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San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements.

Lucia Perez Valles is one of six San Diego regional winners whose artwork appears in the 2012 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: Otay Water District 2021 Calendar

San Diego County Student Artists Shine in 2021 Calendar

Six talented San Diego County artists from the region’s schools are among the 36 Southern California students whose artwork will appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” Student Art Calendar.

Six San Diego region students were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 "Water Is Life" calendar. Photo: MWD

Six students from the San Diego region were selected from 13,000 entries to appear in the 2021 “Water Is Life” calendar. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar showcases student artwork with imaginative water conservation and water resource stewardship messages. Students in grades K-12 submitted artwork through participating member agencies, after winning their local competition.

This year, the six regional winners, their families, and member agency representatives participated in a virtual award ceremony to honor their achievements on Dec. 17.

Winning students from the San Diego region

Jose Sabedra's winning entry appears on the June 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Jose Sabedra’s winning entry appears on the June 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Art from Jose Sabedra, a fourth-grader from Bostonia Language Academy and Mina Saeed, also a fourth-grader at Lexington Elementary School, appear in the calendar. They won the Helix Water District competition. Sabedra’s teacher is Sara Meier, and Saeed’s teacher is Holly Hemming. June features Sabedra’s art and Saeed’s winning work covers September.

Mina Saeed's winning entries appear on the September 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Mina Saeed’s winning entry appears on the September 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“We are always impressed by the creativity and talent of the student artists from our district, and this year was no exception,” said Jennifer Bryant, Helix Water District director of administrative services. “Congratulations again to Jose Sabedra and Mina Saeed – we are proud to see your water conservation artwork represent Helix in MWD’s 2021 Water is Life calendar.”

Lucia Perez Valles' winning entry appears on the July 2021 page. Photo: MWD 2021 calendar

Lucia Perez Valles’ winning entry appears on the July 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Sisters Lucia Perez Valles and Sofia Perez Valles both have winning artwork from the Otay Water District in the 2021 calendar. Both attend Olympian High School. Lucia is a sophomore, and Sonia is a senior. Lucia’s art appears on the July page, and Sonia’s appears in November.

Sofia Perez Valles' and Sarah Bernier's winning entries appear on the November 2021 page. Photo: MWD

Sofia Perez Valles’ and Sarah Bernier’s winning entries appear on the November 2021 calendar page. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“It is important to provide this opportunity to students in our service area, especially during the pandemic because water education is always important,“ said Eileen Salmeron, Otay Water District communications assistant. “We’re proud of all the participants from Otay, including the Valles sisters, for demonstrating their awareness of how essential water is to our everyday quality of life.”

From the Padre Dam Municipal Water District competition, sixth graders Sarah Bernier at Joan MacQueen Middle School in Kim Asfazadour’s class, and Violet Jacobson at Hill Creek Elementary School in Mrs. Kelly’s class both have posters in the calendar. Bernier’s art appears on the November page, and Jacobson’s on the December page. This is the second year in a row Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears in the MWD regional calendar.

Violet Jacobson's artwork appears on the December 2021 page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: MWD

Violet Jacobson’s artwork appears on the December 2021 calendar page. She is a two-time winner. Her artwork also appeared in 2020. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“I am so proud of the talented students who are representing Padre Dam in the 2021 Water is Life Calendar,” said Emma Shea, Padre Dam Municipal Water District communications coordinator. “These young artists have done a fantastic job at portraying the importance of water conservation as a way of life.”

See the full calendar here

Artistic expression provides environmental education  

The “Water is Life” Student Art Calendar curates student art submitted from grades K-12 that carry a conservation message. Hundreds of entries are judged and 36 are featured in the annual calendar, which is distributed to about 13,000 recipients each year.

Otay Water District Logo

Otay Water District Board Elects Tim Smith as 2021 Board President

Spring Valley, Calif. – At its December meeting, the Otay Water District Board of Directors elected new officers to lead the District’s Board for 2021. The board elected board member Tim Smith, who represents division 1, as president. The board also elected board member Mark Robak, serving division 5, as vice president and Jose Lopez, serving division 4, as treasurer.

Teresa Chase helps load up donations from Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees. They are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Water Utility Workers Embrace Holiday Giving

The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have a long tradition of supporting holiday charitable giving to a wide array of nonprofit services. The tradition continues in 2020 with no slowdown despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Toys bring joy to kids in need

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to Helix's Toys for Tots toy drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East County. Photo: Helix Water District Holiday giving

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to the agency’s Toys for Tots drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East San Diego County. Photo: Helix Water District

For more than 15 years, Sweetwater Authority employees have been active participants in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, providing toys to children in its service area. Every year, employees take a tag that contains information about the recipient (age, gender, toy request). The employee shops for the item and brings them back unwrapped to the office. The Salvation Army pickups and delivers the donated toys.

