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Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology at Mahr Reservoir

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir in San Marcos. The district received the “Excellence in Action” award from the national WateReuse Association, and the “Innovation and Resiliency” award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, or CASA.

Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility employee Ivan Murguia monitors water quality. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology at Mahr Reservoir

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir in San Marcos.

The district received the “Excellence in Action” award from the national WateReuse Association, and the “Innovation and Resiliency” award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, or CASA.

The WateReuse Association is the nation’s only trade association solely dedicated to advancing laws, policy, funding, and public acceptance of recycled water. CASA provides leadership, advocacy, and information to its members, legislators, and the public. CASA also promotes partnerships on clean water and beneficial reuse issues that protect public health and the environment.

Known for its sustainable practices in water and wastewater treatment processes without compromising water quality, Vallecitos Water District employs a new ultrasound technology to improve water quality at the Mahr Reservoir and reduce the need for chemical treatment.

“These awards are proof of the Vallecitos Water District’s commitment to innovation,” said Vallecitos Board President Mike Sannella. “District staff are to be commended for their efforts to use innovative technology to improve and enhance our operations.”

See video recognizing contribution of Vallecitos employees to award-winning projects

Algal blooms treated with sonic technology

Originally called La Costa Storage No. 1 Dam and Reservoir when completed in 1981, Mahr Reservoir was renamed after original founder and 35-year board member Stanley A. Mahr. It stores up to 54-million gallons of reclaimed water for irrigation use. Vallecitos Water District has contracts with the City of Carlsbad and Olivenhain Municipal Water District to provide as much as five million gallons of recycled water daily as needed.

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Because the reservoir’s location receives intense sunlight with little rain, algal blooms can occur in the nutrient-rich recycled water. Algal blooms are commonly treated with costly chemicals that are labor-intensive to apply. Vallecitos Water District uses technology developed by LG Sonic of the Netherlands. It provides a complete overview of reservoir water quality, allowing swift identification and treatment of algal blooms.

Every ten minutes, an MPC Buoy in the Mahr Reservoir measures and monitors green and blue-green algae population, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and water temperature. The data is collected in real time and uploaded online software, which uses the data to predict algal blooms three to ten days in advance.

Sound barrier limits algae

The LG Sonic buoy can create a sound barrier in the top water layer. It affects the algae buoyancy, preventing it from rising where it can absorb sunlight to grow. Starved of sunlight and nutrients, algae cells sink to deeper water where they degrade due to natural bacteria and do not release toxins into the water.

With overall algae levels reduced through sonic technology, the need for chemical treatment is also reduced. LG Sonic’s specific low-power ultrasonic transmitters emit signals which are not harmful to people, fish, plants, or other wildlife.

The Water Authority's Water News Network won a Bronze Bernays Award from the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Chapter.

Water Agency Outreach Efforts Honored

The San Diego County Water Authority and three of its member agencies were recognized Dec. 17 by the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for outstanding work in public outreach and education efforts.

The 2020 PRSA Bernays Awards were presented for communication on a variety of platforms, all designed to inform stakeholders and ratepayers about initiatives ensuring a safe and reliable water supply. Awards were presented virtually via live Twitter feed.

The Silver Bernays Award of Merit went to the Water Authority for "Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues." Photo: PRSA SD/IC

The Silver Bernays Award of Merit for “Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues.” Photo: PRSA SD/IC

The Water Authority received the Silver Bernays Award of Merit for Multicultural Public Relations for “Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues,” and a Bronze Award of Merit in the Research/Evaluation category for “Researching Themes for Hispanic Outreach for Water Quality.” The agency’s Water News Network received a Bronze Award of Merit in the Websites category.

Earlier this year, the Water News Network was named “Best Website” among California public agencies in the California Association of Public Information Officials EPIC Awards competition. The website was also awarded first place as “Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website” in the 2020 San Diego Press Club Journalism Awards.

“During the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was more important than ever for the Water Authority to intensify its efforts to communicate with our audiences and assure them that the virus was not transmitted through the public water system and the essential work to provide a safe, reliable water supply continued without interruption,” said Denise Vedder, director of the Water Authority’s Public Affairs Department.  “In partnership with our member agencies, the Water News Network and our Hispanic outreach initiative played a key role in achieving this goal, and it is rewarding to be recognized by PRSA San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for those results.”

