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Imperial County Agencies Deliver 500,000 Face Masks to Agriculture Workers

The Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has taken the lead in distributing more than 500,000 face masks to all sectors of the agriculture industry in the Imperial Valley.

“This was a positive result of the state understanding our need,” said Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz. “They heard us.”

Agriculture is one of the essential sectors critical to health and safety in California during the coronavirus pandemic.

How LA’s Sewers Could Be an Early Warning System for Coronavirus Outbreaks

A study at USC is relying on the flush of a toilet for clues to coronavirus outbreaks.

Dr. Adam Smith, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at USC, is a part of a team of scientists across the country who are sifting through data from the bowels of the sewer system.  The team consists of researchers from USC, Howard University, North Carolina State University and Rice University.

Water Supply Remains Safe, Sufficient as Pandemic Endures

August is Water Quality Month, a perfect time to educate ourselves about how and why we can rely on clean water each time we turn on the tap. Groundwater from your local Orange County groundwater basin makes up about 77% of the total water needed for consumers. Your city or water agency buys about 23% of imported water from Northern California or the Colorado River to make up the difference.

Otay Water District Supports Virtual Food Drive During COVID-19 Crisis

At a time when it is needed most, the Otay Water District is partnering with the San Diego County Water Authority, other local water agencies, and the San Diego Food Bank to provide food assistance through a virtual food drive for those affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

San Diego Reservoirs Open with Coronavirus Safety Guidelines

All City of San Diego reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now open to the public during regular business hours for walking, jogging, cycling, fishing and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply.

“Overall everything is working well,” said Bryan Norris, the City’s reservoirs and recreation program manager.  “Several reservoirs are experiencing higher than normal visitation since the reopening.”

Agriculture-Imperial Valley-Face Masks-coronavirus

Imperial County Agencies Deliver 500,000 Face Masks to Agriculture Workers

The Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has taken the lead in distributing more than 500,000 face masks to all sectors of the agriculture industry in the Imperial Valley.

“This was a positive result of the state understanding our need,” said Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz. “They heard us.”

Agriculture is one of the essential sectors critical to health and safety in California during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since May, 566,000 face masks have been distributed to 126 agricultural-based businesses, including growers, farm labor companies, pest control, feed lots, trucking companies, hay presses and the dairy industry. Face masks have also been provided to agencies that work with farm workers, including Campesinos Unidos and Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo.

State, local agencies collaborate for worker safety

The distribution of face masks to the agricultural community was part of a joint statewide effort of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association together with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. The California Office of Emergency Services provided 824,000 face masks.

Ortiz said there is a rewarding feeling that comes from working with a team to respond to a local need.

“The fact we have received these masks from the state points to how critical agriculture is as an essential service to keep food on the table, especially during these challenging times,” said Ortiz. “Everyone in agriculture deserves praise for the work they are continuing to do.”

A survey was first sent to the Imperial Valley agricultural community, and there was an overwhelming response that personal protective equipment, starting with face masks, were a critical need.

“The reaction to the survey let the state know there was an immediate need,” said Ortiz.

The county will also be receiving special N-95 respirator masks, that will be distributed to agriculture workers that handle applied pesticides which require special respirator equipment, according to Ortiz.

Face masks ‘vital’

J Rollins, Vice President and Operations Manager of Rolling R Enterprises, a local family-owned custom harvesting and hauling company, said his company received face masks for his employees at a time that masks were very difficult to find through normal retail or wholesale avenues.

“Aside from our sanitation protocols, the masks we received from the Ag Commissioner’s Office was vital in keeping our workforce healthy, especially at the peak of our operations,” said Rollins.

Imperial Valley-Agriculture-COVID-19-face masks

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Imperial Valley vegetable farmers took additional precautions during the Spring 2020 harvest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Timely delivery of face masks

Along with mask distributions, the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has provided masks to individual farm workers and crews while doing field inspections.

“You are trying to focus on what else you can do to get the face masks to those who need them,” Ortiz said.

Imperial County Farm Bureau Executive Director Brea Mohamed said she was grateful for the mask distribution, adding the masks are helping growers ensure the safety of their employees and crews.

When the pandemic hit Imperial County, growers faced heavy costs to purchase such personal protective equipment, which placed further strain on their operations at a difficult time. It was also a challenge to find enough face masks to serve the local need of agricultural, she said.

Despite the coronavirus, agricultural work had to continue, said Mohamed.

“This hit right at the end of the produce harvest and just as we were starting to harvest corn, then came onions and melons,” she said. “Plus the feedlots and forage crops are year-round.”

Going forward, Mohamed said she is hopeful there might be additional help with other personal protective equipment, like hand sanitizers and sanitizers for farm equipment.

Recreational activities such as fishing at Lower Otay Reservoir are continuing safely under new coronavirus safety protocols. Photo: City of San Diego reservoirs open

San Diego Reservoirs Open with Coronavirus Safety Guidelines

All City of San Diego reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now open to the public during regular business hours for walking, jogging, cycling, fishing and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply.

“Overall everything is working well,” said Bryan Norris, the City’s reservoirs and recreation program manager.  “Several reservoirs are experiencing higher than normal visitation since the reopening.”

Available activities include walking, jogging, cycling, fishing and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply. Photo: City of San Diego

Available activities include walking, jogging, cycling, fishing and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply. Photo: City of San Diego

Reservoirs open, face masks, physical distancing required

The public is asked to observe COVID-19 preventative measures, including mandates requiring face coverings and physical distancing.  Bathrooms are scheduled to be cleaned regularly as part of San Diego County regulations. For more information go to: www.sandiego.gov/reservoirs-lakes.

