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Inaugural Sweetwater Authority Citizens Advisory Committee Appointees Announced

Chula Vista, Calif. – At the October 9 Sweetwater Authority Governing Board meeting, the Authority’s first Citizens Advisory Committee appointees were formally announced. The announcement included a ceremonial oath and reception.

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

New Educational Hydro Station Project Opens in Chula Vista

The first Hydro Station in California opened August 15 in Chula Vista.

The interactive educational space is a joint partnership between the Sweetwater Authority, Otay Water District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

The Hydro Station, at the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility, features learning exhibits and hands-on activities to introduce fifth grade students to the ecological cycle of water, water conservation, water quality, and careers in the water industry.

More than 4,000 students are expected to visit the Hydro Station annually.

Making the world ‘a better place’

“The Hydro Station introduces our students to the world of work in the water industry and inspires them at an early age to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics,” said CVESD Superintendent Dr. Francisco Escobedo. “With this station, we expose students to careers that can change the trajectory of entire families, opening the door to high-wage careers that our students might not have thought were possible.

“The students also explore ways to make the world a better place through clean water, and water conservation,” added Escobedo.

Students drink in details about water conservation at the opening of the Hydro Station in Chula Vista. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Students drink in details about water conservation at the opening of the Hydro Station in Chula Vista. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

New generation encouraged to consider careers as water industry professionals

More than 2,800 people work in the water and wastewater sector at the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. One-third of these industry professionals will be eligible for retirement in the next few years.

“It’s an opportunity for a new generation to join us in our mission to deliver safe and reliable water to hundreds and thousands of people in communities that rely on us as water professionals,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager.

As part of the Hydro Station experience, students will have three dedicated days focused on career opportunities in Information and Communication Technologies, Clean Energy, and the Blue Economy. They will learn how their strengths, interests, and values may align with career options. Hands-on activities will also help them make connections to specific careers.

Hydro Station mission is about education and conservation

“I have served many years in the water industry, which has allowed me to experience the evolving industry climate firsthand,” said Mark Watton, Otay Water District general manager. “The high level of retirements, new technologies, and increased demand for safe drinking water all contribute to the availability of good, stable careers and employment.”

“We want to make sure that a rewarding career in the water and wastewater industry is within reach for as many local students as possible who are vocational or college bound, and the Hydro Station helps us do that,” he added.

Visitors to the new Hydro Station's grand opening mark the occasion with a selfie. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Visitors to the new Hydro Station’s grand opening mark the occasion with a selfie. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

The Hydro Station’s location is ideal to educate students on how their strengths, interests, and values can connect with careers in the water industry while presenting opportunities to solve real-world problems through the Engineering Design Process. It will also serve to educate children and their families, as well as the community, on the thoughtful use of water resources.

Leaky indoor faucet - Shutterstock

Helix Water District, Sweetwater Authority Offer Smart Leak Detector Rebates

The Helix Water District has rolled out a new smart leak detector rebate program. Helix and Sweetwater Authority customers can get a rebate of up to $100 when they purchase a smart leak detector.

The detectors sync to smartphones, allowing customers to monitor water use 24/7 via smartphone and the devices notify customers of leaks and water consumption amounts.

Smart Leak Detectors

There are two types of smart leak detectors: plumbed devices and external devices, according to Helix.

  • Plumbed Devices
    Plumbed devices are plumbed into your existing water lines. Most of these devices can automatically shut the water off at their point of installation, or allow you to shut your water off remotely, in case of a leak. Since these devices tap into your existing plumbing system, a licensed plumber and permit may be required for installation. Plumbed devices are typically more expensive than external devices.
  • External Devices
    External devices attach to the outside of your water meter, typically with some type of strap, making them simple to install. Since external devices are not directly attached to your plumbing system, they do not have the ability to automatically shut off your water, or allow you to shut off your water remotely, if a leak occurs. External devices are typically less expensive than plumbed devices.

Measure All of Your Water Use

To monitor indoor and outdoor water use, install the leak detector before the point where your irrigation line branches off. This way, the device can alert you of faulty irrigation programming, broken sprinklers or outdoor leaks. This is important, because outdoor use is about half of a typical home’s total water use.

To monitor indoor water use only, install a smart leak detector on your water service line after the point where your main irrigation line branches off.

Install Smart Water Leak Detector

How to install smart water leak detectors to monitor water use or leaks. Graphic: Helix Water District/Sweetwater Authority

Rebates are first come, first served

Water Agencies Inaugurate California’s First Hydro Station

Chula Vista, Calif. – The Sweetwater Authority, the Chula Vista Elementary School
District, and the Otay Water District are pleased to announce the opening of the
first Hydro Station in California on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, at the Richard A. Reynolds
Groundwater Desalination Facility (3066 North Second Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910).

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.