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College Scholarships Offered for Water Industry Education

Multiple California water associations and water agencies in San Diego County are offering college scholarships to help candidates achieve their goals.

A large number of recent retirements combined with the need for a skilled workforce up to date on new technologies have resulted in a critical need to increase the talent pool of skilled individuals in the water and wastewater industry, including in San Diego County.

Scholarships are available for community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and graduate-level programs.

Scholarships-In her job at the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab, Associate Chemist Sarah Shapard performs tests analyzing for ammonia. Photo: City of Escondido Water industry education

College Scholarships Offered for Water Industry Education

Multiple California water associations and water agencies in San Diego County are offering college scholarships to help candidates achieve their goals.

A large number of recent retirements combined with the need for a skilled workforce up to date on new technologies have resulted in a critical need to increase the talent pool of skilled individuals in the water and wastewater industry, including in San Diego County.

Scholarships are available for community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and graduate-level programs. The following examples are due in the coming weeks for study in the 2022-2023 academic school year.

San Diego regional water scholarships

Otay Water District officials presents the first donation for a scholarship fund to Cuyamaca College President Dr. Julianna Barnes named after Otay General Manager Mark Watton. Photo: Otay Water District water industry education

Otay Water District officials present the first donation for a scholarship fund to Cuyamaca College President Dr. Julianna Barnes named after Otay General Manager Mark Watton. Photo: Otay Water District

The Mark Watton Scholarship Fund, established by the Otay Water District at the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, supports students attending the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College. It honors Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton’s four decades of service to the district.

Applicants must be currently enrolled for at least six units at Cuyamaca College, verify financial need, and complete the general application and essay. Scholarships of $1,000 are available. The Otay Water District is continuing to accept donations to the Mark Watton Scholarship Fund.

Students can contact scholarship specialist Ernest Williams at 619-660-4537 or email for more information.

The Helix Water District offers two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors living within the district’s service area who will begin their university studies next fall. Applications are due March 4 for the Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship and the Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship, which both provide help with freshman year expenses. The scholarship committee reviews each applicant’s grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, academic and career goals, and financial needs.

High school seniors must graduate in the Class of 2022 this spring and attend a four-year college or university next fall. Students submit a two-page essay answering the question, “What is potable reuse and East County Advanced Water Purification?”

Deadline: March 4, 2022. Application Link. Students can verify their eligibility at 619-466-0585.

The Vista Irrigation District offers up to six scholarships between $1,000 and $3,000 to high school students living or attending school within the district. The purpose of the scholarship program is to increase knowledge and awareness of water-related issues impacting their community. Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a personal statement. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service.

Deadline: February 25, 2022. Application Link. Students can call Alisa Nichols at 760-597-3173 with questions or to request application information.

California water industry group scholarships

Vallecitos Water District-water industry careers-veterans-jobs

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Technician Dale Austin encourages military veterans to consider water industry careers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Canham Graduate Studies scholarship provides $25,000 for a post-baccalaureate student in the water environment field. The scholarship is for education-related expenses such as room and board, tuition and books. The scholarship may not be used to cover stipends or wages.

The applicant must be a WEF member, complete an online application, and be enrolled in a graduate program. Recipients must commit to working in the water industry for two years following graduation.

Deadline: March 1, 2022. Application Link. For questions, email Tori Cox at

The Association of California Water Agencies offers a $3,500 scholarship to qualified applicants attending a University of California or California State University school pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water-resources related field such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, or public administration. The applicant must be a junior or senior attending full-time during the 2021-2022 school year.  Criteria include scholastic achievement and motivation to the vocation of water-resources management.

ACWA also offers the new John P. Fraser Water Leaders Fellowship to a currently employed water professional at an ACWA member agency selected to participate in the Water Education Foundation’s annual William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class. The program is named in honor of ACWA’s former executive director for his 22 years of service.

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood family ties

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Deadline: March 1, 2022. Application Link. For questions, call 916-441-4545 or email .

The California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association awards more than $20,000 in scholarships in support of students and professionals pursuing careers in a drinking water-related field. Two $5,000 graduate scholarships, four $2,500 undergraduate scholarships, and two $1,000 scholarships in support of training as a drinking water treatment/distribution operator are available.

Suitable candidates include environmental and civil engineers; water, wastewater and recycling treatment plant operators; distribution system operators; chemists; laboratory technicians; biologists, ecologists and environmental scientists; and others whose roles support safe and reliable drinking water.

