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National University's new four-year degree program will help water and wastewater employees advance in their careers. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources,

New Regional Degree Program Responds to Water and Wastewater Workforce Needs

Driven by the rapidly growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry, National University and Cuyamaca College will launch a new degree pathway program starting in February 2021.

Developed in collaboration with regional employers, the new Bachelor of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Waterworks Management provides a seamless pathway for graduates of the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies to transfer into the bachelor’s program after earning their associate’s degree. Transfers are also available to graduates of other community colleges.

“Responding to regional workforce needs, National University and Cuyamaca College are excited to roll out the Waterworks Management academic pathway, informed by industry leaders,” said Dr. Sara Kelly, academic program director at National University. Transfer scholarships are available for qualifying students.

Transfer program reduces completion time, cost

The new degree program will build capacity to train the waste and wastewater workforce of the future. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources

The new degree program will build capacity to train the waste and wastewater workforce of the future. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources

The new collaboration allows students to complete both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree while reducing the time and cost. Student support services at both institutions help foster a seamless process for students to transfer from Cuyamaca College to National University.

“Working collaboratively with National University, we can help our region and state respond to the need for skilled and educated water and wastewater professionals,” said Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes. “We know that with impending retirements in the industry, there will be a need for 12,000 to 20,000 water and wastewater professionals throughout the state in coming years.”

As current seasoned leaders retire, water and wastewater agencies struggle to fill job vacancies requiring a focused bachelor’s degree. Students earning the new degree will complete National University’s four-course concentration of upper-division courses studying water and waterworks management and leadership, water law and compliance, and human resources and labor law.

Graduates will be able to address the issues and challenges facing water and wastewater agencies at the state, regional, and local levels, including governing requirements and regulatory compliance while employing water management best practices.

Courses taught by water industry professionals

The new collaboration between National University and Cuyamaca College also welcomes Cuyamaca alumni into the program. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

The new collaboration between National University and Cuyamaca College also welcomes Cuyamaca alumni into the program. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Dr. Joseph Allen, Director of Community College Pathways at National University, said the curriculum was constructed based on the insight and recommendation of regional employers, coordinated by Cuyamaca College and the San Diego County Water Authority.

“There was a need for highly trained leadership in this industry,” said Allen. “This program provides a bachelor’s solution to train the management and leadership in the specific leadership areas needed in addition to the Associate’s degree in this field. Cuyamaca College has a solid program for the technical side and the frontline workers. Our new program is the next step in preparing the leaders of tomorrow for waterworks management.”

The program took more than a year to develop. Qualified water industry professionals from the Water Authority, regional member agencies, and consulting experts will teach courses.

“There is phenomenal talent in connection with this program, from around the world and not just San Diego,” said Kelly.

Cuyamaca College’s innovative Center for Water Studies program is the oldest and most comprehensive of its kind in the California community college system. It prepares students for careers at water agencies as technicians, mechanics, electricians, engineers, plant operators, information technology specialists, and more. Program alumni are eligible for the National University program.

Degree program launches in February 2021

National University offers all courses online, starting with the first cohort of students in the program in February 2021. Administrators plan to eventually offer onsite and hybrid courses involving the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies field operations skills yard for hands-on experience.

As a veteran-founded, private nonprofit institution, National University is dedicated to serving service members, veterans, and their families. This new BPA waterworks concentration is particularly well suited for veterans using their GI benefits to further their education. Veterans are eligible to apply their military experience and education toward certifications in the water industry.

“There are so many different pathways in life,” said Allen. “Whether you’re 18, whether you’re older. You’ve got family, children, and deployments. We’re going to put you on the right pathway to help you reach your final destination in your career.”

BPA program information is available on the National University website.

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.

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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IRWM - SD Wild Animal Park Biofiltration Wetland

Projects Create Wetlands, Improve Water Quality in San Diego Region

Since 2005, the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Program has supported and funded water conservation, water quality and resource projects throughout San Diego County.

Program partners, including staff of the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, the California Department of Water Resources, and regional water industry leaders, met at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College Monday to celebrate 15 years of achievements.

The program facilitates collaboration on water resources planning and projects in the region by water retailers, wastewater agencies, stormwater and flood managers, watershed groups, the business community, tribes, agriculture, and nonprofit stakeholders.

Collaboration improves regional water quality

Projects supported and funded by the program, or IRWM, have increased long-term water supply reliability, improved water quality, created wetlands and increased local water supply sources. Funding for the IRWM projects is provided from several propositions approved by voters and administered through the California DWR.

“Since it started, the Water Authority has been a strong supporter of the IRWM, partnering with the City and County of San Diego to develop the program,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl, in a keynote address at the Monday meeting. “Bringing diverse stakeholders together through collaboration funds water reliability projects throughout the San Diego region.”

The collaboration has resulted in improved water supply reliability through the successful funding of conservation, water reuse, and other supply projects throughout the region, she said.

