Posts

Water Agencies Assist in Fighting Valley Fire

The Sweetwater Authority and the Otay Water District collaborated with multiple agencies during the recent Valley Fire in San Diego County. Water infrastructure played a key role in the firefighting effort.

Cooperation and collaboration are critical elements during wildfires. Both water agencies worked with multiple responders, including U.S. Forest Service firefighters, CALFIRE and SDG&E, to ensure the safety of crews and keep a safe, reliable water supply flowing for their customers.

Loveland Reservoir-Firefighter Helicopter-Valley Fire-Sweetwater Authority

Water Agencies Assist in Fighting Valley Fire

The Sweetwater Authority and the Otay Water District collaborated with multiple agencies during the recent Valley Fire in San Diego County. Water infrastructure played a key role in the firefighting effort.

Cooperation and collaboration are critical elements during wildfires. Both water agencies worked with multiple responders, including U.S. Forest Service firefighters, CALFIRE and SDG&E, to ensure the safety of crews and keep a safe, reliable water supply flowing for their customers.

The Valley Fire started September 5, southeast of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest. Before it was fully contained on September 24, the wildfire burned 16,390 acres and destroyed at least 30 homes, according to officials with the Cleveland National Forest.

Loveland Reservoir plays key role in firefighting efforts

Water agency infrastructure, employees and the public were directly threatened. The fire started in Alpine near the Sweetwater Authority Loveland Reservoir. Employees and anglers at the reservoir had to be evacuated.

Reservoir water was used throughout the firefighting efforts. Designated as critical infrastructure, Loveland was protected by fire crews, who used bulldozers on the property to create fire breaks.

Sweetwater Authority also made water tankers available to provide drinking water to crews and other agencies working the fire.

Valley Fire-Water Drop-Sweetwater Authority-Alpine

A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Valley Fire near Alpine in September 2020. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Infrastructure at Loveland Reservoir to protect water quality and provide for recreation was protected and did not sustain damage during the fire.

“We are grateful to the firefighters who worked tirelessly to protect Loveland Reservoir,” said Sweetwater Authority General Manager Tish Berge. “This reservoir is crucial in providing local water and keeping water rates low for our customers.”

The region was in the early stages of a prolonged heatwave when the fire started. The San Diego Union-Tribune reporters covering the fire wrote on September 5:

El Cajon hit 114 degrees and Alpine reached 113 — the highest temperatures ever recorded in those communities — while Ramona got to 112 and San Diego State University topped out at 105, according to the National Weather Service.

By Saturday night, fire fighters were working to control a wildfire that grew to more than 1,500 acres in the rural Japatul Valley area of East County, threatening homes and forcing evacuations.

“We’re throwing everything at it,” said Cal Fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser, as teams used helicopters and air tankers to make water drops. “It is going to be an extreme-attack fire. It is nothing we are putting out tonight.”

Otay Water District urges energy conservation

The Otay Water District safely curtailed electric power at its facilities during the Valley Fire as requested by SDG&E to help alleviate fire and weather concerns.

In addition to the prolonged heatwave and the Valley Fire, SDG&E continued to monitor potential high fire risk weather conditions. Those conditions may have forced SDG&E to shut off power to reduce the risk of a wildfire. Prior to the Valley Fire, Otay encouraged customers in its service area to safely conserve energy.

“We believe that any actions a local water agency like the Otay Water District can take to help SDG&E during heatwaves and the fires contributes to the region’s safety as a community,” said Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez.

Fighting wildfires involves cooperation from many agencies. The Valley Fire is another example of how water agencies, and water infrastructure, are key parts of those efforts. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

ValleyFire-InciWeb-Sweetwater Authority

Area covered by the Valley Fire in San Diego County, September 2020. Graphic: InciWeb

Faces of the Water Industry-San Diego County Water Authority-Water News Network

Faces of the Water Industry Highlights Water Pros, Career Opportunities

The San Diego County Water Authority, in partnership with its member agencies, has launched “Faces of the Water Industry,” a social media outreach campaign highlighting the diversity of people and careers in the region’s water and wastewater industry.