Water agency outreach wins recognition

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside also received awards for outreach and education programs.

City of Oceanside employees Carlos Raymundo (closest) and Shawn Alonzo view the award-winning Pure Water Oceanside wall art project. Photo: City of Oceanside

Oceanside employees Carlos Raymundo (front right) and Shawn Alonzo view the Pure Water Oceanside wall art project. Photo: City of Oceanside

The City of Oceanside and NV5 Inc. recognized in three categories for Pure Water Oceanside:

Silver Award of Excellence, Campaigns: Events and Observances – Less Than Seven Days – “Pure Water Oceanside is on the Map!”

Bronze Award of Merit, Creative Tactics – “Wall Art Tells Story of Water’s Past, Present, & Future”

Bronze Award of Merit, Video – “Pure Water Oceanside Video”

“The City of Oceanside is proud to put Pure Water Oceanside on the map,” said Cari Dale, water utilities director, City of Oceanside. “Once complete, Pure Water Oceanside will provide more than 30% of Oceanside’s water supply. Our staff and consultants are dedicated to providing Oceanside with innovative solutions to water reliability and continued water reuse education.”

The City of San Diego, along with Katz & Associates, received a Silver Bernays Award of Merit in Campaigns, Events, and Observances – Less Than Seven Days for its “2020 Pure Water San Diego Virtual Contractor Expo.”

City of San Diego Director of Public Utilities Shauna Lorance welcomes viewers to the new virtual tour. Photo: City of San Diego water agency outreach

City of San Diego Director of Public Utilities Shauna Lorance welcomes viewers to the new virtual tour. Photo: City of San Diego

“Outreach remains a key element of our Pure Water program,” said Shauna Lorance, director of public utilities for the City of San Diego. “When the pandemic made in-person engagement impossible, our community outreach and project management teams rose to the challenge and implemented a successful 2020 Pure Water Virtual Contractor Expo. Providing the personal outreach to potential contractors allows the contractors to develop the best bids possible and helps ensure a successful Pure Water project.”

The Padre Dam Municipal Water District won a Bronze Award of Excellence for its 2019 Annual Report.

The cover of the award-winning Padre Dam Municipal Water District 2019 annual report. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The award-winning Padre Dam Municipal Water District 2019 annual report. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“Padre Dam is proud of our communications team for the great thought, creativity, and appreciation of the District’s work that is put into projects like the annual report,” said Melissa McChesney, communications manager for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “They do all of this in order to share with our customers the important work and services we provide to our community.”

The SCOOP SD program and Tracks PR received a Silver Bernays Award of Excellence in Campaigns: Events and Observances – Less than Seven Days, Business, and a Bronze Bernays Awards of Merit in Creative Tactics, both for Sweet Relief for Small Biz During COVID.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District's Pump/Motor Technician Dominic "Bruno" Brunozzi has been named the California Water Environment Association's (CWEA) "Mechanical Technician of the Year: for the third time. Photo: Water Authority Dominic Brunozzi

Olivenhain Employee Dominic Brunozzi is Mechanical Technician of the Year

For the third time in five years, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Pump/Motor Technician Dominic “Bruno” Brunozzi has been named the California Water Environment Association’s “Mechanical Technician of the Year.”

Brunozzi was recognized for his dedication to public service and mechanical expertise. He also received the same designation at the local level earlier this year from CWEA’s San Diego Section.

“We are thrilled that Bruno has been recognized as Mechanical Technician of the Year for the third time in five years,” said OMWD Board Vice President Bob Topolovac. “He is not only committed to maintaining equipment essential to providing vital services for our ratepayers, he also sets an example for employees by training operators on the safe use of equipment.”

“I am honored to be recognized by my peers,” said Brunozzi. “It reinforces the view that the water industry is family and that hard work does not go unnoticed.”

Sharing safety knowledge key to Brunozzi’s success

Among Brunozzi’s key on-the-job responsibilities is training OMWD operators on safe equipment use.

