Spotlight: Water Industry Jobs – Feb. 2020

  • by Will Holbert
  • Feb 14, 2020

New California Law Creates Pathway to Water Industry Jobs for Military Veterans

State legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates and business and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in San Diego Oct. 16, 2019 to celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 1588 by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (San Diego) and Adam Gray (Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (Oceanside). The San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District co-sponsored the bill to increase the number of military veterans entering the civilian water and wastewater industry at a time when many Baby Boomers are retiring.

After LT. Jose Martinez retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007, he went from serving his country underwater to serving reliable, high quality water to a community. 

His experience aboard a nuclear submarine and on the management staff of Otay Water District shares a few commonalities. Both involve highly complex systems, which often operate away of the public eye, either underwater or underground. 

“People turn on the tap and out comes water,” said Martinez, General Manager for ACWA-member Otay Water District. “It seems rather simple, but it’s really complex. It’s fascinating to me.” 

Martinez’s experience as a naval nuclear engineer focused on submarines’ nuclear and non-nuclear systems, including water treatment. This gave him an advantage to transition to a civilian career in water.

A bill and new law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019, sets the stage for making it much easier for military veterans to transition into the water industry. AB 1588, initiated by Martinez and Otay, intends to update the current water and wastewater certification system by giving military veterans credit for their experience and education that is applicable to the water industry. Essentially, veterans would not have to start at the bottom, but instead advance to testing that matches their level of experience. That way, veterans can enter the water workforce at a level that meets their paygrade.

AB 1588 was introduced by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Adam Gray (D-Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Oceanside). The San Diego County Water Authority and Otay cosponsored the bill, with the goal of increasing the number of veterans entering the water industry to replace retiring baby boomers.

To address this challenge, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies created a regional workforce development task force to address the oncoming “Silver Tsunami” of retirees. The San Diego region alone employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, with more than 1,400 of those workers expected to reach retirement age by 2024, according to the Water Authority. Statewide, there are approximately 6,000 active certified wastewater treatment plant operators, and approximately 35,000 drinking water treatment and distribution operators. 

Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez served in the U.S. Navy from May 2001 to September 2007. As a nuclear submarine officer, he was a trained and qualified naval nuclear engineer. His experience serves as an example of how thousands of military veterans come out of the service with the skills necessary to succeed in the water industry.

Jobs within the water industry often reflect military experience, and not necessarily ones directly related to water and wastewater treatment on a base or aboard a ship. Don Jones, with the Center for Water Studies at El Cajon’s Cuyamaca College, compared experience within a Combat Information Center on a warship to operating a SCADA system at a water facility, pointing out that experienced SCADA operators can be hard to find.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re opening a pump or firing a missile, the process is very similar, it’s the mechanical and electronic interface that matters. You’re electronically activating a piece of mechanical equipment,” Jones said. 

The water industry can also offer veterans a few other advantages. Shannon Cotulla served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer between 1987 and 1992. After leaving the service, he contemplated aviation engineering, but a desire to work outdoors in civil engineering led him to the water industry. Today, Cotulla is Assistant General Manager at the South Tahoe Public Utility District and former member of ACWA’s Board of Directors. 

“The work is really meaningful, it’s all about serving people and keeping our communities safe,” Cotulla said. “There’s also security in knowing that your organization has rules and standards that you can look up to and isn’t subject to the whims that you sometimes find in the private sector.”

Otay’s Martinez said that it could take a few years for the state to make the changes called for in AB 1588. Nevertheless, the process is underway and includes having a veteran with water industry experience serve on a regulatory advisory board along with water industry members. In the meantime, news about the bill’s potential for veterans is raising awareness among veterans about why careers in the water industry represent a great opportunity.

“We really want to open up this talent pool,” Martinez said. “Veterans are the right candidates to fill these jobs because of the skilled work they’ve already demonstrated in their careers and their time in the military.”

