Posts

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby, City of Escondido

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the corona virus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Carrie Selby, City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Construction near San Marcos homes required creative thinking and community cooperation from the Vallecitos Water District to successfully complete the project. infrastructure

Community Outreach Makes Challenging Infrastructure Update a ‘Walk in the Park’

In its efforts to maintain its critical infrastructure, the Vallecitos Water District undertook a challenging update to a wastewater system pipeline constrained by its precarious location.

The existing eight-inch gravity sewer pipeline conveys wastewater from the intersection of Rock Springs Road and Bennett Avenue west through a greenbelt area to an existing 12-inch pipeline in Rock Springs Road at Lancer Park Avenue. To expand capacity for current and future growth, it was replaced with a new 15-inch PVC pipe west of Matthew Lane and a 12-inch PVC pipe north and east of Matthew Lane.

See video following the progress of this vital infrastructure project

 

Complications due to environmental and neighborhood protection

The location of the affected manhole put equipment and crews close to a SDG&E gas line inside a greenbelt park area. Photo: Vallecitos WD infrastructure

The location of the affected manhole put equipment and crews close to a SDG&E gas line inside a greenbelt park area. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The District always prefers to perform work in a street or public right-of-way. Neither were possible for this project due to its greenbelt and park location within feet of residential homes.

“We took every environmental precaution prior to construction,” said Lito Santos, Vallecitos Water District Project Engineer. “We performed a nesting survey, a raptor survey, and we also worked to tunnel under the bridge,” within the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clear Water Rule.”

San Marcos Woods Homeowners Association board member Ross Fisher acted as a liaison between homeowners and the HOA with the District. Fisher expressed concern about access to the work area by the District’s large combination truck. The original proposal to create a concrete strip to drive over wasn’t feasible.

Due to its incredible strength, the grass-crete and existing lawns can handle the weight of a large service vehicle driving on it without significant damage. Photo: Vallecitos WD

Due to its incredible strength, the grass-crete and existing lawns can handle the weight of a large service vehicle driving on it without significant damage. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Working together with Vallecitos Water District engineers, the group chose an alternative material called “grass-crete.” Grass-crete is a green porous paving solution that comes in easy-to-install rolls. It’s flexible, lightweight, durable and provides design versatility to the project. Due to its incredible strength, the grass-crete and existing lawns can handle the weight of a large service vehicle driving on it without significant damage.

Proximity to additional threats

Manholes were waterproofed, coated, and sealed as an additional precaution and to extend their longevity.

Manholes were waterproofed, coated, and sealed as an additional precaution and to extend their longevity. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District engineers also worked with San Diego Gas & Electric to perform its work with enough safety clearance from a 16-inch transmission main artery gas line pressurized at 800 pounds per square inch. The District secured permission to dig within two to three feet from the line instead of the standard five feet.

The work area is also prone to flooding after large rain events, raising the water levels in the nearby creek high enough to infiltrate and inflow into the manholes. The District moved the manholes clear of the creek embankment, and lifted the manholes two feet above ground and clear of the flood plain to prevent runoff intrusion. Manholes were waterproofed, coated, and sealed as an additional precaution and to extend their longevity.

Homeowners praise Vallecitos cooperation with community

 The District moved the manholes clear of the creek embankment, and lifted the manholes two feet above ground and clear of the flood plain to prevent runoff intrusion.

The District moved the manholes clear of the creek embankment, and lifted the manholes two feet above ground and clear of the flood plain to prevent runoff intrusion. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“Overall Vallecitos left the greenbelt area as good or better when they started,” said Fisher of the HOA. “On a scale of one to ten, I have to give them a 9.5 or a ten. Working with the inspectors and Lito Santos the engineer, everything we asked for was done in a timely manner.”

“The project was a huge success,” said Santos. “Working with the Vallecitos Engineering Team, the Inspection Team and Mr. Fischer, it was not just a Vallecitos highlight but a career highlight.”

Read more

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby, City of Escondido

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. Carrie Selby, City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero-City of Escondido-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby, City of Escondido

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Carrie Selby, City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Carrie Selby

Job/Agency: City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I worked security at Lake Skinner for MWD in 2002, and very much wanted to advance my career but was not sure how. Until, I came across a flyer for an operator position. This interested me, so I asked one of the operators who worked there, how to get into the field. He provided me some materials and this immediately peaked my interest. I ended up applying at another agency and was hired as an Operator-In-Training. Eighteen years later, I am still in the field and currently hold a Grade 3 Certification.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Although we regularly practiced extremely good hygiene at the plant. We now have taken extra precautions such as, wearing facemasks, and maintaining social distancing. Temperature stations are now our new norm. We have to take our temperature prior to starting our shift.