Another benefit of collaborating through the program is it brings traditionally underrepresented communities to the table to have projects funded.

Environmental health and safety, open space

The San Diego IRWM program has helped fund 25 projects in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities supporting the improvement of water reliability and water reliability in all parts of the region.

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program and sponsored by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project.

The restoration of Chollas Creek was intended to improve environmental health and safety, surface water quality, and availability of green open space for Encanto, a disadvantaged urban community in San Diego.

IRWM Program - Chollas Creek - WNN

A project in Encanto to improve Chollas Creek was funded under the IRWM Program. Photo: Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovations Project

Wetlands, educational opportunities

Another project funded under the IRWM program, created wetlands to improve water quality at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The biofiltration wetland project, sponsored by the San Diego Zoo Global, has also served to educate thousands of students, teachers, and park visitors through various programs.

The IRWM continues to identify opportunities to fund projects to bring multiple benefits to the region.

The program is included in California’s draft Water Resilience Portfolio, released in January. Three state agencies created the portfolio, which proposes recommended actions to help California cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure and other challenges.

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

New California Law Creates Pathway to Water Industry Jobs for Military Veterans

Legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District is intended to make it easier for military veterans to launch careers in the water industry.

After Lt. Jose Martinez retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007, he went from serving his country underwater to serving reliable, high quality water to a community. 

His experience aboard a nuclear submarine and on the management staff of Otay Water District shares a few commonalities. Both involve highly complex systems, which often operate away of the public eye, either underwater or underground. 

“People turn on the tap and out comes water,” said Martinez, General Manager for ACWA-member Otay Water District. “It seems rather simple, but it’s really complex. It’s fascinating to me.”

AB 1588 - ACWA - WNN

New California Law Creates Pathway to Water Industry Jobs for Military Veterans

Legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District is intended to make it easier for military veterans to launch careers in the water industry.

After Lt. Jose Martinez retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007, he went from serving his country underwater to serving reliable, high quality water to a community. 

His experience aboard a nuclear submarine and on the management staff of Otay Water District shares a few commonalities. Both involve highly complex systems, which often operate away of the public eye, either underwater or underground. 

“People turn on the tap and out comes water,” said Martinez, General Manager for ACWA-member Otay Water District. “It seems rather simple, but it’s really complex. It’s fascinating to me.”

Water industry jobs for military vets

Martinez’s experience as a naval nuclear engineer focused on submarines’ nuclear and non-nuclear systems, including water treatment. This gave him an advantage to transition to a civilian career in water.

A bill and new law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019, sets the stage for making it much easier for military veterans to transition into the water industry. AB 1588, initiated by Martinez and Otay, intends to update the current water and wastewater certification system by giving military veterans credit for their experience and education that is applicable to the water industry. Essentially, veterans would not have to start at the bottom, but instead advance to testing that matches their level of experience. That way, veterans can enter the water workforce at a level that meets their paygrade.

‘Silver tsunami’ of retiring baby boomers creates opportunities

AB 1588 was introduced by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Adam Gray (D-Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Oceanside). The San Diego County Water Authority and Otay cosponsored the bill, with the goal of increasing the number of veterans entering the water industry to replace retiring baby boomers.

To address this challenge, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies created a regional workforce development task force to address the oncoming ‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirees. The San Diego region alone employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, with more than 1,400 of those workers expected to reach retirement age by 2024, according to the Water Authority. Statewide, there are approximately 6,000 active certified wastewater treatment plant operators, and approximately 35,000 drinking water treatment and distribution operators. 

Jobs within the water industry often reflect military experience, and not necessarily ones directly related to water and wastewater treatment on a base or aboard a ship. Don Jones, with the Center for Water Studies at El Cajon’s Cuyamaca College, compared experience within a Combat Information Center on a warship to operating a SCADA system at a water facility, pointing out that experienced SCADA operators can be hard to find.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re opening a pump or firing a missile, the process is very similar, it’s the mechanical and electronic interface that matters. You’re electronically activating a piece of mechanical equipment,” Jones said. 

‘It’s all about serving people’

The water industry can also offer veterans a few other advantages. Shannon Cotulla served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer between 1987 and 1992. After leaving the service, he contemplated aviation engineering, but a desire to work outdoors in civil engineering led him to the water industry. Today, Cotulla is Assistant General Manager at the South Tahoe Public Utility District and former member of ACWA’s Board of Directors. 

“The work is really meaningful, it’s all about serving people and keeping our communities safe,” Cotulla said. “There’s also security in knowing that your organization has rules and standards that you can look up to and isn’t subject to the whims that you sometimes find in the private sector.”

Otay’s Martinez said that it could take a few years for the state to make the changes called for in AB 1588. Nevertheless, the process is underway and includes having a veteran with water industry experience serve on a regulatory advisory board along with water industry members. In the meantime, news about the bill’s potential for veterans is raising awareness among veterans about why careers in the water industry represent a great opportunity.

