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The Fall 2015 Citizens Water Academy tours the Olivenhain Reservoir. Photo: Water Authority Citizens Water Academy Applications

Citizens Water Academy ‘Inspiration’ for Water Agency Board Members

The Citizens Water Academy helps educate civic leaders, and many graduates have gone on to become water agency board members in San Diego County.

The application and nomination period remains open for the Fall 2019 class of the San Diego County Water Authority’s pioneering Citizens Water Academy.

The closing date is September 18. More than 700 people have completed the award-winning program since 2014.

The Citizens Water Academy provides an opportunity for emerging civic leaders to learn about visionary local efforts to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for the San Diego region. Participants get an in-depth look at how the Water Authority helps the region’s economy and quality of life through strategic planning, innovative programs, and cost-effective investments.

The first two sessions are at the Helix Water District’s operations headquarters in El Cajon on October 11 and 16, and the third session is in Escondido at the Water Authority’s Escondido operations center on October 25.

Citizens Water Academy ‘a catalyst’ for Gracyk

Mark Gracyk (center) participates in a role playing exercise during the Winter 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: Water Authority Water Academy Applications

Mark Gracyk (center) participates in a role playing exercise during the Winter 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Helix Water District board member Mark Gracyk attended the Citizens Water Academy in Winter 2016.

“As an average citizen, most people don’t know much about what’s involved about getting their water,” said Gracyk. “I didn’t have a macro view of the whole system. I really looked forward to the classes and I learned so much. It’s kind of jam packed, it’s like a cram course. But you really learn a lot in those short three or four days.”

Gracyk says the Citizens Water Academy was “a catalyst” inspiring him to run for the Helix board in 2016.

“I took what I learned and it helped in my campaign, and to be an more effective elected official,” said Gracyk.

Local leaders become better informed

Citizens Water Academy participants tour the Claude "Bud" Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad. Photo: Water Authority

Citizens Water Academy participants tour the Padre Dam Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Project in Santee. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The program also helped José F. Cerda become better informed about the region’s water supply and infrastructure in 2015 prior to his successful 2016 campaign for the South Bay Irrigation District board.

“I had a childlike wonderment about what water is and where it comes from,” said Cerda. “It’s your civic duty to understand this big issue for California and create a sense of consciousness. People think you just open the tap.”

“I’m pretty comfortable now making decisions because of the background and the foundation of the Water Academy,” added Cerda.

Valley Center avocado grower Enrico Ferro, a Valley Center Municipal Water District board member, says his Citizens Water Academy experience in 2015 helped him look at water beyond the local perspective.

“Whenever I talk to anyone about water, I reference what I’ve learned,” said Ferro, recently named president of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “We can’t do anything without water, it’s extremely important. Before I got involved with the Farm Bureau, I wasn’t paying attention to the impact of things on a regional and statewide level.”

“Lots of people from different walks of life of all ages, all professions, and every type of person attends. You get their perspective on things and how [water] affects them,” added Ferro.

Citizens Water Academy grads forge new relationships

Enrico Ferro (far right) participates in an icebreaker exercise at the Summer 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: Water Authority

Enrico Ferro (far right) participates in an icebreaker exercise at the Summer 2016 Citizens Water Academy. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Gracyk, Cerda, and Ferro all value the relationships they forged and the networking opportunities with other engaged people at the Citizens Water Academy.

“You’ll make new friends and colleagues you didn’t have before. It will pay you back twenty fold,” said Gracyk.

Competitive selection process for popular program

The selection process is competitive. The Water Authority typically receives many more applications than spots available.

To apply or to nominate someone for the academy, go to www.sdcwa.org/citizens-water-academy. People who are interested but cannot attend in October can submit an application and ask to be notified when additional sessions are announced.

Gracyk says he hopes to join the first session and welcome the new Citizens Water Academy Fall 2019 class to the Helix operations center.

“Three years ago, I was sitting in that audience,” said Gracyk. “Now, I’m here as an elected official and I’m much more knowledgeable than when I started. One thing I really learned is that access to fresh, clean, safe affordable water is essential to human dignity.”