The Water Authority is featuring photos and videos from 20 employees representing nine water agencies across the region, including the Water Authority.

The Faces of the Water Industry campaign was inspired by the ACWA‘s California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, which highlights the important role of water industry professionals and local public water agencies in ensuring safe and reliable water, wastewater and recycled water operations in California.

Follow the Water Authority on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to read inspiring thoughts and stories from the region’s water and wastewater pros – the Faces of the Water Industry.

Faces of the Water Industry – Otay Water District

Theresa Kreinbring, Business Systems Analyst II at Otay Water District

“As a Business Systems Analyst, I work behind the scenes to ensure all applications are running to support the frontline staff,” said Theresa Kreinbring, Business Systems Analyst II at Otay Water District. “I want to provide the best service for them so they can better serve the community. A career in the water industry has been very rewarding. Water is our most valuable resource on earth, and I am grateful to be a part of it.” 

Faces of the Water Industry –  Sweetwater Authority

Luisa Ruiz, Senior Accountant at Sweetwater Authority

“The most rewarding aspect of my work is applying my technical skills gained over the life of my career to Sweetwater Authority’s Finance department,” said Luisa Ruiz, Senior Accountant at Sweetwater Authority. “As a Senior Accountant, I get to bring new ideas, process improvements, and lead a team to successfully provide our customers, community, and employees with exceptional reliable service in finance. It is rewarding being part of an agency whose mission is to provide our customers with safe and reliable water to a community I grew up in and am part of.” 

Faces of the Water Industry – Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Daniel Lockart, Systems Operator/Pump Technician at Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“When I first came here, I was new to the industry and I relied heavily on mentors within the district for advice and suggestions and they often used lessons learned from previous experiences to help teach me,” said Daniel Lockart, Systems Operator/Pump Technician at Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “Today, I most enjoy helping train newer employees and bring them up as the next leaders in our industry.” 

Learn about career and training opportunities 

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities for essential careers in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration and information technology. 

The California Water Environmental Association (CWEA) is hosting two free career webinars for new and current water professionals. 

For job openings, internships and education opportunities across the San Diego region’s water and wastewater industry, go to sandiegowaterworks.org.

Primary-Tyrese Powell-Slotterbeck-San Diego Water Works-Water Jobs

San Diego Water Works Website Offers One-Stop Shop for Water Industry Jobs 

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have launched a new website – SanDiegoWaterWorks.org – that provides the first comprehensive posting of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location.

As the San Diego economy begins recovering from recession, the site features expanded job opportunities and regularly updated information about internships and training opportunities – a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in a new career or a new role in the water industry.

San Diego Water Works was created to help meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers at a time when retirements are reducing the workforce. The site is the result of a regional water industry task force convened to address the “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomers.

“We want to fill the pipeline with new generations of talent,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “This is an industry that can really benefit from people with a diversity of backgrounds and educational experiences.”

Website created to fill openings created by wave of water industry retirements

While some water agencies have reduced hiring during the pandemic, roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years and many of those workers are in essential positions. In just the next five years, about 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open across the region. In addition to engineers and plant operators, the industry relies on technicians, accountants, electricians, mechanics, information technology specialists and many other occupations.

“The water industry offers careers that are not only personally and professional rewarding but also are vital for our region,” said Christopher McKinney, the City of Escondido’s Director of Utilities, and chair of the regional task force. “This is a chance to really make a difference in our community.”

San Diego Water Works website-water jobs-water industry

The San Diego Water Works website was created to help meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers at a time when retirements are reducing the workforce.

The San Diego Water Works website includes:

  • Current water and wastewater job postings in the San Diego region
  • Training and education resources, career advice and internship programs
  • Featured jobs that highlight rewarding careers in the water industry
  • Information about special training programs and internships for military veterans

The new website aligns with the priorities of water agencies in San Diego County to help military veterans find jobs in the water and wastewater industry. State legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District was signed into law in 2019, 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.

“More than 15,000 military personnel transition from active duty each year in San Diego County, and many have the skills and experience that match the needs of regional water industry employers,” said Jose Martinez, Otay Water District general manager, U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the regional workforce development task force. “As a veteran, I understand the importance of a website like this; it is a great starting point for veterans to find jobs and training programs as well as to discover what resources are available in the industry.”