Deadline: March 15, 2022. Application Link. For information, call 909-481-7200 or email 

With approximately 1,400 water and wastewater jobs expected to open up across San Diego County in the next five years due to retirements, water industry careers offer promising lifelong professional opportunities. For more information, visit sandiegowaterworks.org.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Vista Irrigation District, City of Escondido, and the Vallecitos Water District, are five of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Sweetwater Authority Opens 2022 High School Photo Contest

The Sweetwater Authority calls on high school student photographers to enter its 2022 High School Photo Contest. This year’s contest challenges students to creatively photograph the many ways people use water.

The 2022  theme is “Water In Daily Life.” Water supports our daily lives. It flows into our homes, helping to quench our thirst, cook, clean, grow food, and keep us healthy. Students are encouraged to answer this question with their work: What ways do you interact with water?

High School Photo contest-First Place, Black and White in 2021: Mariah Journigan, Bonita Vista High School, “Shelter In Place.”

Sweetwater Authority Opens 2022 High School Photo Contest

The Sweetwater Authority calls on high school student photographers to enter its 2022 High School Photo Contest. This year’s contest challenges students to creatively photograph the many ways people use water.

The 2022 theme is “Water In Daily Life.” Water supports our daily lives. It flows into our homes, helping to quench our thirst, cook, clean, grow food, and keep us healthy. Students are encouraged to answer this question with their work: What ways do you interact with water?

“The Governing Board is proud to offer this yearly contest as a way to celebrate the importance of our most precious resource – water,” said Sweetwater Authority Board Chair Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. “This contest furthers the Authority’s goal of serving our community through education and outreach.”

2021 Second Place winner, Color: Chula Vista High School sophomore Araceli Romo portrayed her love for watercolor painting in “Watercolor Wonderland.” Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Entrants must be high school students who live in or attend school in the Sweetwater Authority service area. Photos must be taken in 2021 or 2022 within the Sweetwater River Watershed or Sweetwater Authority’s service area boundaries covering National City, Bonita, and western and central Chula Vista.

Photos may be in black and white or color. Entrants can submit up to three photos in each category. Students can edit the photos for minor adjustments only and must retain a natural, realistic appearance.

Judging criteria for the photo competition

The 2021 winner in the Color category was Kayla Rosenberg, a freshman at Hilltop High School. She said her entry “Sunshine Shower” portrayed the family dog’s sense of fun. Photo: Courtesy Sweetwater Authority

In addition, each photo must include a short essay of 50 to 100 words describing how the photo related to the contest theme. Judging will be performed by a panel of Sweetwater Authority staff and community experts. Judging criteria includes creativity, technical quality, adherence to the theme, visual appeal, and the narrative to explain the significance of the photo.

Winners receive cash prizes: $400 for first place, $300 for second place, and $200 for third place. Fifty students submitted entries in last year’s competition – see the winners here.

Deadline for submission is 5 p.m. Friday, March 18. Submission forms are available at www.sweetwater.org/photocontest. Submissions must be emailed to . Photos must be in JPEG form, 10 MB or less, and 300 PPI resolution, sized to 8×10 inches.

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

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle announced her retirement at the end of 2021 after a three decade career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Supervisor Retires After Three Decades of Service

From her first day on the job at Vallecitos Water District in 1988, Dawn McDougle knew that she wanted to finish her career at the San Marcos-based water agency. McDougle accomplished her goal, officially retiring on December 23, 2021.

McDougle’s dedication, innovation, and commitment to the community have paid off in many ways over three decades, including recognition in 1993 as the California Water Education Association of San Diego Laboratory Person of the Year, and again by CWEA in 2018 as the Supervisor of the Year. But McDougle’s impressive career needed a kickstart from fate.

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle's keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle’s keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

McDougle interviewed at the City of Escondido for a meter reader position but didn’t get the position.

“The city called me later and asked if I would be interested in a part-time position as a laboratory technician assistant,” she said. “Of course, I said yes. When I went to the interview at the wastewater treatment plant, I found it very interesting and wanted to know more. I got the job and from there I learned as much as I could from the biologists and chemists.”

From her first job as an Industrial Waste Technician, McDougle was promoted to Laboratory Director. After two years working at the Encina Wastewater Authority, McDougle returned to Vallecitos Water District and was promoted to Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor in 2000, where she remained until retiring at the end of 2021.

