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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.

Water Utility Hero of the Week-Phil Stevens-Primary-Padre Dam MWD

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Phil Stevens, Padre Dam 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. Phil Stevens, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Phil Stevens

Job/Agency: Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst

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

After serving in the military, I decided to attend college majoring in Biology. Upon graduation, I began searching for a field that is intellectually challenging, has an important role in the community, and contributes a positive impact in the environment. I found a job announcement for a laboratory analyst at Padre Dam Municipal Water District. I was not very familiar with the water industry at the time, but after doing further research it seemed like it would be a great fit for me. I have now been in this field for 18 years and still find this career very rewarding.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

As one would imagine, work done in a water quality laboratory cannot be done remotely. There have been staffing challenges when a member of the lab staff cannot come into work due to potential COVID-19 exposure or caring for a family member. Early on in the pandemic we also found it hard to get some of the supplies we needed.

How are you keeping safe?

I am keeping safe by following the health guidelines that have been established. My coworkers and I wear a mask and practice social distancing at all times and do our best to stay safe outside of work.

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

I miss my family and close friends very much and cannot wait to spend time with them. I am also looking forward to attending my children’s sporting events.

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.

City of Oceanside-Pure Water Oceanside-water recycling

Pure Water Oceanside Project Reaches Milestones

Pure Water Oceanside construction remains on schedule for completion in 2022, with several significant milestones recently completed. The Oceanside project will purify recycled water to create a new, local source of high-quality drinking water that is safe, drought-proof and environmentally sound.

“Construction has impacted many residents and businesses,” said Cari Dale, City of Oceanside water utilities director. “Please know the City of Oceanside appreciates your patience. We thank people for understanding the need for this project and bearing with us during these months of construction impacts. This work is temporary, but the benefits will last for generations.”

Pure Water Oceanside Project foundation walls in place

Now under construction, Pure Water Oceanside will purify recycled water to create a new, local source of high-quality drinking water that is clean, safe, drought-proof and environmentally sound. Photo: Jeremy Kemp, City of Oceanside

Now under construction, the project will purify recycled water to create a new, local source of high-quality drinking water that is safe, drought-proof and environmentally sound. Photo: Jeremy Kemp/City of Oceanside

The foundational work on the facility located in the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility is complete. Pipelines, electrical conduits, equipment pads/pedestals, and wet wells have been constructed. Prefabricated walls have been installed. Installing the roof and additional wall stabilizing are next on the schedule.

The water purification equipment including pumps, membrane filters, and reverse osmosis canisters are currently being manufactured. Delivery is anticipated between this summer and fall.

Coco Farms Drive and Fireside Park construction update

Work on the south side of Coco Palms Drive near the El Camino Real intersection begins this month. Parking in the area will be closed during this work period with "no parking" signs posted. Map: City of Oceanside

Work on the south side of Coco Palms Drive near the El Camino Real intersection begins this month. Parking in the area will be closed during this work period with “no parking” signs posted. Graphic: City of Oceanside

The two injection wells on Coco Palms Drive are complete. Sound walls will be removed. Construction on two planned monitoring wells is anticipated to begin within the next two months. Sound walls will be installed prior to extended hours construction into evenings and weekends to reduce the impact on the community.

Coco Palms Drive will continue to be closed for the next few months while pipeline construction is underway.

Work on the south side of Coco Palms Drive near the El Camino Real intersection begins this month. Parking in the area will be closed during this work period with “no parking” signs posted.

Monitoring well work in Fireside Park will take place primarily during the daytime, with possible evening and weekend work for critical activities. Sound walls will be installed to reduce noise. Drilling and development is estimated to take six weeks.

