Posts

Otay Water District Logo

The Ultimate Water Panel: The Biggest Water Issues Facing San Diego and the South Bay

(Chula Vista, Calif.) – Join the Otay Water District and Sweetwater Authority Board Chairs to learn more about water issues facing San Diego County and more specifically South Bay. The next Albondigas will be held on Friday, May 17 at Mangia Italiano in Chula Vista from 11:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. Topics to be covered at the event include Governor Gavin Newsom’s N-10-19 Executive Order on water supply planning, water recycling for 2019 and beyond, water legislation, and more.

 

Alexander Schultz, Otay Water District geographic information systems technician, operates a drone in front of a district water storage tank. Photo: Otay Water District

Drones Offer Water Agencies Cost, Safety Benefits

Water agencies across San Diego County are saving time and money while improving employee safety with drones.

Industry analysts say drone use by water agencies worldwide is growing. The Helix Water District, Otay Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority have embraced the technology, using drones to inspect and monitor facilities, and to map and survey inaccessible areas.

Helix used a drone in February to check rooftop air vents on a water storage tank in El Cajon, rather than send employees high in the sky to do it. The agency determined it was too risky for employees – even with safety equipment – and too costly to have staff inspect the vents outside the 120-foot-high Fletcher Hills Combined Tank.

“We continually look for ways to utilize technologies where appropriate to minimize facility down time and to keep staff safe,” said Carlos Lugo, general manager at Helix. “Drone technology is proving to be a useful and cost-efficient way to survey and keep the district’s facilities properly maintained.”

Drones provide a safe and cost-effective alternative for inspecting the condition of storage tank vents without placing employees at risk or taking the storage tank offline. Photo: Helix Water District

Drones provide a safe and cost-effective alternative for inspecting the condition of storage tank vents without placing employees at risk or taking the storage tank offline. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix uses drones to inspect interior roof supports of its water storage tanks. The supports are especially vulnerable to corrosion because they are constantly exposed to humidity and heat.

Drone image of a roof bracket inspection. Photo: Helix Water District

Drone image of a roof bracket inspection. Photo: Helix Water District

Inspecting the storage tank roof supports requires moving 30-foot-high scaffolding from one support to the next, a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. To cut down that time, Helix used a drone to get high-resolution images of the supports. The drone images showed which ones needed repair without moving the scaffolding to each support.

A drone helps reduce the need to move scaffolding to each bracket during inspections. Photo: Helix Water District

A drone helps reduce the need to move scaffolding to each bracket during inspections. Photo: Helix Water District

“Using drones for this type of inspection work is a simple, elegant and safe solution,” said Jim Tomasulo, Helix’s director of engineering. “We anticipate using drones for this and other purposes.”

Drone inspections of reservoirs, treatment plant

The Otay Water District also is finding drones useful to save money and improve employee safety.

After a two-year study and evaluation period, the district is now using two camera-equipped drones to assist with preliminary inspections of its water facilities in eastern and southern San Diego County, including 40 potable water reservoirs, four recycled water reservoirs, 20 pump stations and a recycled water treatment plant.

Drones Reduce Risk

Countywide, the Water Authority uses drones to monitor rights of way and to survey inaccessible landscapes.

When a drone was used to get images and video of steep terrain on the Second Aqueduct west of Interstate 15 and south of the San Luis Rey River, the images were 10 times higher resolution than stock aerial images. Using the drone also kept staff from being exposed to potentially dangerous conditions.

The Water Authority is also exploring using drones for future surveys and potentially at water transportation, treatment, and storage facilities, where cutting-edge technology is used to save ratepayers money.

Drones are helping the Water Authority monitor rights of way, particularly in areas of rugged terrain.

But the potential of drone use is not limited to visual photography of elevated water tanks and surveying remote areas.  Water quality monitoring is another potential application.

Water agencies can use drones with infrared cameras “to monitor water areas remotely at higher spatial resolution than ever before, at low cost and at any time,” Michal Mazur, with Drone Powered Solutions, told Waterworld.com in a recent article about the advances in drone use.

Otay Water District Uses Drones To Survey Facilities, Properties

When it’s time to inspect facilities, such as water tanks, or survey the topography of its properties, the Otay Water District now turns to technology it has embraced in the past year: drones. The water agency, which serves more than 225,000 customers in eastern and southern San Diego County, uses two camera-equipped drones to get a bird’s-eye view of its vast and mostly remote sites and facilities, which include 40 potable water reservoirs, more than 20 pump stations and a treatment plant.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Water District Board Elects New Officers

Spring Valley, Calif. – At its Jan. 2, 2019 meeting, the Otay Water District Board of Directors elected new Board officers to lead the District’s Board for 2019. The Board elected board member Mitch Thompson, who represents division 2, as president. The Board also elected board member Mark Robak, serving division 5, as vice president.