Suggested Resources

15 RESOURCES prev next
Comment letter: ACWA Comments on De-Energization

Agency: California Public Utilities Commission Subject: Association of California Water Agencies Comments on Proposed Additional Modified De-Energization Guidelines and Files […]

Priority Issues Bulletin

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Recommendations for Resilient Headwaters

ACWA’s headwater documents showcase the importance of improved headwaters management. Benefits include increased water yield and quality, enhanced natural features […]

Improved Management of California’s Headwaters

  Improved Management of California’s Headwaters outlines ACWA’s updated Headwaters Policy Principles, which were adopted by the ACWA Board of […]

Comment letter: ACWA Comments on Draft Water Resilience Portfolio

To: Nancy Vogel, Director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program Subject: Association of California Water Agencies’ Comments regarding the Draft […]

Comment Letter: ACWA Joint Comments on Draft Policy for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Draft Policy for Developing the Fund Expenditure Plan for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water […]

ACWA’s Five-Year Strategic Plan

ACWA’s five-year strategic plan will afford the association the benefit of a broader forecast of resources, as well as the […]

Comment Letter: ACWA Comments on Urban Water Conservation Reporting

Agency: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Proposed Urban Water Conservation Reporting Regulations Description: ACWA provided public comment on the proposed urban […]

Federal Legislative Matrix

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Federal Regulatory Issues Chart

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.

Comment Letter: ACWA Comments on Public Health Goals for PFAS

Agency: Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Subject: Public Health Goals for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate Description: ACWA provided public comment […]

ACWA and CMUA Lead Service Line Inventory Webinar Materials

On Dec. 17, in cooperation with the State Water Resource Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water, ACWA and CMUA hosted […]

Comment Letter: ACWA and CMUA Comment on Proposed ELAP Regulations

Agencies: State Water Resources Control Board Subject: Comments on Proposed Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) Regulations Description: ACWA and CMUA provided […]

Coalition Letter on Strategic Plan to Protect CA’s Coast and Ocean

To: Wade Crowfoot, Secretary for Natural Resources Subject: Comments on Strategic Plan to Protect California’s Coast and Ocean 2020-2025 Description: Comments […]

2020 ACWA Scholarship Toolkit

To assist  members in promoting available ACWA scholarship opportunities, the association has updated its Scholarship Toolkit for the 2020-’21 academic […]

Suggested News

15 Articles prev next
EPA Announces Implementation of the Water Reuse Action Plan

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, at an event at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C., EPA Administrator Andrew […]

Warm, Dry Conditions Lead to Below Average Snowpack and Precipitation

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today conducted the third manual snow survey of 2020 at Phillips Station. […]

Congressional Leaders Headline ACWA D.C. Conference

A packed ACWA D.C. Conference featured U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) as the introductory speaker at the event’s Wednesday breakfast, […]

March 18 Deadline for Wildfire Resiliency and Recovery Grants

Proposition 84 Wildfire Resiliency and Recovery Planning Grants are eligible to local and regional governments (cities and counties) that were […]

PWD Adds Rebate, Boosts Existing Rebates

PALMDALE – The Palmdale Water District (PWD) Board of Directors voted 5-0 on Feb. 24 to offer a new rebate […]

Reclamation Outlines Initial Central Valley Project 2020 Water Allocation

The Bureau of Reclamation today announced the initial 2020 water supply allocation for Central Valley Project contractors. Allocation amounts are […]

ACWA Members Receive Reclamation Grants

Nine ACWA members agencies will receive funding through the latest round of WaterSMART grant awards from the Bureau of Reclamation, […]

Walnut Valley Water District Promotes STEAM During National Engineers Week

WALNUT – Walnut Valley Water District participated in the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) 69th annual National Engineers Week. […]

Interior Moves to Maximize Water Deliveries to CVP

The Department of the Interior announced Feb. 19 that it will maximize water deliveries for agricultural and urban use through […]

Public Comment Opens for Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Groundwater sustainability plans that have been submitted to the state are now online at the DWR SGMA Portal. Plans are […]

GLENN-COLUSA IRRIGATION DISTRICT CELEBRATES CENTENNIAL

WILLOWS – This week marks the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID). The District’s water […]

Yuba Water Grants Help Local Agencies

MARYSVILLE – Four local agencies received a financial boost today with the help of Yuba Water Agency. Yuba County inundation […]

Yuba Water GM Curt Aikens announces retirement; Willie Whittlesey takes reins July 1

MARYSVILLE – After 23 years of dedicated service to Yuba Water Agency, General Manager Curt Aikens will retire in January […]

Roseville replenishes groundwater basin this fall and winter

Last November, both Roseville and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) entered into an agreement to transfer up to 6,000 […]

ACWA News for Feb. 14, 2020

Sorry, but only ACWA members have permission to view this content. Member login is required.