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Safe Work Practices Earn Sweetwater Authority An Insurance Refund

Chula Vista, Calif. – On March 23, 2022, Sweetwater Authority (Authority) received a refund check of $211,954 from the Association of California Water Agencies-Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA).

“The Governing Board is so proud of staff for their hard work and commitment to safety. We appreciate their efforts and the positive impacts that these sorts of refunds have on our budget,” said Chair Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.

Multiple Water and Wastewater Industry Awards Won by City of Escondido

The City of Escondido scored wins in three categories at the annual California Water Environment Association awards on January 29. CWEA is California’s oldest and most prominent association of water protection professionals.

Hale Avenue Facility Named San Diego Section Wastewater Plant of the Year

The City of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility, HARRF won the 2022 Wastewater Plant of the Year Photo: City of Escondido wastewater industry awards

The City of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility, or HARRF, won the 2022 Wastewater Plant of the Year Photo: City of Escondido

The City of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) won the 2022 Wastewater Plant of the Year (Medium Category). The HARRF is designed to treat up to 18 million gallons per day from the City of Escondido and the Rancho Bernardo area of the City of San Diego. The plant operates 24 hours a day, producing recycled water for the City of Escondido, along with organic materials called biosolids for beneficial reuse in Yuma, Arizona as agricultural soil amendments.

Professional staff make use of technology to manage plant operations with real-time information. A significant outcome is the consistent production of high-quality effluent, which allows the HARRF to drastically reduce chemical use in producing recycled water.

The City of Escondido wastewater department continually strives for the most cost-effective and process-minded maintenance program to minimize emergency calls or system failures. Over the past five years, the maintenance department has seen a reduction in emergency callouts by 75% by implementing an aggressive preventative maintenance and testing program.

Collection System of the Year Award

Escondido also won recognition for Collection System of the Year (Medium Category). The City of Escondido has 380 miles of collection system pipelines, dating back to 1928. As the system ages, aggressive maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement are imperative. The 16-person team cleans all 380 miles in the system annually. Older lines at risk of failing get priority replacement.

Where acceptable, crews rehabilitate lines with liners as a relatively inexpensive alternative to digging trenches for complete replacement. The liners have a 25- to 30-year lifespan. In 2021, 1,112 linear feet of pipeline were relined. Open trench replacement work was performed on 450 feet of pipeline.

Jorge Huitron Honored as Laboratory Analyst of the Year

Jorge Huitron (second from right) receives his award as Laboratory Person of the Year. Photo: City of Escondido wastewater industry awards

Jorge Huitron (second from right) receives his award as Lab Analyst of the Year. Photo: City of Escondido

Escondido Lab Technician II Jorge Hutiron’s outstanding work won recognition with the Lab Analyst of the Year award.

Huitron conducts complex water and wastewater analyses, from bench chemistry to bacteriological assessments, sample setup, data entry, and clean-up. His work assures all water supplies are safe for users.

Huitron trains both new and seasoned Escondido employees based on four decades of experience. Colleagues comment they learn something new from Huitron, even those with years of experience.

“Incredible asset”

“Jorge has been an incredible asset,” said Ralph Ginese, Supervising  Chemist, who nominated Huitron. “There really isn’t anything Jorge does not do. We are thankful to have him working with us.” Ginese said the 66-year-old veteran professional did his work so quietly over the years, it took the coronavirus pandemic to call attention to his effort, expertise, and value as a team player.

The nomination also cites Huitron’s ability to keep morale high during the pandemic through his leadership, teamwork, training, sharing, and empathy, along with ongoing consistency and reliability. “Jorge has a gleam in his eye, pride as he watches his colleagues learn from his experiences,” wrote Ginese in his nomination. “Laughter and smiles cross everyone’s face as he shares his stories of failures and success. Up until last year, this part of Jorge has been hidden. He now encompasses every attribute of what it means to be Laboratory Person of the Year.”

Each of the 20 CWEA award categories honors exceptional CWEA members and California wastewater professionals, facilities, and agencies. The program seeks to recognize outstanding achievements within the wastewater field, improve the professional status of all personnel working in the wastewater industry and related fields and stimulate public awareness of the importance of wastewater treatment to public health and the water environment.

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

The popular dining deck at award-winning Santee Lakes. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Santee Lakes is Park of the Year

The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds named the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve its Park of the Year in the Large Park category for its guest experience and overall excellence.

The association, or ARVC, also recognized Santee Lakes as a “Plan-It Green Friendly Park of the Year” for its environmentally-friendly practices across all park operations and its commitment to sustainability. Judges make their decision based on several criteria: guest experiences, all-around excellence in operations, professionalism, marketing, customer service, and industry involvement.

Both awards were presented at the 2021 Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo. Park Director Laura Koval accepted the awards in person on behalf of Santee Lakes.

“Despite the numerous challenges we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Santee Lakes still managed to embrace our family-friendly camping culture and create a much-needed respite from stressors in the world,” said Koval. “As one guest said, “First campground I’ve been to in a while that feels like home.”