“I approach each day with a sense of responsibility that everybody should return to their families safe and sound,”  he said. “If an employee is unfamiliar with the proper operation of a piece of equipment, they or someone else can be harmed.”

Brunozzi sees his approach to sharing knowledge and continuous learning as his secrets to professional success.

“Do your best and be honest about it. If you are unsure about something, stop and find someone who has more experience in the subject, then be sure to pass on your knowledge.

“Also, continue to learn. This can be accomplished in many ways; take a class at a local college, watch a video about your industry or perhaps cross train in a different department, you never know what the future may have in store for you.”

Military experience offers transferable career skills to water industry

Dominic Brunozzi credits a 21-year active duty career of service in the United States Navy for his attention to detail and ability to multitask. He retired in 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer. Photo: Water Authority

Dominic Brunozzi credits a 21-year active duty career of service in the United States Navy for his attention to detail and ability to multitask. He retired in 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Dominic Brunozzi credits a 21-year active duty career of service in the United States Navy for his attention to detail and the ability to multitask. He retired in 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer.

“My rate (job description) was Engineman,” said Brunozzi. “I worked on auxiliary equipment onboard combatant vessels: pumps, motors, generators, air conditioners, sewage systems, water purification systems, and their supporting equipment. Navy vessels need to produce drinking water from the ocean, so they use a variety of processes such as distillation and reverse osmosis, then treat the water for human consumption.

“I cannot stress enough how the water industry is a good match for military members looking for a career after the military. The water industry is a close-knit family similar to the military. Their military training provides added skills to the water industry such as maturity, work ethic, and leadership,” he said.

In addition to Brunozzi’s award, OMWD received third-place recognition statewide and from the San Diego Section in the “Community Engagement & Outreach Program of the Year” category. Outreach efforts include engagement with legislators and regulatory officials, classroom visits, presentations to community groups, newsletters, social media posts, community events, and tours of OMWD’s 4S Ranch Water Reclamation Facility. OMWD serves approximately 14% of its overall demand from recycled water.

Founded in 1927, the CWEA is a not-for-profit association of 9,000-plus professionals in the wastewater industry. The association trains and certifies wastewater professionals disseminates technical information, and promotes sound policies to benefit society through protection and enhancement of the water environment.

The San Diego County Water Authority won multiple awards including a first place award for Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website for its communication efforts from the San Diego Press Club. Water News Network

Water News Network Honored by San Diego Press Club

For the third consecutive year, the Water News Network was recognized as the Best Public Service/Consumer Advocacy Website for its public outreach and education by the San Diego Press Club. The website was established by the San Diego County Water Authority to bridge the gap in news coverage of water-related issues affecting the region.

The first place award was announced during the San Diego Press Club’s 47th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards event, which was live streamed from the San Diego Automotive Museum on October 27.

Among the largest annual competitions in the United States, San Diego’s finest reporters, photographers, writers, artists, and communicators were honored with the region’s top awards.

Water News Network: “timely and accurate information about water issues”

“We’re proud to share this award with our 24 member agencies who provide the majority of the original content on the Water News Network,” said Denise Vedder, public affairs director for the San Diego County Water Authority. “The collaboration with our member agencies and other organizations make possible the timely and accurate information about water issues, projects, and programs that affect 3.3 million people across San Diego County.”

The Water News Network received the following Press Club awards:

Websites, Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Site: First Place, Water News Network

Online/Daily Newspapers, Wildlife/Nature: Second Place, Water News Network, Ed Joyce, “Cooper’s Hawk Chick Gets Special Handling Near Pipeline 5 Project

Online/Daily Newspapers, Wildlife/Nature: Third Place, Water News Network, Kristiene Gong, “Wildlife Protected for New Underground Reservoir Project

Online/Daily Newspapers, Science/Technology/Biotech: Third Place, Water News Network, Ed Joyce, “Baking Skills Used For Repair at Lake Hodges Pumped Storage Facility

Online/Daily Newspapers, Series – Light Subject: Honorable Mention, Water News Network, Ed Joyce, “Water Utility Hero of the Week

Online/Daily Newspapers, Environment: Honorable Mention, Water News Network, Ed Joyce, “Water Year 2020 Begins With Robust Reservoir Storage

Earlier in 2020, the Water News Network was given an EPIC Award as the Best California Public Agency Website by the California Public Information Officers (CAPIO). The CAPIO EPIC Awards recognize the “best of the best” in government communications throughout the state. Winning entries demonstrate the most creative and effective efforts in the areas of communication and marketing campaigns, newsletter production, photography, special events, writing, website development, and video production.

