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Water News Network Top Stories of 2021

The Water News Network top stories of 2021 highlight how the region’s water providers ensured a safe, plentiful and reliable water supply, while also looking to the future. In the second year of a statewide drought, San Diegans stepped up their water conservation, proving once again, that “water conservation is a way of life in San Diego County.”

National University's new four-year degree program will help water and wastewater employees advance in their careers. Photo: John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources,

Water News Network Top Stories of 2021

The Water News Network top stories of 2021 highlight how the region’s water providers ensured a safe, plentiful and reliable water supply, while also looking to the future. And, in the second year of a statewide drought, San Diegans stepped up their water conservation, proving once again, that “water conservation is a way of life in San Diego County.”

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and drought, the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies moved forward on infrastructure projects to increase and maintain local water supply and energy sources for the region.

Potable, or water reuse projects, are online or under construction by the City of San Diego, City of Oceanside and the East County Advanced Water Purification Project, a collaborative effort between the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, the City of El Cajon and the County of San Diego.

Job training for water and wastewater industry

The #1 story of 2021 on the Water News Network was about an academic program that seeks to meet the rapidly growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry. National University and Cuyamaca College launched a new degree pathway program that started in February 2021.

“Responding to regional workforce needs, National University and Cuyamaca College are excited to roll out the Waterworks Management academic pathway, informed by industry leaders,” said Dr. Sara Kelly, academic program director at National University. Transfer scholarships are available for qualifying students.

Top Stories of 2021

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

Top stories of 2021

The #2 most viewed story on the Water News Network in 2021 … was a story published late in 2020: FRS II: Mission Trails Water Project Takes Shape (December 16, 2020).

WNN stories about water reuse projects by the City of San Diego, City of Oceanside and the East County AWP, were among the most viewed in 2021.

Pure Water Oceanside

The third most-viewed story on Water News Network in 2021: Pure Water Oceanside Project Reaches Milestones

East County AWP

In a major milestone for water reliability, the East County AWP was awarded a $388 million federal loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help advance the project’s completion.

EPA Funding-East County AWP-Padre Dam MWD

An EPA loan will help fund completion of the East County AWP. The loan was announced June 4 at the East County AWP demonstration facility in Santee. (L to R) Kathleen Hedberg, Helix Water District; Doug Wilson, Padre Dam Municipal Water District; Steve Goble, East County AWP and City of El Cajon; Radhika Fox, U.S. EPA; and Jim Peasley, Bill Pommering, Augie Caires, and Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Jack Shu, City of La Mesa. Photo: East County AWP

Pure Water San Diego

Pure Water San Diego is the City of San Diego’s phased, multi-year program that will provide more than 40% of San Diego’s water supply locally by the end of 2035. The Pure Water San Diego Program will use proven water purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. The Program offers a cost-effective investment for San Diego’s water needs and will provide a reliable, sustainable water supply.

Sierra snowpack increases, drought continues

As part of a voluntary water conservation reduction requested by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, water agencies increased outreach efforts to encourage residents to reduce water-wasting practices. Rebates and programs to spur water conservation will continue into 2022. While the San Diego region has sufficient supplies to weather the current drought due to investments and conservation by residents and water agencies, many areas of the state are facing dire supply issues.

Snowpack conditions-December 2021-drought-Sierra Nevada-snow

December storms brought snow to the Sierra Nevada and rainfall throughout the state. While one month of storms will not end the current drought, the amount of precipitation, so far, is a welcome start to easing dry times in the Golden State.

Top Stories of 2021: Water news stories by national and regional reporters

Spectrum News 1 LA, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS 8, NBC7, ABC7 and other reporting in 2021 focused on the investments and conservation efforts that ensured a plentiful water supply in the San Diego County region.

