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Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Photo Contest Open

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve photo contest gives amateur photographers more visual opportunities in its 16th year, accepting entries from Fall through early Spring 2023.

Designed to be a fun and educational way to showcase the natural beauty at Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, the contest is open for entries from November 21, 2022 through April 23, 2023.

Military veterans are well positioned to take advantage of National University's Bachelor of Public Administration degree with a Waterworks Management focus. Photo: National University waterworks management degree

Waterworks Management Degree Program Supports Career Growth

Water and wastewater industry employees can advance their professional careers with a specialty degree to help them achieve their goals. The industry offers vast opportunities in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration and information technology.

The Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) degree with a concentration in Waterworks Management is offered by National University in partnership with Cuyamaca College. Monir Masoud, Director of Community College Pathways at National University, said scholarship opportunities can help reduce the cost of the degree program by as much as 46%.

Masoud said prospective students with an associate’s degree from any California community college can complete the degree using the one course per month format in 17 months, which is ideal for working professionals following a nontraditional educational path.

“We have a support system that we walk step by step with students,” said Masoud. “Students start with an enrollment advisor, then academic financial aid, and faculty.”

Students can also stretch out the courses with breaks when needed and continue to progress toward their degree at their own pace. Three students have completed the degree’s course requirements to date.

Value as a career advancement tool

Water industry professionals can accelerate their career advancement through higher education. Photo: National University

Water industry professionals can accelerate their career advancement through higher education. Photo: National University

The waterwork management degree, launched 18 months ago, was developed in collaboration with regional employers and driven by growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry.

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.

“I would tell my employees go get schooling because they become a change agent, said Masoud.”Most of our organizations, especially in California, are doing a great job upskilling their employees. And we have this tuition reimbursement ready for them. Employers can retain and maintain their workforce in this tough market we are in.”

Demand for skilled water and wastewater professionals

California Dept. of Water Resources staff services manager Norma Alvarado talks with students at a water industry career fair showcasing a broad array of options. Photo: Kelly M. Grow, California Department of Water Resources waterworks management degree

California Dept. of Water Resources staff services manager Norma Alvarado talks with students at a water industry career fair showcasing a broad array of options. Photo: Kelly M. Grow/California Department of Water Resources

The water and wastewater industry’s rapidly growing demand for highly skilled professionals shows no signs of slowing in the coming years. Impending retirements will create a need to fill California’s 12,000 to 20,000 water and wastewater jobs. Many of these positions require a bachelor’s degree, such as the National University BPA degree.

As 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.

Degree program well suited for military veterans  

National University offers all BPA courses online. Students can begin the BPA program at any time.

The 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.

Hydro Station Lets Students Explore WaterSmart Landscape Design

As its fourth year begins, the Chula Vista Hydro Station offers new activities in 2022, helping Chula Vista Elementary School District students learn about using water wisely through hands-on activities.

A unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Hydro Station, opened in 2019 at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

Chula Vista Elementary School students participate in learning activities at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Hydro Station Lets Students Explore WaterSmart Landscape Design

As its fourth year begins, the Chula Vista Hydro Station offers new activities in 2022, helping Chula Vista Elementary School District students learn about using water wisely through hands-on activities.

A unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Hydro Station, opened in 2019 at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

More than 4,000 students visit the Hydro Station annually and learn more about careers and opportunities in the water and wastewater industry through various learning experiences.

“Sweetwater Authority’s Board is proud to continue to support the Hydro Station for another school year,” said Board Chair Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. “We’re excited that more students will have the opportunity to visit our Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility to learn about how water agencies deliver safe, reliable water to our communities and discover the vast career opportunities in the water industry.”

Landscape design and engineering projects 

Students get the opportunity to practice landscape design with a watersmart focus. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School Districtv Hydro Station

Students get the opportunity to practice landscape design with a watersmart focus. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

This year, students can step into the role of a civil engineer and learn about the ways water is transported across long distances. They take what they learn and try their hand at designing a model of an aqueduct.