How are you keeping safe?

I come to work in proper attire and practice extra sanitizing precautions. I always make sure to change out of anything that I wear at work prior to going home.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I am looking forward to getting back to traveling and adventuring out to some hiking trails. Nature is fuel to my soul! I also look forward to spending time with family.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

City of Oceanside-Ron Lutge-Water Utility Hero of the Week-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Ron Lutge, City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Ron Lutge

Job/Agency: City of Oceanside Chief Plant Operator

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I became interested in the water industry in a round-about way. After leaving the military, I found it difficult to find work that was both mentally stimulating and challenging. I was looking for something that would allow me to work at an operational tempo I was used to. I definitely wasn’t looking for anything easy or slowed paced. At the time I was working at the General Electric aircraft engine overhaul facility in Ontario. Unfortunately, that industry proved to be unstable and did not offer a promising career. While searching for something new, I found Oceanside had a couple of openings for office workers. Since I had some experience working with spreadsheets and databases, I was offered a position in the water department. I figured this would keep me employed while I looked for something different. I soon discovered there were many disciplines within the water industry. I soon began researching career options in the water industry. Inspiration came from the supervisor I was working for at the time. I sat down with him and asked what were the requirements necessary to become an operator. I also received encouragement from the operators I came in contact with on a daily basis. That’s all it took. After that, I hit the ground running and have never looked back. The water profession is honorable, rewarding, and has offered me everything I have been looking for in a career – just like the military – another opportunity to continue being of service to others. And isn’t that what we as water professionals are here for – to be of service?

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

My personal day-to-day routine hasn’t really changed; I’m always busy. However, given the current health crisis we are all in, it has made me keenly aware of just how important it is to ensure our team is being taken care of, staying safe and healthy, and doing everything we can to ensure our facility stays operational to provide water to the residents of Oceanside without interruption. Because we operate our facility 24 hours a day, coupled with having a very small staff, we cannot work from home or implement rotating or staggered shifts. Everyone has to be ready, prepared, and available to work.

How are you keeping safe?

By following the guidance recommended by health officials to limit exposure in public, at work and home: social distancing, face coverings, sanitizing, washing hands, etc. By practicing these simple protocols we keep each other safe and minimize ourselves or others getting sick.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

A return to some semblance of normalcy – whatever that may be.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

SDCWA Twilight building-primary 845x450

Strategic Steps Minimize Water Rates for 2021

Following a public hearing, the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors today adopted rate increases for 2021 that are 30% lower than proposed last month following a series of refinements by staff. In addition, the Board directed staff to return in September or October with any further opportunities to reduce the 2021 rate increases, such as a decrease in rates set by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California or the acquisition of federal or state economic stimulus funds.

As adopted June 25, the all-in rates charged to the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies will increase by 4.8% for untreated water and 4.9% for treated water in calendar year 2021. The new rates take effect January 1, 2021.

Rate increases are driven by reduced water sales, higher rates and charges from MWD and continued regional investments in supply reliability.

Secure water supply is foundation of economic recovery

Since the staff’s rate proposal was released in May, the Water Authority re-evaluated several assumptions driven by COVID-19 recessionary pressures based on new economic data and forecasts. The Water Authority also funded some costs related to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant this year instead of in 2021. The 2021 rates and charges may be further reduced if MWD makes material changes when revisiting its budget and rates this fall.

“We’ve taken a series of strategic steps to minimize rate impacts during this pandemic-induced recession, despite numerous factors putting upward pressure on rates,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “At the same time, the Water Authority is maintaining its long-term fiscal stability while ensuring a safe and reliable regional water supply for residents and businesses that will be the foundation of our economic recovery.”

In 2021, the Water Authority will charge its 24 member agencies an all-in municipal and industrial rate of $1,474 per acre-foot for untreated water, or $68 more per acre-foot than they currently pay. Charges would be $1,769 per acre-foot for treated water, or $83 more per acre-foot than in 2020.

Actual figures will vary by member agency, and each member agency will incorporate costs from the Water Authority into the retail rates it charges to residents, businesses and institutions. (Note: An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to serve the annual needs of 2.5 typical four-person households in San Diego County.)

