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Water Utility Hero of the Week-Phil Stevens-Primary-Padre Dam MWD

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Phil Stevens, Padre Dam MWD

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. Phil Stevens, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Phil Stevens

Job/Agency: Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst

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

After serving in the military, I decided to attend college majoring in Biology. Upon graduation, I began searching for a field that is intellectually challenging, has an important role in the community, and contributes a positive impact in the environment. I found a job announcement for a laboratory analyst at Padre Dam Municipal Water District. I was not very familiar with the water industry at the time, but after doing further research it seemed like it would be a great fit for me. I have now been in this field for 18 years and still find this career very rewarding.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

As one would imagine, work done in a water quality laboratory cannot be done remotely. There have been staffing challenges when a member of the lab staff cannot come into work due to potential COVID-19 exposure or caring for a family member. Early on in the pandemic we also found it hard to get some of the supplies we needed.

How are you keeping safe?

I am keeping safe by following the health guidelines that have been established. My coworkers and I wear a mask and practice social distancing at all times and do our best to stay safe outside of work.

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

I miss my family and close friends very much and cannot wait to spend time with them. I am also looking forward to attending my children’s sporting events.

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.

Let Nature Be Your Guide: Compost vs. Mulch

You may not know the difference between compost and mulch, but your landscape soil does. Compost and mulch represent two different soil treatments with different advantages when used in a watersmart landscape plan.

Compost is made of organic matter such as food scraps, landscape debris, or livestock manure that have already been partially consumed and mostly decomposed by microorganisms. You cannot tell the original source of compost. Good quality compost brings the helpful OWL formula of oxygen, water, and life together in one package. It is used to amend your landscape soil by adding valuable nutrients it may be missing.

Mulch can be either organic or inorganic material that covers soil. Unlike compost, it’s not worked into the soil itself. Another difference is that the original recycled debris source of mulch is often identifiable. Mulch can be made from organic sources (grass clippings, leaf and yard litter, shredded wood trimmings) or inorganic sources such as gravel or decomposed granite (DG). Mulch is a soil topping.

Healthy, biologically diverse mulch contains microbes with the ability to “knit” the organic material together, forming a thick blanket. Mulch covers and protects the soil and plant roots from temperature swings, retains moisture by slowing down evaporation from the surface of the soil; and keeps weeds from sprouting by reducing sunlight penetration to the soil surface.

Top Tips for Using Compost

Compost the right way, including using compost as mulch to prevent erosion and help soil filter pollution. Photo: Ben Kerckx/Pixabay

Compost can be purchased, or it can be homemade. The compost-making process, or composting, involves creating the optimal conditions for the microbes to do their transformative work.

When compost looks like soil, you can work it directly into the soil. When compost is more coarse or has visible bits of the original materials, it is more likely used on top of the soil instead of as an incorporated soil amendment worked in.

Compost works in several ways. The compost itself contains particles that improve soil structure. Next, as compost decomposes in the soil, it encourages the formation of soil macroaggregates. These macroaggregates are composed of existing soil particles and decomposed organic matter, which combine to create a more stable and better functioning soil structure.

Top Tips for Using Mulch

Mulch builds soil structure over time and holds in moisture. Photo: Monsterkoi/Pixabay compost

Mulch builds soil structure over time and holds in moisture. Photo: Monsterkoi/Pixabay

Mulch always sits on the surface of your soil. It is never worked in. Recycled organic material is the most effective type of mulch because it builds soil structure over time. It creates a durable, protective barrier.

The smaller the debris pieces are, and the more mixed the organic pieces are, such as leaves with wood chips, the faster it decomposes. When building your soil, small mixed mulch is best. When compost is made from course materials like decomposed granite, you can also apply it to the top of your soil as mulch.

Artificial and inorganic mulches (DG, gravel, rubber chips) are mainly decorative. They do not contribute to soil life or plant health. They are best used in limited applications, such as creating natural pathways.

To learn more about your soil, sign up for Soil & Site Assessments virtual workshop.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Water Conservation Garden-#FreeDayFriday-conservation

Water Conservation Garden Growing Strong With New #FreeDayFriday Program

In a normal year, The Water Conservation Garden in east San Diego County provides resources and education for 88,000 children and families annually. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, meeting the Garden’s mission took a little extra effort and creativity.