“We really want to open up this talent pool,” Martinez said. “Veterans are the right candidates to fill these jobs because of the skilled work they’ve already demonstrated in their careers and their time in the military.”

Women In Water Conference Showcases Career Opportunities

More than 200 people explored career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry at the third annual Women in Water Symposium Thursday at Cuyamaca College.

The conference’s goal this year was to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

Speakers at the conference shared their personal experiences working in the water industry and offered tips for young professionals.

2020 Women in Water - San Diego County Water Authority - Tyrese Powell-Slotterbeck

Women In Water Conference Showcases Career Opportunities

More than 200 people explored career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry at the third annual Women in Water Symposium Thursday at Cuyamaca College.

The conference’s goal this year was to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

Speakers at the conference shared their personal experiences working in the water industry and offered tips for young professionals.

‘Rewarding and humbling’

“Knowing we’re a key contributor to public health through the provision of safe water delivery and recovery is rewarding and humbling,” said keynote speaker Shauna Lorance, director of the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department.

Lorance offered advice to people considering making water a career choice.

“The water industry is challenging and always evolving, and has amazing opportunities for growth and career diversity… from laborers and technicians, finance experts and engineers, chemists and community outreach specialists,” said Lorance. “It also has some of the best people around.”

Shauna Lorance - City of San Diego - Women in Water

Shauna Lorance, director of the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, delivers the keynote address at the 2020 Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College. Photo: City of San Diego

Diane Stoltz, cross-connection program specialist at the Ramona Municipal Water District, said there are job opportunities that don’t require a degree.

“A few water classes and a state-issued certificate in water or wastewater are the starting blocks to a rewarding career in water,” said Stoltz, “Educating the public and helping them understand their role in protecting the drinking water system, is most rewarding to me.”

Stoltz credited Don Jones, Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies program coordinator, with encouraging her to work in the water industry.

2020 Women in Water - Cuyamaca College - Michael Bruder tweet

Michael Bruder, Chula Vista Elementary School District Instructional Services Coordinator, and co-founder of the Chula Vista Hydro Station, presented information about the Hydro Station at the January 16, 2020 Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College.

Wide range of career choices in the water industry

Jaime Okewole, human resources analyst with the Helix Water District, said jobs in the water industry are more varied than people might imagine.

“I think the biggest misconception about working in water is that the view of opportunities available in the water industry is so narrow,” said Okewole. “When you picture water, one might initially just think construction or water treatment but not realize all of the support positions it takes to run a water agency successfully. We have jobs that span a number of different fields and talents. The commonality is that each person holds customer service as their top priority.”

2020 Women in Water Symposium - Cuyamaca College

More than 200 people attended the 2020 Women in Water Symposium January 16 at Cuyamaca College. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

For the first time, the Women in Water Symposium offered three program tracks: sessions for those interested in starting their career in water; those seeking career advancement; and established professionals interested in forming professional alliances and promoting workforce diversity.

The series of workshops wrapped up with a tour of the Water Conservation Garden.

2020 Women in Water - Otay Water District

The Otay Water District tweets about retirements expected in the water and wastewater industry during the 2020 Women in Water Symposium January 16 at Cuyamaca College.

“This industry is growing and becoming ever more important as new innovations will be needed due to climate change and fast growing cities,” said Kimberlyn Velasquez, public affairs representative with the San Diego County Water Authority. “If you ever find yourself looking to try something new down the line, the water industry has many sectors and different types of positions that you can move into throughout your career.”

Aging workforce – ‘silver tsunami’ – creates job opportunities

The Water Authority was among the water industry employers offering career information at the conference.

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies created a regional workforce development task force to address the ‘silver tsunami’ of employees reaching retirement age.

“There are approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region and more than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024,” said Gretchen Spaniol, acting special projects manager with the Water Authority. “Those retirements provide an opportunity to diversify the water industry workforce.”

Work and Training Opportunities Abound in Local Water and Wastewater Industry

The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have developed several pathways to jobs in the water and wastewater industry. For more information go to: https://bit.ly/3adxBzM

 

Event Featuring Women Working in the Field of Water Coming This Week

Shauna Lorance knows more than a drop about a career in the water and wastewater industry.

Lorance worked in several executive management positions for the San Juan Water District for 20 years, for the Monterey County Water Resources Agency as its interim general manager, and was a consultant for several other water districts in the state before being named the city of San Diego’s Public Utilities Director last August.

Lorance will be the keynote speaker at the third annual Women in Water Symposium, which will be held Thursday, Jan. 16, at Cuyamaca College. The event is free for students and $35 for others. It will be followed by a tour of the Water Conservation Garden, adjacent to the school.

Workforce Diversity Focus of ‘Women in Water’ Conference

Career opportunities for women in the water and wastewater industry at every level are the focus of the third annual Women in Water Symposium January 16 at Cuyamaca College.

Vanessa Murrell, grant manager for the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, said the conference’s goal in its third year is to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.