Otay Water’s Gary Croucher Succeeds Jim Madaffer at County Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority’s board of directors have elected the Otay Water District‘s Gary Croucher as chair for a two-year term, succeeding Jim Madaffer on Sept. 30. Christy Guerin, who represents the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, will serve as vice chair and Jerry Butkiewicz from the City of San Diego will be secretary.

Gary Croucher-Christy Guerin-Jerry Butkiewicz-San Diego County Water Authority Board

Croucher Elected Board Chair of San Diego County Water Authority

New officers for the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors were elected today, with Gary Croucher starting his two-year term as Board chair on Oct. 1.

Croucher, vice chair of the Board for the past two years as a representative from the Otay Water District, will serve with incoming Vice Chair Christy Guerin, a Board representative from the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, and incoming Secretary Jerry Butkiewicz from the City of San Diego.

Jim Madaffer, who represents the City of San Diego on the Water Authority’s Board, served as chair the past two years. His term ends on Sept. 30.

Collaboration with 24 member agencies ensures plentiful water supply

“The Water Authority is one of our region’s most important institutions, and I’m committed to continuing our long legacy of providing safe and reliable water supplies that sustain 3.3 million people and our $245 billion economy,” said Croucher. “The collaboration with our 24 member agencies is vital to ensure a clean, safe and plentiful water supply for this beautiful place we call home.”

“We are stronger together”

“Looking ahead, Water Authority priorities include assessing the infrastructure necessary to provide water supply reliability for generations to come and leveraging existing infrastructure to increase long-term energy storage. We’re also focused on opportunities to expand partnerships that will benefit our region and the entire Southwest,” Croucher said. “I will also be devoting my personal energy and attention to addressing and resolving concerns two Water Authority member agencies have in seeking detachment from the Water Authority, because I firmly believe we are stronger together.”

He also said that the Water Authority will continue efforts advanced under Madaffer’s leadership to resolve legal disputes over rates with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California while looking for ways to collaborate with MWD on other issues.

Outgoing Board Chair Madaffer honored

Madaffer, presiding over his last meeting as Board chair, was honored by staff and Board members for his leadership — following on the two-year efforts of his predecessor, Mark Muir, on the rate case litigation, which included securing nearly $500 million dollars from MWD for water supply projects in San Diego County, elimination of illegal charges being imposed on San Diego ratepayers and entry of a final judgment in the 2010 and 2012 cases, and awarding Water Authority almost $45 million. Madaffer also presided over efforts by the Water Authority to minimize rate increases, the development of a new agricultural water rate program to benefit the region’s farmers, and efforts to enhance communication and coordination with member agencies.

New Board Chair is a career firefighter

Incoming Board Chair Croucher joined the Water Authority Board in July 2001 and served as Vice Chair Board for the past two years. He is a member of the agency’s Administrative and Finance Committee and the Legislation and Public Outreach Committee. He’s also chair of the Colorado River Work Group and a member of the MWD Settlement Negotiations Team.

A career firefighter, Croucher retired as an assistant chief for CAL FIRE/San Diego. Croucher is chair of the Border Agencies Fire Council. He is a three-time president of the Otay Water District Board of Directors and former fire chief of the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District. Croucher also serves on the Local Agency Formation Commission’s Borders Committee. He is a past chairman of the Border Agency Fire Council, past president of Southern Area Fire Equipment Research, and he has participated on both state and federal Homeland Security programs.

Guerin is new vice chair

Christy Guerin, the new vice chair, served as Board secretary the past two years, and sits on the Water Authority’s committees for Imported Water and Legislation and Public Outreach, along with the Colorado River Work Group and the MWD Settlement Negotiations Team.

She joined the Board in 2014 representing Olivenhain, where she is a director on the board. Guerin served for a decade with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, as mayor of Encinitas from 2002-2006, and as a district director for a member of Congress. She has also served on the SANDAG board, the North County Transit District board and the board of the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority.

