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Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Tech, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

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Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Dale Austin, Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Tech, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Dale Austin

Job/Agency: Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump & Motor Tech

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I had friends and a neighbor that worked for different agencies and different jobs. They all talked highly of their agencies and the jobs they did. I wasn’t sure where I would fit into the industry so I took classes in Water Distribution, Water Treatment, and Wastewater Treatment. I learned so much in those classes. I applied and got my first job in Water Distribution where I could apply my skills as a Certified Pipe Line Welder and Machinist, but my passion has always been in mechanical, so I transferred to a treatment plant which led me to my current job with Vallecitos.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

I pride myself in having my equipment 100% available, so with the pandemic Vallecitos is doing a rotating schedule to help with distancing and safeguarding the crews. Staying in contact with the crew on duty via email and phone. Prioritizing works loads and talking to vendors. I don’t personally like to carry my phone when not at work but with the pandemic it is a very important tool to stay in contact with everyone.

How are you keeping safe?

By following guidelines from the CDC, maintaining social distancing, and following good hygiene.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

Sitting down at a restaurant for dinner and going to the movies with my wife.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map 
Work is now underway on the El Camino Real Potable Water Pipeline Replacement and Green Bike Lane Striping Project. Construction is expected to last about one year. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District Water and traffic

Olivenhain MWD, City of Encinitas Work Together to Keep Water and Traffic Flowing

The City of Encinitas and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District are working together on a project that keeps water supply and traffic flowing.

To prevent water main breaks and ensure reliable service to its customers, Olivenhain Municipal Water District is proactive in its repair and replacement of aging water infrastructure.

Year-long construction project underway

Map of the 4,700 foot long stretch of improvements planned along North El Camino Real. Map: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Map shows the 4,700 foot long stretch of improvements planned along North El Camino Real. Graphic: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

In early April, OMWD began construction to replace aging water infrastructure along El Camino Real in Encinitas. The work marks the start of the El Camino Real Potable Water Pipeline Replacement and Green Bike Lane Striping Project. Construction is expected to last about one year.

During the project, OMWD will replace approximately 4,700 linear feet of existing 12-inch diameter potable water pipeline along North El Camino Real from Encinitas Boulevard to Garden View Road and approximately 650 linear feet of existing 12-inch diameter pipeline between Via Molena and Mountain Vista Drive. Water service lines and fire hydrant laterals served by the existing pipelines will also be replaced.

The two pipelines being replaced were originally installed in 1961 and 1974, and are approaching the end of their lifespan.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there more than 240,000 water main breaks in the United States every year. The main breaks waste over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water, but also interrupt water service to homes and businesses, and require costly and disruptive emergency repairs.

After OMWD’s pipeline work is complete, the City of Encinitas will implement traffic calming measures and improve safety and mobility for bicyclists along North El Camino Real from Encinitas Boulevard to Leucadia Boulevard by restriping and narrowing travel lanes.

The work will include adding bollards to existing bike lanes, applying green color to some areas on the bike lanes, and additional signage and pavement markings will also be installed.

OMWD will implement the lane restriping portion of the project on behalf of the City of Encinitas, which will take place concurrently with the pipeline replacement project.

Coordination minimizes impact on residents and businesses

The two agencies have combined efforts to maximize operational efficiencies and to reduce impacts to area residents and businesses.

Originally, OMWD’s project was scheduled to begin in 2021. Encinitas Council Member Joe Mosca and OMWD Board Treasurer Larry Watt identified the opportunity to streamline the two projects, maximizing efficiencies and minimizing impacts to the community. Because the City’s project had a deadline for grant funding, the two agencies ultimately decided it would be more efficient to advance the timeline of OMWD’s project.

“El Camino Real is a major thoroughfare and any work done there needs to be executed with maximum care and efficiency in mind to keep impacts to businesses and residents low,” said Larry Watt, OMWD board treasurer. “By coordinating the pipeline replacement project with the City’s project, the community can enjoy a continued safe and reliable water supply and improved road safety with the least disturbance possible.”

Environmental responsibility and safety

“The City of Encinitas is continuing its track record of environmental responsibility by making our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians through the Active Transportation Enhancing Project,” said Encinitas Councilmember Joe Mosca. “The City’s partnership with OMWD on this project highlights the benefits of collaboration between neighboring public agencies on critical infrastructure projects.”

Coronavirus pandemic helps minimize impact on traffic management

Instead of conducting two projects along the same stretch of road consecutively, the City of Encinitas and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are coordinating their work to minimize disruption to the community. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Instead of conducting two projects along the same stretch of road consecutively, the City of Encinitas and Olivenhain Municipal Water District are coordinating their work to minimize disruption to the community. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

In addition to the partnership, OMWD has taken steps to minimize the impact of the project on residents and businesses along North El Camino Real. A City-approved traffic management plan will be implemented during construction. All work was originally scheduled to be completed at night to minimize traffic impacts.