To remain open after its initial closure and re-opening in June 2020, the Garden now charges a small admission fee. Thanks to the new #FreeDayFriday initiative, supported by a donation match through the Rice Family Foundation, more than $60,000 in contributions now allows the Garden to offer free admission on the second Friday of each month, starting February 12.

“We can now create #FreeDayFriday so every person in the community, no matter their ability to pay, can enjoy all the Garden has to offer,” said Jennifer Pillsbury, Water Conservation Garden executive director and CEO.

The Garden continues operations under safety modifications

Outdoor fitness classes including yoga are popular at The Garden. Photo: The Garden

Outdoor fitness classes including yoga are popular at The Garden. Photo: The Garden

Since its reopening to the public on June 16, the Garden continues to offer programs with modifications under California health and safety guidelines due to the pandemic, including limiting visitor admissions and requiring masks.

The Garden’s series of fitness and wellness programs remain on site, including outdoor bodyweight workout classes and yoga sessions. Classes take place mornings and evenings, including a family yoga program for kids. The full schedule is available on the Garden’s new website.

Pam Meisner, AKA Ms Smarty Plants, offers The Garden's elementary school education program virtually. Photo: The Garden (screenshot)

Pam Meisner, AKA Ms. Smarty Plants, offers the Garden’s elementary school education program virtually. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Garden’s elementary school education program featuring Ms. Smarty Plants is now available online for grades K-2 and 3-6, including full lesson plans and video. Safely distanced Family Field Trips are also available for schools, homeschool groups, and individual classes.

“Our garden, not only is it an educational site, but we have classes that coincide with how to make what you see at our garden happens, where to buy the supplies, and how to do it,” said Pam Meisner, director of operations and education and founder of the Ms. Smarty Plants program. “We are the go-to place in San Diego for sowing beauty with low water use plants.”

“We can’t survive without water. But people don’t value that. One of our reasons being here is to show them the value of water and make that part of your life,” added Meisner.

Classes on sustainability, gardening, and art are currently offered online. Professional one-on-one phone or video consultations on water harvesting, and how to set up, retrofit, and maintain your irrigation or landscape are available by reservation through the website at thegarden.org/consultations

To support the Garden through the ongoing #FreeDayFriday program, visit FreeDayFridays.org.

A task force of water agencies and municipalities conceived the Water Conservation Garden in response to six years of drought in San Diego County.

Otay Water DistrictHelix Water District, and Cuyamaca College kick-started the effort in 1990. By 1992, the San Diego County Water AuthorityCity of San Diego, and Padre Municipal Water District joined the effort, forming the original Water Conservation Authority.

The following year, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the establishment of a 4.5-acre Water Conservation Garden adjacent to Cuyamaca College.

San Diego County Water Authority-Tish Berge-Assistant GM

Tish Berge Joins Water Authority Executive Leadership Team

Veteran water industry executive Tish Berge is joining the San Diego County Water Authority as assistant general manager, bringing experience from every aspect of water utility management to serve the region. Berge is currently general manager of the Sweetwater Authority, one of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies. Berge starts her new role February 22 alongside Deputy General Manager Dan Denham and General Manager Sandra L. Kerl.

“Tish is a respected leader in San Diego County who understands the needs of retail water agencies and the communities we collectively serve,” said Kerl. “Her knowledge of all aspects of the industry will enhance our mission both day-to-day and over the long-term. I look forward to collaborating with her even more closely in her new role.”

Tish Berge led Sweetwater Authority to “District of Distinction” award

As general manager of the South Bay-based Sweetwater Authority since 2017, Berge led the agency to a “District of Distinction” award from the Special District Leadership Foundation for demonstrating sound fiscal management policies and practices. Only 2% of special districts receive that honor. Working with the Sweetwater Board and community, she deployed a new 5-year rate structure and associated award-winning outreach campaign to smooth rates and provide financial sustainability.

Before joining Sweetwater, Berge served as director of administration and finance at the Escondido-based Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, where she implemented a 10-year financial model to inform policy decisions related to debt issuance, Capital Improvement Projects, and rates. She also moved the organization to a two-year budget practice, allowing for longer-term planning and cost savings. Prior to her time at Rincon, Berge was the assistant general manager at the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority in Cardiff, where she oversaw administration, finance, operations, maintenance, and laboratory staff.

