Water Utility Hero of the Week-Otay Water District-primary

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Matthew Carriveau, Otay Water District

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. Matthew Carriveau, Otay Water District Customer Pump Mechanic I, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Matthew Carriveau

Job/Agency: Otay Water District Pump Mechanic I

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

When I was in the U.S. Navy I worked on distilling units turning seawater into drinking water. I really enjoyed operating and maintaining that equipment so I was open to a career that involved similar work.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

My partner and I drive separate vehicles and we wear masks. Our meetings involve Zoom and take place on the computer.

How are you keeping safe?

I wash my hands a lot more and try to stay away from other people as much as possible.

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

I look forward to travelling around the country. I have had to cancel 3 or 4 trips that I had planned due to COVID-19 restrictions. My wife and I want to go back to Kauai and that will probably be our first destination when travelling becomes safer.

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

AB 1588 - ACWA - WNN

New California Law Creates Pathway to Water Industry Jobs for Military Veterans

Legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District is intended to make it easier for military veterans to launch careers in the water industry.

After Lt. Jose Martinez retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007, he went from serving his country underwater to serving reliable, high quality water to a community. 

His experience aboard a nuclear submarine and on the management staff of Otay Water District shares a few commonalities. Both involve highly complex systems, which often operate away of the public eye, either underwater or underground. 

“People turn on the tap and out comes water,” said Martinez, General Manager for ACWA-member Otay Water District. “It seems rather simple, but it’s really complex. It’s fascinating to me.”

Water industry jobs for military vets

Martinez’s experience as a naval nuclear engineer focused on submarines’ nuclear and non-nuclear systems, including water treatment. This gave him an advantage to transition to a civilian career in water.

A bill and new law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019, sets the stage for making it much easier for military veterans to transition into the water industry. AB 1588, initiated by Martinez and Otay, intends to update the current water and wastewater certification system by giving military veterans credit for their experience and education that is applicable to the water industry. Essentially, veterans would not have to start at the bottom, but instead advance to testing that matches their level of experience. That way, veterans can enter the water workforce at a level that meets their paygrade.

‘Silver tsunami’ of retiring baby boomers creates opportunities

AB 1588 was introduced by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Adam Gray (D-Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Oceanside). The San Diego County Water Authority and Otay cosponsored the bill, with the goal of increasing the number of veterans entering the water industry to replace retiring baby boomers.

To address this challenge, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies created a regional workforce development task force to address the oncoming ‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirees. The San Diego region alone employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, with more than 1,400 of those workers expected to reach retirement age by 2024, according to the Water Authority. Statewide, there are approximately 6,000 active certified wastewater treatment plant operators, and approximately 35,000 drinking water treatment and distribution operators. 

Jobs within the water industry often reflect military experience, and not necessarily ones directly related to water and wastewater treatment on a base or aboard a ship. Don Jones, with the Center for Water Studies at El Cajon’s Cuyamaca College, compared experience within a Combat Information Center on a warship to operating a SCADA system at a water facility, pointing out that experienced SCADA operators can be hard to find.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re opening a pump or firing a missile, the process is very similar, it’s the mechanical and electronic interface that matters. You’re electronically activating a piece of mechanical equipment,” Jones said. 

‘It’s all about serving people’

The water industry can also offer veterans a few other advantages. Shannon Cotulla served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer between 1987 and 1992. After leaving the service, he contemplated aviation engineering, but a desire to work outdoors in civil engineering led him to the water industry. Today, Cotulla is Assistant General Manager at the South Tahoe Public Utility District and former member of ACWA’s Board of Directors. 

“The work is really meaningful, it’s all about serving people and keeping our communities safe,” Cotulla said. “There’s also security in knowing that your organization has rules and standards that you can look up to and isn’t subject to the whims that you sometimes find in the private sector.”

Otay’s Martinez said that it could take a few years for the state to make the changes called for in AB 1588. Nevertheless, the process is underway and includes having a veteran with water industry experience serve on a regulatory advisory board along with water industry members. In the meantime, news about the bill’s potential for veterans is raising awareness among veterans about why careers in the water industry represent a great opportunity.

“We really want to open up this talent pool,” Martinez said. “Veterans are the right candidates to fill these jobs because of the skilled work they’ve already demonstrated in their careers and their time in the military.”

Jose Martinez-General Manager-Otay Water District-AB 1588

Jose Martinez Appointed General Manager of the Otay Water District

The Otay Water District Board of Directors February 6 voted unanimously to appoint Assistant Chief of Water Operations Jose Martinez as the new general manager of the District. The Board announced they will negotiate contract terms and vote on those terms at the March 11 Board meeting.

“Jose will be an asset to the District for many reasons,” said Board President Gary Croucher. “His experience as a nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy and managing water utility and operations at the District, combined with his leadership on legislative bill AB 1588, will contribute to guiding and leading the District on its already strong path of providing exceptional service to our customers; he will also bring new and innovative ideas to continue enhancing operational practices.”

Jose Martinez - General Manager - Otay Water District - February 2020

Jose Martinez was appointed the new General Manager of the Otay Water District on February 6. Photo: Otay Water District

Jose Martinez: 18 years of progressive management and leadership experience

Martinez has more than 18 years of progressive management and leadership experience in private and public organizations within highly regulated utility industries. He also has managed multimillion-dollar engineering and construction projects for water and wastewater facilities and has a strong administrative and financial management project background. Martinez managed and designed construction projects for SAIC, Incorporated for five years, from 2007 to 2012, prior to working at the District.

Under the direction of Otay’s chief of water operations and the general manager, Martinez served as the assistant chief of water operations since 2014, planning, directing and managing the activities and operations of the department, which includes utility and fleet maintenance and operations of water, wastewater, reclamation, and recycled systems.

“I’m honored to serve as the District’s general manager,” said Martinez. “The District sets an example as a water and wastewater agency, providing outstanding service to its customers. I am proud to lead the organization and take pride in continuing to move us forward, working with our talented employees to achieve the District’s values of integrity, excellence and innovation.”

Martinez brings United States Navy experience to new post

Martinez previously served two years as the District’s utility service manager.

“This is an exciting time for Otay and the water industry,” said General Manager Mark Watton. “Jose’s role at the District will work well with the regional workforce planning and development that is needed in the water industry to replace a wave of retirements and at the same time, positions the District to carry on advancing Otay and the Board’s mission of serving its customers and managing the District’s resources transparently with fiscal responsibility.”

As a military veteran, Martinez also brings his United States Navy experience to the District. He served as a Nuclear Submarine Officer, managing preventive and corrective operations and maintenance of complex systems, including water quality and water treatment. Martinez has a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering with a focus in nuclear energy conversion from the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a minor degree in Spanish.

The Otay Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority recently collaborated to sponsor legislation to increase water and wastewater industry jobs for military veterans. The bill, AB 1588, introduced by San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria and Adam Gray of Merced, was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom on October 11, 2019.