Water Authority Wins Four Awards for Outstanding Projects

The American Public Works Association and American Society of Civil Engineers recently presented the San Diego County Water Authority with four awards for construction projects that exemplified outstanding skill, dedication and collaboration from staff in many departments. All of the projects were underway or completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and project teams navigated shutdowns, adapted to health and safety restrictions, and overcame many other uncertainties – in addition to typical challenges encountered during construction projects.

An employee looks into a section of pipeline. One of the projects receiving an award.

Water Authority Wins Four Awards for Outstanding Projects

The American Public Works Association and American Society of Civil Engineers recently presented the San Diego County Water Authority with four awards for construction projects that exemplified outstanding skill, dedication and collaboration from staff in many departments. All of the projects were underway or completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and project teams navigated shutdowns, adapted to health and safety restrictions, and overcame many other uncertainties – in addition to typical challenges encountered during construction projects.

1) APWA Project of the Year: Northern First Aqueduct Structures and Lining Rehabilitation

With extensive coordination between the Water Authority’s Asset Management, Operations, Maintenance, Right of Way, Water Resources, Engineering and Public Affairs teams, the First Aqueduct rehabilitation project was completed in early 2021. Significant work had not been performed on the First Aqueduct since the completion of Pipeline 1 in 1947 and Pipeline 2 in 1954. The Operations and Maintenance Teams worked closely with multiple member agencies to ensure no impacts to water deliveries over the extended shutdowns required to reline both Pipelines. These extended shutdowns allowed the Asset Management team to inspect 27 miles of pipeline along the aqueduct using innovative technologies – the first time this had been done in nearly 75 years.

“Since the project included more than 35 work sites spread out over 15 miles, many in rural areas of the county, we collaborated closely between different departments and member agencies to ensure that water service was not disrupted,” said Emma Ward-McNally, Water Authority engineer.

2) APWA Honor Award: Vallecitos 11/Vista Irrigation 12 Flow Control Facility

This new facility replaced the existing Vallecitos 2/Vista Irrigation 1 facility that was built in 1954. The Water Authority’s Operations and Maintenance team worked closely with the Engineering team to develop a construction sequence to build the new facility while maintaining water service to member agencies.

“A meticulous level of detail in the design process allowed for the project to be completed with minimal changes during construction,” said Jim Zhou, Water Authority senior engineer.

3) APWA Honor Award: San Diego 28 Flow Control Facility

The new flow control facility replaced the San Diego 12 flow control facility. The Water Authority’s Right of Way team worked closely with the City of San Diego to acquire property rights for the facility. During construction, electrical and rotating technicians from Operations and Maintenance provided support to ensure that the facility was constructed correctly and that electrical relay protection was coordinated when connecting to San Diego Gas & Electric.

“The new facility repurposed an existing building at the site, but it was forward-looking – the project included the installation of a second pipe train for a future inline hydroelectric turbine,” said Aaron Trimm, Water Authority senior engineer.

4) ASCE Award of Excellence: Pipeline 5 Emergency Repair

After nearby Pipeline 4 was repaired in late 2019, the Asset Management team inspected Pipeline 5 in early 2020, and found it needed repairs as well. Multiple Water Authority departments and teams collaborated to launch the emergency repairs on Pipeline 5, despite the uncertainty of the growing pandemic. The Engineering Contracts group executed five contracts and task authorizations for design, construction and inspection within a few weeks to make the project happen, and the work was completed in April 2020.

“The project was a true team effort that required collaboration from multiple departments to ensure that the emergency repair could be completed even as the region was shutting down due to the pandemic,” said Colin Kemper, Water Authority senior engineer.

New Report Offers Grim Details on Underinvestment in U.S. Water Infrastructure

According to the new report released this week by the American Society of Civil Engineers  and Value of Water Campaign, the United States is underinvesting in its drinking water and wastewater systems, putting American households and the economy at risk. The report, “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the U.S. Economy Recovery,” finds that as water infrastructure deteriorates and service disruptions increase, annual costs to American households due to water and wastewater failures will be seven times higher in 20 years than they are today — from $2 billion in 2019 to $14 billion by 2039.