Tish Berge-Water Authority Assistant General Manager-leadership team

“While it saddens me to leave the Sweetwater community, I’m delighted to continue serving ratepayers across our great region as part of the Water Authority team,” said Tish Berge, who joins the San Diego County Water Authority as assistant general manager on Feb. 22. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

“While it saddens me to leave the Sweetwater community, I’m delighted to continue serving ratepayers across our great region as part of the Water Authority team,” said Berge. “This is both an exciting opportunity and a critical responsibility to help the Water Authority maintain its proud tradition of reliability and innovation that sustains 3.3 million people and a $245 billion economy.”

Berge earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine. She is also a Certified Special District Manager and Registered Professional Engineer.

Her appointment fills one of two executive positions left vacant by the Water Authority since April 2019 as part of the agency’s ongoing strategy to combat upward pressure on water rates outside the agency’s control.

Irrigation-Soil-roots-Conservation Corner your plants, use a soil probe. Photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels soil probe tips

Soil Probe Tips for Success

Knowing how to use a soil probe as an important soil management tool will support your effort to create a healthy, thriving landscape full of beautiful plants.

You need to first know as much as possible about your soil to understand your irrigation needs. Irrigation is critical to keep your landscaping green and growing. But more isn’t better. One way to easily gauge your landscape’s needs is to use the Jar Test.

Another helpful tool is a soil probe. A soil probe lets you determine a lot more information about the soils in your landscaping. It will give you information about whether your irrigation is successfully reaching the roots of your plants, or even if it soaks in too deep past the reach of plant roots.

If you don’t understand your individual soil profile, you can’t plan effective irrigation. When there is variability in the conditions across your landscape, you may have different types of soils from one area to another or from a surface layer of soil to a deeper layer.

A good soil probe will help you figure out when your irrigation water has reached the right depth for the plants in your landscaping. It is a simple process with the right tools.

How to use your soil probe

Use a soil probe to test how well irrigation dispenses into your landscape. Photo: Courtesy University of Florida/Creative Commons soil probe tips

Use a soil probe to test how well irrigation dispenses into your landscape. Photo: University of Florida/Creative Commons

When your soil is moist, a soil probe should go into the ground easily, without a lot of effort. Your soil probe will stop when it hits hard, dry dirt, and won’t go further. But your soil probe could also be hitting rock, so you may want to reposition it just a few inches away and try again.

If you are confident you’ve hit only dry soil, put your fingers around the probe at the soil surface, and pull it out. Measure the depth in inches to learn how deep your irrigation will penetrate into the soil.

To properly irrigate your plants, understand the depth of their roots. Trees send their roots much deeper into the soil than shrubs, and shrubs have deeper roots than bedding plants like annual and perennial flowers or vegetables.

Most plants will do fine as long as the top foot of soil (12 inches) is filled with water when you irrigate. Shrubs should be irrigated to a depth of two feet (24 inches), and trees irrigated to a depth of three feet (36 inches).

You can purchase a soil probe at any general hardware store or gardening center. A basic soil probe costs between $30 and $80, but there are high-tech probes costing up to $300.

To learn more about your soil, sign up for Soil & Site Assessments virtual workshop.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Scholarship applications-water industry jobs-water careers

Scholarship Applications Open for Aspiring Water Pros 

If you’re a student considering college studies leading to a career in the water and wastewater industry, several California water associations and San Diego regional member water agencies offer college scholarships.

Scholarships are available for community college, college, and graduate-level programs. Here are a few of the funding opportunities for study in the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Statewide water scholarships

Approximately 1,400 water and waster industry jobs will become available in San Diego County in the next five years. Photo: Water Authority scholarship application

Approximately 1,400 water and waster industry jobs will become available in San Diego County in the next five years. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

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

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

Deadline: March 1, 2021. WEF Scholarship Application Link

The California Water Environment Association is offering $30,000 in scholarships this year to students pursuing a career in the clean water profession. The deadline to apply for the CWEA Kirt Brooks Scholarship program is Feb. 15.

The Association of California Water Agencies offers a $3,500 scholarship to qualified applicants attending a University of California or California State University school pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water-resources related field such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, or public administration. The applicant must be a junior or senior attending full-time during the 2021-2022 school year.  Criteria include scholastic achievement and motivation to the vocation of water-resources management.

