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Sweetwater Authority Utility Worker II Julio Salazar's innovative new tool won recognition from the Association of California Water Agencies. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Sweetwater Authority employee

Award-Winning, Time-Saving Tool Created by Sweetwater Authority Employee

For his initiative in designing and creating a new tool designed to improve safety and efficiency on the job, Sweetwater Authority employee Julio Salazar won the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority  H.R. LaBounty Safety Award.

The award recognized Salazar for creating a ‘Large AMS Stabilizing Tool.’ Salazar’s design resulted in making the process of replacing 1.5 inch and two inch angle meter stops, or AMS, easier, more ergonomic, and safer.

“Our water professionals are industry leaders, finding new ways to work smarter and safer,” said Tish Berge, general manager. “Sweetwater Authority could not be more proud of Julio’s tool and much deserved recognition.”

The H.R. LaBounty Safety Award recognizes water industry employees who implement significant safety improvements to prevent occupational injuries/illness. Winners are recognized twice a year.

See a demonstration of the new award-winning tool.

Salazar, a Utility Worker II with Sweetwater, came up with the idea after talking with co-workers about ways to improve the process. In the past, replacing an AMS often required employees to break out the meter box in order to make enough space to fit large wrenches and tools.

The process was often awkward and difficult, adding strain on the employee who had to remove the AMS at an odd angle. The concrete panel would also need to be replaced, adding to the time, cost, and safety risk associated with the replacement.

The new tool is designed to secure the AMS using meter bolts, and can be placed in-line with the service lateral. Once secured, an employee can simply use an adjustable wrench to loosen or tighten the bottom nut on the AMS. It eliminates the need to break the meter box, and gives the employee a more comfortable, ergonomic grip while working. It also makes the process safer.

Salazar says the design is similar to existing stabilizing tools, but there was nothing quite the right size for the 1.5 inch and 2 inch AMS – until now.

Water industry professionals recognized for safety improvements

Sweetwater Authority Utility Worker II Julio Salazar displays his H.R. LaBounty Safety Award Sweetwater Authority employeerecognition certificate from the Association of California Water Agencies. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Sweetwater Authority Utility Worker II Julio Salazar displays his H.R. LaBounty Safety Award recognition certificate from the Association of California Water Agencies. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority – ACWA JPIA for short – is a partnership of water agencies dedicated to avoiding the high cost of commercial insurance. JPIA is a risk-sharing pool for property, liability, workers’ compensation and employee benefits, which allows for more rate stability for customers, broader coverage and expanded benefits and services than private insurance.

READ MORE: Proactive Partnerships Keep Pipelines In Top Shape

 

Award-Winning, Time-Saving Tool Created by Sweetwater Authority Employee

For his initiative in designing and creating a new tool designed to improve safety and efficiency on the job, Sweetwater Authority employee Julio Salazar won the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority H.R. LaBounty Safety Award. The award recognized Salazar for creating a ‘Large AMS Stabilizing Tool.’ Salazar’s design resulted in making the process of replacing 1.5 inch and two inch angle meter stops, or AMS, easier, more ergonomic, and safer. “Our water professionals are industry leaders, finding new ways to work smarter and safer,” said Tish Berge, general manager. “Sweetwater Authority could not be more proud of Julio’s tool and much deserved recognition.”

The Nieves family of Bonita are the winners of the Sweetwater Authority's 2019 Landscape Makeover Contest for theier creative WaterSmart landscaping design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Creative WaterSmart Landscaping

Creative WaterSmart Landscaping Wins Sweetwater Authority’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Bonita residents Efren and Ily Niervas won the Sweetwater Authority 2019 Landscape Contest after transforming their front yard from a traditional thirsty expanse of lawn to a watersmart landscaping approach.

When the Niervas moved to their home in 2017, they realized the cost of watering their yard, with a large lawn and assorted shrubbery, was too high. They decided to change their landscape and attended home improvement events and expos as part of their research. They also did online research. The research paid off, as the Niervas thoughtfully designed their own xeriscape plan for their creative watersmart landscaping.

Creative hardscapes and colorful plant palette transform landscaping

Before: The Nieves' landscaping prior to undertaking their award-winning, watersmart redesign project. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Before: The Niervas’ landscaping prior to undertaking their award-winning, watersmart redesign project. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

With the design in hand, the Niervas began work on making the landscape transformation themselves. They purchased plants on sale, and collected small cuttings and succulents from friends and neighbors.

Knowing the soil in the yard was dry and hard, they patiently waited for wetter and softer conditions in the fall months to begin working on their yard. The landscape transformation was finally complete in March 2019. The Niervas are thrilled with the beautiful, water-saving results.

After: The stunning results of the landscaping transformation. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

After: The stunning results of the landscape transformation. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Creative watersmart landscaping

The yard design features swales in the form of rock-lined dry creek beds, which capture rainwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces to slow it down, spread it out, and allow the water to sink into the soil. Lighted flagstone pathways wind through the yard.

The design features a diverse palette of succulents, cacti, and California native plants. The Niervas completed their yard décor with beautiful ceramic containers, gazing balls, and whimsical artwork including starfish and a peacock.