Thompson’s election as president follows one year of Board leadership under past president Tim Smith. In 2018, Thompson served as vice president of the Board. He has served on the District’s Board since May 2012. Thompson will serve as president through January 2020 when officer elections will again occur.

New Partnership Introduces South Bay Students to Water Industry Career Opportunities

Sweetwater Authority and Otay Water District have forged a new partnership with the Chula Vista Elementary School District to introduce fifth grade students to opportunities and issues in the water and wastewater industry – including compelling career options.

The “Hydro Station” program is designed to address a significant shortage of skilled workers entering these career fields. Water agencies are facing a wave of retirements by Baby Boomer employees and a lack of skilled workers ready to replace them. Professionals surveyed for Water & Wastes Digest’s 2018 State of the Industry Report cited workforce development as one of the most important issues for 2019. Utilities nationwide are developing new ways of reaching students to encourage their participation in the industry.

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. The Chula Vista-based Sweetwater Authority, for example, anticipates a staffing crunch on the horizon. In the next five years, 50 percent of the agency’s workforce will be eligible for retirement.

Agencies restructuring educational outreach programs for 2019

(L to R) Sweetwater Authority Directors José F. Cerda, Steve Castaneda, Josie Calderon-Scott; former Director Ron Morrison; Director Dr. Matthew Tessier, Chula Vista Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent, Innovation and Instruction; and Michael Bruder, Resource Teacher, Innovation and Instruction; Director Hector Martinez; former Director Jess Van Deventer, and Director Jose Preciado receive funding at a December 12, 2018 board meeting. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

(L to R) Sweetwater Authority Directors José F. Cerda, Steve Castaneda, Josie Calderon-Scott; former Director Ron Morrison; Director Dr. Matthew Tessier; Chula Vista Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent, Innovation and Instruction; and Michael Bruder, Resource Teacher, Innovation and Instruction; Director Hector Martinez; former Director Jess Van Deventer; and Director Jose Preciado present program funding at a December 12, 2018 board meeting. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

While Sweetwater and Otay have conducted educational outreach programs since the 1990s, both agencies have experienced cutbacks due to budget constraints and navigated changes in science education standards.

Valuing the importance of education and working with local students, the two agencies are restructuring their educational outreach programs and focusing on partnerships with schools and community groups to reinvent and modernize the programs. The program design fits in with recent recommendations from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program on renewing the water workforce and creating a broader pool of prospective workers.

“We are super excited about our partnership with the Chula Vista Elementary School District and Otay Water District in service to children and their families in our service area,” said Sweetwater Authority General Manager Tish Berge. “This program is the first of its kind in our region, and we look forward to making an impact by educating our youth about the wide variety of careers that we have to offer in the water industry.”

Program launches in Spring 2019 with 5,000 fifth grade students

Otay Water District Board members hear a presentation by representatives of the Chula Vista Elementary School District on the new “HydroStation” education partnership. Photo: Otay Water District

The initial “Hydro Station” pilot program will launch in Spring 2019 with approximately 5,000 fifth grade students from the Chula Vista Elementary School District participating in the program annually.

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

The new Hydro Station is at the Sweetwater Authority’s Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility – an ideal location to educate students on 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 will also serve to educate children and their families, as well as the community, on the thoughtful use of water resources.

The program is funded in part by a grant from the Hans and Margaret Doe Charitable Trust. Funds from the trust cover production and distribution costs of educational materials, including field trip journals students will use during their experience at the Hydro Station.