Santee Lakes Park Director Laura Koval accepted the awards in person on behalf of Santee Lakes. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water DistrictSantee Lakes Park Director Laura Koval accepted the awards in person on behalf of Santee Lakes. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Santee Lakes Park Director Laura Koval accepted the awards in person on behalf of Santee Lakes. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Santee Lakes “a shining star”

“The ARVC Park of the Year Awards showcase excellence at so many levels, and Santee Lakes is a shining star reaching the highest level of recognition,” said ARVC President and CEO Paul Bambei. “To win both Park of the Year and Plan-It Green Park of the Year in 2021 is quite an accomplishment, and it shows the high level of excellence Santee Lakes provides its customers, employees, and community.”

In addition to its most recent honors, Santee Lakes was also named to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s “Best 2021” reader poll in the categories Staycation Location, Scenic Spot, San Diego Attraction, Entertainment Venue, Place to Get Married, and Hiking Trail. It also won “Favorite Place” from the Santee Chamber of Commerce and San Diego’s Reader’s Poll as one of its “Favorite Places to Get Married.”

Sixty years of community recreation

Fishing remains among the favorite activities. Santee Lakes was recenty stocked with rainbow trout for the winter season. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Fishing remains among the favorite activities. Santee Lakes was recently stocked with rainbow trout for the winter season. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Santee Lakes celebrates 60 years of operation in 2021. In 1959, the Santee County Water District, now the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, initiated a then-unique project of recycling wastewater for irrigation and commercial uses. As part of the treatment process, a chain of seven individual lakes was developed. Boating and fishing were authorized in 1961, and Santee Lakes opened to the public.

Today, Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve hosts over 760,000 visitors annually. The 190-acre park’s lakes are stocked with fish year-round, most recently on December 17. Other amenities include camping, cabin rentals, fishing, boating, playgrounds, walking trails, facility rentals, special events, and approximately 230 bird species.

Santee Lakes is self-sustaining

The park is owned and operated by Padre Dam Municipal Water District. However, it is self-sustaining and receives no funds from water or wastewater ratepayers. The Park operates from guest user fees, grants and awards, collaborations with community groups, and sponsorships.

“We are humbled to receive these honors, especially during the year of our 60th anniversary,” said Koval. “The staff has worked tirelessly to maintain Santee Lakes as an environmentally sustainable and premier destination. These awards will be cherished for many years to come.”

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

2021 ARVC Large Park of the Year and Plan-It Green Park of the Year

Santee, Calif. – Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve has been named Plan-it Green and Large Park of the Year by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). This prominent recognition was awarded during the recent 2021 Outdoor Hospitality Conference & Expo (OHCE).

Water News Network-honored-Pure Water Oceanside

Water News Network Website Honored

The Water News Network was honored with awards from several organizations recently, including the Public Relations Society of America.

On November 18, the WNN received a Bronze Bernays Award of Merit in the websites category from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) San Diego/Imperial County chapter. It is the second consecutive year the WNN website has received this award.

Now in its fourth year of operation, the WNN is recognized as a reliable source of factual information upholding the standards of journalism to provide news about the water and wastewater industry to the San Diego region and the Southwest United States.

Honored by San Diego Press Club

In October, the WNN website was awarded first place as the Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website by the San Diego Press Club. It is the fourth consecutive year the WNN has received this honor.

Water News Network staff also received three awards from the San Diego Press Club in 2021:

  • Kimberlyn Velasquez, second place in the Photography-Video category for her video “Hydroelectric and Pressure Control Facility Upgrades,” which focused on the replacement of two truck-sized valves in central San Diego.
  • Ed Joyce, second place in the Series-Light Feature category for the WNN series “Water Utility Hero of the Week,” about the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry employees working during the coronavirus pandemic, and third place in the Environment Reporting category, for the original WNN story “La Niña and California’s New Water Year.”

The Water News Network was given an EPIC Award in 2020 as the Best California Public Agency Website by CAPIO (California Public Information Officers Organization). CAPIO EPIC Awards recognize the “best of the best” in government communications throughout the state.

The Water News Network specializes in covering water and wastewater industry stories in the San Diego County region, focusing on the people and projects that ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply flows to the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $253 billion economy.

(Editor’s note: News about the water and wastewater industry published in the Water News Network would not be possible without the contributions from the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies, that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Vista Irrigation District Honored for Governance and Transparency

The Vista Irrigation District has received two major statewide honors, the District of Distinction Platinum Recognition award and the Transparency Certificate of Excellence.

The District of Distinction recognition is awarded by the Special District Leadership Foundation to special districts that show their commitment to good governance, transparency, prudent fiscal policies and sound operating practices.

Vista Irrigation District-governance-tranparency-statewide awards

Vista Irrigation District Honored for Governance and Transparency

The Vista Irrigation District has received two major statewide honors, the District of Distinction Platinum Recognition award and the Transparency Certificate of Excellence.

The District of Distinction recognition is awarded by the Special District Leadership Foundation to special districts that show their commitment to good governance, transparency, prudent fiscal policies and sound operating practices. The district originally obtained its accreditation in 2009 and just received its most recent reaccreditation.

