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Accessible Garden Wins Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon resident Patricia Wood, inspired by her daughter Kimberly, transformed a thirsty lawn into a wheelchair accessible garden, winning “Best in District” in the Otay Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The beautiful, wheelchair accessible garden inspired by Patricia Wood's daughter Kimberly is the 2020 Otay Water District Landscape Contest winner. Photo: Otay Water District

Accessible Garden Wins Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon resident Patricia Wood, inspired by her daughter Kimberly, transformed a thirsty lawn into a wheelchair accessible garden, winning “Best in District” in the Otay Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

Wood’s landscape demonstrates a well thought-out design, methods for efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

“The one thing that really inspired me was when they said to consider your front yard as another room in your home,” said Wood. “My daughter is in a wheelchair and spends most of her time in her bedroom or our family room, so giving her an outside room to enjoy was the best Christmas present for her that I could imagine.”

Patricia Wood's landscaping prior to its accessible and watersmart makeover. Photo: Otay Water District

Landscaping at the Wood home prior to its accessible and WaterSmart makeover. Photo: Otay Water District

For more than 10 years, Wood had been struggling with a high water-use lawn and gophers digging holes in her yard. In 2018, she learned about the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program presented by the Water Authority and the Otay Water District. She learned which low-water-use plants and design would work best for her garden.

Patricia Wood's winning landscape design after its makeover. Photo: Otay Water District accessible garden

Patricia Wood’s winning landscape design after its makeover. Photo: Otay Water District

Wood is president of the Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation Disorders Association. She dreamed of surprising her daughter Kimberly, who has NBIA, with a wheelchair accessible garden. Using recommendations from the landscape makeover program and with help from a landscaper, Wood transformed 3,850 square feet of her yard. Her design came to life with a beautiful water-wise garden.

New low water-use accessible garden 

Patricia Wood solved her gopher infestation while transforming her landscaping into a waterwise design. Photo: Otay Water District

Patricia Wood solved her gopher infestation while transforming her landscaping into a waterwise design. Photo: Otay Water District

Wood’s new garden features a decomposed granite path for her daughter to access areas from her wheelchair up close. A dry-creek bed captures rain from the roof and prevents overrun. Waterwise plants such as foxtail agave, blue chalk sticks, butterfly bush, cape plumbago, Texas sage, Texas sundrop, sea lavender, little ollie, and a gold medallion tree fill the yard.

Patricia Wood's landscape design has broad decomposed granite paths to accomodate a wheelchair. Photo: Otay Water District

Patricia Wood’s landscape design has broad decomposed granite paths to accommodate a wheelchair. Photo: Otay Water District

She replaced her overhead spray nozzles with a drip irrigation system controlled by a weather-based sensor. She even solved her gopher problem by applying a wire mesh underneath the topsoil and wire baskets for each plant. Her efforts have led her to decrease her estimated water use by an average of about 27%.

“We are thankful to those residents in our service area who have made great strides to increase outdoor water-use efficiency by upgrading to WaterSmart landscapes,” said Otay General Manager Jose Martinez. “Our hope is that customers find our water-saving classes, resources, and incentives useful for creating their own landscaping projects.”

Wood applied for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Turf Replacement Program and received an incentive of $7,325 for her project.

Patricia Wood and her daughter Kimberly have made their new garden a haven during the pandemic shutdown. Photo: Otay Water District

Patricia Wood and her daughter Kimberly have made their new garden a haven during the pandemic shutdown. Photo: Otay Water District

“It is so relaxing and stress-reducing to enjoy sitting outside and watching the birds and butterflies in our garden,” said Wood. “It has made staying at home much easier during the pandemic.”

