Amy Dorman, Deputy Director, Pure Water Operations, is pictured accepting the award for the City of San Diego. Photo: City of San Diego Utility of the Future Today

San Diego Public Utilities Department Honored for Sustainability

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department has been recognized as a “Utility of the Future Today” for its outreach efforts for the Pure Water San Diego Program.

The honor was bestowed today by a partnership of water sector organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, the WateReuse Association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The program recognizes the achievements of water utilities that transform from the traditional wastewater treatment system to a resource recovery center and leader in the overall sustainability and resilience of the communities they serve.

Pure Water Program ‘a national model’

“Being named a Utility of the Future Today further demonstrates the City’s commitment to producing a sustainable water supply for our citizens,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “The Pure Water Program is a national model for finding an innovative solution to our water needs.”

The City received the award at the Water Environment Federation’s 92nd annual Technical Exhibition and Conference held in Chicago from Sept. 21-25. The San Diego Public Utilities Department was previously honored as a Utility of the Future Today in 2016 for its efforts in community engagement and water reuse.

Forward-thinking, innovative water utilities

“We take pride in our work and are very honored to receive this recognition,” said San Diego Public Utilities Department Director Shauna Lorance. “We strive to provide the very best service to our customers, and that includes planning for the future.”

The Utility of the Future Today concept was first introduced in 2013. It celebrates the achievements of forward-thinking, innovative water utilities that are providing resilient, value-added service to communities, particularly in community engagement, watershed stewardship and recovery of resources such as water, energy and nutrients.

Pure Water San Diego is the City’s phased, multi-year program that will provide one-third of San Diego’s water supply locally by 2035. The Pure Water San Diego Program will use proven water purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. The program offers a cost-effective investment for San Diego’s water needs and will provide a reliable, sustainable water supply.

Sweetwater Authority Utility Worker II Julio Salazar's innovative new tool won recognition from the Association of California Water Agencies. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Sweetwater Authority employee

Award-Winning, Time-Saving Tool Created by Sweetwater Authority Employee

For his initiative in designing and creating a new tool designed to improve safety and efficiency on the job, Sweetwater Authority employee Julio Salazar won the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority  H.R. LaBounty Safety Award.

The award recognized Salazar for creating a ‘Large AMS Stabilizing Tool.’ Salazar’s design resulted in making the process of replacing 1.5 inch and two inch angle meter stops, or AMS, easier, more ergonomic, and safer.

“Our water professionals are industry leaders, finding new ways to work smarter and safer,” said Tish Berge, general manager. “Sweetwater Authority could not be more proud of Julio’s tool and much deserved recognition.”

The H.R. LaBounty Safety Award recognizes water industry employees who implement significant safety improvements to prevent occupational injuries/illness. Winners are recognized twice a year.

See a demonstration of the new award-winning tool.

Salazar, a Utility Worker II with Sweetwater, came up with the idea after talking with co-workers about ways to improve the process. In the past, replacing an AMS often required employees to break out the meter box in order to make enough space to fit large wrenches and tools.

The process was often awkward and difficult, adding strain on the employee who had to remove the AMS at an odd angle. The concrete panel would also need to be replaced, adding to the time, cost, and safety risk associated with the replacement.

The new tool is designed to secure the AMS using meter bolts, and can be placed in-line with the service lateral. Once secured, an employee can simply use an adjustable wrench to loosen or tighten the bottom nut on the AMS. It eliminates the need to break the meter box, and gives the employee a more comfortable, ergonomic grip while working. It also makes the process safer.

Salazar says the design is similar to existing stabilizing tools, but there was nothing quite the right size for the 1.5 inch and 2 inch AMS – until now.

Water industry professionals recognized for safety improvements

Sweetwater Authority Utility Worker II Julio Salazar displays his H.R. LaBounty Safety Award Sweetwater Authority employeerecognition certificate from the Association of California Water Agencies. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority Utility Worker II Julio Salazar displays his H.R. LaBounty Safety Award recognition certificate from the Association of California Water Agencies. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority – ACWA JPIA for short – is a partnership of water agencies dedicated to avoiding the high cost of commercial insurance. JPIA is a risk-sharing pool for property, liability, workers’ compensation and employee benefits, which allows for more rate stability for customers, broader coverage and expanded benefits and services than private insurance.

READ MORE: Proactive Partnerships Keep Pipelines In Top Shape


Water Industry Journal Highlights ‘Brought To You By Water’ Outreach

ACWA News, a publication of the Association of California Water Agencies, featured the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Brought To You By Water” campaign in its August 17 issue. The story, “San Diego Region Celebrates Water Reliability,” shares details about the successful partnership between the Water Authority and numerous business and community partners region to highlight the multi-billion dollar economic benefits of investments in safe and reliable water supplies for the San Diego region.

The feature story reports on outreach efforts planned by the Water Authority and its member agencies, including regional events for industry sectors, along with street fairs, farmers markets, and other opportunities to talk about water with residents. As a way to start conversations about water, the Water Authority is taking a giant beach ball — nearly 10 feet in diameter — branded with the Brought to You by Water logo that was signed by guests at the kickoff event for the outreach program in June.

Click here to read the full story.

Water Service Shut-Off Bill Opposed by Water Authority

A coalition of organizations, including the San Diego County Water Authority, is opposing proposed state legislation that would change existing water service shut-off procedures used by public water agencies when customers become significantly delinquent on water bill payments.

Senate Bill 998 by Senator Bill Dodd (Napa) would replace current shut-off processes, which are tailored by local water districts to meet the needs of their agency customers. Despite the absence of state data showing current policies create a significant problem in California, the bill would impose a new “one-size-fits-all” statewide program.

The bill, should it become law, would prevent service shut-offs for at least 60 days for delinquent customers; create a cap on reconnection fees that may or may not cover the associated costs; trigger Proposition 218 concerns for public water agencies; and expand authority of the State Water Resources Control Board and the Attorney General to enforce provisions of the bill.

SB 998 would effectively force agencies to subsidize the cost of providing service to delinquent customers. Agencies could be compelled to decrease their level of service to customers who have been paying in a timely manner by diverting resources to non-paying customers because the bill does not provide sufficient additional revenue to cover related costs.

While SB 998 is intended to assist residents with financial hardship, the bill fails to account for other disadvantaged customers, including seniors and the disabled, whose rates could increase as a result.

Another impact of SB 998 would be diverting resources from local health departments to preventing water service shut-offs, instead of the many critical services they currently provide to children, seniors and others. Despite its intent, SB 998 would harm ratepayers’ rights to safe and affordable drinking water – a violation of the “human right to water” adopted by the state.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors is on record opposing SB 998 and its cost-shifting policies, as is the Association of California Water Agencies.