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Hydro Station Lets Students Explore WaterSmart Landscape Design

As its fourth year begins, the Chula Vista Hydro Station offers new activities in 2022, helping Chula Vista Elementary School District students learn about using water wisely through hands-on activities.

A unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Hydro Station, opened in 2019 at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

Chula Vista Elementary School students participate in learning activities at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Hydro Station Lets Students Explore WaterSmart Landscape Design

As its fourth year begins, the Chula Vista Hydro Station offers new activities in 2022, helping Chula Vista Elementary School District students learn about using water wisely through hands-on activities.

A unique joint educational partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, the Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Hydro Station, opened in 2019 at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility.

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

“Sweetwater Authority’s Board is proud to continue to support the Hydro Station for another school year,” said Board Chair Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. “We’re excited that more students will have the opportunity to visit our Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility to learn about how water agencies deliver safe, reliable water to our communities and discover the vast career opportunities in the water industry.”

Landscape design and engineering projects 

Students get the opportunity to practice landscape design with a watersmart focus. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School Districtv Hydro Station

Students get the opportunity to practice landscape design with a watersmart focus. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

This year, students can step into the role of a civil engineer and learn about the ways water is transported across long distances. They take what they learn and try their hand at designing a model of an aqueduct.

Students are also invited to explore the artistic aspects of water management by taking on the role of a landscape architect. They work in teams to design beautiful, WaterSmart landscapes using various design elements.

“The Otay Water District believes this Hydro Station effort is critical to educating the younger generation about water industry jobs as they prepare for their futures,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “We continue to promote and recruit for water industry jobs, and this program is another resource to help us to increase the talent pool in the industry as our youth learn about what is available to them early on.”

Hands-on experience in an interactive space

Projects in progress by Halecrest Elementary School students at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Projects in progress by Halecrest Elementary School students at the Hydro Station. Photo: Chula Vista Elementary School District

The Hydro Station is an interactive educational space with 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.

Educating the next-generation water industry workforce

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 helps develop interest among 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 activities focused on career opportunities, learning how their strengths, interests, and values may align with career options through hands-on activities connecting to specific careers. It also educates children, their families, and the community on the thoughtful use of water resources.

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

Otay Poster Contest Winners Demonstrate the Value of Water Conservation

Five students from Chula Vista and El Cajon schools have been selected from 123 submissions as the winners of Otay Water District’s 2022 Water is Life Student Poster Contest.

First place, high school: Michael Armenion, eleventh grade, Otay Ranch High School. Photo: Otay Water District Otay Poster Contest

Otay Poster Contest Winners Demonstrate the Value of Water Conservation

Five students from Chula Vista and El Cajon schools have been selected from 123 submissions as the winners of Otay Water District’s 2022 Water is Life Student Poster Contest. The annual contest helps to promote water-use efficiency through student art programs. The winners were selected based on their creativity and awareness of the importance of using water wisely every day and in times of drought.

The Otay Water District’s educational program invites K-12 grade students in its service area each year to enter the contest by illustrating the theme “Water is Life.”  Entrants are encouraged to reflect on the importance of water conservation and stewardship and learn about this in the classroom prior to creating their posters.

“We are proud to see a young generation of students share their awareness about water conservation and stewardship when it matters most,” said contest coordinator Eileen Salmeron. “As California faces a drought, we hope students and their families understand that making small changes at home or school to conserve can make a big difference in building resiliency against drought.”

First- and second-place winners were selected from elementary and middle school categories. One winner was chosen in the high school category. The District’s board of directors recognized the winners at its September 7 meeting. Winners received prizes including a gift card, a certificate of recognition, an art kit, and a goody bag.

