Every job in the military can be transferred into a water agency,” said Austin. “I’m a proud veteran. I will support veterans 110% any way I can, any time of the day.

“One of the things I can tell a veteran preparing for a job or seeking a job within this field is be prepared. Prepare yourself. You’re always training for a deployment or another duty assignment. This job is no different.”

Half of all water and wastewater industry employees are expected to retire in the next 15 years. Many of those workers hold essential positions. The value of these essential workers became especially clear due to the pandemic.

Retirement wave creates career opportunities for veterans

In just the next five years, about 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open across the San Diego region. In addition to engineers and plant operators, the industry relies on technicians, accountants, electricians, mechanics, information technology specialists, and many other occupations.

Austin encourages veterans to explore their options through opportunities available for education and training, such as the certificate and degree programs at Cuyamaca College and Palomar College.

“Seek out volunteer programs. Seek out tours. Call a water agency. There are programs there. Take full advantage of those,” said Austin. “Go to job fairs. Read job postings, even if you don’t know what kind of job you may qualify for.”

Water and wastewater industry jobs allow veterans to continue serving their community by providing safe, sanitary water and ensuring public health and safety. Careers are stable with good salaries and benefits. Water and wastewater professionals serve in communities and agencies of all sizes.

“I want to do the best for the ratepayers. I really take pride in that.  I think the military instilled that in me. It’s a team environment here. It’s like a military coalition. I love working with my team. I believe the military helped me achieve that,” said Austin.

Vets receive credit for military experience and education

Skills acquired from military service translate well to water and wastewater industry jobs. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Encourages Veterans

Skills acquired from military service translate well to water and wastewater industry jobs. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

San Diego area veterans can learn about career opportunities at a dedicated web portal for veterans, SanDiegoWaterWorks.org.  New laws in California supported by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer credit for military education and experience when applying for industry jobs.

Austin especially encourages women veterans to consider water industry careers. “I work with great women leaders here [Vallecitos Water District]. Your career choices are endless. You’re focused on doing well. As a veteran, you have a hand up,” said Austin.

Austin said his 11 years working at the Vallecitos Water District feels like working in a military environment in positive ways.

“We take care of each other. Everyone helps everyone else. I love the sense of accomplishment and the sense of satisfaction of doing a job well,” said Austin. “A lot of our jobs are unrecognized by the public. You turn your tap on, you flush your toilet. Everything works. I get a sense of satisfaction with my group knowing we did a job well.”

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)