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High School Students Invited to Enter Special Districts Video Contest

San Diego County high school students whose Instagram Reels and TikTok skills impress their friends can put them to good use and earn scholarship money for their efforts.

The 2022 California Special Districts Association San Diego Chapter video scholarship competition is open through the end of April. The annual “Districts Make The Difference” contest promotes public awareness and understanding of the special districts providing communities with essential services like water, sanitation, healthcare, fire protection, and parks.

San Marcos High School student Jordan Chan’s 2019 winning video featured a Wild West time travel theme. Photo: YouTube special districts video contest

High School Students Invited to Enter Special Districts Video Contest

San Diego County high school students whose Instagram Reels and TikTok skills impress their friends can put them to good use and earn scholarship money for their efforts.

The 2022 California Special Districts Association San Diego Chapter video scholarship competition is open through the end of April. The annual “Districts Make The Difference” contest promotes public awareness and understanding of the special districts providing communities with essential services like water, sanitation, healthcare, fire protection, and parks.

In 2019, San Marcos High School student Jordan Chan’s winning video featured a Wild West time travel theme to illustrate the importance and variety of special districts serving San Marcos and other California communities, including the Vallecitos Water District.

Watch Chan’s winning video 

Rules for 2022 Special District video contest entries

Entrants must attend a San Diego County, high school. The video should be 60 seconds long and educate the public about any aspect of how special districts make a difference in their everyday lives. Videos can highlight the following content areas:

  • A unique program, service, or infrastructure project that a special district is currently promoting.
  • How an individual, a group of individuals, or a community is affected by special districts.
  • How special districts are formed and how they can provide essential services to the community.

Special districts are local government organizations formed by communities to provide essential services like drinking water, parks, or fire protection. San Diego County’s 24 member water agencies are special districts. There are more than 30,000 special districts across the U.S. Students can learn more about special districts in San Diego County at the California Special District Association (CSDA) San Diego Chapter website.

San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones presents winner Jordan Chan with a certificate of appreciation at the Vallecitos Water District's February board meeting. Photo: VWD

San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones presents winner Jordan Chan with a certificate of appreciation at the Vallecitos Water District’s February board meeting. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Helix Water District Board President Kathleen Coates Hedberg and the San Diego Chapter of the California Special Districts Association launched the original video contest. It grew into a statewide competition.

Videos can be submitted straight from a phone or uploaded from a computer. Entrants will upload their video to YouTube, marked as “unlisted,” and provide the link in their application.

The video submission window will be open until April 30, 2022. The San Diego Chapter CSDA “Districts Make the Difference” judging committee will choose the top ten finalists. At the end of May, winners will be announced and receive $1,500 for the first-place winner, $1,000 for the second-place winner, and $500 for the third-place winner.

The video entries will be scored on the following criteria: incorporating the theme “How San Diego Special Districts Make a Difference,” creativity and originality, entertainment value, the accuracy of information, effectiveness and value of information, and production quality.

See more winning videos and learn more about special districts at DistrictsMaketheDifference.org.

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District and the Helix Water District are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones demonstrates how to find leaks in the new Fix-A-Leak-Week 2022 video from the Vallecitos Water District. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Invest In Water Conservation During Fix a Leak Week 2022

Fix a Leak Week is a time to check indoor and outdoor plumbing systems for leaks. This year’s reminder about water conservation comes as California and much of the U.S. Southwest are in the third consecutive year of drought.

Minor water leaks account for more than one-trillion gallons of water wasted each year in homes across the United States. One-trillion gallons equals 3.068 million acre-feet, nearly enough water to meet the needs of San Diego County for seven years.

Fix a Leak Week started in 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to educate water users and promote the importance of repairing leaks to conserve and protect the water supply.

The week highlighting water conservation is supported by regional WaterSense partners throughout North America, including the San Diego County Water Authority, its 24 member agencies and water agencies throughout the country.

Fix a Leak Week 2022 resources

The Water Authority won its third WaterSense award for Excellence in Collaboration and Promoting WaterSense Labeled Products in 2021.