Otay Poster Contest Winners for 2022

 

First place, high school: Michael Armenion, eleventh grade, Otay Ranch High School. Photo: Otay Water District Otay Poster Contest

First place, high school: Michael Armenion, eleventh grade, Otay Ranch High School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

First place, middle school: Khilee Haull, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Otay poster contest

First place, middle school: Khilee Haull, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Second place, middle school: Fatima Altai, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Photo: Otay Water District

Second place, middle school: Fatima Altai, seventh grade, Hillsdale Middle School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

First place, elementary school: Angie Zhong, sixth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

First place, elementary school: Angie Zhong, sixth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Second place, elementary school: Christian-Kealoha Rogacion, fifth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

Second place, elementary school: Christian-Kealoha Rogacion, fifth grade, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

The Otay Poster Contest winners compete for regional awards in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s annual student poster contest. Thirty-six posters are chosen from participating Southern California water agencies for inclusion in the 2023 MWD Water is Life calendar. This year, MWD selected Khilee Haull and Christian-Kealoha Rogacion to represent Otay Water District in MWD’s 2023 calendar.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Amid Drought, Tijuana Is Paying California for Colorado River Water

Tijuana is paying California for more water than it has in recent years as the city faces a growing population coupled with blistering drought that’s gripping the entire West.

Northern Baja is entitled by treaty to 1.5-million-acre feet of Colorado River water per year, which is Tijuana’s primary water source. But for years the amount that goes to Tijuana hasn’t been enough to quench demand.

The Helix Water District is the San Diego region’s second largest water utility, after the City of San Diego. Its service area includes La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon, Spring Valley, and other unincorporated areas of the county, with a population of 277,000. Brian Olney

Helix Water District Names Brian Olney New General Manager

The Helix Water District Board of Directors appointed Brian Olney as the organization’s new general manager, effective September 1, 2022. Olney was previously the Assistant General Manager and before that, the water district’s Director of Water Quality and System Operations.  He has 28 years of experience in the water industry.

“Brian’s experience spans system operations, water treatment plant operations and maintenance, water distribution and construction,” said Helix Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg. “He’s been a member of the executive team since 2016, and he is knowledgeable about local and regional water issues. Brian is a leader and will make a smooth transition into the general manager role.”

“I am honored to be the next general manager of Helix Water District,” said Olney. “We provide an essential service to hardworking people, who expect us to do our jobs correctly and efficiently and provide clean, safe water at a reasonable price. I agree with that, and we meet and exceed those expectations every day.”

Summer job leads to water industry career

Brian Olney has been named General Manager of Helix Water District, effective Sept. 1, 2022. Photo: Helix Water District

Brian Olney named General Manager of Helix Water District, effective Sept. 1, 2022. Photo: Helix Water District

Olney, a native San Diegan, grew up in East San Diego County, and now lives in Santee with his wife, Brenda. He earned an associate’s degree in water science technology and is a graduate of San Diego State University, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in public administration.

A summer construction job introduced Olney to a career in the water industry.

“I quickly realized how rewarding it was and embraced the public service aspect. It is truly enjoyable to meet customers and explain what we do or help them through an issue,” said Olney.

Olney worked in field operations for Lakeside Water District and as a water system operator for Otay Water District before joining Helix in 2000 as a water treatment plant operator. Olney maintains Grade 5 certifications from the California State Water Resources Board in water treatment and water distribution, the highest level of certification with ongoing education requirements.

Olney will oversee second largest water utility in San Diego County

Serving 277,000 customers, the Helix Water District maintains 16,892 valves and 56,504 water meters. Photo: Helix Water District Brian Olney

Serving 277,000 customers, the Helix Water District maintains 16,892 valves and 56,504 water meters. Photo: Helix Water District

The Helix Water District is the San Diego region’s second largest water utility, after the City of San Diego. Its service area includes La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon, Spring Valley, and other unincorporated areas of the county, with a population of 277,000. The Helix regional treatment plant also supplies water to Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Lakeside Water District in addition to its own customers, a total population of 500,000. Olney will oversee 150 employees and manage the FY2022-23 budget of $108 million.