El Camino Real recycled water expansion pipeline work coming soon

An overhead look at pipeline installation along Douglas Drive in Oceanside for Pure Water Oceanside project. Photo: Jeremy Kemp, City of Oceanside

An overhead look at pipeline installation along Douglas Drive in Oceanside for Pure Water Oceanside. Photo: Jeremy Kemp/City of Oceanside

Pipeline installation work will begin soon to install recycled water pipelines under El Camino Real. Traffic delays are expected and alternative routes are suggested.

Cones will be set up in work zones to redirect traffic from closed lanes and flagger workers will help drivers safely navigate intersections. Regular working hours will be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with occasional work on Saturdays.

Work at the Mission Avenue and El Camino Real intersection will be at night to reduce commuter traffic impacts. Work hours will be from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Oceanside Project benefits both residents and environment

Construction personnel guide reverse osmosis skids into place. Photo: Jeremy Kemp, City of Oceanside

Construction personnel guide reverse osmosis skids into place. Photo: Jeremy Kemp/City of Oceanside

Approximately 90% of Oceanside’s drinking water is imported. Pure Water Oceanside will create three to five million gallons of drinking water each day, enough water to provide 32% of the City of Oceanside’s water supply.

The water purification process uses reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to create safe drinking water. The technology removes pharmaceuticals, chemicals, hormones, microplastics, and personal care products.

The project protects sensitive ecosystems by reducing the amount of water siphoned by imported water sources. It decreases the amount of recycled water discharged into the ocean, and uses half the energy needed to transport imported water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Residents are kept up to date on construction impacts to streets and other infrastructure through several outreach efforts including an interactive construction map, detailed online schedule, regular newsletters, and virtual open house presentations live on the City of Oceanside’s YouTube channel, offering residents the opportunity to ask questions.

Scholarship applications-water industry jobs-water careers

Scholarship Applications Open for Aspiring Water Pros 

If you’re a student considering college studies leading to a career in the water and wastewater industry, several California water associations and San Diego regional member water agencies offer college scholarships.

Scholarships are available for community college, college, and graduate-level programs. Here are a few of the funding opportunities for study in the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Statewide water scholarships

Approximately 1,400 water and waster industry jobs will become available in San Diego County in the next five years. Photo: Water Authority scholarship application

Approximately 1,400 water and waster industry jobs will become available in San Diego County in the next five years. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Water Environment Federation’s 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, 2021. WEF Scholarship Application Link

The California Water Environment Association is offering $30,000 in scholarships this year to students pursuing a career in the clean water profession. The deadline to apply for the CWEA Kirt Brooks Scholarship program is Feb. 15.

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.

Deadline: March 1, 2021. ACWA UC and CSU Scholarships Application Link

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

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, 2021 AWWA Scholarship Application Link

 

Eight local scholarships are available from two member water agencies for students in the North County and East County. Photo: Water Authority

Up to eight local scholarships are available from two member water agencies for students in the North County and East County. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

San Diego regional water scholarships

The Helix Water District offers two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors who will begin their university studies next fall. Applications are due April 1 for the Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship and the Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship, which 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 need.

High school seniors must graduate in Spring 2021 and attend a four-year college or university next fall. Applicants must live in Helix’s service area, including the cities of Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and El Cajon, the community of Spring Valley, and unincorporated areas of the county.

Deadline: April 1, 2021. Helix Water District High School Students Scholarship Application Link

The Vista Irrigation District offers up to six scholarships to high school students living or attending school within the district. Awards range from $1,000 to $3,000. The purpose of the scholarship program is to encourage students to learn more about water-related issues impacting their community. Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service and letters of recommendation from high school faculty.

Deadline: April 5, 2021. Vista Irrigation District High School Students Scholarship Application Link.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of experienced employees reaching retirement age. 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

Regular valve maintenance prevents unanticipated shutdowns of water service to Vallecitos Water District customers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Water District Valve Maintenance Program Ensures Reliable Service

Just as owners perform routine maintenance to keep their cars running smoothly, water systems need regular maintenance to provide reliable service. The Vallecitos Water District’s Valve Maintenance Program ensures these vital components in its water distribution remain in good working condition throughout the District. Valves left without proper maintenance for long periods can become a serious problem, especially in an emergency water shutdown.