The Water Authority also partnered with San Diego Gas and Electric to install nearly 4,000 WaterSense labeled showerheads for residents in the area and helped residents save water outdoors through its WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program, which installed more than 1,000 WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers to achieve six million gallons in water savings

Repairing a leaky toilet can save up to 500 gallons of water a day. In just a month, that’s enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.

The Vallecitos Water District and City of San Marcos are partnering to provide Fix a Leak resources to its customers, including a new website, bill statements, and a demonstration video. It features San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones showing a simple method for detecting a toilet leak.

The Sweetwater Authority will participate in Fix a Leak Week 2022, offering tips for consumers and rebates of up to $75 for leak repairs made through June 30. See its website for details and an application. Sweetwater customers can schedule a free water audit by calling the Water Efficiency Hotline at 619-409-6779 or email

Simple fixes save water and costs

Spending a little time during Fix-A-Leak-Week 2022 to repair simple leaks saves water and costs. Photo: Pixabay

Spending a little time during Fix a Leak Week 2022 to repair simple leaks saves water and costs. Photo: Pixabay

Common water leaks such as leaky showerheads or dripping faucets are often easy to fix, requiring common tools and hardware that can pay for themselves in water savings. How much? According to the EPA Fix a Week Leak website, each average household with unaddressed leaks can account for 10,000 gallons of water loss every year, enough to wash 300 loads of laundry.

Investing just 10 minutes to perform a quick search of your home and fixing them can save an additional 10% on your water bill.

Check WaterSmartSD.org for tips, rebates, and more information about Fix a Leak Week.

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District and Sweetwater Authority are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

New Hydration Stations in San Marcos Save Water, Promote Sustainability

The City of San Marcos and the Vallecitos Water District partnered on a new project with funding from the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to encourage water conservation and reduce the use of plastic.

Five hydration stations have been installed in San Marcos parks to encourage the use of refilling reusable bottles during outdoor activities instead of using purchased bottled water. Both the City of San Marcos and the Vallecitos Water District are committed to reducing single-use plastics.

Farley visits one of the new hydration stations in San Marcos. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Wags and Water

New Hydration Stations in San Marcos Save Water, Promote Sustainability

The City of San Marcos and the Vallecitos Water District partnered on a new project with funding from the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to encourage water conservation and reduce the use of plastic.

Five hydration stations have been installed in San Marcos parks to encourage the use of refilling reusable bottles during outdoor activities instead of using purchased bottled water. Both the City of San Marcos and the Vallecitos Water District are committed to reducing single-use plastics.

The new hydration stations help conserve water and avoid the production of single use plastic bottles. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The new hydration stations help conserve water and avoid the production of single-use plastic bottles. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The hydration station project received $25,000 in grant funding from the Water Authority and MWD to cover the purchase and installation of the stations and educational signage informing the public about the benefits of tap water over bottled water. The signage also offers several additional steps people can take to conserve water.

New stations encourage reusable water bottle use

“Adding hydration stations throughout the community has been a longtime goal for Vallecitos and is a step in the right direction to increase access to clean drinking water and reduce single-use plastic waste for environmental sustainability,” said Vallecitos board member Mike Sannella. Sannella accepted a proclamation from the City of San Marcos commemorating the partnership, making this project possible.

(L to R): Vallecitos Water District Board President Mike Sannella, San Marcos City Councilmember Randy Walton, Mayor Rebecca Jones, Councilmembers Maria Nunez, Ed Musgrove, and Sharon Jenkins, and Vallecitos Water District Board Jim Pennock. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Hydration stations

(L to R): Vallecitos Water District Board President Mike Sannella, San Marcos City Councilmember Randy Walton, Mayor Rebecca Jones, Councilmembers Maria Nunez, Ed Musgrove, Sharon Jenkins, and Vallecitos Water District Board Jim Pennock. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Each of the five new hydration stations features a quick-fill mechanism to encourage reusable water bottle use, a regular water fountain spout, and a dog bowl. Vallecitos worked with the City of San Marcos’ Public Works Department to install hydration stations at Mission Sports Field Park, Woodland Park, Bradley Park, Connors Park, and Buelow Park.