As the contest winner, Wood was recognized at the Otay Water District’s August virtual board meeting with a certificate of recognition, gift certificate to a local nursery of her choice, winner’s yard sign, and other promotional items.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Selects El Cajon Homeowner as Winner of the WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Spring Valley, Calif. – At its virtual Board of Directors meeting on August 5, the Otay Water District Board recognized El Cajon resident Patricia Wood for taking the title of “Best in District” in the Otay Water District’s 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. Her landscape demonstrates a well thought-out design, methods for efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

Otay Water District Supports Virtual Food Drive During COVID-19 Crisis

At a time when it is needed most, the Otay Water District is partnering with the San Diego County Water Authority, other local water agencies, and the San Diego Food Bank to provide food assistance through a virtual food drive for those affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Dana Gutierrez, Otay Water District

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. Dana Gutierrez, Otay Water District Customer Service Representative II, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week-Otay Water District-Essential Workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Dana Gutierrez, 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. Dana Gutierrez, Otay Water District Customer Service Representative II, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dana Gutierrez

Job/Agency: Otay Water District Customer Service Representative II

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

After several years working in a call center environment, it was time for a change in my career path. I had read a posting in a local publication for a customer service position with Otay and decided to test my luck. I was fortunate. Although there is so much more to absorb in the water industry, I was able to bring my customer service skills to a whole new level. The staff was so friendly and knowledgeable that I had no problems intercepting the traditions and behaviors of the District.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Soon after the pandemic began, our lobby shut down and all staff was sent to work from home. It has been a major adjustment, but our IT staff has done an excellent job in providing us with the equipment and tools needed to complete our daily responsibilities. We are on a rotating schedule now, with only 2-3 reps in our office at a time while the rest of us work from home. We can communicate with one another via text, email, phone, or a video chat.

How are you keeping safe?

Otay has done an excellent job in providing staff with safety aids and tips on how to endure this pandemic. We have temperature kiosks in which we must have a temp scan prior to reporting to the building. The District has also installed several hand sanitizing stations and provided masks and gloves to staff when dealing with the public. While at home, it’s a simple practice of follow the guidelines and recommendations of the CDC.

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

It would be nice to be normal again. Just being able to socialize with family and friends again without the partition.

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

Sweetwater Authority Wins Statewide Award for Hydro Station Education Experience

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board on July 22 was presented with the California Association of Public Information Officials Award of Distinction for excellence in public information and communications. The water agency received the award earlier this month for its innovative communication for the Hydro Station Education Experience.

The Sweetwater Authority received CAPIO's EPIC Award earlier this month for its innovative communication for the Hydro Station Education Experience. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority and Otay Water District Win Statewide Award for Hydro Station Education Experience

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board on July 22 was presented with the California Association of Public Information Officials Award of Distinction for excellence in public information and communications. As a collaborative project with the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Sweetwater Authority and the Otay Water District received the award from CAPIO earlier this month for innovative communications for the Hydro Station Education Experience.

The Hydro Station at Sweetwater’s Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility,  hosts learning exhibits and hands-on activities to introduce 4,000 local students annually to the ecological cycle of water, water conservation, water quality, and careers in the water industry. The Hydro Station is made possible through a partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, Chula Vista Elementary School District, and the Otay Water District.

Hydro Station Education Experience opened in August 2019

Chula Vista fifth graders enjoy their first visit to the new Hydro Station educational facility. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Chula Vista fifth graders enjoy their visit to the new Hydro Station educational facility. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

“It is exciting to be on a Board that values the importance of strategic partnerships,” said Governing Board Chair Steve Castaneda. “We are working with the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Otay Water District to provide educational opportunities for students in our service area and to expose local children to a career path that could position them as tomorrow’s water leaders.”

The program opened in August 2019 after months of planning and collaboration with its partners.

The Authority’s Communications Committee Chair, José F. Cerda, is a long-time advocate of the partnership.

“As a former Chula Vista Elementary School District educator, I have seen the impacts that these sort of innovative classroom experiences can have on students and their families,” said Cerda. “I am so proud of the work that we are doing at the Authority and being an industry leader in creating and developing experiences for the children in our community.”

The Hydro Station will resume in a virtual format for students in the Chula Vista Elementary School District next month.

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Director Gastelum Censured by Otay Water District Over Racist Social Media Posts

Hector Gastelum has been censured by the Otay Water District Board of Directors for posting controversial comments on social media. Again.

In 2017, the water district censured Gastelum and removed him from all committees because of a tweet that described Muslim people as “subhuman scum.”

This time, Gastelum’s censure is the consequence of a racist post criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Keith Swiatkowski, Otay Water District

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. Keith Swiatkowski, Otay Water District Water Systems Operator III, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.