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Career-Otay Water District-Faces of the Water Industry

Learn About Water Industry Career Opportunities From the Pros

Looking for a challenging and satisfying career? Current and aspiring professionals can learn about water industry career opportunities through the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” social media outreach campaign in October. 

The campaign, inspired by ACWA’s California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, highlights the San Diego region’s water and wastewater professionals and the essential work that they do to provide safe and reliable water supplies for 3.3 million people and a $253 billion economy. 

Water Industry Pros Share Their Stories

The Faces of the Water Industry campaign features the stories of 21 water industry professionals through a series of social media posts and videos. Beginning October 1, follow the Water Authority on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to read inspiring stories from the region’s water and wastewater pros.

Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician 

Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician, City of Escondido

“Growing up near the ocean, water always played an influential part in my life,” said Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician at the City of Escondido. “I always knew I wanted to work with water but wasn’t sure how until I was surfing with a close friend one day. He mentioned a nearby community college offered classes focused on water distribution. I decided to take a leap and try it out. The classes were appealing to me. Therefore I began a career in water distribution. Water is one of our most valuable resources, and I’m happy to protect it for the future. I find gratification in protecting the City’s water infrastructure.”

Laura York, Laboratory Analyst 

Laura York, Laboratory Analyst, Otay Water District

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is that it contributes to society. Water is a vital resource that all life depends on for survival,” said Laura York, Laboratory Analyst at Otay Water District. “As a lab analyst, I monitor water quality and protect public health by ensuring the water meets regulatory requirements and is safe for drinking. Working in the industry also provides lifelong learning opportunities as there are continuous challenges and the accompanying need for innovation and improvement.”

Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field) 

Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field), Sweetwater Authority

“I was inspired to work for a water agency because I knew that the work I would be performing on a daily basis would have an immediate impact on our customers and that the service that we provide is vital to everyday life,” said Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field) at Sweetwater Authority. “In addition, I knew that working for the Authority would not only bring me satisfaction but also help me and my family have a bright future.”

Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II 

Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II, San Diego County Water Authority

“Working in the water industry is very rewarding,” said Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II at the San Diego County Water Authority. “In the water industry I have had the opportunity to see and grow so much of San Diego. The people and the innovation that goes into providing water is fulfilling. Building infrastructure to ensure that the people around me can live, work and play is a passion of mine. I take pride knowing that I help provide water to the country. I look forward to continuingly growing in my career in the water industry.”

Upcoming Water Industry Career Webinars

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities for essential careers in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration and information technology. 

The Water Authority and California Water Environmental Association (CWEA) is hosting free career webinars for new and current water professionals. 

For job openings, internships and education opportunities across the San Diego region’s water and wastewater industry, go to sandiegowaterworks.org.

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

The Hydro Station project allows 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. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Interactive Display Added to Hydro Station Project in Chula Vista

A new display added to the Chula Vista Hydro Station helps students learn about the water treatment process through interactive activities.

This unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD), the Hydro Station opened two years ago on August 15, at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

The Hydro Station project is an interactive educational space that features 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. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Hydro Station project is an interactive educational space that features 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. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

“We’re excited to welcome students back to the Hydro Station this year and use this interactive display to teach them how we use desalination to treat local drought-proof groundwater for our customers,” said Hector Martinez, Sweetwater Authority board chairman.

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

The Sweetwater Authority and CVESD worked together to create the new display for students. The display was made possible through a grant from the Hans and Margaret Doe Charitable Trust, awarded to the Hydro Station project in 2019. The display will be worked into the Hydro Station curriculum and help teach CVESD students from the Otay Water District and the Authority’s service areas about the desalination process.

“The addition of this new interactive display demonstrates that education is always evolving, as is the water industry,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “As a partner of the Hydro Station, we’re proud to offer enhanced opportunities to students because they are our future water workforce.”

Hands-on experience for 4,000 students annually

The Hydro Station is an interactive educational space at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facilities, operated as a joint partnership between the school district, the Otay Water District, and the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

The Hydro Station is an interactive educational space that features 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. More than 4,000 students are expected to visit the Hydro Station annually.

“The Hydro Station introduces our students to the world of work in the water industry and inspires them at an early age to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics,” said CVESD Superintendent Dr. Francisco Escobedo. “With this station, we expose students to careers that can change the trajectory of entire families, opening the door to high-wage careers that our students might not have thought were possible. The students also explore ways to make the world a better place through clean water and water conservation.”

