Posts

Scholarships-In her job at the City of Escondido Water Quality Lab, Associate Chemist Sarah Shapard performs tests analyzing for ammonia. Photo: City of Escondido Water industry education

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. The following examples are due in the coming weeks for study in the 2022-2023 academic school year.

San Diego regional water scholarships

Otay Water District officials presents the first donation for a scholarship fund to Cuyamaca College President Dr. Julianna Barnes named after Otay General Manager Mark Watton. Photo: Otay Water District water industry education

Otay Water District officials present the first donation for a scholarship fund to Cuyamaca College President Dr. Julianna Barnes named after Otay General Manager Mark Watton. Photo: Otay Water District

The Mark Watton Scholarship Fund, established by the Otay Water District at the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, supports students attending the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College. It honors Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton’s four decades of service to the district.

Applicants must be currently enrolled for at least six units at Cuyamaca College, verify financial need, and complete the general application and essay. Scholarships of $1,000 are available. The Otay Water District is continuing to accept donations to the Mark Watton Scholarship Fund.

Students can contact scholarship specialist Ernest Williams at 619-660-4537 or email for more information.

The Helix Water District offers two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors living within the district’s service area who will begin their university studies next fall. Applications are due March 4 for the Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship and the Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship, which both provide help with freshman year expenses. The scholarship committee reviews each applicant’s grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, academic and career goals, and financial needs.

High school seniors must graduate in the Class of 2022 this spring and attend a four-year college or university next fall. Students submit a two-page essay answering the question, “What is potable reuse and East County Advanced Water Purification?”

Deadline: March 4, 2022. Application Link. Students can verify their eligibility at 619-466-0585.

The Vista Irrigation District offers up to six scholarships between $1,000 and $3,000 to high school students living or attending school within the district. The purpose of the scholarship program is to increase knowledge and awareness of water-related issues impacting their community. Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a personal statement. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service.

Deadline: February 25, 2022. Application Link. Students can call Alisa Nichols at 760-597-3173 with questions or to request application information.

California water industry group scholarships

Vallecitos Water District-water industry careers-veterans-jobs

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Technician Dale Austin encourages military veterans to consider water industry careers. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Canham Graduate Studies scholarship provides $25,000 for a post-baccalaureate student in the water environment field. The scholarship is for education-related expenses such as room and board, tuition and books. The scholarship may not be used to cover stipends or wages.

The applicant must be a WEF member, complete an online application, and be enrolled in a graduate program. Recipients must commit to working in the water industry for two years following graduation.

Deadline: March 1, 2022. Application Link. For questions, email Tori Cox at

The Association of California Water Agencies offers a $3,500 scholarship to qualified applicants attending a University of California or California State University school pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water-resources related field such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, or public administration. The applicant must be a junior or senior attending full-time during the 2021-2022 school year.  Criteria include scholastic achievement and motivation to the vocation of water-resources management.

ACWA also offers the new John P. Fraser Water Leaders Fellowship to a currently employed water professional at an ACWA member agency selected to participate in the Water Education Foundation’s annual William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class. The program is named in honor of ACWA’s former executive director for his 22 years of service.

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood family ties

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Deadline: March 1, 2022. Application Link. For questions, call 916-441-4545 or email .

The California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association awards more than $20,000 in scholarships in support of students and professionals pursuing careers in a drinking water-related field. Two $5,000 graduate scholarships, four $2,500 undergraduate scholarships, and two $1,000 scholarships in support of training as a drinking water treatment/distribution operator are available.

Suitable candidates include environmental and civil engineers; water, wastewater and recycling treatment plant operators; distribution system operators; chemists; laboratory technicians; biologists, ecologists and environmental scientists; and others whose roles support safe and reliable drinking water.

Deadline: March 15, 2022. Application Link. For information, call 909-481-7200 or email 

With approximately 1,400 water and wastewater jobs expected to open up across San Diego County in the next five years due to retirements, water industry careers offer promising lifelong professional opportunities. For more information, visit sandiegowaterworks.org.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District, Otay Water District, Vista Irrigation District, City of Escondido, and the Vallecitos Water District, are five of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Padre Dam Municipal Water District-Landscape Makeover Winner-WaterSmartSD-drought

Winter Weather Perfect Time for WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series

December rainfall and cooler temperatures in San Diego County make it the perfect time of year for homeowners to create low-water-use landscaping to fit their needs. The San Diego County Water Authority offers its first 2022 WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series of free online classes starting Wednesday, February 2. The classes provide homeowners site-specific knowledge, skills, and confidence to transform their thirsty turf yard into a beautiful, climate-appropriate, water-efficient space.

Registration for the four-class series closes on Monday, January 17. Register at WaterSmartSD.org. There is no fee to participate, but course participation is limited.