The Water News Network was praised by the CAPIO EPIC Award judges for its initiative in producing original story content with its stakeholders in mind.

This year’s San Diego Press Club awards program drew more than 1,100 entries across multiple media categories. Judges included members of press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester (New York), Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa, and Alaska.

“The San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards celebrates professionals whose research, writing, reporting, and visual skills shed light on newsworthy topics that matter to us all,” said Albert Fulcher, 2020 San Diego Press Club president. “At a time when many Americans distrust the news media, I am proud of our organization’s 450 members and their commitment to truth and fairness with integrity, high standards, and ethical reporting.”

“I am also proud of our success at uniting journalism and public relations professionals while providing career-enhancing programs and networking opportunities for our members,” said Fulcher.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Olivenhain Municipal Water District and Its Technician Dominic Brunozzi Recognized in Statewide Awards Program

Encinitas, Calif.— Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Pump/Motor Technician Dominic “Bruno” Brunozzi has been named California Water Environment Association’s “Mechanical Technician of the Year.” Mr. Brunozzi was recognized for his dedication to public service and mechanical expertise prior to CWEA’s virtual annual conference that began today.

A firefighter prepares to access the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Best Safety Practices

Vallecitos Water District was among 16 California water agencies honored by the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority with the H.R. LaBounty Safety Award.

Vallecitos won its award for its Confined Space Rescue Training coordinated with several regional fire agencies in November 2019.

Vallecitos Water District wanted to heighten safety awareness and improve procedures in its confined space entry and rescue during real-world situations. It took on a high level of coordination to bring in fire department personnel to conduct 12 days of joint training.

Firefighters are briefed on scene at the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District safety practices

Firefighters are briefed on scene at the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility as part of confined space training drills conducted with the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

As a result of training, personnel were able to reduce potential hazards conducting entry into confined spaces, perform personnel rescues, and better manage hazardous materials present (gaseous chlorine).

“Because of our program, Vallecitos Water District and fire department personnel were able to increase interoperability and familiarity of each others’ technical rescue equipment,” said Trisha Woolslayer, risk management supervisor.

Safety award promotes safe water workplace practices

Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle, Senior Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Matt Wiese, Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators II Chris Deering, Ivan Murguia, Arturo Sanchez, and Marc Smith, Safety Technician Anette Longville, and Public Information Officer Alicia Yerman were recognized for their roles in organizing and conducting the training. All 13 members of the Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Collection System Crew participated in the training.

Fire department crews participating were from the cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Del Mar, Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Valley Center, and crews from North County Fire (Fallbrook), San Pasqual, Rincon, and Camp Pendleton.

The H.R. LaBounty Safety Award Program is designed for all JPIA members as a way to promote safe workplace behavior and operations practices while rewarding those employees who demonstrate safe behavior, take part in recognizable proactive activities, or participate in risk-reducing actions. It gives members another way to foster a safety culture that reduces the potential for losses.

The Ramona Municipal Water District and the Sweetwater Authority were also recognized among state water agencies for their safety initiatives.

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Karmen Isabel Simons, a fourth grade student from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, received first place honors from the District for her entry in the competition. She received a $100 award. Photo: Vista Irrigation District 2020 Student Poster Contest

Vista Irrigation District Names 2020 Student Poster Contest Winners

Vista Irrigation District has presented awards to three artistic fourth-grade students as winners of the District’s 2020 Water Awareness Poster Contest. The District’s board of directors selected the recipients at its July 15 meeting. This is the 28th year of the local contest. This year’s theme was “Love Water, Save Water.”