 

 

Otay Water District Using Drones To Survey Facilities

The Otay Water District recently began using drones to assist district personnel with water-facility inspections. The district, which distributes water to more than 225,000 customers in southeastern San Diego County, is using the drones primarily to survey its reservoirs, pump stations and a recycled water treatment plant, according to a news release. “The District’s use of drone technology is a reflection of its continued process improvement philosophy to conduct efficient maintenance operations, improve the safety of its workers, and ultimately deliver greater value to its customers,” the release stated.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Water District Executes Successful Bond Sale

Spring Valley, Calif. – On Oct. 11, the Otay Water District executed a successful bond sale that is expected to close on or about Nov. 1. The water revenue bond will fund $28 million of District’s capital projects during the next three years and will refinance $6.9 million of the District’s 1996 Variable Rate Demand Certificates of Participation (COPs) to a fixed rate of interest. By refinancing its 1996 Variable Rate COPs to a fixed rate, the District has eliminated the risk of increasing costs for customers due to rising interest rates.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Water District Board Approves Overall Average Sewer Rate Decrease of Seven Percent for 2019

Spring Valley, Calif. – At its Oct. 3 meeting, the Otay Water District Board approved an overall average sewer rate decrease of seven percent for 2019. The rate decrease will take effect with sewer service billed on or after January 1, 2019, and may apply to sewer service used as early as the beginning of December 2018.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Water District Board Member Gary Croucher Elected as Vice Chair of San Diego County Water Authority Board

Spring Valley, CA – Today, Board member of the Otay Water District Gary Croucher, officially will begin to serve his two-year term as Vice Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors. At its Sept. 27 meeting, the Water Authority Board unanimously elected Croucher as incoming Vice Chair, along with Jim Madaffer from the City of San Diego as incoming Chair and Christy Guerin from Olivenhain Municipal Water District as incoming Secretary.

Don Jones, the veteran water industry professional who is overseeing the transition of Cuyamaca College’s Water and Wastewater Technology program into the Center for Water Studies. Photo: David Ogul, Water Authority

Center for Water Studies Moves Into New Home at Cuyamaca College

The transformation of Cuyamaca College’s trailblazing Water and Wastewater Technology Program into the Center for Water Studies is all but complete.

Among the premier water and wastewater training facilities in California, the Center for Water Studies relocated in late August to a renovated complex complete with new classrooms, a water quality analysis laboratory and a workshop for back flow, cross-connection controls, and related skills-based courses. The complex sits next to a state-of-the-art field operations skills yard that opened in January, with an above-ground water distribution system and an underground wastewater collection system. The facility aims to simulate the challenges that students will face on the job in advanced water and wastewater facilities.

“With the completion of these new facilities, our Center for Water Studies is now the flagship water and wastewater technology program in the entire California Community Colleges’ system, and one of the premier programs of its kind available anywhere in the western United States,” said Don Jones, the veteran water industry professional overseeing the transition of Cuyamaca College’s Water and Wastewater Technology program into the Center for Water Studies for the past decade.

The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s Proposition V construction bond provided $1.2 million in funding to reconstruct the building. Funds from the college’s National Science Foundation’s “California WaterWorks: Building the People Pipeline” grant helped pay for tools and equipment to foster a learn-by-doing environment. The Field Operations Skills Yard was built through approximately $200,000 from a California Community Colleges Strong Workforce grant, more than $70,000 from the National Science Foundation grant, and approximately $130,000 in pipe fittings, valves, meters and other equipment donated by water industry manufacturers and distributors.

Producing the next generation of water professionals

Don Ogul in the new water quality analysis laboratory at the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, which opened last week. Photo: David Ogul, Water Authority.

Don Jones in the new water quality analysis laboratory at the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, which opened last week. Photo: David Ogul, Water Authority.

The Center for Water Studies is already making a difference in a region where water industry professionals are needed to replace the more than 1,200 industry employees who are at or nearing retirement age. The Center has been reaching out to high school students in STEM fields, transitioning military, women, and other traditionally underrepresented populations to explore water and wastewater technology careers. The Center collaborates with Grossmont Union High School District science instructors and water industry experts to develop specialized lesson plans related to water and wastewater management skills.

In January 2019, the Center for Water Studies will host the second annual Women in Water: Exploring Career Pathways symposium. Recently, nine Center for Water Studies students were among 17 selected to participate in the 2018-2019 San Diego Region Water and Wastewater Internships program supported by the Water Authority, its member agencies, and community college water and wastewater technology programs.

The Center’s National Science Foundation grant, which totals almost $900,000, will cover the cost of curriculum development among the participating agencies and educators.

Water industry professionals supportive of program’s goals

The Center for Water Studies evolved through discussions with the Cuyamaca College Water and Wastewater Technology Program’s Industry Advisory Committee, which comprises water industry professionals from the Water Authority and many of its member agencies. Support from local water agencies has been strong. The Otay Water District’s Board of Directors presented Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes with a $5,000 check for the new center in August.

An official dedication ceremony for the new complex is tentatively set for January.