With many employees working from home this year due to the pandemic, several made arrangements to have their gifts shipped directly to the office, or stopped by to drop off a gift.

“Every year, I enjoy seeing the collection of toys selected by our employees for the children of South Bay. I am always so proud of the generosity and kindness of our team – It is one of the joys of the holiday season,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager.

Helix Water District staff is donating to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, and encouraged its customers to participate. Each holiday season, the U.S. Marine Corps partners with local nonprofits and businesses to collect toys for distribution to children. Helix employees at all four of the district’s facilities collected new and unwrapped toys. “If there was ever a time to help families in need, this is it,” said Helix spokesperson Vince Dambrose.

San Diego County Water Authority employees enthusiastically support Toys for Tots through its Employee Association. President Angela Tomayko, administrative assistant to the Colorado River Program and MWD Program, said employees will donate $500 toward the purchase of toys for the program.

San Diego Food Bank virtual drives provide assistance 

The Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank holiday giving

The San Diego County Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank

Early in the pandemic, the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies launched a virtual food drive in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic.

The Otay Water District was an original partner in the virtual food drive and has continued its commitment along with its nearly 226,000 customers, employees, and any supporter able to donate. As a result of its holiday season efforts, the Otay Water District raised $5,400 in food and monetary donations for the Food Bank.

“Because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, demands for food and aid have skyrocketed across the county,” said Tenille Otero, Otay communications officer. “People are without jobs, without paychecks, and without money to feed and support their households. Through the food bank effort, the District, its employees, and customers can assist those affected by the pandemic.”

Helix Water District also partnered directly with the San Diego Food Bank early in the pandemic, raising more than $6,000 for the program. Both the food drive, and its Toys for Tots effort are run as part of the “Helix Helps” program created in 2017. Helix employees, families and friends volunteer their time to support the communities the district serves.

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. photo; city of Escondido Holiday giving

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido employees including the water and wastewater divisions put together “Souper Sacks,” bags of non-perishable food and fun surprises distributed through the city’s senior program at the Park Avenue Community Center. Last year, 341 Souper Sacks were donated.

In addition, employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Children receive a new set of pajamas to bring them comfort during their most challenging moments.

In previous years, items were delivered to the nonprofits with an escort by the Escondido Fire Department. “This year, distribution will be lower key, but participation in both of these longstanding programs has not waivered,” said Teresa Collins, Escondido communications manager.

Supporting clean water worldwide

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

For 15 years, Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees have enthusiastically supported fundraising for the nonprofit Water for People. It works with communities across the globe to install safe water and sanitation systems, educating local people on good health practices and saving thousands of lives. Olivenhain employees have volunteered abroad helping set up water and sewer systems with the full support of the agency.

During the holiday season, the San Diego chapter holds a competition to sell the most gift baskets donated by Wonderful Pistachios. Employees help assemble the baskets for sale. Olivenhain hoped for a “three-peat” win but settled for a close second place, selling 179 baskets.

Water Authority employees also purchased baskets. Employee Association President Angela Tomayko noted, “they sold out quickly!”

Olivenhain employees are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Employees also participate with paycheck deductions through the United Way.

“We like to cast a wide net to make the season brighter for as many as we can – seniors, children, vets, and even four-legged friends,” said Teresa Chase, administrative analyst.

“I enjoy shopping for the families and I like collecting for animals, too,” said district accountant Lisa Maxwell, who has worked at Olivenhain Municipal Water District for 23 years. “It’s just something that brings joy. We could use it, this year especially.”

Water Authority employees embrace philanthropy year-round

This year, the Water Authority established a new employee-driven Charitable Giving Committee to support nonprofits year-round. Chair John Kross, Engineering Department right of way manager, and committee member Liz Mendelson-Goossens, principal water resources specialist, MWD Program, said the committee has established new guidelines and surveyed employees to select recipients, the San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Humane Society, and Rady Children’s Hospital.

Without the ability to hold face-to-face events, the committee launches its first virtual fundraiser with a holiday theme. Through the end of the year, employees can compete in a holiday attire contest, donating to enter a photo in one of three categories: Ugliest, Most Creative, and Best Homemade. Fellow employees will vote on the winners.

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.”