Deadline: March 1, 2021. ACWA UC and CSU Scholarships Application Link

The California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association awards more than $20,000 in scholarships supporting students and professionals pursuing careers in a drinking water-related field. Two $5,000 graduate scholarships and four $2,500 undergraduate scholarships are available. Two additional $1,000 scholarships fund training as a drinking water treatment/distribution operator in trade or community college programs.

Suitable candidates include environmental and civil engineers; water, wastewater, and recycling treatment plant operators; distribution system operators; chemists; laboratory technicians; biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists; and others whose roles support safe and reliable drinking water.

Deadline: March 15, 2021 AWWA Scholarship Application Link

 

Eight local scholarships are available from two member water agencies for students in the North County and East County. Photo: Water Authority

Up to eight local scholarships are available from two member water agencies for students in the North County and East County. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

San Diego regional water scholarships

The Helix Water District offers two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors who will begin their university studies next fall. Applications are due April 1 for the Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship and the Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship, which provide help with freshman year expenses. The scholarship committee reviews each applicant’s grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, academic and career goals, and financial need.

High school seniors must graduate in Spring 2021 and attend a four-year college or university next fall. Applicants must live in Helix’s service area, including the cities of Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and El Cajon, the community of Spring Valley, and unincorporated areas of the county.

Deadline: April 1, 2021. Helix Water District High School Students Scholarship Application Link

The Vista Irrigation District offers up to six scholarships to high school students living or attending school within the district. Awards range from $1,000 to $3,000. The purpose of the scholarship program is to encourage students to learn more about water-related issues impacting their community. Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service and letters of recommendation from high school faculty.

Deadline: April 5, 2021. Vista Irrigation District High School Students Scholarship Application Link.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of experienced employees reaching retirement age. With approximately 1,400 water and wastewater jobs expected to open up across San Diego County in the next five years due to retirements, water industry careers offer promising lifelong professional opportunities. For more information, visit sandiegowaterworks.org

Set yourself up for landscaping success by building the best foundation in your soil structure. Photo: walkersalmanac/Pixabay

Oxygen, Water, and Life Create Healthy Landscape Soil

Your landscaping soil needs three things to feed the billions of microbes within it to transform brick-hard, lifeless dirt into healthy, living soil sponges: oxygen, water, and life. Think OWL to remember these important, interconnected factors.

Oxygen lets microbes breathe free

Oxygen is needed by healthy plant roots and soil organisms. Healthy soil has lots of tiny little pockets of air. When soils are eroded, graded, or disturbed, their structure becomes compacted and hard. Compaction takes place when tiny air and water bubbles are squeezed out of the soil. This kills the healthy microbes working to keep your soil replenished. Microbes can be killed by fertilizers, pesticides, or even heavy traffic from people or vehicles. 

Water for your microbes and plants

Microbes and plans both need water to live. But too much water in your soil will displace oxygen, saturating the soil. This creates an anaerobic condition. It is the unhealthy microbes like bacteria, viruses, or parasites that prefer anaerobic soil. If this condition persists, diseases may develop. They will endanger the health of your garden.

Water is constantly moving through the soil. Water in the soil needs to be replenished as plants use it, as it evaporates from the soil surface, and as gravity pulls it down past the root zone of your plants.

Bring your soil to life

The microbes consume organic matter, and then they are consumed by bigger creatures (worms, ants, slugs, centipedes, larvae, etc.). They are consumed in turn by creatures further up nature’s food chain. Photo: Malcolm Fowles, Wikipedia

The microbes consume organic matter, and then they are consumed by bigger creatures (worms, ants, slugs, centipedes, larvae, etc.). They are consumed in turn by creatures further up nature’s food chain. Photo: Malcolm Fowles, Wikipedia

Life in the soil includes all the bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and fungi, the food they eat, the excretions they make, and the root systems they sustain. Living microbes are most quickly incorporated into your soil by adding high-quality compost.

Plants attract microbes to their roots by feeding them carbon. Bacteria and fungi hold the soil together with microscopic glues and binders. The microbes consume organic matter, and then they are consumed by bigger creatures (worms, ants, slugs, centipedes, larvae, etc.). They are consumed in turn by creatures further up nature’s food chain.

Carbon and other nutrients cycle through these many life forms, creating healthy living soil, no matter what the soil type.

