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‘You Don’t Have to Go to College to be Successful’: Program Sparks Interest in the Trades for Some San Marcos Teens

“For those of you who figure out that maybe college isn’t what you want to pursue, there is a ton of opportunity outside of college,” said Richard Johnson, general manager at Action Air Conditioning, Heating & Solar.

Johnson was speaking to about a dozen seniors from Twin Oaks and Mission Hills high schools who were gathered at Action’s San Marcos warehouse to get an up-close look at one of the many non-college career options available to them.

Diversity, Inclusion Key Themes at Women in Water Symposium

San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl delivered an inspiring keynote address at the 2023 Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College. The conference was not held at the college in 2021 or 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. And Kerl’s address focused on the sixth annual conference theme, “Building Resilience In Post-Pandemic Times.”

Faces of the Water Industry-Work For Water-jobs-water industry

Faces of the Water Industry: Work for Water

Water and wastewater professionals across San Diego County are highlighted in October during the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” campaign. Each year, the Water Authority collaborates with its member agencies to showcase regional water industry employees and career opportunities through a series of social media posts and videos.

Since 2017, the Water Authority’s annual campaigns have highlighted nearly 200 employees in San Diego County across multiple water agencies and job types. The 2022 campaign started October 1, coinciding with California’s Water Professionals Appreciation Week (October 1-9). 

Faces of the Water Industry

Nina Tarantino, Human Resources Specialist, Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Adrian Alarid, Plant Systems Technician at the City of Escondido

What advice would you give someone interested in a career in the water industry?  

“Get in now! This industry provides a lifelong career path. There are so many different jobs and certifications to learn about and explore. All education and skill sets can find a great job in water.” 

Adrian Alarid is a Plant Systems Technician at the City of Escondido

Jenny Diaz, Confidential Executive Assistant at Otay Water District 

Who inspired you to work in the water industry?

“One of my undergraduate professors advised that if I wanted an excellent job for the rest of my life, to consider a career in public utilities because those services will always be in demand. I seized the opportunity as soon as I saw it!”

Jenny Diaz is a Confidential Executive Assistant at Otay Water District

Leo Mendez, Accounting Supervisor at Olivenhain Municipal Water District

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

“I enjoy leading a team of bright people and working across different departments to ensure Olivenhain Municipal Water District maintains its strong financial position. The finance and accounting work is challenging, but it keeps my job interesting. It is rewarding to know that my work supports a public agency in providing water, an essential service, to our community in a sustainable and fiscally responsible manner.”

Leo Mendez is an Accounting Supervisor at Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The 2022 Faces of the Water Industry campaign features stories from 18 San Diego County water industry professionals in a series of social media posts and videos. Follow the Water Authority on Instagram (@sdcwa) to read more inspiring stories from the region’s water and wastewater pros – the Faces of the Water Industry.

California Virtual Water Career Fairs

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration and information technology. New and current water professionals can learn more about the industry in an upcoming series of free virtual career fairs hosted by various agencies in October

For more job openings, internships and education opportunities across the San Diego region’s water and wastewater industry, go to sandiegowaterworks.org.

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

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.)

Helix Water District Adds New Assistant General Manager Position

Helix Water District has added a new tier of management to help oversee its more than 277,000 East County customers.

The district’s five-person board last week approved the creation of an assistant general manager position, bringing the number of employees to 151 in the district, which has an $80 million budget.

District spokesperson Mike Uhrhammer said Helix created the new position as part of its succession plan following the anticipated retirement of current general manager Carlos Lugo.

San Diego Water Authority Hires Veterans Through SkillBridge

The San Diego County Water Authority is the first public agency in California to participate in the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, which connects transitioning military service members to career-track job training opportunities. The regional initiative is off to a fast start with two SkillBridge interns starting their civilian careers at the Water Authority this summer.

The Water Authority joined the federal program in June 2020, as part of an effort by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers.

6 Alarming Facts About America’s Water Industry

America is one thirsty country. The U.S. consumes 322 billion gallons of water every single day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The most, 133 billion gallons, goes to thermoelectric power. Next is irrigation at 118 billion gallons a day. The last big category is the 39 billion gallons of water that go to personal consumption. That’s the stuff that cooks the pasta and wets the washcloths and cleans the car tires and pours down the drains of millions of showers, sinks and toilets every second of every day. And the following is just one little drop in that great, big bucket.

In the early 1990s, most bottled water came from small, regional companies. In the ensuing years, control of the market has become concentrated among just a few giant corporations. Today, No. 1 Aquafina and No. 2 Dasani each do more than $1 billion in sales.

San Diego County Water Authority Adds Tish Berge To Leadership Team

Tish Berge is joining the San Diego County Water Authority as assistant general manager, bringing experience from every aspect of water utility management to serve the region, it was announced Thursday. Berge is general manager of the Sweetwater Authority, one of the water authority’s 24 member agencies. Berge starts her new role Feb. 22 alongside Deputy General Manager Dan Denham and General Manager Sandra L. Kerl.

Scholarship Applications Open for Aspiring Water Pros

If you’re a student considering college studies leading to a career in the water and wastewater industry, several California water associations and San Diego regional member water agencies offer college scholarships. Scholarships are available for community college, college, and graduate-level programs

New Regional Degree Program Responds to Water and Wastewater Workforce Needs

Driven by the rapidly growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry, National University and Cuyamaca College will launch a new degree pathway program starting in February 2021.

Developed in collaboration with regional employers, the new Bachelor of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Waterworks Management provides a seamless pathway for graduates of the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies to transfer into the bachelor’s program after earning their associate’s degree. Transfers are also available to graduates of other community colleges.