New York Times-Top Stories of 2021-Water Supply

New York Times Reporter Jill Cowan reported in 2021 on the water conservation and supply efforts by the San Diego County Water Authority, its 24 member agencies and the residents of the county. Photo: New York Times website

Water News Network Top Stories of 2020

(Editor’s note: The Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the Helix Water District, the City of San Diego, the City of El Cajon, and the City of Oceanside, are five of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Water News Network Website Honored

The Water News Network was honored with awards from several organizations recently, including the Public Relations Society of America.

On November 18, the WNN received a Bronze Bernays Award of Merit in the websites category from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) San Diego/Imperial County chapter. It is the second consecutive year the WNN website has received this award.

Water News Network-honored-Pure Water Oceanside

Water News Network Website Honored

The Water News Network was honored with awards from several organizations recently, including the Public Relations Society of America.

On November 18, the WNN received a Bronze Bernays Award of Merit in the websites category from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) San Diego/Imperial County chapter. It is the second consecutive year the WNN website has received this award.

Now in its fourth year of operation, the WNN is recognized as a reliable source of factual information upholding the standards of journalism to provide news about the water and wastewater industry to the San Diego region and the Southwest United States.

Honored by San Diego Press Club

In October, the WNN website was awarded first place as the Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website by the San Diego Press Club. It is the fourth consecutive year the WNN has received this honor.

Water News Network staff also received three awards from the San Diego Press Club in 2021:

  • Kimberlyn Velasquez, second place in the Photography-Video category for her video “Hydroelectric and Pressure Control Facility Upgrades,” which focused on the replacement of two truck-sized valves in central San Diego.
  • Ed Joyce, second place in the Series-Light Feature category for the WNN series “Water Utility Hero of the Week,” about the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry employees working during the coronavirus pandemic, and third place in the Environment Reporting category, for the original WNN story “La Niña and California’s New Water Year.”

The Water News Network was given an EPIC Award in 2020 as the Best California Public Agency Website by CAPIO (California Public Information Officers Organization). CAPIO EPIC Awards recognize the “best of the best” in government communications throughout the state.

The Water News Network specializes in covering water and wastewater industry stories in the San Diego County region, focusing on the people and projects that ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply flows to the region’s 3.3 million residents and its $253 billion economy.

(Editor’s note: News about the water and wastewater industry published in the Water News Network would not be possible without the contributions from the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies, that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Water News Network is Best Public Website for 4th Consecutive Year

The Water News Network was awarded first place as the Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website in the 48th annual San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. It’s the fourth consecutive year the WNN website has won first place in that category. The award was announced during a virtual ceremony on October 25. Last year the California Public Information Officers Organization, or CAPIO, named the WNN the “Best Website” among California public agencies.

WNN-San Diego Press Club Awards-Best Website

Water News Network is Best Public Website for 4th Consecutive Year

The Water News Network was awarded first place as the Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website in the 48th annual San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. It’s the fourth consecutive year the WNN website has won first place in that category. The award was announced during a virtual ceremony on October 25. Last year the California Public Information Officers Organization, or CAPIO, named the WNN the “Best Website” among California public agencies.

Water News Network website features original content

San Diego County Water Authority public affairs staffers Ed Joyce and Kimberlyn Velasquez also were recognized with awards for their work on the Water News Network. Velasquez was awarded second place for Photography/Video in the Feature-Light Subject category for her video, “Hydroelectric and Pressure Control Facility Upgrades.” Joyce received a second place in the Series-Light Subject category for the WNN series, “Water Utility Hero of the Week” and a third place in the Environment category for his WNN original story, “La Niña and California’s New Water Year.”

In only its fourth year of operation, the Water News Network is viewed as a reliable source of factual information upholding the standards of journalism to benefit the Water Authority, its 24 member agencies, its stakeholders, and the residents of San Diego County.

The San Diego Press Club honors the region’s best communicators in media each year at the Excellence in Journalism Awards. The presentation of awards was held virtually at the San Diego Automotive Museum on October 25. More than 500 awards in 130 categories and 10 divisions were awarded to San Diego’s reporters, writers, artists, photographers, videographers and public relations professionals. College media were also honored.

