Managing Water: Careers, Legislation, & New Trends

By Kelly McEtchin

Water Event PanelWater is the most vital resource on earth. Since San Diego was founded on arid land, most of our water must be imported from other areas – 70-80% of San Diego’s water supply is imported. This brings the issue of water management as well as water conservation to the forefront.

On January 6, San Diego State University College of Extended Studies held their 4th Annual Green Event focusing on the issues of water, water careers, and water management in San Diego County. Called “Managing Water: Careers, Legislation, and New Trends,” students, jobseekers, and business professionals listened while a panel of water industry experts spoke about the new trends of water management and water conservation in San Diego.

After creating green certificate programs in green building construction, green energy management, College of Extended Studies’ (CES) Senior Program Development Director Wendy Evers believes that adding another certificate program in water management and landscape sustainability is important.

San Diego sits at the end of the water pipeline and providing a safe and reliable water supply to support the 3.1 million residents is a major responsibility,” Evers stated. There is a five-year study predicting a growth rate of 10-20% for water-industry occupations, and she added that “the new water management and landscape sustainability certificate gives adult learners’ knowledge and skill preparation for a career in the water industry.”

Among the people attending were three key speakers who all work for the water industry within the San Diego County. They covered several topics on the water business ranging from water sustainable practices to career opportunities.

Toby Roy, the water resources manager at the San Diego Water Authority, explained the importance of recycled water and the specific careers needed in the water industry. As an illustration, she reported that new gray water standards were emerging including the fact that San Diegans are allowed to use gray water in their washing machines. She also mentioned several job positions in the water industry including engineering, finance, operations, public outreach, legal, administrative, and management.

CES’s graphic designer Lori Clabaugh used an infographic called “The Story of Water” to show interactive elements from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions around the world. She explained that “educating people about water issues and explaining the science behind water studies, ‘The Story of Water’ shows people how they can create a career in the many new fields related to water resource management.” Upon clicking a job icon on the graphic, it provided a list of all the available water industry jobs in the area including water quality analysts, water treatment operators, organic farmers, and soil conservationists.

Clabaugh concluded that the significance of the infographic is that “the content be relevant to the user whether they want education about water science, if they are looking for a growing career field for their own futures, or showing people how we can help the quality of life for the world’s growing populations.”

Cathleen Pieroni, industry expert and water resources specialist, provided the benefits of using the Water Purification Demonstration Project. In her presentation, she offered a sustainable and local way of getting potable water to residents instead of importing from far away areas. She demonstrated how water purification is attainable in San Diego County by putting recycled and purified water into the San Vincent Reservoir, which could be held until needed. This demonstrated the possibility of finding alternative solutions to recycling our own water instead of importing it.

Another alternative solution was brought up by water resources manager Robert Yamada. A new trend increasing in San Diego is the use of seawater salinization plants. In other words, water can be taken from the sea and a porous “RO Element” would filter out most of the salt to make it potable water. So far, the Carlsbad desalinization project is on its way and another plant is being discussed for Camp Pendleton. He also claimed that “the average treatment operator is about 55 years old” and hence there will be room for new employment opportunities in the future.

The water industry is a growing and important industry not only in the San Diego County but also around the world. It is an infinite resource and with the increasing population, new ways of water management and landscape sustainability must be implemented. As Pieroni quoted Mark Twain, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”