Students are also invited to explore the artistic aspects of water management by taking on the role of a landscape architect. They work in teams to design beautiful, WaterSmart landscapes using various design elements.

“The Otay Water District believes this Hydro Station effort is critical to educating the younger generation about water industry jobs as they prepare for their futures,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “We continue to promote and recruit for water industry jobs, and this program is another resource to help us to increase the talent pool in the industry as our youth learn about what is available to them early on.”

Hands-on experience in an interactive space

Projects in progress by Halecrest Elementary School students at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Projects in progress by Halecrest Elementary School students at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

The Hydro Station is an interactive educational space with learning exhibits and hands-on activities dedicated to introducing fifth-grade students to the ecological cycle of water, water conservation, water quality, and careers in the water industry.

Educating the next-generation water industry workforce

Locally, more than 2,800 people work in the water and wastewater sector at the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. One-third of these industry professionals will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. The Hydro Station helps develop interest among a new generation of potential water professionals to participate in the mission to deliver safe and reliable water to hundreds and thousands of people in communities who rely on this essential workforce.

Students participate in activities focused on career opportunities, learning how their strengths, interests, and values may align with career options through hands-on activities connecting to specific careers. It also educates children, their families, and the community on the thoughtful use of water resources.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District and the Sweetwater Authority are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Vallecitos Videos Shared Nationwide by EPA WaterSense

Videos produced by the Vallecitos Water District public affairs team are now being distributed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to help educate the public about water conservation nationwide. The videos can be downloaded for free on the EPA WaterSense partner platform.

First place, high school: Michael Armenion, eleventh grade, Otay Ranch High School. Photo: Otay Water District Otay Poster Contest

Otay Poster Contest Winners Demonstrate the Value of Water Conservation

Five students from Chula Vista and El Cajon schools have been selected from 123 submissions as the winners of Otay Water District’s 2022 Water is Life Student Poster Contest. The annual contest helps to promote water-use efficiency through student art programs. The winners were selected based on their creativity and awareness of the importance of using water wisely every day and in times of drought.

The Otay Water District’s educational program invites K-12 grade students in its service area each year to enter the contest by illustrating the theme “Water is Life.”  Entrants are encouraged to reflect on the importance of water conservation and stewardship and learn about this in the classroom prior to creating their posters.

“We are proud to see a young generation of students share their awareness about water conservation and stewardship when it matters most,” said contest coordinator Eileen Salmeron. “As California faces a drought, we hope students and their families understand that making small changes at home or school to conserve can make a big difference in building resiliency against drought.”

First- and second-place winners were selected from elementary and middle school categories. One winner was chosen in the high school category. The District’s board of directors recognized the winners at its September 7 meeting. Winners received prizes including a gift card, a certificate of recognition, an art kit, and a goody bag.

Otay Poster Contest Winners for 2022

 

First place, high school: Michael Armenion, eleventh grade, Otay Ranch High School. Photo: Otay Water District Otay Poster Contest

First place, high school: Michael Armenion, eleventh grade, Otay Ranch High School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

First place, middle school: Khilee Haull, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Otay poster contest

First place, middle school: Khilee Haull, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Second place, middle school: Fatima Altai, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Photo: Otay Water District

Second place, middle school: Fatima Altai, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

First place, elementary school: Angie Zhong, sixth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

First place, elementary school: Angie Zhong, sixth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Second place, elementary school: Christian-Kealoha Rogacion, fifth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

Second place, elementary school: Christian-Kealoha Rogacion, fifth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

The Otay Poster Contest winners compete for regional awards in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s annual student poster contest. Thirty-six posters are chosen from participating Southern California water agencies for inclusion in the 2023 MWD Water is Life calendar. This year, MWD selected Khilee Haull and Christian-Kealoha Rogacion to represent Otay Water District in MWD’s 2023 calendar.

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

Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on its Rattlesnake Tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Rattlesnake Tank Gets Class of 2023 Makeover

The Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road has received a fresh set of painted numbers the past 40 years, but not everyone knows the story behind the annual makeover.