Custom plans and one-on-one professional guidance

Landscape Makeover-Sweetwater Authority-Water Conservation-native plants

This landscape makeover winner shows how contouring your landscaping can help retain and conserve water. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Water Authority Water Resources Specialist Joni German said the course will give participants a customized roadmap to follow.

“We have different templates and themes to design the garden you want,” said German. “Do you need turf for the kids or pets? A meditation space? Or do you want to screen out undesirable views? With our help, you design the landscape that fits your lifestyle.”

Ideal time for new plants

German said with soils now soft and spongy, it’s the ideal time of year to add new plants and creating a new water-wise landscape.

As part of the course, participants will receive a site visit prior to the class, a preliminary onsite CAD drawing of their property to work with during the class, and one-on-one coaching from landscaping professionals.

Turf rebate programs offer rebates of up to $3 per square foot toward project costs for upgrading existing turf. To date, several hundred homeowners have transformed their landscapes into beautiful, climate-appropriate mini-watersheds which yield benefits including stormwater runoff reduction and lessening green waste in addition to saving water.

Positive participant feedback for free program

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Eileen Koonce says she was able to install her own landscaping with the help she received from course instructors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

German said the program has evolved through the years in part due to feedback from previous participants, including information about capturing rainwater and cutting back on irrigation.

“People frequently say to us, ‘I can’t believe this program is free!’ Recent participants tell us the time flies, and they go from feeling overwhelmed to confident about their landscape projects,” said German.

Vallecitos Water District Development Services Coordinator Eileen Koonce participated in the course as a new homeowner to reduce her water usage by removing her thirsty front lawn.

Koonce said she enjoyed working with the instructors.

“They bring the language down to the do-it-yourselfers,” said Koonce. “They walk you through every part of it and if you have questions, they can help you out. You feel empowered because you can understand the process.”

Landscaping design and planining

Landscaping designers can expedite your landscape makeover plans. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Koonce tackled most of the design work herself with the help of instructors, who are licensed landscape architects. Instructors helped Koonce pick out the plants and choose an irrigation system.

After participants sign up for the four-class course, a site visit will take place with a local, licensed landscape specialist who will create a professionally-drawn site plan of your specific project area. The plans becomes a personal road map to navigate through the classes. Before the class concludes, homeowners get one-on-one coaching to help select plants and finalize their plan.

Watch the preview video

Homeowners with questions about the course can email or call (858) 598-5085 for information. Space is limited so homeowners are encouraged to apply now at WaterSmartSD.org. 

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

Vallecitos Supervisor Retires After Three Decades of Service

From her first day on the job at Vallecitos Water District in 1988, Dawn McDougle knew that she wanted to finish her career at the San Marcos-based water agency. McDougle accomplished her goal, officially retiring on December 23, 2021.

McDougle’s dedication, innovation, and commitment to the community have paid off in many ways over three decades, including recognition in 1993 as the California Water Education Association of San Diego Laboratory Person of the Year, and again by CWEA in 2018 as the Supervisor of the Year. But McDougle’s impressive career needed a kickstart from fate.

Vallecitos Water District Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor Dawn McDougle announced her retirement at the end of 2021 after a three decade career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Vallecitos Supervisor Retires After Three Decades of Service

From her first day on the job at Vallecitos Water District in 1988, Dawn McDougle knew that she wanted to finish her career at the San Marcos-based water agency. McDougle accomplished her goal, officially retiring on December 23, 2021.

McDougle’s dedication, innovation, and commitment to the community have paid off in many ways over three decades, including recognition in 1993 as the California Water Education Association of San Diego Laboratory Person of the Year, and again by CWEA in 2018 as the Supervisor of the Year. But McDougle’s impressive career needed a kickstart from fate.

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle's keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle’s keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

McDougle interviewed at the City of Escondido for a meter reader position but didn’t get the position.

“The city called me later and asked if I would be interested in a part-time position as a laboratory technician assistant,” she said. “Of course, I said yes. When I went to the interview at the wastewater treatment plant, I found it very interesting and wanted to know more. I got the job and from there I learned as much as I could from the biologists and chemists.”

From her first job as an Industrial Waste Technician, McDougle was promoted to Laboratory Director. After two years working at the Encina Wastewater Authority, McDougle returned to Vallecitos Water District and was promoted to Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor in 2000, where she remained until retiring at the end of 2021.

Multiple accomplishments benefit the community

At the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility, McDougle played a major role in the $30 million expansion and upgrade of the facility, extending its lifespan beyond 2030. The facility produces recycled water for golf courses at La Costa and the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, several school sites, and Legoland California. McDougle kept the existing plant operating while implementing innovations allowing it to increase capacity while at the same time reducing chemical and energy costs. The facility successfully reached its output goal of five million gallons per day.