Bottled water is a wasteful convenience. According to the Water Footprint Calculator, it takes 1.5 gallons of water to manufacture a single plastic bottle holding 16 ounces of drinking water. All plastic drinking bottles are made from new plastic material, so there is no recovery due to recycling.

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

San Marcos and Vallecitos Partner for Hydration Stations

Both the city of San Marcos and the Vallecitos Water District are committed to the reduction of single-use plastics in our community. To accomplish that, they have teamed up to offer new hydration stations in local parks to encourage the use of refilling reusable bottles during outdoor activities instead of reaching for bottled water.

Feb. 22, the San Marcos City Council issued a proclamation recognizing the ongoing partnership between the Vallecitos Water District and the city of San Marcos. City of San Marcos Ordinance 2021-1507, adopted on Oct. 26, 2021, restricts the use of single-use plastic food-service ware.

Vallecitos Water District Wins Multiple Industry Awards

The Vallecitos Water District received three awards from the California Water Environment Association on January 29. The Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility was named the 2021 Tertiary Recycled Water Plant of the Year, Matt Wiese received the “Operator of the Year” award and the District also received the Community Engagement and Outreach award for Best Use of Social Media.

Multiple awards-Vallecitos Water District-Dawn McDougle, recently retired supervisor at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility, and her successor, Matt Wiese. Photo: Vallecitos Water District multiple industry awards

Vallecitos Water District Wins Multiple Industry Awards

The Vallecitos Water District received three awards from the California Water Environment Association on January 29. The Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility was named the 2021 Tertiary Recycled Water Plant of the Year, Matt Wiese received the “Operator of the Year” award and the District also received the Community Engagement and Outreach award for Best Use of Social Media.

Recycled Water Plant of the Year

The Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility was named the 2021 Tertiary Recycled Water Plant of the Year. This award recognizes accomplishments in compliance, innovative practices, cost-effectiveness, and superior plant performance. It is the first year for this new award.

Vallecitos Water District owns and operates the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility, or MRF, in the City of Carlsbad. Through secondary and tertiary treatment at Meadowlark, VWD acts as a wholesale supplier of reclaimed water to the City of Carlsbad and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

MRF is undertaking multiple projects to increase efficiencies and implement higher recycled water standards for the district’s two major customers. Additional projects include the planned installation of a Tesla Megapack Battery Energy Storage System as part of the district’s energy resiliency grant program.

See video of the 2021 Plant of the Year

Best Use of Social Media

The district won recognition for Community Engagement and Outreach for Best Use of Social Media, promoting awareness and understanding of water quality issues through social media campaigns.

Starting in 2019, VWD began using video to document the district’s workforce and infrastructure improvements on its social media platforms. The “Work We Do” series gives the public an opportunity to see crews providing the community with reliable drinking water and wastewater services, protecting the environment, and developing its skilled workforce.

The District also partnered with the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, which uses the “Work We Do” series to educate students on careers in the water and wastewater industry.

“Work We Do”

Matt Wiese Named Operator of the Year

Matt Wiese received the “Operator of the Year” award for outstanding contributions to the operations of wastewater treatment facilities and the application of knowledge to improve plant processes.

As Senior Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility, Wiese shares a wealth of instrumentation knowledge with Meadowlark staff. He mentors staff on proper procedures to troubleshoot, repair, and perform preventative maintenance on instrumentation, resulting in minimal downtime and emergency repairs.

Wiese also ensures training is up to date and completed, including hazardous materials training and drills in conjunction with North County Regional Fire Department Training.  His role in organizing and conducting the training has won statewide recognition for the Vallecitos Water District.

See more of Matt Wiese’s accomplishments in this video

“This is not the first award for the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility, and I am sure it will not be the last,” said Ed Pedrazzi, operations and maintenance manager for the Vallecitos Water District. “Outstanding professionals like Matt Wiese are why the treatment plant operates at peak efficiency every day. You will not find a more dedicated group of individuals protecting the environment and the public health than the team at Meadowlark.”

Wiese was recently promoted to the supervisor position at MRF due to the retirement of Dawn McDougle.