Karmen Isabel Simons, a fourth-grade student from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, received first-place honors for her entry in the competition. She received a $100 award.

Karmen Isabel Simons, a fourth grade student from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, received first place honors from the District for her entry in the competition. She received a $100 award. Photo: Vista Irrigation District 2020 Student Poster Contest

Karmen Isabel Simons, a fourth-grade student from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Vista, received first-place honors from the District for her entry in the competition. She received a $100 award. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Naiya Langley from Alamosa Park Elementary School in Oceanside and received a second-place award of $50.

Naiya Langley from Alamosa Park Elementary School in Oceanside received a second-place award of $50 for her entry. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Naiya Langley from Alamosa Park Elementary School in Oceanside received a second-place award of $50. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Angelica Zetina from Mission Meadows Elementary School in Oceanside received a third-place award of $25.

Angelica Zetina from Mission Meadows Elementary School in Oceanside received a third place award of $25 for her entry in the contest. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Angelica Zetina from Mission Meadows Elementary School in Oceanside received a third place award of $25 for her contest entry. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

‘Love Water, Save Water’ 2020 contest theme

The poster contest is open to all fourth-grade students in public and private schools within the District’s service areas in the city of Vista, and portions of San Marcos, Escondido, Oceanside, and unincorporated areas of San Diego County. Its goal is to promote understanding of water issues in elementary schools.

“Each year I continue to be amazed at the quality of the artwork produced by the students entering the contest,” said Brent Reyes, Vista Irrigation District water conservation specialist. “Each year it seems the Water Awareness Calendar created using the students’ artwork gets better and better.”

The three winning posters were selected from 110 entries based upon their depiction of the theme, artwork, originality, and poster design. Simons’ poster will appear in the 2021 Water Awareness Calendar. The calendar will be available free of charge at the District’s office in November 2020.

EPIC Award-CAPIO-San Diego County Water Authority-Water News Network

Water News Network Named Best California Public Agency Website

The Water News Network website has been named “Best Website” among California public agencies for 2020 in the California Public Information Officers EPIC Awards competition.

The CAPIO EPIC Awards recognize the “best of the best” in government communications throughout the state. Winning entries demonstrate the most creative and effective efforts in the areas of communication and marketing campaigns, newsletter production, photography, special events, writing, website development and video production.

Original news content praised by judges

The Water News Network received praise from competition judges for keeping all stakeholders in mind when creating the website, and for its initiative in producing original story content and photos. Other finalists in the Best Website/App category were the City of Santa Clara for its SantaClaraCA.gov website redesign; and Contra Costa County for its ‘Virtual Office’ entry.

“Over the past two years, the Water News Network has become a timely and reliable source of news and information about a variety of water issues, projects and programs affecting more than 3.3 million people across San Diego County,” said Water Authority Public Affairs Director Denise Vedder. “We’re proud to collaborate with our member agencies on this and other outreach and education efforts about region’s most precious natural resource.”

EPIC Award for Best Website/App revealed in package

In lieu of an awards ceremony, trophies were mailed to the winning entrants with results revealed upon being opened in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: CAPIO

In lieu of an awards ceremony, trophies were mailed to the winning entrants with results revealed upon being opened in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: CAPIO

The EPIC Awards honor work that transcends innovation and craft, work that made a lasting impact, providing an equal chance of winning to all entrants regardless of company or agency size and project budget.

Entries are assessed on research and planning efforts that display an understanding of audience objectives and needs for information; development and execution; and how successfully the entrant organization achieves its objectives.

This year’s CAPIO EPIC Awards program drew a record number of 275 entries in all categories from throughout the state of California.

The Water News Network has also won the Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website category for the past two years in the San Diego Press Club‘s Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.

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Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Olivenhain Municipal Water District and County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Partnership Receives State Recognition

County Named Recycled Water Customer of the Year 

Encinitas, Calif. — The WateReuse Association of California recognized County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation as a 2020 Recycled Water Customer of the Year today. The award was presented at WateReuse’s first virtual conference. Olivenhain Municipal Water District nominated the County for its dedication to using sustainable recycled water to irrigate County parks in OMWD’s service area.