Without any of these elements, your landscaping will not thrive. Organic matter, planning and some labor may be involved, but creating healthy soil using the OWL method –  Oxygen, Water and Life – will pay off in reduced maintenance, reduced inputs, reduced pollution on land and in our waterways, and the beauty of your thriving, healthy landscape.

 

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

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

Women in Water Symposium

The fourth annual Women in Water Symposium in March will be online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Previously hosted at Cuyamaca College, symposium sessions will be each Thursday starting March 2. This year’s conference theme is “Flow With The Change.”

Three specific career level tracks are offered to address needs at each level: entry-level for those new to water careers; mid-career for those transitioning and advancing within the industry; and upper level, for senior professionals looking to leave a legacy.

Session topics include negotiation skills; diversity, equity, and inclusion; dealing with change; the impact of COVID-19; and building a sustainable career. Program elements for all tracks are designed to create a larger community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

The symposium is an opportunity for students, water industry professionals, and people exploring careers in the water and wastewater industry, to make connections.

“The Women in Water Symposium made it possible for me, as a young graduate student, to meet experienced, female engineers at any moment, from breakfast to sessions and everything in between,” said Alma Rocha, a San Diego State University graduate student studying environmental engineering.

“I got to meet so many amazing people and help them out with referrals to jobs and events that might help their career, ” said Alec Mackie with the California Water Environmental Association. “A very rewarding event.”

Vanessa Murrell, Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges grant manager, said the conference is open to anyone, and this year is not limited by location by being held in a virtual environment.

Nurturing the next generation of water professionals

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl is a longtime supporter and speaker at the Women in Water Symposium series at Cuyamaca College. Photo: Cuyamaca College

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl is a longtime supporter and speaker at the Women in Water Symposium series sponsored by Cuyamaca College. This year’s symposium will take place online. Photo: Cuyamaca College

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the “Silver Tsunami” of experienced employees reaching retirement age. The task force reports approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region. More than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators in California earn an annual average wage of more than $72,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Registration is $25 and free to students. Attendees only need to register once for all symposium sessions. Participants can attend any session from all three tracks. Register here.

Compare your soil to these diagrams to determine your landscaping's soil composition. You can then adjust amendments to reach the optimum mix. Illustration: SDCWA Jar Soil Test

Improve Your Landscaping Soil With a Soil Test

One of the first steps in your landscape makeover project involves preparing the soil to allow efficient use of irrigation. San Diego County soil quality needs a lot of help. The area is defined by impermeable soils with poor infiltration areas. Water doesn’t flow through the soil to replenish the groundwater, because it is made primarily of clay which is too dense.

In impermeable soils, irrigation doesn’t soak evenly into the ground, or flow through living soil and plants in a healthy way. No matter where you do your landscaping, you need to put in some work to improve your soil structure as much as possible. Irrigation will be more efficient and more cost-effective, and your landscape plants will receive the nutrients and water they need to flourish.

Check for particle size

Before you can build better soil, you need to figure out what type of soil you are working with. The three basic types of soil are:

  • Clay: Soil made up of the smallest particles
  • Silt: Soil made up of a mixture of particle sizes
  • Sand: Soil made up of the largest particles

In general, sandy soil drains faster than clay soil, because there is more space among the larger sized particles. Soil structure also influences soil quality. Lifeless, compacted sandy soil will not absorb water, while healthy clay soil will be more sponge-like, holding and releasing water when needed.

Learn your soil type using the jar test

Some tests can be done onsite to figure out what kind of soil you have. Others require lab analysis. Certain conditions require specialized tests, such as soil used for food production or soil receiving a lot of stormwater.

For most landscaping projects, you can test your home landscaping soil yourself. Watch the video, then follow these directions for a “Jar Test.” This is a fun science project to do with kids.

  1. Use a one-quart size glass container.
  2. Add one cup of soil from the garden. You can select one area or take samples from several areas and blend them together.
  3. Add three cups of distilled water.
  4. Close the jar and shake it until all the soil solids are suspended in water.
  5. Put the jar on a shelf and wait 24 hours.
  6. If the container is still cloudy, wait another 24 hours.
  7. After 48 hours, the soil layers should be settled on the bottom.
  8. Measure the layers in proportion to each other, with the total adding up to 100 percent.
  9. Sand will be on the bottom, silt in the middle, and clay on top.