As a result of the reduced traffic from the statewide stay-at-home order, the agencies adapted hours in April to 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The change allows work to be completed more efficiently and safely.

Olivenhain will work closely with the City to monitor the project’s impact on traffic on a week-by-week basis and modify the schedule as needed along with project contractor Teichert Energy and Utilities Group while still maintaining efficient operations.

OMWD anticipates a single shutdown of water service for most businesses/residences, kept as short as possible. Project updates are posted on its website. Email questions to or call 760-632-4235.

For questions specific to the City of Encinitas Active Transportation Enhancing Project, email or call 760-943-2211.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: George Crabbe, City of Carlsbad

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. City of Carlsbad Utility Worker II George Crabbe in the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

IID Begins Second Wave of Sheltering Employees at Work

Imperial Irrigation District, California’s third largest public power provider and the largest irrigation district in the nation, will be extending its voluntary on-site shelter-in-place program at designated critical facilities for a core group of employees.

To keep employees safe and to ensure that the district’s water and energy systems remain operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, 32 district employees have been living and working at their job sites since April 25.

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Water Utility Hero of the Week: George Crabbe, City of Carlsbad

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: George Crabbe

Job/Agency: City of Carlsbad Utility Worker II

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I became interested in working in the water industry a few years back when I got into the Local 89 Laborers Union as an apprentice and landed different jobs.  The jobs just so happened to be underground water utility installations.  I loved it, but I started thinking long-term and with the support of my family and friends, the pieces fell into place.  Four years later, I am here at the Carlsbad Municipal Water District.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Our job in the field hasn’t changed.  I am very fortunate and thankful to still be working during this pandemic.  Our water operators must continue providing safe reliable drinking water and our departments must ensure that the water is delivered with little to no interruption.  The one change in the workplace is abiding to the social distancing requirements and the new norm of wearing masks.  This has been quite an adjustment since we work in groups while doing our preventative maintenance and water service/water main breaks repairs.

How are you keeping safe?

We are keeping safe by following all the requirements for social distancing.  We wear masks and gloves, wipe down our trucks, equipment and office spaces, and we make sure to wash our hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I am looking forward to all the state parks and trails opening and being able to go out and enjoy time with my family and friends.  I am looking forward to people being able to go back to work and life going back to normal.

Editor’s note: The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Erick Del Bosque, Sweetwater Authority

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Sweetwater Authority Engineering Manager Erick Del Bosque is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Bold Investments in Clean Energy and Transportation Infrastructure Will Help Lead Us Out of a Recession

As our leaders in Washington look to create a jobs program focused on national infrastructure investments to sustain the U.S. economy, their decisions will significantly impact our economic future, including the industries that will — and will not — receive a lifeline through federal stimulus dollars.

Utility Workers, the Forgotten Heroes of this Pandemic

We’re grateful for nurses, doctors, physician assistants, respiratory therapists and so many others in the medical field. We’re also grateful for people who work in grocery stores, the restaurants delivering and offering curbside food, and all the delivery workers bringing packages to those of us self-quarantining or social distancing at home. When sending up thanks for all these people, many of us forget another critical job that must go on during the COVID-19 pandemic: utility workers who keep our water clean and flowing and our lights — and laptops — on.

How utility workers are doing their jobs in a much different world

Austin Energy is one utility that agreed to speak with 3p. We reached out to the company to find out what it had instituted in the face of COVID-19. The utility activated an Incident Command System at the beginning of March and formed a “Pandemic Planning Team” that meets virtually every day. Almost 70 percent of AE’s staff are teleworking and the rest, including line workers and some call center staff, have to report to job sites as essential personnel. Those essential workers have a daily temperature screening, observe social distancing where possible, and sanitize equipment regularly. Fortunately for these workers, so far Austin is not a hot spot.

The same cannot be said for New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Utility workers there face a starker reality. As of publication, Con Edison, the utility serving the city, has 170 confirmed cases and three deaths with about half of its personnel working remotely. Likewise, throughout the state, utilities are feeling the pressure.

For example, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the grid operator for New York state, has some essential staff living at control centers outside Albany in response to the shelter-in-place guidance at operation hubs from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Likewise, 200 National Grid personnel are living on-site and will be replaced by a second set of 200 after a month, continuing to cycle as long as necessary.

Water utilities face the same hurdles, as well as additional challenges. There are a lot more water utilities across the country than electric utilities, and many of them are very small, some with staff in the single digits. Further, some utilities have to deal with keeping water systems going when people are flushing disinfecting wipes down the toilet, clogging up sewer lines. As with the case of the power generation sector, utility workers who staff water systems across the U.S. are also sheltering in place to ensure continued, reliable service.

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).