Miramar, Murray, and Lower Otay Reservoirs reopened in mid-May. El Capitan Reservoir and Upper Otay Reservoir were next to reopen on June 6, followed by San Vicente Reservoir on June 13. Lake Hodges, Sutherland, and Barrett all opened in early July and remain open.

New safety and cleaning protocols first started with the May reopenings are continuing.

Lake Jennings offers its popular night fishing on August 7

Lake Jennings in Lakeside, operated by the Helix Water District, remains open for recreation, day use, and camping by family member groups only after reopening in June. Fishing and day use visitors must wear masks and adhere to physical distancing. The Bait and Tackle Shop is open with restrictions. See the complete list of current restrictions onsite at the Lake Jennings website.

The lake was stocked with 1,000 pounds of catfish in preparation for its popular Night Fishing event on Friday, August 7. Fishing enthusiasts of all ages may fish from the shoreline from 3 p.m. until midnight.  A valid California State Fishing License is required for anyone 16 years old and older.

The recreation side of the lake is open every Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless a night fishing event is taking place.

The campground is currently sold out this weekend, but campers can check for availability due to cancellations online at www.lakejennings.org. Only registered campers are permitted in the campground, no visitors or day use access is allowed.

Santee Lakes fishing report

Santee Lakes 2 and 4 were stocked on July 27 with 500 pounds of catfish each. The next scheduled fish stocking will take place Monday, August 10. Photo: Padre Dam MWD / Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes 2 and 4 were stocked on July 27 with 500 pounds of catfish each. The next scheduled fish stocking is August 10. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District / Santee Lakes

The popular Santee Lakes reports the bass continue to bite on fishing lines using soft plastics, topwater frogs, and swimbait. Popular spots include the west side of Lake 5 and the southwest corner of Lake 4. Catfish are also biting on a mix of bait including mackerel, chicken liver, and mealworms. Catfish are biting on the east shore of Lake 4 and the south shore of Lake 2.

Santee Lakes has opened the 2021 reservation schedule for its popular campsites.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District built Santee Lakes to demonstrate the promise of water recycling. The 190-acre Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is owned and operated by Padre Dam MWD and is entirely self‐sustaining, receiving no funds from water/sewer ratepayers or taxpayer subsidies.

Opinion: Approve Assembly Bill 1720: Two Energy Storage Projects Would Create Jobs

Free fall. That’s how people are describing California’s economy as the coronavirus ravages on.

Virtually overnight, one in five Californian’s became – and unfortunately remain – unemployed. In Los Angeles, the unemployment rate is tracking with the peak of the Great Depression. In other parts of the state, the jobless rate is projected to climb as high as 40%. As former Gov. Gray Davis said about today’s challenges, “There’s no playbook. There’s no precedent.”

Cuyamaca College’s Water & Wastewater Technology program is the oldest and most comprehensive program of its kind in the California Community Colleges system. Photo: CWEA Open House

Water Studies Open House Keeps Career Pipeline Flowing

In an economy altered by the coronavirus pandemic, water and wastewater industry essential employees remain in demand. To help people explore their career options, the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies program will hold its annual Open House and Student Orientation at distance via Zoom on Tuesday, August 11, at 6 p.m.

Vanessa Murrell, grant manager for the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, says anyone interested in exploring this career field is invited to participate and learn what makes it such an attractive choice.

“Careers in water are generally recession-proof with accessible career advancements and opportunities in addition to competitive salary and benefits,” said Murrell. “We anticipate more openings over the next few years as water remains a necessary resource for survival and sanitation.”

Murrell says the Open House offers an overview of the program, the degrees and certificates offered, the variety of courses available, details on required California state certifications, and the range of careers available in the water and wastewater industry. Participants will meet professors and current students and can ask questions.

To register for the Open House, send an email to or and you will receive a link to the Zoom site.

Career growth and meaningful jobs

Participants will meet professors and current students, and get the opportunity to ask questions. Photo: Michael Barder, CVESD via Twitter Open House

Participants will meet professors and current students and get the opportunity to ask questions. Photo: Michael Barder, CVESD via Twitter

A career in the growing water industry presents an opportunity to earn money while protecting the environment and servicing the community in an essential role. The ability to provide clean, safe drinking water is a complex endeavor and is getting more complex as time goes on.

Skilled water professionals are in high demand as the current workforce ages. Water and wastewater agencies employ more than 60,000 workers statewide, including 5,000 in San Diego County, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Water Research Foundation anticipates one-third of the utilities workforce will retire over the next decade.

In San Diego County, wastewater treatment and system operators earn an average annual wage of more than $66,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Program partnerships with local water agencies

Cuyamaca College's innovative Field Operations Skills Yard is newly updated to provide students with practical challenges they will face in today’s complex water and wastewater facilities when they are able to return to campus. Photo: Cuyamaca College

Cuyamaca College’s innovative Field Operations Skills Yard is newly updated to provide students with practical challenges they will face working with water and wastewater industry facilities. Photo: Cuyamaca College

Established in 1960, Cuyamaca College’s Water & Wastewater Technology program is the oldest and most comprehensive program of its kind in the California Community Colleges system, educating the state’s water utility workforce for more than a half a century. Its innovative Field Operations Skills Yard is newly updated, and, when students are able to return to campus, will provide students with practical challenges they will face in today’s complex water and wastewater facilities. Currently, fall courses will take place online.

The college works closely with local water agencies. Members of the Cuyamaca College Water & Wastewater Technology Program Industry Advisory Committee include the San Diego County Water Authority, City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, Helix Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the City of Escondido Utilities Department, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, and other agencies.

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Water Utility Hero of the Week, Dana Gutierrez, Otay Water District

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. Dana Gutierrez, Otay Water District Customer Service Representative II, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.