Refer to the graphic to determine your soil type, based on the proportions of sand, silt, and clay.

Compare your soil to these diagrams to determine your landscaping's soil composition. You can then adjust amendments to reach the optimum mix. Illustration: SDCWA Jar Soil Test

Compare your soil to these diagrams to determine your landscaping’s soil composition. You can then adjust amendments to reach the optimum mix. Illustration:  San Diego County Water Authority

Which jar does your home sample look most like? You will be able to work with your soil type to improve its condition, providing the best possible foundation for your landscaping plants and the most efficient irrigation.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

National University's new four-year degree program will help water and wastewater employees advance in their careers. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources,

New Regional Degree Program Responds to Water and Wastewater Workforce Needs

Driven by the rapidly growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry, National University and Cuyamaca College will launch a new degree pathway program starting in February 2021.

Developed in collaboration with regional employers, the new Bachelor of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Waterworks Management provides a seamless pathway for graduates of the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies to transfer into the bachelor’s program after earning their associate’s degree. Transfers are also available to graduates of other community colleges.

“Responding to regional workforce needs, National University and Cuyamaca College are excited to roll out the Waterworks Management academic pathway, informed by industry leaders,” said Dr. Sara Kelly, academic program director at National University. Transfer scholarships are available for qualifying students.

Transfer program reduces completion time, cost

The new degree program will build capacity to train the waste and wastewater workforce of the future. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources

The new degree program will build capacity to train the waste and wastewater workforce of the future. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources

The new collaboration allows students to complete both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree while reducing the time and cost. Student support services at both institutions help foster a seamless process for students to transfer from Cuyamaca College to National University.

“Working collaboratively with National University, we can help our region and state respond to the need for skilled and educated water and wastewater professionals,” said Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes. “We know that with impending retirements in the industry, there will be a need for 12,000 to 20,000 water and wastewater professionals throughout the state in coming years.”

As current seasoned leaders retire, water and wastewater agencies struggle to fill job vacancies requiring a focused bachelor’s degree. Students earning the new degree will complete National University’s four-course concentration of upper-division courses studying water and waterworks management and leadership, water law and compliance, and human resources and labor law.

Graduates will be able to address the issues and challenges facing water and wastewater agencies at the state, regional, and local levels, including governing requirements and regulatory compliance while employing water management best practices.

Courses taught by water industry professionals

The new collaboration between National University and Cuyamaca College also welcomes Cuyamaca alumni into the program. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

The new collaboration between National University and Cuyamaca College also welcomes Cuyamaca alumni into the program. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Dr. Joseph Allen, Director of Community College Pathways at National University, said the curriculum was constructed based on the insight and recommendation of regional employers, coordinated by Cuyamaca College and the San Diego County Water Authority.

“There was a need for highly trained leadership in this industry,” said Allen. “This program provides a bachelor’s solution to train the management and leadership in the specific leadership areas needed in addition to the Associate’s degree in this field. Cuyamaca College has a solid program for the technical side and the frontline workers. Our new program is the next step in preparing the leaders of tomorrow for waterworks management.”

The program took more than a year to develop. Qualified water industry professionals from the Water Authority, regional member agencies, and consulting experts will teach courses.

“There is phenomenal talent in connection with this program, from around the world and not just San Diego,” said Kelly.

Cuyamaca College’s innovative Center for Water Studies program is the oldest and most comprehensive of its kind in the California community college system. It prepares students for careers at water agencies as technicians, mechanics, electricians, engineers, plant operators, information technology specialists, and more. Program alumni are eligible for the National University program.

Degree program launches in February 2021

National University offers all courses online, starting with the first cohort of students in the program in February 2021. Administrators plan to eventually offer onsite and hybrid courses involving the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies field operations skills yard for hands-on experience.

As a veteran-founded, private nonprofit institution, National University is dedicated to serving service members, veterans, and their families. This new BPA waterworks concentration is particularly well suited for veterans using their GI benefits to further their education. Veterans are eligible to apply their military experience and education toward certifications in the water industry.

“There are so many different pathways in life,” said Allen. “Whether you’re 18, whether you’re older. You’ve got family, children, and deployments. We’re going to put you on the right pathway to help you reach your final destination in your career.”

BPA program information is available on the National University website.