Otay Water District Celebrates the People Who Bring You Water
By Susana Villegas
Most of us are accustomed to turning on the faucet and enjoying the simple sound of running water that we depend on daily. It takes a lot of people working together to deliver water to Californians, and October 6 through 14 was the week when the Otay Water District and water agencies across the state showed their appreciation for these workers.
Water Professionals Appreciation Week was established last year by the California State Senate to recognize the 60,000 men and women who work in the statewide water industry, including those who work everyday here in the San Diego region to provide safe and reliable water, wastewater, and recycled water service. These professionals include engineers, systems operators, planners, construction and maintenance crews, information technology specialists, accountants, water quality specialists, administrative and finance professionals, public affairs teams, customer service representatives, managers, and more.
For the Otay Water District, Water Professionals Appreciation Week meant recognizing the 137 water professionals who serve 225,000 customers in the communities of Otay Mesa, Chula Vista, Jamul, Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, and unincorporated areas of El Cajon and La Mesa.
“Water Professionals Appreciation Week provides the water industry with a great opportunity to connect the work that we do directly to our customers’ quality of life and to exciting career opportunities in the industry,” said a district employee.
The Otay Water District relies on the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College to help produce the next generation of water professionals. Formerly the Water and Wastewater Technology Program, the Center for Water Studies is among the premier water and wastewater training facilities in California. Its renovated complex features new classrooms, a water quality analysis laboratory, and a workshop for backflow, cross-connection controls, and related skills-based courses. The complex sits next to a state-of-the-art field operations skills yard that opened in January 2018 that includes an above-ground water distribution system and an underground wastewater collection system. The Center simulates the challenges that prospective water professionals will face on the job in advanced water and wastewater facilities like those of the Otay Water District.
The Center reaches out to high school students in STEM fields, transitioning military members, women, and other traditionally underrepresented populations that are interested in exploring water and wastewater technology careers. The Center collaborates with Grossmont Union High School District science instructors, for example, to develop specialized lesson plans related to water and wastewater management skills. In January 2019, the Center will host the second annual Women in Water: Exploring Career Pathways symposium. Recently, nine Center for Water Studies students were among 17 selected to participate in the 2018-2019 San Diego Region Water and Wastewater Internships program supported by the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies.
During Water Professionals Appreciation Week, we recognized not only the people who bring us our water. We also welcomed the water workers of tomorrow and thanked institutions like Cuyamaca College and its instructors that are training the water workforce of tomorrow.