Educating the next generation of essential workers

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. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

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. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

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 allows 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 three dedicated days focused on career opportunities in Information and Communication Technologies, Clean Energy, and the Blue Economy. Students learn how their strengths, interests, and values may align with career options, and hands-on activities will help them connect to specific careers.

The Hydro Station location gives students a hands-on opportunity to explore how their strengths, interests, and values can connect with careers in the water industry while presenting opportunities to solve real-world problems through the Engineering Design Process. It also educates children and their families, as well as the community, on the thoughtful use of water resources.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District and 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 Employee Encourages Veterans to Work in Water Industry

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump and Motor Technician Dale Austin is a strong advocate and one-person recruiting program, encouraging military veterans to consider water and wastewater industry careers. As an eighth-generation military veteran with 20 years of service, he successfully transitioned to his current profession and wants to help others do the same.

“Every job in the military can be transferred into a water agency,” said Austin. “I’m a proud veteran. I will support veterans 110% any way I can, any time of the day.

Vallecitos Water District-water industry careers-veterans-jobs

Vallecitos Employee Encourages Veterans to Work in Water Industry

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump and Motor Technician Dale Austin is a strong advocate and one-person recruiting program, encouraging military veterans to consider water and wastewater industry careers. As an eighth-generation military veteran with 20 years of service, he successfully transitioned to his current profession and wants to help others do the same.

“Every job in the military can be transferred into a water agency,” said Austin. “I’m a proud veteran. I will support veterans 110% any way I can, any time of the day.

“One of the things I can tell a veteran preparing for a job or seeking a job within this field is be prepared. Prepare yourself. You’re always training for a deployment or another duty assignment. This job is no different.”

Half of all water and wastewater industry employees are expected to retire in the next 15 years. Many of those workers hold essential positions. The value of these essential workers became especially clear due to the pandemic.

Retirement wave creates career opportunities for veterans

In just the next five years, about 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open across the San Diego region. In addition to engineers and plant operators, the industry relies on technicians, accountants, electricians, mechanics, information technology specialists, and many other occupations.

Austin encourages veterans to explore their options through opportunities available for education and training, such as the certificate and degree programs at Cuyamaca College and Palomar College.

“Seek out volunteer programs. Seek out tours. Call a water agency. There are programs there. Take full advantage of those,” said Austin. “Go to job fairs. Read job postings, even if you don’t know what kind of job you may qualify for.”

Water and wastewater industry jobs allow veterans to continue serving their community by providing safe, sanitary water and ensuring public health and safety. Careers are stable with good salaries and benefits. Water and wastewater professionals serve in communities and agencies of all sizes.

“I want to do the best for the ratepayers. I really take pride in that.  I think the military instilled that in me. It’s a team environment here. It’s like a military coalition. I love working with my team. I believe the military helped me achieve that,” said Austin.

Vets receive credit for military experience and education

Skills acquired from military service translate well to water and wastewater industry jobs. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Encourages Veterans

Skills acquired from military service translate well to water and wastewater industry jobs. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

San Diego area veterans can learn about career opportunities at a dedicated web portal for veterans, SanDiegoWaterWorks.org.  New laws in California supported by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer credit for military education and experience when applying for industry jobs.

Austin especially encourages women veterans to consider water industry careers. “I work with great women leaders here [Vallecitos Water District]. Your career choices are endless. You’re focused on doing well. As a veteran, you have a hand up,” said Austin.

Austin said his 11 years working at the Vallecitos Water District feels like working in a military environment in positive ways.

“We take care of each other. Everyone helps everyone else. I love the sense of accomplishment and the sense of satisfaction of doing a job well,” said Austin. “A lot of our jobs are unrecognized by the public. You turn your tap on, you flush your toilet. Everything works. I get a sense of satisfaction with my group knowing we did a job well.”

(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.)

Vallecitos Water District waterwater technicians Matt Wiess and Chris Deering at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Water and Wastewater Scholarship Opportunities Available at National University

The new Waterworks Management Concentration in the Bachelor of Public Administration, offered by National University in partnership with Cuyamaca College, begins its second cohort of courses in August. Two new scholarship opportunities are now available to help prospective students overcome financial barriers and reach new career goals.