In addition, the rates package includes new Permanent Special Agriculture Water Rates, following the Board’s decision late last year to make the temporary program permanent. The program provides farmers with lower rates that correspond to a lower level of water supply reliability. In 2021, the untreated PSAWR will increase from its current level of $755 per acre-foot to $777 per acre-foot and the treated PSAWR will increase from $1,035 per acre-foot to $1,072 per acre-foot.

Rising costs from MWD affect rates

The fiscal pressures faced by the Water Authority include:

  • Reduced water sales, which are 14% below the current budget and expected to remain low in 2021 due to coronavirus-related business closures and other factors. Decreased water sales put upward pressure on rates because costs must be spread across fewer units sold.
  • Rising costs from MWD that reflect continued increases to its base supply rates and charges and the amount MWD charges to transport the Water Authority’s independent Colorado River supplies. For the Water Authority, MWD’s adopted 2021 rates increase supply costs by more than 9%, or $15.4 million.

The Water Authority’s 2021 rates were developed in conjunction with an independent cost-of-service study to ensure rates and charges comply with state law, legal requirements, cost-of-service standards and Board policies, and strategic tools such as the Long-Range Financing Plan.

In addition, the 2021 rates are designed to ensure Board-adopted debt coverage ratios that support the Water Authority’s strong credit ratings and minimize the cost of borrowing money for construction projects. The Water Authority has credit ratings of AAA with a stable outlook from S&P, AA+ from Fitch, and Aa2 with a stable outlook from Moody’s.

The rates adopted by the Board are the result of strategic measures that include:

  • Providing more than $80 million in rate relief from the Rate Stabilization Fund over the next 24 months.
  • Capitalizing on historically low interest rates and strong credit ratings by lowering annual debt expenditures by optimizing cash to restructure outstanding debt to provide significant savings.
  • Planning to withdraw stored water to reduce water purchases while maintaining water reserves for future years – the result of careful planning and investments over more than two decades.
  • Reducing budget expenditures with a hiring freeze reduced professional services contracts and reprioritizing more than $30 million in capital projects.

 

Fallbrook PUD Board Members Tour Construction Project

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, public agencies have found creative solutions to holding meetings in compliance with the State of California’s meeting laws. Recently, Fallbrook Public Utility District board members stepped away from their video screens, using the opportunity to take a field trip to view a new project while conducting a traveling board meeting.
The Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project is a joint project with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and will eventually supply about 30% of the District’s water, and virtually all of Camp Pendleton’s water.
The Fallbrook PUD Board tour group initially drove from the FPUD administration building to the Alturas Road plant and then traveled along the pipeline alignment before arriving at the Gheen Pump Station. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utilities District

Fallbrook PUD Board Members Tour Construction Project

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, public agencies have found creative solutions to holding meetings in compliance with the State of California’s meeting laws. Recently, Fallbrook Public Utility District board members stepped away from their video screens, using the opportunity to take a field trip to view a new project while conducting a traveling board meeting.

The Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project is a joint project with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and will eventually supply about 30% of the District’s water, and virtually all of Camp Pendleton’s water.

Fallbrook PUD board members view construction project

Construction of the first section of pipeline on Merida Drive is part of the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project. This segment of pipeline between Alturas and Mission roads is about 4,500 linear feet and is 35% installed. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utilities District Fallbrook PUD Board

Construction of the first section of pipeline on Merida Drive is part of the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project. This segment of pipeline between Alturas and Mission roads is about 4,500 linear feet and is 35% installed. Photo: Fallbrook Public Utility District

At the time of the tour, the project had been under construction for 250 days. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, board members and others who attended the traveling meeting stayed in their cars. While behind the wheel, board members wove through parts of Fallbrook to follow the path of the new pipeline. With their smartphones turned on and hands-free, representatives followed each other in a single file parade while listening to a live conference call with the project contractor.  Board members learned about construction progress, and saw where and how the pipe will be installed.

The tour and the project began at the treatment plant on Alturas Road, where bulldozers and heavy machinery are moving earth to build the pipeline and a water treatment plant. The pipeline will transport water from the plant through parts of central Fallbrook, ending at McDonald Road. The project also includes a new four million-gallon storage tank, where the tour ended. Participants discussed the possibility of a subsequent tour to view ongoing progress with construction of the facilities.

The entire construction process will take approximately two years to complete, with the pipeline becoming fully operational by 2022.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Keith Swiatkowski, 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. Keith Swiatkowski, Otay Water District Water Systems Operator III, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.