VWD’s Construction Department manages the program. Two-person teams use maps to familiarize themselves with the location of the 4,959 valves in the system, not including fire hydrants and fire services. Critical valves serve hospitals and businesses. Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly, following American Water Works Association standards.

Small but vital parts monitored

Construction worker Justin Shutt explains valves are isolation and shutoff point for water mains along streets.

“If we have a main break, where a main ruptures, we need to be able to isolate those certain sections without taking too many people out of water” by shutting the valves, said Shutt.

Valve Maintenance Technician John Truppa runs the valve maintenance program. He trains crew members how to use the valve exerciser machine, read maps properly, and respond to customer calls. Customer service is a priority. When a customer reports a water line leak in their home, the valve maintenance crew helps by shutting off the water at the meter.

The Vallecitos Water District’s geographic information system provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Reliable recordkeeping is vital to ensure all valves receive regular maintenance and are replaced before coming to the end of their service life to reduce the percentage of failures and inoperable valves. The District monitors valve life span to replace them prior to failure. Areas prone to water main breaks and valves on mains serving large groups of customers get added attention.

Taking turns

 Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly by two person teams. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly by two-person teams. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Valve maintenance involves performing a prescribed number of turns to “exercise” or test the valve. Turns are calculated in part by the size of the main. Larger transmission water mains require more valve turns, both up and down. Turning speed is also important. If valves are closed too quickly, it creates “water hammer,” or sudden pressure forcing water down the line, potentially triggering water main breaks. You may have heard a water hammer in your house when you shut off a household valve suddenly.

Ounce of prevention

The District's geographic information system (GIS) provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Vallecitos Water District’s geographic information system provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Regular valve maintenance prevents unanticipated shutdowns of water service to Vallecitos customers.

“We want to take as few people out of water at a time as we possibly can,” said Shutt. “We keep up on the upgrades and make sure the valves are working the way they’re supposed to.”

The proactive approach by the Vallecitos Water District ensures the reliable delivery of quality water to its customers while ensuring all systems are working properly.

City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Carrie Selby is among a growing number of women working in water and wastewater industry careers. Photo: City of Escondido

Women in Water Symposium

The fourth annual Women in Water Symposium in March will be online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Previously hosted at Cuyamaca College, symposium sessions will be each Thursday starting March 2. This year’s conference theme is “Flow With The Change.”

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.

Session topics include negotiation skills; diversity, equity, and inclusion; dealing with change; the impact of COVID-19; and building a sustainable career. Program elements for all tracks are designed to create a larger community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

The symposium is an opportunity for students, water industry professionals, and people exploring careers in the water and wastewater industry, to make connections.

“The Women in Water Symposium made it possible for me, as a young graduate student, to meet experienced, female engineers at any moment, from breakfast to sessions and everything in between,” said Alma Rocha, a San Diego State University graduate student studying environmental engineering.

“I got to meet so many amazing people and help them out with referrals to jobs and events that might help their career, ” said Alec Mackie with the California Water Environmental Association. “A very rewarding event.”

Vanessa Murrell, Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges grant manager, said the conference is open to anyone, and this year is not limited by location by being held in a virtual environment.

Nurturing the next generation of water professionals

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl is a longtime supporter and speaker at the Women in Water Symposium series at Cuyamaca College. Photo: Cuyamaca College

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl is a longtime supporter and speaker at the Women in Water Symposium series sponsored by Cuyamaca College. This year’s symposium will take place online. Photo: Cuyamaca College

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the “Silver Tsunami” of experienced employees reaching retirement age. The task force reports approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region. More than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators in California earn an annual average wage of more than $72,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Registration is $25 and free to students. Attendees only need to register once for all symposium sessions. Participants can attend any session from all three tracks. Register here.