Board Secretary Jerry Butkiewicz

Jerry Butkiewicz, the new Board secretary, currently serves as chair of the Water Authority’s Legislation and Public Outreach Committee and sits on the Colorado River Work Group and Water Planning and Environmental committees. He is also one of the Board’s MWD Delegates and serves on the MWD Settlement Negotiation Team He joined the Board in 2016 representing the City of San Diego. Butkiewicz is the former Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council.

The Water Authority’s 36-member board, representing 24 retail member water agencies, holds its regular meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month January through October. The November and December meetings are combined, and this year that meeting is November 19. Board meetings have been conducted online since April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and are live-streamed on the Water Authority’s website. Board documents and webcasts of Board meetings are at www.sdcwa.org.

Otay Water District Poster Contest Winners Illustrate Water-Use Efficiency

Six student artists from schools in the Otay Water District’s service area were named as winners of the district’s 2020 Water is Life Student Poster Contest. Entries were selected as those best demonstrating creativity and awareness of water-use efficiency through art.

First place, High Schools: Sofia Perez Valles, 12th Grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay WD poster contest

Otay Water District Poster Contest Winners Illustrate Water-Use Efficiency

Six student artists from schools in the Otay Water District’s service area were named as winners of the district’s 2020 Water is Life Student Poster Contest. Entries were selected as those best demonstrating creativity and awareness of water-use efficiency through art.

The annual contest is one of many educational programs offered by the district as an opportunity for students to learn and reflect on the importance of water conservation and stewardship. Students are encouraged to create a poster depicting the theme “Water is Life” which relates to using water wisely.

In February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, the district invited students from elementary through high schools in its service area to participate in the contest. Despite the pandemic forcing many people to work and learn from home, the contest remained open as a stay-at-home activity students could enjoy.

“At a time when most are working or learning from home during the pandemic, it was refreshing to see students, parents, and our Board members excited about this educational, creative, and fun project,” said Eileen Salmeron, communications assistant, and contest coordinator.

Local winners move on to Southern California competition

The district selected first through third-place winners from elementary and high school. The district recognized all winners from each category with a certificate, art kit, and goody bag of items with the Otay Water District logo and a conservation message. First and second place winners also received gift cards.

The Otay Board of Directors honored its winning student artists at its monthly virtual meeting on Sept. 2.

“As I grew up, I started learning that the Earth has an expiration date,” said Sofia Perez Valles, first-place winner in the high school category. “Through this poster, I was able to continue the passion of mine to help save the Earth because I was able to inform people of the different ways that we can support water-use efficiency.”

The six local winners will now compete in the regional Metropolitan Water District of Southern California annual student poster contest for a chance to be selected among entries from participating water agencies and featured in its 2021 Water is Life Calendar. In 2020, district calendar poster contest winner Maya Santana, a fifth-grade student from Wolf Canyon Elementary School, was selected to appear in the regional calendar.

This year’s poster contest winners include:

First place: Zahraa Alzayadi, Fifth grade, Jamacha Elementary School

First place: Zahraa Alzayadi, Fifth grade, Jamacha Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

 

Second place, Elementary Schools: Amy Coghill, third grade, Tiffany Elementary School.

Second place, Elementary Schools: Amy Coghill, third grade, Tiffany Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Third placem Elementary Schools: Sophie Coghill, kindergarten, Tiffany Elementary School. Photo: Otay WD poster contest

Third place, Elementary Schools: Sophie Coghill, kindergarten, Tiffany Elementary School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

First place, High Schools: Sofia Perez Valles, 12th Grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay WD poster contest

First place, High Schools: Sofia Perez Valles, 12th Grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Second place, High Schools: Stephenie Pace, 12th grade, Olympian High School.

Second place, High Schools: Stephenie Pace, 12th grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay Water District

 

Third place, High Schools: Lucia Perez Valles, 10th grade, Olympian High School.

Third place, High Schools: Lucia Perez Valles, 10th grade, Olympian High School. Photo: Otay Water District

To learn more about the Otay Water District’s annual poster contest and other educational programs, go to otaywater.gov/education.

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.