The award entries were judged by members of 15 journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Alaska, according to the San Diego Press Club.

Photography/Video, Feature-Light Subject, 2nd Place, Kimberlyn Velasquez

Lake Jennings-

Water News Network Top Stories of 2020

The Water News Network top stories of 2020 reflect the San Diego region’s interest in water conservation, the environment and efforts to diversify water supply sources. But the year was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, which impacted water infrastructure and operations.

As one of essential sectors of the economy, the water and wastewater industry took added COVID-19 precautions. The essential employees of the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies worked to ensure the continued safety and reliability of the region’s water supply. In some cases, that meant sheltering-in-place, which employees of the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant did in March. For agencies operating multiuse recreational facilities, such as Lake Jennings, the pandemic also caused frequent schedule changes.

To reassure users about the safety of the water supply, the Water Authority and its member agencies shared a series of videos with the public, featuring Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman, to let people know they can “Trust the Tap.”

Top Stories of 2020

COVID-19

Reservoirs and lakes operated by water agencies in San Diego County were closed or had varying schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic. The impact of the pandemic on recreational facilities in the region was the most viewed story of 2020.

Paddleboarding-Lake Hodges-Coronavirus-Top Stories of 2020

Paddleboarders enjoy Lake Hodges before the City of San Diego closed the lake due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: City of San Diego

Reservoirs, Lakes Remain Closed to Fishing Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Although San Diego County’s lakes and reservoirs remain closed to fishing and other recreational activities for safety reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff and volunteers continue to work. Crews are maintaining facilities, providing security, and sharing photos of wildlife and native blooms enjoying the arrival of spring.

The City of San Diego’s reservoirs and lakes are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city closed the reservoirs to the public on March 18 to protect the public and minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The nine water supply storage reservoirs are operated by the City’s Public Utilities Department.

Popular overnight campsites remain open at Santee Lakes, owned and operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District.

“Camper well-being is important to us and Santee Lakes didn’t want to displace people,” said Melissa McChesney, Padre Dam communications manager. She said that includes long-term campers who spent winter at the lake.

At Lake Jennings, Recreation Manager Kira Haley says eight volunteers continue to live and work from their campground homes in recreational vehicles and campers. She said their days remain “pretty typical” even though they see more wildlife and not people.

Environmental Stewardship

COVID-19 played a part in the second most viewed Water News Network story in 2020.

Desalination plant-Top Stories of 2020-intakes

Three new fish-friendly seawater intake pumps commissioned at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, are among the most environmentally advanced intake pumps in the world. The pumps are part of a broader effort to ensure the long-term health of the marine environment near the Plant, which sits on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

New Fish-Friendly Seawater Intake Pumps at Carlsbad Desalination Plant

July 22, 2020

New fish-friendly seawater intake pumps recently commissioned  at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant are among the most environmentally advanced intake pumps in the world.

The three intake pumps, manufactured by Indar, are part of a broader effort to ensure the long-term health of the marine environment near the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, which sits on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

Installation of the new intake pumps is part of a phased program to replace the existing seawater intake and discharge facilities with state-of-the-art technology to protect marine life that wasn’t available when the plant was operating with source water from the Encina Power Station. The closure of the power station in December 2018 led to temporary intake-discharge operations until the new intake pumps came online. The next steps include adding new intake screens, designed to prevent any sea-life larger than 1 millimeter (thicker than a credit card) from entering the plant.

Desalination Plant-Top stories of 2020-intakes

The new intake screens are the final part of upgrades, which when complete in 2023, will make the Carlsbad Desalination Plant the first desalination facility in California to comply with the 2015 California Ocean Plan Amendment, which is among the most advanced sea-life protection measures in the world. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Essential work during COVID-19 pandemic

The work to complete the construction and commissioning of the new fish-friendly seawater intake pumps was part of the essential work allowed under California guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contractor, Kiewit–Shea Joint Venture, worked in accordance with guidelines adopted by the State Building and Construction Trades Council and approved by Governor Gavin Newsom for essential construction. The contractor worked uninterrupted to complete the project per the June 30, 2020, deadline set by the Regional Water Quality Control Board without any health or safety violations.

