Recognizing the People Behind the Pipes
California’s legislature has just established Water Professionals Appreciation Week to highlight the important role of water industry professionals and local public water agencies in ensuring safe and reliable water, wastewater, and recycled water services. The event takes place annually during the second week of October.
Read a DSRSD Board resolution recognizing the contributions of District employees.
The people of DSRSD plan, design, build, operate, maintain, and secure the community’s water and wastewater systems—vital public assets valued at more than $382 million. Their skills and motivation directly affect multiple generations of DSRSD customers and the quality of life in our community. Like other public utilities, the District is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to protect public health and the environment.
Here are some of the things our people do.
A Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator II adjusts the reodorant system, which emits a scented mist that helps reduce odors. Operators monitor and regulate all of the processes involved in treating the community’s wastewater and producing recycled water for irrigation. At least two operators are on duty around the clock. Operators are classified from grades I to V based on experience, education, complexity of duties, and certifications they earn from the California State Water Resources Control Board.
An Associate Civil Engineer (left) works with a contractor on a capital improvement project that strengthened a sewer main where it crosses Alamo Creek canal. Associate Engineers design, prepare and review engineering plans, parcel maps, easement encroachments, and applications to extend service connections. They interact with contractors, developers, other agencies, and the public to plan, design, and build water, recycled water, and wastewater infrastructure.
A Senior Mechanic-Crane Certified climbs into a sewer manhole to make repairs to the pipeline below, assisted by a Water/Wastewater Systems Operator IV-On Call. The "TV truck" in the background contains robotic video equipment used to document the condition of underground pipes and find potential trouble spots. Many District employees are trained to work around raw sewage and in confined spaces.
A Water/Wastewater Systems Operator IV-On Call flushes sediment from a hydrant, one of his more routine responsibilities. In the next moment he might be required to respond to an emergency involving a pipeline, valve, manhole, pump station, or storage tank. WWS operators work entirely in the field, managing and maintaining the District’s two water distribution networks (for potable and recycled water) and its wastewater collection system. They advance from grade I to VI based on their experience, education, and certifications from the Department of Public Health, California Water Environment Association, and California State Water Resources Control Board.
A Laboratory Technician collects a sample of recycled water for analysis, a job she performs multiple times daily at different locations. The laboratory staff ensures that potable and recycled water delivered to customers, as well as the treated wastewater released into the San Francisco Bay, meet all federal, state, and local requirements. Technicians work alongside Environmental Chemists in the District's laboratory, which is certified to conduct water quality tests, including coliform bacteria, residual chlorine, and disinfection byproducts in potable water; coliform bacteria and ammonia in recycled water, and volatile organic compounds and inorganic heavy metals in wastewater.
Fleet Mechanics maintain the District’s vehicle fleet, which includes vans, many different types of trucks, specialized vehicles for inspecting and cleaning pipelines, and golf carts used at the treatment plant. They also maintain cranes, backhoes, and other heavy equipment, as well as generators and portable pumps. Journey level training is required for the job, with experience repairing gas and diesel engines, transmissions, and other mechanical and electrical systems found in vehicles. They also may fabricate special bodies and parts when needed. Consistent preventive maintenance has enabled DSRSD to cost effectively extend the life of its vehicles.
A Construction Inspector II (left) and Engineering Technician/GIS Specialist II go over plans for the water and sewer systems at a new school. Construction inspectors make sure that pump stations, reservoirs, and pipelines are installed according to District standards. Technicians issue permits, calculate fees, and review plans and specifications as well as create computer-aided design drawings for District capital improvement projects and GIS maps of new and existing facilities.
An Environmental Compliance Inspector II-Pretreatment collects a sample of untreated wastewater as it enters the treatment plant. Inspectors collect samples from industrial customers to prevent discharges of certain chemicals and metals to the public sewer system. They also inspect grease traps in commercial kitchens, shop drains at automotive services facilities and car washes, dry cleaners, and dental offices (the latter are required to remove mercury amalgam from their wastewater). District inspectors work with recycled water customers to make sure irrigation systems are properly identified with purple sprinkler heads and are operating according to District guidelines.
A Process Lead Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator V monitors the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that control wastewater treatment processes and recycled water production. Lead operators at this level of experience have responsibility for all operations at the plant on an assigned shift. They closely monitor the data recorded by the SCADA systems and make operating adjustments needed to increase efficiency and meet water quality requirements.
Working on a scaffold 15 feet off the ground, a Mechanic II cuts out a section of pipe in order to install a flow meter. The 24-inch diameter pipe carries untreated wastewater (influent) into the plant. Mechanics repair and replace the wide variety of equipment used at the wastewater treatment plant and throughout the water distribution system. They must be certified by the California Water Environment Association and can earn specialized certifications from other agencies, such as to operate cranes. The District also employs Cogeneration Specialists to maintain energy-producing systems, as well as Operations Control System Specialists, Instrumentation Technicians, and Electricians to maintain electronic and electrical instruments and systems.
A Water/Wastewater Systems Lead Operator is installing a drinking water sampling station, one of 60 located throughout the water distribution system. The District’s lab tests the samples for bacterial growth and other contaminants, residual chlorine (needed for disinfection), and fluoride (added to promote dental health). Two District Mechanics designed and built the station. The new design is taller than existing units, with the access door above shrubs. This helps prevent contamination during sampling and protects the backs of the employees. Building the units in-house costs 60 percent less than buying them off the shelf.
*Estimate based on Cuyamaca College labor study