Farm Bureau Says Goodbye To Longtime Executive Director

The San Diego County Farm Bureau’s longtime executive director Eric Larson retired recently after leading the Bureau for 23 years. He told the newspaper two weeks ago, “I decided 70 was a good age to exit. I will be working through the end of September. My replacement will begin July 22 giving us a good transition.” His replacement is Hannah Gbeh (pronounced bay). Gbeh is an environmental impact report preparer, organic farmer, environmental science teacher and researcher who has served for several years on the board of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.  She is also a commissioner on the County’s Fish and Wildfire Advisory Commission and serves on the Jamul-Dulzura Community Planning Group.

Limited rainfall means avocado grower John Burr must use innovative farming methods. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego’s Farmer of the Year Taps Every Drop

Growing water-intensive crops like avocados in San Diego County is no small feat. Producing avocados requires the use of innovative farming methods to supply the trees with enough water.

It’s the use of innovative farming methods that earned John Burr the title of San Diego County’s Farmer of the Year – an honor he recently celebrated on KUSI-TV with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer as part of the agency’s Brought to You by Water outreach and education program.

Innovative farming methods

Over the past few months, the Water Authority partnered with local agriculture industry leaders like the San Diego County Farm Bureau to highlight the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for more than 5,500 local farms that are part of the county’s $4.8 billion agriculture industry.

Local farmers like Burr are invaluable in growing the agricultural bounty that sustains 3.3 million residents and the region’s quality of life.

Found in everything from tacos to smoothies to toast, avocados have become a staple in California cuisine and, with only about 10 inches of annual rainfall in the San Diego region, it takes innovation and technology to grow the popular fruit.

Technology saves water

For decades, Burr has been perfecting the operations on his Escondido farm, using state-of-the-art technology like the California Irrigation Management Information System. Two different satellite systems allow him to regulate irrigation by zones to determine precise water amounts to prevent using too much or too little water on his trees.

Satellites collect data, which Burr then analyzes with spreadsheets to determine how many gallons of water each tree requires. Every bit of data collected, from water usage to atmospheric conditions to soil type, allows Burr and his team to streamline their operations to be even more water-efficient.

“In San Diego County, we have to get the most out of our crops with the least amount of water,” said Burr, who irrigates his farm with water from the City of Escondido. “When the weather varies with changing seasons or fluctuating weather patterns, providing the right amount of water at the right time is paramount to using water efficiently. These technologies provide the information and tools that allow us to do that consistently, and ensure our crops grow successfully.”

Efficient land use conserves water

Those who see Burr’s farm may also notice another difference from the typical avocado farm, which is that his groves are designed for high-density planting.

“A typical avocado grove can have about 100 trees, but ours have about 400 in the same area of land. This cuts our water usage in half,” he said.

Each tree is also limited in height to prevent water loss through transpiration. This is especially important in a region like San Diego County, where temperatures can rise quickly on summer days.

Matthew G Phy tweeted this photo and two other photos in the San Diego Grown Photo Contest.

San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights Agriculture

More than 260 photos were submitted during May as part of the “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” highlighting how safe and reliable water supplies fuel the region’s thriving agriculture industry. The San Diego County Water Authority hosted the social media contest during Water Awareness Month.

The contest highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. As one of the nation’s top producers of avocados, ornamental trees and shrubs, flowers, succulents, lemons, and other agricultural products, San Diego County farms cover approximately 250,000 acres and generate $4.8 billion in total annual economic activity.

Photos were posted to Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #B2UbyH2O and came from home gardens, local farms, community gardens and farmers’ markets throughout the region.

A giant Swiss chard was one of the most liked in the San Diego Grown Photo Contest in May 2019.

Kristina Cornejo submitted this photo on Twitter of a giant Swiss Chard in the San Diego Grown Photo Contest.

One participant on Instagram thanked the Water Authority, posting this comment: “Things like these are what bring Communities together and brings awareness to the importance of water in our lives!”

Contest ‘Brought To You By Water’

The San Diego Grown Photo Contest was part of the Water Authority’s ongoing Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, designed to convey the importance of water supply reliability for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy. The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies work together to meet current and future water demands, while promoting water-use efficiency.

Qualifying submissions received prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations including Specialty Produce, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and Jimbo’s … Naturally.