Recycled Water

The groundbreaking for the Pure Water Oceanside project was the third most read story of 2020 on the Water News Network.

Pure Water Oceanside-Top Stories of 2020-water recycling

Construction is underway on the $67 million Pure Water Oceanside project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2021. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

First Advanced Water Purification Facility in San Diego County is On the Map

City of Oceanside officials and regional water industry leaders gathered today to break ground on Pure Water Oceanside, the first advanced water purification facility in San Diego County. The $67 million project – scheduled to be completed in 2021 – will purify recycled water sourced from the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility.

“Today, we put Pure Water Oceanside on the map and are one step closer to achieving the goal of greater water-independence for our city, residents and businesses,” said Cari Dale, Oceanside’s water utilities director. “This future-focused project will provide multiple benefits by reusing our water resources to their full potential.”

Pure Water Oceanside-Top Stories of 2020-water recycling

City leaders and water experts placed a giant Google Maps “location pin” into the ground at the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility, which marked that the new recycled water project is now officially on the map. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Reducing dependence on imported supplies

The local project will reduce Oceanside’s dependence on imported water by more than 30%. The purification process is inspired by the natural water cycle and reduces the amount of recycled water discharged into the ocean.

The project is partially funded by the Local Resources Program through the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“The tremendous conservation focus, water infrastructure planning and investment by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies has put our regional supplies in solid standing,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “The mission of providing reliable water supplies to San Diego County can be likened to a puzzle; there are many pieces that fit together to create an overall solution. Our next increment of supply in the San Diego region is from potable reuse projects.”

Water Reuse and Recycling Top Stories in 2020

Other top stories in 2020 covered by the Water News Network included updates on several water reuse and recycling projects, including:

Pure Water San Diego

Construction of Phase 1 of the Pure Water Program is scheduled to begin in early 2021. Phase 1 will include a full-scale, 30-million-gallon-per-day Pure Water Facility that will use the five water purification steps modeled at the Demonstration Facility.

East County AWP

The East County AWP will be one of the first potable reuse projects in California to use new reservoir augmentation regulations. The program will meet up to 30% of East San Diego County’s drinking water demands, almost 13,000 acre-feet of water per year, and eliminate the discharge of 15 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

Santa Margarita River project

The Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project is a joint project with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and will eventually supply about 30% of the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water, and virtually all of Camp Pendleton’s water.

Trust the Tap

Water Agency Outreach Efforts Honored

The San Diego County Water Authority and three of its member agencies were recognized Dec. 17 by the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for outstanding work in public outreach and education efforts.

The 2020 PRSA Bernays Awards were presented for communication on a variety of platforms, all designed to inform stakeholders and ratepayers about initiatives ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.

The Water Authority's Water News Network won a Bronze Bernays Award from the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Chapter.

Water Agency Outreach Efforts Honored

The San Diego County Water Authority and three of its member agencies were recognized Dec. 17 by the Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for outstanding work in public outreach and education efforts.

The 2020 PRSA Bernays Awards were presented for communication on a variety of platforms, all designed to inform stakeholders and ratepayers about initiatives ensuring a safe and reliable water supply. Awards were presented virtually via live Twitter feed.

The Silver Bernays Award of Merit went to the Water Authority for "Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues." Photo: PRSA SD/IC

The Silver Bernays Award of Merit for “Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues.” Photo: PRSA SD/IC

The Water Authority received the Silver Bernays Award of Merit for Multicultural Public Relations for “Engaging Hispanics on Water Quality Issues,” and a Bronze Award of Merit in the Research/Evaluation category for “Researching Themes for Hispanic Outreach for Water Quality.” The agency’s Water News Network received a Bronze Award of Merit in the Websites category.