“I was happy to promote him to supervisor of the plant. He has earned it!” said Pedrazzi.

There are more than 20 CWEA award categories. Each one honors exceptional CWEA members and California wastewater professionals, facilities, and agencies. The program seeks to recognize outstanding achievements within the wastewater field, improve the professional status of all personnel working in the wastewater industry and related fields and stimulate public awareness of the importance of wastewater treatment to public health and the water environment.

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, and Carlsbad MWD, are three of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

WaterSmart Landscape Contest-The Nieves family of Bonita won the Sweetwater Authority's 2019 Landscape Makeover Contest for theier creative WaterSmart landscaping design. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2021 Landscape Makeover

2022 WaterSmart Landscape Contest Open For Entries

One dozen San Diego County water agencies are looking for the best in landscaping makeover projects for the 2022 regional WaterSmart landscape competition. This annual competition showcases residential water-saving landscaping projects to inform and inspire other homeowners to consider replacing their turf-based yard designs.

The contest deadline for all participating agencies is Friday, May 13. Homeowners may submit their entry online through their water agency. Entrants must live within a water agency boundary to participate. Each agency winner receives a $250 gift certificate and recognition on the agency website and social media channels.

Participating agencies in 2022 include California American Water, the cities of Escondido and Oceanside, Helix Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Water District, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, and the Vista Irrigation District.

Turf removal saves an estimated 36 million gallons annually

El Cajon homeowner-Otay Water District-2021 Landscape Makeover Contest

El Cajon homeowner Christine Laframboise’s water saving landscape design trading turf for a less thirsty approach is the Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner. Pboto: Otay Water District

Most residential water use in San Diego County is used outdoors, primarily to water landscaping. When yards contain a large amount of turf, it can significantly increase overall water consumption. This is why conservation education efforts focus on replacing turf.

By showcasing how beautiful landscapes without grass can be through the WaterSmart Landscape Contest, homeowners can share their creativity and demonstrate how attractive WaterSmart landscaping can be.

“San Diego County homeowners are moving toward beautiful, sustainable landscapes and away from water-intensive lawns as the default choice,” said Joni German, San Diego County Water Authority water resources specialist. “Through ongoing education and through the examples people see around them, homeowners can see that water-efficient landscapes can be beautiful, lush, colorful, and thrive in our region. This contest is a great way to showcase the efforts homeowners regionwide have made to create these incredible outdoor spaces.”

Additional benefits of watersmart landscaping

Colorful, waterwise plants replaced a thirsty, labor intensive front lawn in Deborah Brant's winning landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Colorful, water-wise plants replaced a thirsty, labor-intensive front lawn in Deborah Brant’s winning landscape makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

  • Creating a garden to live in as well as look at by adding outdoor rooms for your favorite activities.
  • Drought-tolerant plants can be used to define spaces instead of buildings and walls.
  • Cultivating native plants for San Diego County’s Mediterranean climate zones, including ground covers, grasses, succulents, perennials, shrubs, vines, and trees.

Free landscape makeover classes offered by Water Authority

The Brants took advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority's Landscape Makeover classes to help them plan their project. Photo: City of Escondido

The Brants took advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority Landscape Makeover classes to help them plan their project. Photo: City of Escondido

The Water Authority offers free options to help homeowners plan their makeovers. Homeowners can get started with the Water Authority’s free three-hour introductory landscaping workshops scheduled on weeknights and Saturdays. The workshops are held virtually.

The Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover four-class workshop series offers more specific planning for homeowners.  See the course page for the most current schedule and to sign up.

(Editor’s Note: The City of Escondido, the City of Oceanside, Helix Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Water District, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, and Vista Irrigation District are 11 of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

College Scholarships Offered for Water Industry Education

Multiple California water associations and water agencies in San Diego County are offering college scholarships to help candidates achieve their goals.

A large number of recent retirements combined with the need for a skilled workforce up to date on new technologies have resulted in a critical need to increase the talent pool of skilled individuals in the water and wastewater industry, including in San Diego County.

Scholarships are available for community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and graduate-level programs.