Women did not often pursue water and wastewater careers when Dawn McDougle was originally hired. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Women did not often pursue water and wastewater careers when Dawn McDougle was originally hired. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

McDougle started at Vallecitos as an industrial waste technician at a time when few women performed this work. She advanced her career by taking classes and earning certifications – and she helped others by mentoring and coaching them along the way. McDougle says she knew from the first day she arrived she wanted to finish her career at Vallecitos.

Lifelong learning key to career success

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle's keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Vallecitos Supervisor Retires

Lifelong learning is one of Dawn McDougle’s keys to career success. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“Looking back, the most surprising thing about my career that stands out the most is how our people provided so much support,” said McDougle. “I was always in awe of the great people in this industry. Outsiders don’t understand what goes into keeping operations all moving while keeping the environment protected. They [staff] are always on call no matter when: evenings, weekends, and holidays.”

McDougle said her goal as a supervisor was to share information, but also to learn from her staff as well.

She says her best career advice for others pursuing water and wastewater industry careers is to pursue ongoing education.“Work hard and achieve the highest certifications you can. Listen and learn. There is so much knowledge to be passed down. And keep an open mind.”

Dawn McDougle frequently led tours of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility for visitors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Vallecitos Supervisor Retires

Dawn McDougle frequently led tours of the Meadowlark Reclamation Facility for visitors. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

McDougle admits to “pinching myself on how fortunate I am to have been part of this career field, and advance.” Now, McDougle says she plans to spend time with family, travel, play golf and paddleboard, and take up new hobbies.

“As much as I enjoyed my career and being responsible for the facility the last 22 years, it is time for relaxation,” said McDougle.

McDougle said her goal was to transfer all her knowledge to the Meadowlark staff, “not only for them but for the district. It’s my responsibility.”

McDougle’s legacy is a career spent making sure the Vallecitos Water District’s facilities live up to their promise to the community.

(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.)

Veterans Serving Public in Water Industry Careers

Water industry professionals and members of the U.S. armed forces have a shared commitment to serving the public. When they leave active-duty roles, military veterans tap their experience and skills to work in water sector jobs. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, recognizes the contributions of veterans to the San Diego region’s water industry on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Veterans Serving Public in Water Industry Careers

Water industry professionals and members of the U.S. armed forces have a shared commitment to serving the public. When they leave active-duty roles, military veterans tap their experience and skills to work in water sector jobs. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, recognizes the contributions of veterans to the San Diego region’s water industry on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

The San Diego County region employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, many of whom have successfully transitioned from the military to a new career. Vallecitos Water District Senior Water Systems Operator Richie Arballo said his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps planted the seed.

“Water, potable water, is always a great mission”

“My job in the military was a water support technician,” said Arballo. “I didn’t really know much about water. I just knew I loved working with water.”

At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Arballo worked with water distribution, water purification, and water installation.

“As a veteran, you’re trained to always complete your job,” he said. “You never leave anything undone. In the military, you never leave anyone behind. We know the mission comes first. Water, potable water, is always a great mission.”

Water and wastewater careers are a good fit

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Dr. Stuart Karasik, former training manager for the City of San Diego, listed these reasons why water industry careers are so well suited to veterans:

  • They develop leadership responsibilities early in their careers. Military squad leaders are frequently in their early 20s.
  • They respond calmly in stressful situations and maintain focus on their mission. Stressful situations can be the norm in the military and standard in the water sector.
  • They possess a personal sense of responsibility and duty.
  • There is consistent reinforcement of the importance of teamwork and individual responsibility to complete any mission.
  • They have good organization skills. Scheduling, planning, and workflow are critical activities in the water sector.
Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transitionn to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transition to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Arballo encouraged veterans to seek training at one of the many San Diego regional programs at community colleges, including Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies, Palomar College, CSU San Marcos, and National University. Options range from certificate programs to public administration and engineering degrees.

“If you are making the decision to get out of the military, don’t be scared,” said Arballo. “The military has prepared you to be very reliable and responsible. Employers out here, that’s what they’re looking for.”

For current jobs in the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry, go to: www.sandiegowaterworks.org/

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

Escondido HOA Saves Water, Costs with WaterSmart Landscape Upgrades

The Emerald Heights homeowner’s association in Escondido recently completed a successful clubhouse upgrade including a landscaping makeover replacing existing turf with a beautiful drought-tolerant design. Emerald Heights HOA representatives met with O’Connell Landscape and Maintenance, which encouraged the HOA to take advantage of the SoCal WaterSmart turf replacement program.

A clubhouse renovation-HOA-Vallecitos Water District-Water ConservationterSmart landscape upgrade at an Escondido community. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Escondido HOA Saves Water, Costs with WaterSmart Landscape Upgrades

The Emerald Heights homeowner’s association in Escondido recently completed a successful clubhouse upgrade including a landscaping makeover replacing existing turf with a beautiful drought-tolerant design.

