Encinitas, Calif. — The California Department of Water Resources approved a grant package that will provide $2.8 million in state grant funding to three North County water and wastewater agencies to expand and upgrade recycled water infrastructure.
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. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.
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. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.
Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge
Job/Agency: City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator
How did you become interested in working in the water industry?
I became interested in the water industry in a round-about way. After leaving the military, I found it difficult to find work that was both mentally stimulating and challenging. I was looking for something that would allow me to work at an operational tempo I was used to. I definitely wasn’t looking for anything easy or slowed paced. At the time I was working at the General Electric aircraft engine overhaul facility in Ontario. Unfortunately, that industry proved to be unstable and did not offer a promising career. While searching for something new, I found Oceanside had a couple of openings for office workers. Since I had some experience working with spreadsheets and databases, I was offered a position in the water department. I figured this would keep me employed while I looked for something different. I soon discovered there were many disciplines within the water industry. I soon began researching career options in the water industry. Inspiration came from the supervisor I was working for at the time. I sat down with him and asked what were the requirements necessary to become an operator. I also received encouragement from the operators I came in contact with on a daily basis. That’s all it took. After that, I hit the ground running and have never looked back. The water profession is honorable, rewarding, and has offered me everything I have been looking for in a career – just like the military – another opportunity to continue being of service to others. And isn’t that what we as water professionals are here for – to be of service?
How has your job changed during the pandemic?
My personal day-to-day routine hasn’t really changed; I’m always busy. However, given the current health crisis we are all in, it has made me keenly aware of just how important it is to ensure our team is being taken care of, staying safe and healthy, and doing everything we can to ensure our facility stays operational to provide water to the residents of Oceanside without interruption. Because we operate our facility 24 hours a day, coupled with having a very small staff, we cannot work from home or implement rotating or staggered shifts. Everyone has to be ready, prepared, and available to work.
How are you keeping safe?
By following the guidance recommended by health officials to limit exposure in public, at work and home: social distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, washing hands, etc. By practicing these simple protocols we keep each other safe and minimize ourselves or others getting sick.
What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?
A return to some semblance of normalcy – whatever that may be.
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.
Several regional water supply projects in San Diego County are on track to receive more than $15 million from the California Department of Water Resources, pending a final decision this summer. Money for the projects has been recommended by DWR, which will make the awards after a public comment period. In San Diego County, the funds would support local agencies to advance conservation, environmental enhancements, water purification and other initiatives.
A long-sought compromise has been approved that will open the stagnant, reed-filled Buena Vista Lagoon to the sea and restore its native coastal marine habitat, but years of work remain before the transformation begins. Disagreements over whether the lagoon at the border of Carlsbad and Oceanside should remain freshwater or be restored to saltwater have stalled the project for decades.
The California Department of Water Resources has awarded a $275,800 grant to the City of Oceanside to design a comprehensive riparian habitat and streambank restoration project for a segment of Buena Vista Creek in southeast Oceanside. The planning work will identify a feasible restoration design, conduct community outreach and complete preliminary environmental documentation for future restoration work.
A hard-fought compromise on the saltwater restoration of the Buena Vista Lagoon won the enthusiastic support of the Carlsbad City Council last week.
The agreement between property owners, nonprofits and multiple governmental agencies outlines a plan to remove the weir, or low wooden dam at the mouth of the lagoon, and excavate the entire 220-acre preserve to restore tidal flushing.
Silt has been steadily filling the lagoon since the weir was built in the 1970s, and in the last 30 years about 62 acres of the formerly open water has been filled by cattails and reeds. Without intervention, the lagoon would continue to fill with sediment and vegetation until it eventually disappears.
The City of Oceanside received its second $1.5 million award from a federal agency to aid its new smart water meter installation project, the city announced.
The city is in phase two of a three-phase project to replace all 45,000 existing water meters with advanced metering infrastructure smart meters, confirmed Lindsay Leahy, Principal Engineer for the project.
In total, all three phases will cost an estimated $19.5 million — the cost of phase two is about $4.5 million, Leahy said.
A $1.5 million federal grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will help the city of Oceanside complete its $4.5 million project to replace more than 11,000 water meters to help conserve water and better monitor usage, it was announced Monday.
According to the city’s water utilities department, the upgrades will save 784 acre-feet of water or more than 255 million gallons. It will also reduce Oceanside’s dependence on imported drinking water, 85% of which comes from the Sacramento Bay Delta and the Colorado River, hundreds of miles away.
City of Oceanside officials and regional water industry leaders gathered today to break ground on Pure Water Oceanside, the first advanced water purification facility in San Diego County. The $67 million project – scheduled to be completed in 2021 – will purify recycled water sourced from the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility.
“Today, we put Pure Water Oceanside on the map and are one step closer to achieving the goal of greater water-independence for our city, residents and businesses,” said Cari Dale, Oceanside’s water utilities director. “This future-focused project will provide multiple benefits by reusing our water resources to their full potential.”