Multiple accomplishments benefit the community

At the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility, McDougle played a major role in the $30 million expansion and upgrade of the facility, extending its lifespan beyond 2030. The facility produces recycled water for golf courses at La Costa and the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, several school sites, and Legoland California. McDougle kept the existing plant operating while implementing innovations allowing it to increase capacity while at the same time reducing chemical and energy costs. The facility successfully reached its output goal of five million gallons per day.

Women did not often pursue water and wastewater careers when Dawn McDougle was originally hired. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Women did not often pursue water and wastewater careers when Dawn McDougle was originally hired. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

McDougle started at Vallecitos as an industrial waste technician at a time when few women performed this work. She advanced her career by taking classes and earning certifications – and she helped others by mentoring and coaching them along the way. McDougle says she knew from the first day she arrived she wanted to finish her career at Vallecitos.

Lifelong learning key to career success

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle's keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Vallecitos Supervisor Retires

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle’s keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“Looking back, the most surprising thing about my career that stands out the most is how our people provided so much support,” said McDougle. “I was always in awe of the great people in this industry. Outsiders don’t understand what goes into keeping operations all moving while keeping the environment protected. They [staff] are always on call no matter when: evenings, weekends, and holidays.”

McDougle said her goal as a supervisor was to share information, but also to learn from her staff as well.

She says her best career advice for others pursuing water and wastewater industry careers is to pursue ongoing education.“Work hard and achieve the highest certifications you can. Listen and learn. There is so much knowledge to be passed down. And keep an open mind.”

Dawn McDougle frequently led tours of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility for visitors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Vallecitos Supervisor Retires

Dawn McDougle frequently led tours of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility for visitors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

McDougle admits to “pinching myself on how fortunate I am to have been part of this career field, and advance.” Now, McDougle says she plans to spend time with family, travel, play golf and paddleboard, and take up new hobbies.

“As much as I enjoyed my career and being responsible for the facility the last 22 years, it is time for relaxation,” said McDougle.

McDougle said her goal was to transfer all her knowledge to the Meadowlark staff, “not only for them but for the district. It’s my responsibility.”

McDougle’s legacy is a career spent making sure the Vallecitos Water District’s facilities live up to their promise to the community.

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

Water is Life-Calendar-Third grade student Lucas Regimbal is the youngest representative from San Diego County in the "Water Is Life" 2022 calendar. Photo: MWD

Four San Diego County Student Artists Featured in 2022 Calendar

Four talented San Diego County student artists from the region’s schools are among 37 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2022 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. Students in grades K-12 submit artwork through participating member agencies after winning their local competition.

The four regional winners were invited to participate in a virtual award ceremony for all students, their families, and teachers to honor their achievements on December 6.

MWD Board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray told the students, “We’re amazed every year at the beautiful artwork we receive with moving messages that compel us to cherish and protect our precious water supplies. Every day next year, this calendar will remind us how precious water is. In your artwork, I see the future generation of leaders. You have the power to bring about change.”

Winning students from the San Diego region

Third grade student Lucas Regimbal is the youngest representative from San Diego County in the "Water Is Life" 2022 calendar. Photo: MWD

Third-grade student Lucas Regimbal is the youngest representative from San Diego County in the “Water Is Life” 2022 calendar. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Third-grader Lucas Regimbal from Christ Lutheran La Mesa School in Helix Water District explained his message. “I think there are so many big things to do to save water and conserve. But there are also many little things we can do as well. A lot of little things come up to some very big things. By fixing drips, each home or business can save hundreds of gallons of water per year. That means a lot if lots of families and business did this one little thing.”

 Eighth grade student Isabella Blakely brought drip irrigation to life as a symbol of conservation. Photo: MWD 2022 Calendar

Eighth-grade student Isabella Blakely brought drip irrigation to life as a symbol of conservation. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

An eighth-grader at Eastlake Middle School in the Otay Water District, Isabella Blakely took inspiration from the drip irrigation in her backyard garden at home.

“My family has always conserved water,” said Blakely. “We have a drip irrigation system in our backyard. I’ve always had a love for plants and animals. I wanted to show that through my drawing by drawing a plant.”