The gated community is located within the Vallecitos Water District. It covers 6.2 acres including a private athletic club with tennis and basketball courts, plus a community pool and spa. The landscape of turf and trees surrounding the clubhouse area was not healthy. But it would be challenging to find plant materials well suited to growing in the microclimate under the shade trees.

The original landscaping included large sections of turf. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Before: the original landscaping included large sections of turf. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Emerald Heights HOA representatives met with O’Connell Landscape and Maintenance. Jack Rush, O’Connell’s executive vice president of operations, encouraged the HOA to take advantage of the SoCal WaterSmart turf replacement program.

“It incentivized them by offering rebates to help offset the construction costs [for the clubhouse],” said Rush.

WaterSmart landscape features appealing new look

The HOA had invested in irrigation system upgrades two years ago, including “baseline” smart controllers throughout the community. HOA board president Dan Cannon and committee members worked with HOA property manager Telsa Dubois of Allure Management and O’Connell Landscape Management, project manager Salvador Alvarado, and construction supervisor Basilio Diaz to craft the new plan.

Dry riverbed areas were established in place of existing turf, graded to capture water runoff into these areas. Cobblestones and boulders were added, along with plants featuring different leaf textures and unique flowers. Using plants at different heights enhanced the landscape area and gave it a more eye-appealing look.

The HOA was able to remove 2,746 square feet of turf surrounding the clubhouse and tennis court areas. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The HOA was able to remove 2,746 square feet of turf surrounding the clubhouse and tennis court areas. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Throughout the property, point-to-point drip system irrigation was installed. All remaining spray heads were replaced with drip fixtures.

Ongoing savings help pay for community upgrades  

O’Connell applied for the incentive program on behalf of Emerald Heights HOA through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It was able to remove 2,746 square feet of turf surrounding the clubhouse and tennis court areas. The HOA received $8,238 in rebates for the turf replacement.

“The water savings is still too early to tell, but we estimate 50% to 60% water savings are possible,” said Rush, based on the new plant materials and irrigation retrofitting. Rush says his firm will continue to explore more potential water savings for the community and work closely with members of the HOA.

The Emerald Heights HOA project is estimated to yield 50 to 60 percent water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Emerald Heights HOA project is estimated to yield 50% to 60% water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Emerald Heights HOA can file a turf replacement application each year to receive more turf rebates. Removing thirsty grass is one of the most water-conscious adjustments it can make to reduce its water usage and associated costs.

The Turf Replacement program is a two-part application process. To qualify for a rebate, customers must apply to reserve rebate funds before starting their project. The landscaping makeover must take place with 180 days, including the request for a rebate. Funding levels are subject to change based on availability at the time of rebate approval.

For more information about the turf replacement program, go to www.socalwatersmart.com and for more WaterSmart tips and additional rebate opportunities in the San Diego region, go to:  www.watersmartsd.org/

(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.)

Imagine A Day Without Water

San Diego County residents joined Americans across the country marking Thursday, October 21 as “Imagine A Day Without Water.” The nationwide awareness campaign offered opportunities to learn about our nation’s water systems and the hard work that goes into ensuring a day without water doesn’t become a reality for their community. The Vallecitos Water District partnered with the City of San Marcos to promote water conservation with a new video.

Day Without Water-San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones hosts a new awareness campaign video to remind residents about the importance of water conservation. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Imagine a Day Without Water

San Diego County residents joined Americans across the country marking Thursday, October 21 as “Imagine A Day Without Water.” The nationwide awareness campaign offered opportunities to learn about our nation’s water systems and the hard work that goes into ensuring a day without water doesn’t become a reality for their community.

The day-long event is sponsored by the U.S. Water Alliance, the only national nonprofit organization with a diverse membership base representing the range of water champions, including water utilities, public officials, the business community, environmental organizations, community leaders, policy organizations, and researchers.

Imagine a Day Without Water

The Vallecitos Water District partnered with the City of San Marcos to promote Thursday’s awareness efforts among its residents. San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones starred in a video produced by VWD to highlight its water infrastructure investments. In the video, Mayor Jones encourages residents to conserve water. The San Marcos City Council officially proclaimed October 21, 2021 as “Imagine a Day Without Water.”

Awareness campaign follows drought emergency

California Governor Gavin Newsom extended the state’s drought emergency on October 19, appealing to all Californians to do more to conserve water in the face of one of the state’s most severe droughts on record. The declaration added eight remaining counties, including San Diego County, not under the original declaration made in July.

In the United States, aging infrastructure, intensified weather events, and a lack of investment have kept more than two million residents from accessing safe and reliable water and wastewater services. Member agencies, including the Vallecitos Water District along with the San Diego County Water Authority, continue to develop and maintain safe, reliable water supplies and critical infrastructure through strategic planning, long-term investments, and state-of-the-art technologies.

(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.)