“We are fortunate at Helix,” said Olney. “The board of directors are actively involved in the community and serve the district and our customers very well. Our employees are qualified, compassionate, and dedicated. I will continue to reinforce our values, and our goals and objectives, and we will work through the challenges we face.”

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Lakeside Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District are four of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Chula Vista Homeowners Win Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Chula Vista homeowners Bryan and Denee Felber earned “Best in District” honors as the winner of the Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Converting 2,143 square feet of turf to a drought-tolerant garden in 2015 continues to save water and pay off for the Felbers while beautifying their neighborhood.

Bryan and Denee Felber's conversion from turf to low-water use landscaping earned the Chula Vista homeowners the 2022 Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Contest win. Photo: Otay Water District

Chula Vista Homeowners Win Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Chula Vista homeowners Bryan and Denee Felber earned “Best in District” honors as the winner of the Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Converting 2,143 square feet of turf to a drought-tolerant garden in 2015 continues to save water and pay off for the Felbers while beautifying their neighborhood.

The Felbers live in the District’s division 4, represented by Board Director and Treasurer Jose Lopez.

A dry riverbed helps redirect water runoff away from sidewalks and storm drains. Photo: Otay Water District

A dry riverbed helps redirect water runoff away from sidewalks and storm drains. Photo: Otay Water District

“Otay is proud to see that our contest winners have taken the necessary steps to limit their outdoor water use and make their home drought resilient,” said Jose Lopez. “Now that our region is facing dry conditions, we encourage customers to do the same by taking full advantage of the programs and rebates available, which will make a significant difference in preserving our local water supply.”

Making a WaterSmart change

Bryan and Denee Felber's property before the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

Bryan and Denee Felber’s property before the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

Maintenance demands and high costs to keep their lawn vibrant and green motivated the Felbers to make a change, beginning in 2015. They started by participating in the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program, which teaches residents how to create and maintain a beautiful yard suiting their needs while also saving water. The  Felbers used what they learned during the planning stages of their project.

Bryan and Denee Felber's property after the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

Bryan and Denee Felber’s home after the landscaping redesign. Photo: Otay Water District

The landscape makeover qualified for turf rebates through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Water Authority. They received a rebate to replace 5,007 square feet of their front and back yards and later replaced 202 square feet of turf in a side yard.

A new drip irrigation system replaced spray nozzles. Plants are watered on an automated schedule three days a week. When rain is expected, the system is turned off or delayed for a few days. A dry riverbed running across the landscape captures and directs rainfall, minimizing water runoff.

New landscape design pays off

The Feibers used beautiful low-water use plants to replace more than 2,000 square feet of turf. Photo: Otay Water District

The Felbers used beautiful low-water-use plants to replace more than 2,000 square feet of turf. Photo: Otay Water District

The completed landscape allowed the Felbers to reduce their overall water use by approximately 33% compared to the years before upgrading.

When asked if they recommend others to consider upgrading their yards, Bryan Felber responded, “Absolutely!”

“It’s easier and requires much less time to maintain, and it saves money,” said Bryan. “Designed well, it can be beautiful with far less water, reducing water demand and preserving its supply.”

The Otay Water District board of directors will recognize the couple at its August meeting with a certificate of recognition, a gift certificate to a local nursery of their choice, a yard sign, and other promotional items.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.) 

Couple in Chula Vista Leading by Example in Water Conservation

A Chula Vista couple has been doing its parts to help save water and have been recognized b their efforts.

Homeowners Bryan and Denee Felber have earned the title “Best in District” in the Otay Water District’s 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

Annually, San Diego County water agencies host the contest to award residents for showcasing well-thought-out designs, plant selection and maintenance, and methods for efficient irrigation.

San Diego Tree Week: Concerts and Free Trees

The Water Conservation Garden is celebrating Spring this year by launching San Diego Tree Week. The goal, from April 22-29, is to plant 1,000 trees and bring San Diego residents together through tree planting.