Developed in collaboration with regional employers, and driven by the rapidly growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry, the Bachelor of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Waterworks Management, or BPA degree, allows graduates of the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies to transfer directly into National University bachelor’s program after earning their associate’s degree. Transfer scholarships are also available to graduates of other California community colleges.

Scholarship opportunities include:

  • The Opportunity Scholarship, which extends financial assistance to adult learned who are Pell Grant recipients
  • The Fast Track Scholarship, a merit-based award designed to help students complete their degree program by offering a free class for every three classes completed within six months, up to a 25% savings in tuition fees
  • The ADT Scholarship for CA CC Transfer Students

Dr. Joseph Allen, Director of Community College Pathways at National University, holds free live information webinars for prospective students every other Thursday. The next one is scheduled at 5 p.m. on May 20. Registration is free and open to anyone interested in the program. All courses in the program are taught online.

“While you are working from home, you now have digital access to a waterworks management education that can transform your career trajectory,” said Dr. Allen.

Demand for skilled professionals

Water and wastewater professionals like the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 4S Ranch Wastewater Treatment plant employees are moving toward retirement with not enough replacements available. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Water and wastewater professionals like the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 4S Ranch Wastewater Treatment plant employees are moving toward retirement with not enough replacements available. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

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 12,000 to 20,000 water and wastewater jobs throughout California in the near future. Many of the positions require a bachelor’s degree such as the National University BPA degree.

The degree 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.

The insight and recommendations of regional employers coordinated by the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and the San Diego County Water Authority, make the academic pathway possible.

Positive student reviews

The National University Bachelor of Public Administration degree program is taught in a convenient online format. Photo: Vanessa Garcia

The National University Bachelor of Public Administration degree program is taught in a convenient online format. Photo: Vanessa Garcia

Students from the first group completing the four-course concentration give the program positive feedback.

“I had a great experience in Waterworks Management in California,” said Clinton Swanger. “The class enlightened me to fact that there are different ways to view this subject. I feel as if I have a better understanding of how water management works and what to expect in the future.”

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.

Degree program well suited for military veterans  

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. Photo: Courtesy GCCCD

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. Photo: Courtesy GCCCD

National University offers all BPA courses online. 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.

Students earning the Bachelor of Public Administration degree will complete National University’s four-course concentration of upper-division courses studying:

  • Water and waterworks management in CA
  • California Waterworks Law & Compliance,
  • Human Resources & Labor Relations
  • Leadership in Water Management

Students can begin the BPA program at any time.

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.

Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility employee Ivan Murguia monitors water quality. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology at Mahr Reservoir

The Vallecitos Water District received two awards for its innovative use of technology to reduce algae blooms at the Stanley A. Mahr Reservoir in San Marcos.

The district received the “Excellence in Action” award from the national WateReuse Association, and the “Innovation and Resiliency” award from the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, or CASA.

The WateReuse Association is the nation’s only trade association solely dedicated to advancing laws, policy, funding, and public acceptance of recycled water. CASA provides leadership, advocacy, and information to its members, legislators, and the public. CASA also promotes partnerships on clean water and beneficial reuse issues that protect public health and the environment.

Known for its sustainable practices in water and wastewater treatment processes without compromising water quality, Vallecitos Water District employs a new ultrasound technology to improve water quality at the Mahr Reservoir and reduce the need for chemical treatment.

“These awards are proof of the Vallecitos Water District’s commitment to innovation,” said Vallecitos Board President Mike Sannella. “District staff are to be commended for their efforts to use innovative technology to improve and enhance our operations.”

See video recognizing contribution of Vallecitos employees to award-winning projects

Algal blooms treated with sonic technology

Originally called La Costa Storage No. 1 Dam and Reservoir when completed in 1981, Mahr Reservoir was renamed after original founder and 35-year board member Stanley A. Mahr. It stores up to 54-million gallons of reclaimed water for irrigation use. Vallecitos Water District has contracts with the City of Carlsbad and Olivenhain Municipal Water District to provide as much as five million gallons of recycled water daily as needed.