Water Groups Call for More Funding as Way to Pull Nation out of COVID Recession

Decades of inadequate investment in water infrastructure has exacerbated the economic challenges faced by water and wastewater utilities in the era of COVID-19, according to a new report released Aug. 26 by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the U.S. Water Alliance’s Value of Water Campaign.


Advocating for Clean Water

As the nation’s water and wastewater treatment systems of pipes, pumps, and plants reach the end of their intended lifespan, investing in water infrastructure has dominated the utility landscape. In its most recent report card (2017), the American Society of Civil Engineers gave water infrastructure in the United States a D grade and the nation’s wastewater infrastructure a D+.

According to the US Water Alliance, 85 percent of Americans support increasing federal investment to rebuild our water infrastructure, yet there remains a significant funding gap between the amount of federal funds available and how much utilities and municipalities will need to ensure public health and safety in the coming years.

U.S. Infrastructure Needs Exceed $2 Trillion, American Society of Civil Engineers Says

As public spending on infrastructure declines, America will underinvest in its infrastructure by an estimated more than $2 trillion between 2016-2025, a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers says.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, public dollars spent on roads, bridges, water systems, and other infrastructure items fell by 8 percent between 2003 and 2017. And as the dollars spent on infrastructure fall, the damage to American pocketbooks increases.

Oroville Dam: Rebuilt Spillway Recognized for International Engineering Award

OROVILLE, Calif. — The American Society of Civil Engineers has recognized the Oroville Dam rebuild as one of 10 outstanding civil engineering projects.

Two runners-up and a winner will be chosen at the 2020 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement gala in Washington D.C. on March 13.

The California Water Environment Association of San Diego recognized Vallecitos Water District wastewater treatment plant supervisor Dawn McDougle as its 2018 Supervisor of the Year. Photo: Courtesy VWD

Vallecitos Supervisor Honored for 28 Years of Environmental Protection

From her first day on the job at Vallecitos Water District in 1988, Dawn McDougle knew that she wanted to finish her career at the San Marcos-based water agency.

Her dedication, innovation, and commitment to the community have paid off in many ways over the decades. In January, they brought McDougle to the forefront of the region’s water industry when the California Water Environment Association of San Diego recognized her as Supervisor of the Year for her career of excellence, safety and protecting the environment.

McDougle started at Vallecitos as an industrial waste technician at a time when few women performed this work. She advanced her career by taking classes and earning certifications – and she helped others by mentoring and coaching them along the way. In 2002, McDougle was promoted to wastewater treatment plant supervisor.

Career Accomplishments Benefit the Community

Over the past 16 years, McDougle played a major role in the operation and management of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility – recognized in 2009 with an Award of Excellence from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“It’s been an awesome road with the Vallecitos Water District, and I am always going to be grateful to say I spent my career here and achieved all the goals I wanted to achieve,” said MdDougle.

McDougle’s tenure at Meadowlark included the recent completion of a $30 million expansion to an important part of Vallecitos’ water supply program that reduces demand on imported water supplies for northern San Diego County. The facility produces recycled water for golf courses at La Costa and the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, several school sites, Legoland and the Carlsbad Flower Fields.

McDougle masterminded the use of new process units that extended the useful life of the Meadowlark plant well beyond 2030. With many constraints along the way, she kept the existing plant operating while constructing a new plant and meeting the plant expansion output goal of 5 million gallons per day.

McDougle’s staff at Meadowlark praise her extensive knowledge, her leadership, and her generosity in passing on her knowledge to others. “Dawn gave me an opportunity … She’s been great, she shows me what I have to do in order to be a successful operator. She’s top notch in this industry,” said Fernando Mata, Plant Operator.

The Meadowlark facility is visited frequently by students and ratepayers, because it provides an excellent opportunity to see how wastewater is converted to a valuable resource. Vallecitos developed successful outreach programs with McDougle’s guidance, including the California Water Environment Association “Wake up to Wastewater” tour, and the district’s award-winning Water Academy tour.

During the Water Academy tour, McDougle highlights how the district plays an integral role in protecting the environment through water reuse. It showcases an industry leader, who has spent her career making sure the district’s facilities live up to their promise.