FPUD crews change the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. A two-person team made up of district employees Colter Shannon (who also did it last year) and Martin Serrano performed the August task, painting over the “22” and changing it to “23” to welcome the graduating class of 2023.

It took district staff about five hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank. Staff compressed the job, through the magic of time-lapse video, to about eight seconds.

“Parents and Fallbrook High seniors anxiously await the painting of the tank and begin calling the office early in June to find out when we’re doing it,” said Noelle Denke, FPUD public affairs officer. “This year, it’s especially exciting for them because so many of them are back on campus and need something to look forward to.”

Prior to painting the tank about four decades ago, Fallbrook High seniors would climb up the hill in the middle of the night as a traditional dare, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.

Because their annual antics took place at a significant height and in the dark, FPUD staff became concerned for student safety. Workers first tried installing a fence to prevent access by the yearly stealth painting crew.

The fence failed to deter the enterprising students. Instead, they began jumping the fence later at night. District officials struck a deal with the students. If they stopped risking their safety for the dare, FPUD would safely paint the tank yearly to commemorate them.

“We’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.

A 25-foot salute to Fallbrook High’s graduating seniors   

Rattlesnake Tank

One of the last attempts by Fallbrook High School students to paint the tank themselves in 1981. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, Fallbrook Public Utility District arranges with them to power down their towers. Then crews safely hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work painting.

Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of Fallbrook’s oldest and most visible water tanks.

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

Sweetwater Authority’s New Scholarship Program Supports Careers In The Water Industry

Chula Vista, Calif. – Sweetwater Authority (Authority) recently launched a new scholarship program to provide funding for people interested in pursuing a career in the water industry. The Work for Water Scholarship is available to anyone living in the Authority’s service area.

Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to new or currently enrolled students at the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College or another accredited college, community college or trade school with a career goal in the water industry.

Veterans Career Day

Water Industry Wants You: Military Career Day at Cuyamaca College

The Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and San Diego County water agencies are hosting a free career day August 10 for military veterans looking to transition into the water and wastewater industry. The in-person career day is 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cuyamaca College Student Center, 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon.

Registration is online at CenterforWaterStudies.org. The San Diego County Water Authority is co-sponsoring the military career day.

Many water agencies are hiring, and veterans have key skills needed to provide safe, reliable drinking water for San Diego communities.

Retirements spur need for water and wastewater industry workers

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region. Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

Veterans will have the opportunity to meet water agency recruiters, learn about industry pay and benefits, and receive advice on different career pathways and fast-track educational opportunities offered by the Center for Water Studies, which provides specialized training in water and wastewater operations.

“Warriors2WaterWorks” career day

The “Warriors2WaterWorks” career day will be filled with many opportunities for veterans entering the civilian work world:

  • Water agencies from throughout the San Diego region will be available at information booths with applications that may be filled out on the spot, job lists, and agency information.
  • An equipment demonstration will be on display for attendees to learn more about what kind of equipment and infrastructure they may work with in water jobs.
  • Tours of the Cuyamaca College Veterans Center and Center for Water Studies.
  • Among other speakers, Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez, a U.S. Navy veteran, will speak on “How Your Military Service Translates to a Career in the Water Industry” and San Diego County Water Authority Director of Water Resources Kelley Gage will give the lunch time keynote on “100 Years of US Military/Regional WaterWorks Collaboration.”
  • Other sessions include a panel of recently transitioned military personnel in the water industry and a panel of human resources professionals detailing the civilian employment process.
  • A Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) session will be given, to help translate the military career of a veteran to a civilian career with applicable skillsets.
  • Breakout sessions designed for active military and veteran/reservists. Military spouses are encouraged to attend.

Job Opportunities

In October 2020, The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies launched a website – SanDiegoWaterWorks.org – that provides the first comprehensive posting of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location. The San Diego Water Works website includes:

  • Current water and wastewater job postings in the San Diego region
  • Training and education resources, career advice and internship programs
  • Featured jobs that highlight rewarding careers in the water industry
  • Information about special training programs and internships for military veterans
  • Tips and resources for transitioning military

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve was originally developed when the Olivenhain Municipal Water District partnered with the San Diego County Water Authority and the Bureau of Land Management as an element of the regional Emergency Storage Project. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Since its opening in 1992, the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve has evolved into one of San Diego County’s most precious natural resources.