Earlier this year, the Water News Network was named “Best Website” among California public agencies in the California Association of Public Information Officials EPIC Awards competition. The website was also awarded first place as “Best Public Service or Consumer Advocacy Website” in the 2020 San Diego Press Club Journalism Awards.

“During the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was more important than ever for the Water Authority to intensify its efforts to communicate with our audiences and assure them that the virus was not transmitted through the public water system and the essential work to provide a safe, reliable water supply continued without interruption,” said Denise Vedder, director of the Water Authority’s Public Affairs Department.  “In partnership with our member agencies, the Water News Network and our Hispanic outreach initiative played a key role in achieving this goal, and it is rewarding to be recognized by PRSA San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter for those results.”

Water agency outreach wins recognition

Padre Dam Municipal Water District and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside also received awards for outreach and education programs.

City of Oceanside employees Carlos Raymundo (closest) and Shawn Alonzo view the award-winning Pure Water Oceanside wall art project. Photo: City of Oceanside

Oceanside employees Carlos Raymundo (front right) and Shawn Alonzo view the Pure Water Oceanside wall art project. Photo: City of Oceanside

The City of Oceanside and NV5 Inc. recognized in three categories for Pure Water Oceanside:

Silver Award of Excellence, Campaigns: Events and Observances – Less Than Seven Days – “Pure Water Oceanside is on the Map!”

Bronze Award of Merit, Creative Tactics – “Wall Art Tells Story of Water’s Past, Present, & Future”

Bronze Award of Merit, Video – “Pure Water Oceanside Video”

“The City of Oceanside is proud to put Pure Water Oceanside on the map,” said Cari Dale, water utilities director, City of Oceanside. “Once complete, Pure Water Oceanside will provide more than 30% of Oceanside’s water supply. Our staff and consultants are dedicated to providing Oceanside with innovative solutions to water reliability and continued water reuse education.”

The City of San Diego, along with Katz & Associates, received a Silver Bernays Award of Merit in Campaigns, Events, and Observances – Less Than Seven Days for its “2020 Pure Water San Diego Virtual Contractor Expo.”

City of San Diego Director of Public Utilities Shauna Lorance welcomes viewers to the new virtual tour. Photo: City of San Diego water agency outreach

City of San Diego Director of Public Utilities Shauna Lorance welcomes viewers to the new virtual tour. Photo: City of San Diego

“Outreach remains a key element of our Pure Water program,” said Shauna Lorance, director of public utilities for the City of San Diego. “When the pandemic made in-person engagement impossible, our community outreach and project management teams rose to the challenge and implemented a successful 2020 Pure Water Virtual Contractor Expo. Providing the personal outreach to potential contractors allows the contractors to develop the best bids possible and helps ensure a successful Pure Water project.”

The Padre Dam Municipal Water District won a Bronze Award of Excellence for its 2019 Annual Report.

The cover of the award-winning Padre Dam Municipal Water District 2019 annual report. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The award-winning Padre Dam Municipal Water District 2019 annual report. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“Padre Dam is proud of our communications team for the great thought, creativity, and appreciation of the District’s work that is put into projects like the annual report,” said Melissa McChesney, communications manager for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “They do all of this in order to share with our customers the important work and services we provide to our community.”

The SCOOP SD program and Tracks PR received a Silver Bernays Award of Excellence in Campaigns: Events and Observances – Less than Seven Days, Business, and a Bronze Bernays Awards of Merit in Creative Tactics, both for Sweet Relief for Small Biz During COVID.

Water News Network Honored by San Diego Press Club

For the third consecutive year, the Water News Network was recognized as the Best Public Service/Consumer Advocacy Website for its public outreach and education by the San Diego Press Club. The website was established by the San Diego County Water Authority to bridge the gap in news coverage of water-related issues affecting the region. The first place award was announced during the San Diego Press Club’s 47th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards event, which was live streamed from the San Diego Automotive Museum on October 27.