District of Distinction – governance and transparency

Platinum recognition is the highest level of recognition for a district and requires completion of all Special District Leadership Foundation programs demonstrating a comprehensive approach to excellence in district administration and government; the district is one of only ten special districts statewide to obtain District of Distinction Platinum recognition.

Transparency Certificate of Excellence

In addition to the District of Distinction award, the district received the Transparency Certificate of Excellence in recognition of its efforts to promote transparency in operations and governance to the public; 145 special districts in the state have received this certificate.

There are over 2,000 independent special districts in the state of California that provide essential services such as water, sewer, fire protection, and parks and recreation.

Both the District of Distinction and Transparency Certificate of Excellence awards require the district to meet numerous criteria, including training elected officials and staff, adopting financial, public information and conflict of interest policies, properly conducting and communicating open and public meetings, performing outreach efforts to constituents, and meeting twenty different website requirements.

The awards were presented at the recent California Special District Association annual conference.

The Special District Leadership Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization formed to promote good governance and best practices among California special districts through certification, accreditation and other recognition programs.

Vista Irrigation District is a public agency governed by an elected five-member board. The district provides water service to roughly 135,000 people in the city of Vista, and portions of San Marcos, Escondido, Oceanside, and unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

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

National Awards for Pure Water San Diego’s John Carroll

John Carroll, the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Treatment Plant superintendent, received the 2021 Robert O. Vernon Membrane Plant Operator of the Year Award from the American Membrane Technology Association and the American Water Works Association.

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to water supply improvement by an individual working at a membrane filtration, desalination, and/or water reuse facility. Carroll was selected in recognition of his service and dedication to membrane operations and for his leadership within the industry.

“My selection would not have been possible without the support of many dedicated and talented individuals, the fellow coworkers, consultants, and volunteers to whom I owe all my success,” said Carroll.

John Carroll worked as the senior wastewater operations supervisor of the North City Water Reclamation Plant, where he oversaw the operation of the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Demonstration Facility. Photo: City of San Diego Pure Water San Diego

National Awards for Pure Water San Diego’s John Carroll

John Carroll, the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Treatment Plant superintendent, received the 2021 Robert O. Vernon Membrane Plant Operator of the Year Award from the American Membrane Technology Association and the American Water Works Association.

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to water supply improvement by an individual working at a membrane filtration, desalination, and/or water reuse facility. Carroll was selected in recognition of his service and dedication to membrane operations and for his leadership within the industry.

“My selection would not have been possible without the support of many dedicated and talented individuals, the fellow coworkers, consultants, and volunteers to whom I owe all my success,” said Carroll.

Carroll plays key role in Pure Water Demonstration Facility

John Carroll will become Pure Water San Diego's first superintendent. Photo: City of San Diego

John Carroll will become Pure Water San Diego’s first superintendent when it is completed. Photo: City of San Diego

Carroll worked as the senior wastewater operations supervisor of the North City Water Reclamation Plant, where he oversaw the operation of the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Demonstration Facility.

“When Pure Water came along, we needed staff to step up,” said Tom Rosales, Assistant Director for the San Diego Public Utilities Department. “John established protocols and procedures. He participated in training incoming staff. He led public tours. I can’t overstate his involvement from day one.”

From student to teacher

“Since I had no operational experience with Advanced Water Treatment technologies prior to my role at the City’s Pure Water Demonstration Facility, my approach was that of a student, with the caveat of knowing I would need to become a teacher out of necessity to build our internal knowledge,” said Carroll.

In July, Carroll was promoted to be the first superintendent of the North City Pure Water Facility, currently under construction. It is the latest step in a career that started with a part-time job in the City’s Lakes Division. He studied water and wastewater treatment at Palomar College and completed the Water Authority’s Regional Water/Wastewater Internship Program in 2009, launching his career with the City of San Diego in plant operations.

“The encouraging and supportive public servants I’ve met throughout my career continue to add to my sense of community here,” said Carroll. “Ultimately, I like to think I am following in my mother’s footsteps who worked at the City’s Otay Water Treatment Plant.”

National award recognizes Pure Water San Diego

Senior Wastewater Operations Supervisor John Carroll gives viewers a bird's eye view of the facility. Photo: City of San Diego

Senior Wastewater Operations Supervisor John Carroll gives viewers a bird’s eye view of the facility. Photo: City of San Diego

Each year, AMTA confers multiple awards to recognize exceptional individuals and organizations like John Carroll and Pure Water San Diego for their efforts in advancing the understanding and application of membrane technology to create cost-effective and reliable water treatment solutions.

“This is a national award,” noted Rosales. “John’s peers and others agree that he’s deserving of this award. You want someone like John to be on your team to stand it up and lead it.”

“Membrane technology continues to make considerable advances in creating safe, affordable and reliable water treatment solutions because of industry innovators and a dedicated network of forward-thinking membrane professionals,” said Jill Miller, AMTA President.

The award is named after the late Dr. Vernon, a professional geologist who contributed to water resources management at various levels of state and federal government in Florida and who was a former president of the American Water Works Association.

This year’s winners were announced at the 2021 Membrane Technology Conference hosted in West Palm Beach, Florida in July.

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

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.