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Recognized for Innovative Technology

The Mahr Reservoir stores up to 54 million gallons of reclaimed water to be used later for irrigation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Because the reservoir’s location receives intense sunlight with little rain, algal blooms can occur in the nutrient-rich recycled water. Algal blooms are commonly treated with costly chemicals that are labor-intensive to apply. Vallecitos Water District uses technology developed by LG Sonic of the Netherlands. It provides a complete overview of reservoir water quality, allowing swift identification and treatment of algal blooms.

Every ten minutes, an MPC Buoy in the Mahr Reservoir measures and monitors green and blue-green algae population, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and water temperature. The data is collected in real time and uploaded online software, which uses the data to predict algal blooms three to ten days in advance.

Sound barrier limits algae

The LG Sonic buoy can create a sound barrier in the top water layer. It affects the algae buoyancy, preventing it from rising where it can absorb sunlight to grow. Starved of sunlight and nutrients, algae cells sink to deeper water where they degrade due to natural bacteria and do not release toxins into the water.

With overall algae levels reduced through sonic technology, the need for chemical treatment is also reduced. LG Sonic’s specific low-power ultrasonic transmitters emit signals which are not harmful to people, fish, plants, or other wildlife.

Hooded mergansers glide across Sweetwater Reservoir. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Reservoirs

Sweetwater Authority Reservoirs Provide Safe Public Recreation 

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego County’s reservoirs and lakes have provided welcome opportunities for safe, accessible outdoor family recreation.

After shutting down in March 2020, facilities began to slowly reopen through the summer months by carefully implementing safety guidelines, including increased sanitation, social distancing, and restricted attendance to allow San Diegans to resume their favorite hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and bird watching activities.

Sweetwater Authority owns and maintains two popular recreation spots in San Diego County, Sweetwater Reservoir near Spring Valley and Loveland Reservoir, near Alpine.

Primarily a local water supply for Sweetwater Authority’s 200,000 customers in National City, Chula Vista, and Bonita, the agency has created recreational opportunities at the reservoirs. Fishing programs are offered at both reservoirs and a riding and hiking trail at Sweetwater Reservoir is operated by the County of San Diego.

Sweetwater is one of several regional water agencies that offer recreational opportunities at reservoirs and lakes. Helix Water District operates Lake Jennings, a hot spot for trout fishing. The City of San Diego also provides boat rentals and paddle-boarding at several of its reservoirs.

Safety first to protect the public 

Sweetwater Authority owns and maintains two popular recreation spots in San Diego County, Sweetwater Reservoir (above) near Spring Valley, California, and Loveland Reservoir, further east near Alpine, California. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority owns and maintains two popular recreation spots in San Diego County, Sweetwater Reservoir (above) near Spring Valley and Loveland Reservoir near Alpine. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Both fishing programs and the trail at Sweetwater Reservoir are designed to protect public health and the drinking water supply while benefiting the community.

“At Sweetwater Authority, part of our mission is finding the balance between human and environmental needs,” said Sweetwater Authority Board Chair Hector Martinez. “The recreation opportunities at our two reservoirs are a great example of how we achieve that balance. We can share these beautiful resources with the community while continuing to protect the local drinking water supply for our customers.”

A California Fishing License is required to fish at both reservoirs, and there are rules in place to ensure the protection of the water supply and sensitive habitats surrounding its reservoirs. For more information on current hours, fees, and COVID-19 safety, go to: www.sweetwater.org/fishing.

“The Board and I are proud to offer these recreation programs,” said Martinez. “We encourage the community to take advantage of these opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beauty of our water and the environment.”

The 4th Women In Water Symposium discussed the career landscape for women due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Screen Capture, Women in Water Symposium

Women In Water Symposium Flows With The Change

This year’s Women in Water Symposium conference theme “Flow With The Change” is fitting. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 event is online with a new virtual format. The online format generated just as much enthusiasm from participants as prior in-person meetings. And, the virtual conference also meant people from throughout the United States could Zoom in, too.

A record 230 registrants signed up to attend live sessions covering a variety of career development topics.

Three specific career level tracks are offered to address needs at each level: entry-level for those new to water careers; mid-career for those transitioning and advancing within the industry; and upper level for senior professionals looking to leave a legacy.

Symposium highlights career opportunities

The symposium features three weekly half-day virtual formats.

