Pivoting Operations For A Pandemic

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant (“CDP”), which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary, produces 50 million gallons of fresh water per day. It now accounts for one-third of all water generated in San Diego county.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, the facility needed to completely overhaul its workflow in a matter of weeks. CDP not only managed to cut its staffing, implement remote monitoring, and keep its operators fully sheltered onsite — it also did so without any drops in productivity.

The facility rapidly worked to make its staff as lean as possible — but also while maintaining steady production. Although changes needed to occur quickly, the CDP is subject to a wide range of regulations and compliance requirements: any modifications to operations needed to be collaborated and approved by the San Diego County Water Authority as well as state regulators.

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.

San Diego County Water Authority-Tish Berge-Assistant GM

Tish Berge Joins Water Authority Executive Leadership Team

Veteran water industry executive 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. Berge is currently general manager of the Sweetwater Authority, one of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies. Berge starts her new role February 22 alongside Deputy General Manager Dan Denham and General Manager Sandra L. Kerl.

“Tish is a respected leader in San Diego County who understands the needs of retail water agencies and the communities we collectively serve,” said Kerl. “Her knowledge of all aspects of the industry will enhance our mission both day-to-day and over the long-term. I look forward to collaborating with her even more closely in her new role.”

Tish Berge led Sweetwater Authority to “District of Distinction” award

As general manager of the South Bay-based Sweetwater Authority since 2017, Berge led the agency to a “District of Distinction” award from the Special District Leadership Foundation for demonstrating sound fiscal management policies and practices. Only 2% of special districts receive that honor. Working with the Sweetwater Board and community, she deployed a new 5-year rate structure and associated award-winning outreach campaign to smooth rates and provide financial sustainability.

Before joining Sweetwater, Berge served as director of administration and finance at the Escondido-based Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, where she implemented a 10-year financial model to inform policy decisions related to debt issuance, Capital Improvement Projects, and rates. She also moved the organization to a two-year budget practice, allowing for longer-term planning and cost savings. Prior to her time at Rincon, Berge was the assistant general manager at the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority in Cardiff, where she oversaw administration, finance, operations, maintenance, and laboratory staff.

Tish Berge-Water Authority Assistant General Manager-leadership team

“While it saddens me to leave the Sweetwater community, I’m delighted to continue serving ratepayers across our great region as part of the Water Authority team,” said Tish Berge, who joins the San Diego County Water Authority as assistant general manager on Feb. 22. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

“While it saddens me to leave the Sweetwater community, I’m delighted to continue serving ratepayers across our great region as part of the Water Authority team,” said Berge. “This is both an exciting opportunity and a critical responsibility to help the Water Authority maintain its proud tradition of reliability and innovation that sustains 3.3 million people and a $245 billion economy.”

Berge earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine. She is also a Certified Special District Manager and Registered Professional Engineer.

Her appointment fills one of two executive positions left vacant by the Water Authority since April 2019 as part of the agency’s ongoing strategy to combat upward pressure on water rates outside the agency’s control.