Over the past year, the Water Authority has highlighted an array of the region’s core industries – including tourism, manufacturing and brewing – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Those industries provide tens of thousands of jobs that help make San Diego County universally regarded as one of the best places to live. The regional economy is made possible, in part, by continued investments in the pumps, pipes, projects and people who deliver more than 450,000 acre-feet of water per year for everything from washing hotel towels and growing avocados to brewing craft beer and building ships.

Follow #B2UbyH2O on Instagram and Twitter to see all the photos.

 

The “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” on Instagram and Twitter highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights County’s Agricultural Bounty

The San Diego County Water Authority is hosting a social media photo contest during Water Awareness Month in May to celebrate how safe and reliable water supplies fuel the region’s local farms and food production.

The “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” on Instagram and Twitter highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. As one of the nation’s top producers of avocados, ornamental trees and shrubs, flowers, succulents, lemons, and other agricultural products, San Diego County’s farms generate nearly $4.8 billion in total annual economic activity on some 250,000 acres.

The contest is part of the Water Authority’s ongoing Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, designed to convey the importance water supply reliability for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy. The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies work together to meet current and future water demands, while promoting water-use efficiency.

“Safe and reliable water supplies help more than 5,500 farms to thrive in our region – not to mention countless backyard gardens, community gardens and farmers markets,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “This photo contest offers everyone a chance to showcase their favorite locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and nursery plants, and to win some great prizes donated by sponsors who share our commitment to our region’s most precious natural resource.”

Agriculture: brought to you by water

The Water Authority is coordinating with the nonprofit local chapter of the Farm Bureau, which is supported solely by more than 2,000 dues-paying members. Established in 1914, it serves the needs of the San Diego agriculture community through a variety of advocacy and education initiatives.

“Farming is a foundational piece of our regional economy and quality of life – but it doesn’t happen without a reliable water supply,” said Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “Our farmers are constantly innovating to use water more efficiently through adopting new technology and more-efficient crops.”

Reliable water supply helps drive regional economy

Entering the photo contest is easy: Take a photo of your favorite locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers or nursery plants and post the photo to Instagram or Twitter using #B2UbyH2O between May 1-31. Participants must be at least 18 years old to enter.

Qualifying submissions are eligible for prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations including Specialty Produce, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and Jimbo’s …Naturally! Winners will be drawn randomly each week from posts that meet contest rules here, and they will be announced on social media.

Over the past year, the Water Authority has highlighted an array of the region’s core industries – including tourism, manufacturing and brewing – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

San Diego County is home to more than 5,500 local farms and a $4.8 billion agriculture industry fueled by safe and reliable water supplies from the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. Photo: Water Authority

Farm-to-Table Event Highlights San Diego County Products

On April 25, the San Diego County Farm Bureau is bringing a one-of-a-kind tasting and education event to the famous Carlsbad Flower Fields. Up to 300 people from around the county will experience a remarkable variety of recipes and beverages, all prepared from locally sourced ingredients by some of the best chefs in the region.

San Diego leads nation in avocados, vine-ripe tomatoes

Many people don’t realize that a lot of the produce they buy at grocery stores or enjoy in local restaurants is grown right here in San Diego County. In fact, the county is home to more than 5,500 local farms and a $4.8 billion regional agriculture industry fueled by safe and reliable water supplies from the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Thursday’s event, called “Graze at the Fields,” is an opportunity for the community to connect with farmers. In addition to enjoying hand-crafted samples and beverages, guests will have a chance to talk with local growers and purveyors to learn about all that goes into producing the finest and freshest local farm products.

The Water Authority is sponsoring the event as part of its Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, which was created to raise awareness about the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for San Diego County’s key industries and quality of life. During April, May and June, the Water Authority is partnering with the region’s agriculture industry to highlight the local bounty that is “Brought to You by Water.”

For more information about Graze at the Fields, go to sdfarmbureau.org/graze-at-the-fields.

Share photos of your favorite San Diego County produce

Following the event, the Water Authority also will kick off a social media photo contest that will run through the month of May, to coincide with Water Awareness Month.

Between May 1-31, participants who submit a photo of their favorite locally grown vegetables, fruits, nursery plants or flowers and use the #B2UbyH2O will be entered to win prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations, including the San Diego County Farm Bureau, Specialty Produce, and Jimbo’s…Naturally!

More information about the Brought to You by Water program and the social media contest is at b2ubyh2o.org.