tate legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates and business and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park Oct. 16 to celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of AB 1588.

New California Law Creates Path to Water Industry Jobs for Vets

State legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District has been signed into law, making it possible for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

State legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates and business and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park today to celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 1588.

The bill was introduced in the state legislature by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (San Diego) and Adam Gray (Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (Oceanside).

The Water Authority and the Otay Water District co-sponsored the bill to increase the number of military veterans entering the civilian water and wastewater industry at a time when many Baby Boomers are retiring.

‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirements in water industry

“The new law helps our communities two ways – by lowering employment barriers for our veterans and sustaining our vital water and wastewater services for the next generation,” said Water Authority Board Secretary Christy Guerin. “This was a victory for San Diego and the whole state – a successful, bipartisan effort that will help maintain our economy and quality of life.”

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the “Silver Tsunami” of retirees. The task force reported that there are approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region – and more than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024. Statewide, there are approximately 6,000 active certified wastewater treatment plant operators and approximately 35,000 drinking water treatment and distribution operators.

Several states help veterans navigate the civilian water system operator certification process and allow veterans to apply equivalency standards to credit military experiences toward state or industry certifications in water and wastewater treatment and distribution. However, no similar approach existed in California.

AB 1588 Creates Path For Water Industry Jobs For Military Veterans

State legislation introduced by San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria (far right) and Merced Assemblymember Adam Gray creates a path to water and wastewater industry jobs for military veterans. AB 1588, signed into law by Gov. Newsom, was co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District. (L-to-R in photo: Mark Balmert, Executive Director, SDMAC, Jose Martinez, Assistant Chief Water Operations, Otay Water District, Christy Guerin, Board Secretary, San Diego County Water Authority, and Assemblymember Gloria). Photo: Water Authority

Creating bridges to water industry jobs

“What we are missing, and what this bill addresses, is a pathway in which we honor the experience of our veterans and allow that experience to qualify them for a career path in our civilian water systems,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Thanks to Governor Newsom, that pathway now exists. California will now properly credit the service of our veterans and enable them to secure good-paying jobs here in our water system. In this time – when the importance of clean water and good paying jobs is undeniable – let’s create bridges not barriers.”

AB 1588 provides a pathway for military veterans to apply their advanced skills and experience toward state and industry-supplied certifications in the water and wastewater treatment and distribution operator fields. Additionally, it ensures that advanced water treatment operators and distribution system operators of potable reuse and recycled water facilities have a career advancement path as certified water and/or wastewater treatment plant operators.

“San Diego County is home to more than 240,000 veterans with skills that benefit our region in numerous ways,” said Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas, a co-author of the bill. “With this legislation, we are building stronger communities that can remain home to servicemembers after they take off the uniform and transition into civilian life.”

Veterans continue public service in water industry

Assistant Chief of Water Operations at the Otay Water District Jose Martinez is a veteran who initiated the idea of the bill and has thrived in the civilian water industry. “As someone who had the pleasure to serve alongside the members of the military responsible for the safe and reliable operation of water and wastewater systems, I observed firsthand their education, experience and dedication,” he said.

“Now, as a water manager responsible for providing safe and reliable water and wastewater services to the public, I championed this bill to provide a path for veterans to receive the certification credit they have earned after years of service. This will ensure that the water sector continues to recruit from the biggest and best talent pools to provide the highest level of service to everyone.”

San Diego Military Economic Impact Study 2019

Reliable Water Supplies Sustain San Diego’s Military Sector

The military sector accounts for more than 20% of the San Diego region’s economy, and that would not be possible without a safe, reliable water supply.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, including Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, provide the water needed for military operations, military families and military contractors.

A new report shows that an estimated total of $28.1 billion in direct spending related to defense flowed into San Diego County during fiscal year 2019, accounting for one-in-five jobs in the region.

Reliable water supplies support military economy

The 2019 San Diego Military Economic Impact Study was released Thursday by the San Diego Military Advisory Council, or SDMAC. The military sector was responsible for about 354,000 of the region’s total jobs in fiscal year 2019, accounting for all the ripple effects of defense-connected spending, according to the report.

Brought to you by water

“Water is a part of everything the military does in San Diego,” said Mark Balmert, SDMAC executive director. “Everything to water for the troops, to washing aircraft and ships after operations – every aspect of what the military does. The military and water agencies have a history together, with the U.S. Navy partly responsible for bringing water to our region.”

Balmert is referring to the time when San Diego became a hub of naval activity after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War I in 1941. The Water Authority formed 75 years ago, when it became clear that imported water supplies were necessary to sustain a booming region at the forefront of the war effort.

Ever since, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have played a vital – though often unseen – role in supporting the largest concentration of active and retired military personnel in the world, serving several military bases and sustaining the San Diego region’s defense industry in a region with few natural resources.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton encompasses more than 125,000 acres of southern California and approximately 52,000 Marines are based in San Diego. Camp Pendleton has been the largest employer in north San Diego County for more than 60 years. Photo: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Safe, reliable water ‘major resource’

“The outlook for the military economy in the region for the coming year is positive,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist with Point Loma Nazerene University’s Fermanian Business & Economic Institute.

Reaser, who provided oversight and analysis of the SDMAC report, said water is essential for military dollars to continue flowing into the region.

“Water continues to be a major resource that’s required for operations of our defense contractors, for the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Department of Veterans Affairs, everything from support of the bases to water needs of medical facilities,” Reaser said.

The Water Authority is a leader in water conservation, asset management, seawater desalination and water resource planning, delivering more than 400 million gallons a day to serve the region’s 3.3 million residents and sustain its $231 billion economy.

A 2018 study by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. concluded that $482 million a day in regional sales were supported by reliable access to water.