Celebrating its milestone 30th anniversary, the reserve, or EFRR, was originally developed when the Olivenhain Municipal Water District partnered with the San Diego County Water Authority and the Bureau of Land Management as part of the regional Emergency Storage Project. Over the past 30 years, OMWD has managed the safe operations of EFRR to provide visitors with recreational, educational, and environmental experiences.

The 784-acre reserve in the heart of San Diego County offers 11 miles of hiking, biking, equestrian trails, picnic areas, and scenic viewing points. It is the central hub of more than 20,000 acres of contiguous open space with fully protected wildlife in perpetuity. Its facilities provide educational experiences for visitors of all ages.

“We look forward to joining with our partners and the public to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of this unique recreational reserve that continues to provide for the conservation of habitats and native species and opportunities to connect with nature,” says Kimberly A. Thorner, General Manager of Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

Creating partnerships to protect open space

The 784-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve offers 11 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The 784-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve offers 11 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The nonprofit Escondido Creek Conservancy is dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and protection of the natural open space within the Escondido Creek watershed where EFRR is located.

In March 2008, the Conservancy and OMWD partnered to create the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty. Located at the reserve, it is a one-of-a-kind facility designed by local artist James Hubbell, known for his nature-inspired art and architecture. The center features green design elements, including recycled building materials, solar panels powered by photovoltaic cells, and a green roof.

The new Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve's Interpretive Center features The building also features green design elements such as recycled building materials, solar panels powered by photovoltaic cells, and a green roof. Photo: Olivehain Municipal Water District

The new Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty features green design elements such as recycled building materials, solar panels powered by photovoltaic cells, and a green roof. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Conservancy has formed alliances with landowners, government agencies, and education and community groups to increase awareness of the invaluable resources intrinsic to the Escondido Creek watershed.

“From the very beginning in 1991, the Escondido Creek Conservancy had the intent to set natural lands set aside for the benefit of native plants and animals,” said Leonard Wittwer, Conservancy board president. “For the first few years of our existence, we focused on advocating for wise land-use decisions and physically cleaning up the creek so it could be perceived as worthy of protection.”

Educational experiences encourage outdoor exploration

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Park Rangers, Conservancy staff, and volunteers conduct guided group tours and student exploration programs to help promote environmental awareness and preservation of local watersheds. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Park Rangers, Conservancy staff, and volunteers conduct guided group tours and student exploration programs to help promote environmental awareness and preservation of local watersheds. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

For three decades, the reserve has been designed to unify the interests of domestic water supply development, natural resources management, and recreational opportunities. EFRR offers a variety of educational experiences from guided interpretive walks, hands-on learning in collaboration with local scout troops, publishing EFRR Birdwatching Guides for public use, and a free Junior Ranger program. The Junior Ranger program encourages children to explore the outdoors and helps instill an appreciation for our natural surroundings. Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Park Rangers, Conservancy staff, and volunteers conduct guided group tours and student exploration programs to help promote environmental awareness and preservation of local watersheds.

Access to the natural world

Conservancy board president Wittwer says education and access remain priorities.

“We will continue to set aside natural open space, continue to provide high-quality outdoor educational experiences, and continue to operate the Conservancy to the highest business standards,” said Wittwer. “We are looking into ways to provide more access to our preserves, recognizing the many benefits to humans of interacting with the natural world.”

“These experiences don’t just happen,” said OMWD General Manager Kim Thorner. “They are the result of creative people trying to find ways to share the incredible natural gem that is Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. OMWD looks forward to continuing to be the responsible steward of EFRR’s diverse natural resources and collaborating with the Conservancy and other organizations in providing the public outstanding educational experiences and access to nature through EFRR for many years to come.”

(Editor’s note: The Olivenhain 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.)