Between 80 and 90 people attended the first four sessions on March 4. Topics included building a sustainable career in the water and wastewater industry; a panel discussion on public and private water industry career choices; and dealing with change and uncertainty.

Presenter flows with the change in format

“I actually participated in this symposium three years ago,” said Debbie Kaye, one of the conference presenters. “It was really fun, and it was just great energy in the room, so I’m trying to capture that energy through the little boxes on the screen,” said Kaye, president and CEO of V&A Consulting Engineers.

This is the fourth year of the conference, which started with a welcoming message from Cuyamaca College President Dr. Julianna Barnes. The college hosted the three previous symposiums.

“There’s just so many opportunities,” said Kaye. “The water industry is so welcoming. I think the thing that binds us together, we’re serving a higher purpose. We’re all supporting our families doing what we’re doing, but we’re serving a higher purpose protecting public health and protecting the environment.”

San Diego County Water Authority manager encourages women professionals

Gretchen Paniol of the Water Authority delivered a presentation on dealing with change. Photo: Screen Capture, Women In Water Symposium

Gretchen Spaniol with the San Diego County Water Authority delivered a presentation on dealing with change. She used a photo of herself at age 12 from a going-away party. “As a kid, I moved every two years, so I thought I was good at change, now it’s much harder,” Spaniol said in her presentation.  Photo: screen capture/Women In Water Symposium

San Diego County Water Authority Human Resources Special Projects Manager Gretchen Spaniol noted the pandemic year has disproportionately affected women in the workplace. “That was me at my going away party. I moved every two years as a kid, so I thought I was good at change. Now it’s harder.

“In December 2020, the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs, and all of those were held by women,” said Spaniol. “It’s being called the female recession, or the ‘she-cession.’ Female unemployment reached double digits for the first time since 1948.”

Flow with the change in work life

Spaniol says changes such as working from home bring on stress, and stress can bleed into all aspects of work life. She encouraged attendees to network and support each other.

“Women in water, this is a great opportunity for additional networking,” said Spaniol. “I can guarantee you someone has been through what you’ve been going through, or has been dealing with something similar. It’s great to talk to others to really get that life experience. This is a great opportunity inside and outside your agency. We have such a great industry in San Diego County.”

She also praised the value of mentorships for women in the water industry.

Upcoming sessions include discussions on the evolution of the work environment due to COVID-19, negotiation skills, receiving feedback, and the use of social media.

Registration is still open for upcoming sessions. For additional information, contact Vanessa Murrell, Cuyamaca College, Center for Water Studies:

The conference was organized by a volunteer group, the “Women in Water Committee,” chaired by Galit Ryan, Firm Principal at Peterson Structural Engineers in San Diego.

Water Utility Hero of the Week-Michelle McMahon-Olivenhain MWD

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Michelle McMahon, Olivenhain MWD

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. Michelle McMahon, Olivenhain Municipal Water District IT Coordinator, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Michelle McMahon

Job/Agency: Olivenhain Municipal Water District IT Coordinator

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

I worked long hours in a previous career, feeling unappreciated, and heard that OMWD was a great place to work. Best professional change I ever made! I feel that my work has a positive impact within OMWD. What I do matters to the people I support and the ratepayers we serve. It has been good for my work/life balance.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Things got crazier. Then it calmed down as it settled into the new normal. Equipment became difficult to purchase. Deliveries, especially those coming from China (computers and their components), took what felt like a lifetime. Purchasing, programming, deploying equipment, and training end-users were a priority. Everything was (and still is) sanitized repeatedly. Remote support has become prominent, even for users located on-site. End users are more understanding of what it takes to make their computers, cell phones, tablets, and desk phones working properly.

How are you keeping safe?

I have acquired a collection of nearly 100 personal masks and a dozen OMWD masks! I have hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes easily accessible. OMWD has placed these items throughout for everyone’s use. I try to help people remotely from my computer whenever possible. I disinfect my workspace each day and other workstations with every support call.

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

I look forward to the new normal. I am curious what the “new normal” will be. This really is an unprecedented time. I think it will be a hybrid of “before the pandemic” and “during the pandemic” for some time, perhaps years. I look forward to spending time with friends, sharing their joy of finally returning to work, and being free to get my hair or nails done whenever I would like!

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, Phil Stevens, Padre Dam MWD

The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Phil Stevens, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.