Yaricia Hernandez used a bold caption to call attention to her artwork's message. Photo: MWD 2022 Calendar

Yaricia Hernandez used a bold caption to call attention to her artwork’s message. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Yaricia Hernandez, a fourth-grader at Rio Seco School in the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, turned the Earth into a water spigot running dry. Her bold graphic caption for the 2022 calendar reads, “No Water, No Plants, No Oxygen, No Life.”

Sidney Shatwell illustrated good health practices that rely on safe, clean water. Photo: MWD 2022 Calendar

Sidney Shatwell illustrated good health practices that rely on safe, clean water. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Fifth-grade student Sidney Shatwell at Allen Elementary School represented Sweetwater Authority with her artwork depicting the critical importance of water in everyday good health practices such as brushing your teeth, washing your hands, and staying hydrated.

Adel Hagekhalil, MWD general manager, praised the efforts of the student artists.

“I’m so grateful seeing the work you have done and how you’re sending the message. Our future is in good hands with you,” said Hagekhalil. “Thank you for leading the way in making our future for water resilient, sustainable, and affordable for everyone. It was a bright day when I looked at your pictures.”

Conservation message delivered through artistic talent

The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar was initially created 33 years ago. It curates student art submitted from grades K through 12, carrying a vital conservation message about the importance of water.

For the 2022 calendar, 216 entries were submitted by 26 regional water agencies. The annual calendar is distributed to 13,000 recipients each year.

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

North County Students Make Splash in Water District Contests

Local students floated lots of good ideas in the 30th annual Water Awareness Poster Contest, sponsored by North County’s water agencies. This year’s theme was “Love Water, Save Water.”

The contest for fourth-graders aims to increase understanding and appreciation for conserving water and using it more efficiently. Students showed ways they love water, how they save water at home, or ways to save or recycle water in the future to help the Earth. Winning students artwork is printed in the 2022 North County Water Agency Calendar. Free copies are available at local water district offices, usually by mid-November.

New Digital Water Education Workbook Makes a Splash

The San Diego County Water Authority today released an interactive, digital workbook to help upper elementary students learn about the region’s most precious natural resource: water.

The online digital water education workbook is the latest addition to the Water Authority’s long-running education program that has helped instill water knowledge in hundreds of thousands of students in over more than two decades.

Blue animated water drop

New Digital Water Education Workbook Makes a Splash

The San Diego County Water Authority today released an interactive, digital workbook to help upper elementary students learn about the region’s most precious natural resource: water.

The online digital water education workbook is the latest addition to the Water Authority’s long-running education program that has helped instill water knowledge in hundreds of thousands of students in over more than two decades. It was funded by a grant from the Hans and Margaret Doe Charitable Trust and State of California, Proposition 84 Round 4 funds.

Digital Water Education Workbook

There are eight learning modules in the workbook, which is free for all teachers and students in the San Diego region. The curriculum is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, which are used by schools throughout the state.

Water Cycle Graphic

In the workbook, students can learn about important water-related topics such as the water cycle, San Diego County water supplies, bodies of water, and water-use efficiency. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Blue, an animated, effervescent water drop is the main character who leads students on a journey to learn about topics such as the water cycle, San Diego County’s water supplies, states of water, bodies of water, water and wastewater infrastructure, and careers in the water industry.

“Schools have relied heavily on virtual learning over the last 18 months, and the Water Authority has also adapted our education programs to virtual options to ensure that students can continue learning about important topics like water,” said Denise Vedder, Public Affairs Director at the Water Authority. “We realized there was a need for a comprehensive and interactive water education resource that students can access wherever they are learning. We are grateful to the state and the Hans and Margaret Doe Charitable Trust for their generous support of this important learning tool.”

Novus Origo, a veteran-owned company based in Vista, California, provided graphic design, animation, and web development services.

In addition, Water Authority staff collaborated with partners such as the San Diego County Office of Education, Fleet Science Center, local teachers, and the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

The workbook and other water education resources are available at sdcwa.org/education.

New Digital Water Education Workbook Makes a Splash

Sept. 16, 2021 – The San Diego County Water Authority today released an interactive, digital workbook to help upper elementary students learn about the region’s most precious natural resource: water.

The online workbook is the latest addition to the Water Authority’s long-running education program that has helped instill water knowledge in hundreds of thousands of students in over more than two decades. It was funded by a grant from the Hans and Margaret Doe Charitable Trust and State of California, Proposition 84 Round 4 funds.