The homeowners completed their yard décor with beautiful ceramic containers, gazing balls, and whimsical artwork including starfish and a peacock. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

San Diego County homeowners can take advantage of free landscaping makeover classes offered by the San Diego County Water Authority to help plan to create a colorful and watersmart landscape. Go tot the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

A diverse palette of colorful succulents, cacti, and California native plants add to the winning design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

READ MORE: Winning Vista Irrigation District WaterSmart Landscape Reduces Water Use

The winning water sample was taken directly from the Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility, the same water provided to its customers. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Bset Tasting Water Award

Sweetwater Authority Wins ‘Best Tasting Membrane Water’ Award

The Sweetwater Authority Governing Board was presented with the Southwest Membrane Operators Association (SWMOA) ‘Best Tasting Membrane Water in the Southwest Region Award’ at its July 24 board meeting.

The award recognizes the Authority’s Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility as the winner of the Best Tasting Membrane Water Competition held during the SWMOA Annual Symposium in June.

The winning water sample was taken directly from the Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility, the same water provided to its customers. Judges based their assessment on the following criteria: taste, odor, color, clarity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.

Among the participants in the competition representing water agencies from the Southwest United States, the Authority received the highest cumulative score.

Facility provides Authority customers with one-third of their annual water supply

The Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility is a state-of-the-art groundwater desalination facility Photo: Sweetwater Authority Best Tasting Membrane Water Award

The Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility is a state-of-the-art groundwater desalination facility Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility in Chula Vista is a state-of-the-art groundwater desalination facility designed to use reverse-osmosis membrane treatment to remove dissolved salts and microscopic particles, such as bacteria and other contaminants which can be found in groundwater. The facility can produce up to 10 million gallons of drinking water per day, enough for approximately 18,000 families, and provides Authority customers with about one-third of their annual water supply.

The facility began operating in 1999 drawing brackish groundwater from five wells. That same year, the facility was honored with a San Diego Orchid award in the competition’s environmental solutions category. Its phase two expansion was completed in 2017.

The facility’s sustainable design also includes 2,950 ground-mounted solar PV panels as an alternative energy source. The solar array offsets the cost of treating water and reduces the facility’s overall carbon footprint.

The facility was previously honored with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Project of the Year award, as well as the South County Economic Development Council’s Corky McMillin/Best of South County Award.

Among the participants in the competition representing water agencies from the Southwest region of the country, the Authority received the highest cumulative score. Photo: Sweetwater Authority Best Tasting Membrane Water Award

Among the participants in the competition representing water agencies from the Southwest region of the country,  Sweetwater Authority received the highest cumulative score. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Southwest Membrane Operator Association is an affiliate of the American Membrane Technology Association and dedicated to the Southwest United States region including, but not limited to Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.

READ MORE: San Diego’s Farmer of the Year Taps Every Drop

Sweetwater Authority’s Desalination Facility Wins ‘Best Tasting Water’ Award

Chula Vista, Calif. – On Wednesday, July 24, the Sweetwater Authority (Authority) Governing Board was presented with the Southwest Membrane Operators Association (SWMOA) Best Tasting Membrane Water in the Southwest Region Award. The award recognizes the Authority’s Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility as the winner of the Best Tasting Membrane Water Competition held during the SWMOA Annual Symposium in June.

Sweetwater Authority Decides To Post Audio Of Committee Meetings Online

In a move intended to provide access to discussions that happen at the committee level, the Sweetwater Authority has decided to post audio it records of those meetings online. The decision, announced this week by the South Bay water agency’s general manager in an email to the governing board, came after a July 11 report and subsequent critical editorial in The San Diego Union-Tribune about a policy change that did away with a requirement to keep minutes of meetings when board members on committees convene. Staff still planned to record audio. The revision to the policy on committees was criticized by Director Josie Calderon-Scott, who has represented the Bonita area since 2016, as well as some ratepayers.

OPINION: All Too Rare: Public Agency Quickly Improves Transparency After Being Called Out

When government agencies face sharp criticism for their decisions, it’s rare for them to immediately admit error. But that’s just what the Sweetwater Authority has done. On Friday, The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board posted an editorial criticizing the water agency for no longer requiring that minutes be kept at meetings of two important committees where key decisions are made. We wrote that Sweetwater, which serves 190,000 people in National City, Bonita and parts of Chula Vista, should be more transparent, not less. We suggested Josie Calderon-Scott, the only board member who seemed worried about this decision, should record committee meetings and post the audio online.

Sweetwater Authority Announces New Leadership Roles for Two Board Members

Chula Vista, Calif. – Two of Sweetwater Authority’s Governing Board Members were recently appointed to local advisory committees for watershed restoration and local agency formation.

Opinion: Sweetwater Water Agency Needs More, Not Less, Transparency

The Sweetwater Authority, a water agency that serves 190,000 people in National City, Bonita and parts of Chula Vista, was last in the news in January when board members voted 6-1 to give themselves ridiculously cheap, heavily subsidized health insurance for their dependents. This is a part-time government body that oversees 100-plus employees earning $176,000 in average salary and benefits that needs far more transparency and accountability. Yet General Manager Tish Berge and board members have taken a step in the opposite direction. They have instituted policies that no longer require that minutes be kept for its two key committees — one that reviews issues related to operations and one that addresses finances and personnel.

Sweetwater Authority Awards Grants to Support Water Efficiency

Chula Vista, Calif. – The Sweetwater Authority Board of Directors presented checks to the City of Chula Vista and the Gentry Glen Home Owners Association at the Board’s July 10 meeting. The Authority’s robust water efficiency program helps customers save water and money through grants, rebates and resources.