The California Water Environment Association (CWEA) announced the winners of its 2016 awards program at its Annual Conference in Palm Springs on April 28.  Congratulations to these agencies and individuals leading the way in the protection and enhancement of our water environment.

Established in 1929, CWEA’s awards program has grown to acknowledge outstanding achievement in more than 20 categories honoring exceptional California water environment professionals, collection systems, and treatment plants.  Categories include Plant of the Year, Collection System of the Year, Public Education Program of the Year as well as awards of individual professionals in various vocations. The program seeks to recognize outstanding achievements within the water environment field, improve the professional status of all personnel working in the field, and stimulate public awareness of the importance of wastewater treatment to public health and the water environment.

Nominations that advance through CWEA’s 17 local sections’ awards programs are eligible to compete statewide. Congratulations to the nominees to the 2016 awards program for their diligent work to keep California’s water clean and workforce strong. 

CWEA officers are available to make a presentation to CWEA award recipients at agency board or City Council meetings. Please contact Victoria Thornton  at or (510) 382-7800 x 113.

Photos by Ddaze Phuong, Orange County Sanitation District, Ralph Palomares, El Cerrito Wastewater District and Julayne Luu. Thank you for capturing these moments!
AC17 Awards

Special thanks to California based Coombs-Hopkins Company the lead supporter for the CWEA Awards Program.

Coombs-Hopkins sponsorship will allow CWEA to continue upgrading and improving our awards program, including working with CWEA’s technical committees to streamline the nomination process as needed.



Read more

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) is considered the world’s most prestigious award presented to a high school student for a water-research project. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has coordinated the U.S. competition since its inception in 1997, and partners closely with their Member Association (MA) to execute the program.

Initially a paper competition from 1997-2001, the eligible projects were gleaned from the regional and state international Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) by Member Association (MA) appointed judges. In 2002, the MAs sent their state winners to the first onsite event that was jointly hosted in Dallas, TX by WEF and the Water Environment Association of Texas. The event was modeled after the international event, including three days of competition and social activities, and up until 2013, was the U.S. model.

CWEA is excited to announce that Visala Tallavarjula of Santa Clara, California will once again represent the state of California for her project titled, “Statistically Designed Experimental Optimization of Root Zone Water Delivery Using a Low Cost Surface Drip Micro-irrigation Method for Regions Suffering from Drought.”

Visala was California’s winner in 2016 and was invited to speak at CWEA’s Annual Conference in Palm Springs during the Engineering and Research Committee Luncheon about her project on Sub-surface Irrigation. 

The winners will go on to compete in June with the national winner moving on to the international competition in late August. The competition is open to public, private, or independent high school students in grades 9-12, that have reached the age of 15 by Aug. 1 of the competition year, and have conducted water-related science projects.  Judging criteria are the same as the international competition and include ratings for relevance, methodology, subject knowledge, practical skills, creativity and paper/presentation.  

ABSTRACT: Statistically Designed Experimental Optimization of Root Zone Water Delivery Using a Low Cost Surface Drip Micro-irrigation Method for Regions Suffering from Drought

Visala Tallavarjula

About 70% of global food production is from arid regions, accounting for more than 70% fresh water withdrawal. The purpose of this project is to deliver water from the emitters of surface drip quickly to the root zone before it can evaporate. Cylindrical insert is optimized using statistical Design of Experiments. Inserts of 2 cm diameter filled with sand are buried in soil under the drip emitters. Water infiltrates through sand at much faster rate compared to the rate of evaporation from soil surface. Once water gets to sub-surface regions (> 3cm of depth) evaporation loss is suppressed since wet soil is not exposed to wind and sunlight. Also a 3 cm layer of Perlite and peat-moss is used as top soil bed since it has proven to improve water retention even further. Field tests were conducted at Jacobs Farm in San Jose. Prototype gravity fed micro irrigation system was built. Water conservation (29-60%) was demonstrated with multiple plant types. These low cost enhancements can improve micro irrigation efficiency and reduce water foot print of agriculture in arid regions.

See full paper.

West Yost Associates’ support for the SJWP competition will allow CWEA to advertise the program more widely to California high school students, provide travel support for the winner and allow the development of new competitions to promote interest among high school students about California’s water quality and water treatment technologies.

West Yost Associates was established in 1990. The firm’s focus has been exclusively on water, wastewater, and stormwater projects with the objective to provide a higher level of client service around this focused area of technical expertise. The firm culture is deeply rooted in providing high quality work, superior client service, and technical expertise.

The Kirt Brooks Scholarship Fund is a grant-making program for students who are engaged in the water environment field and who are members of CWEA or sponsored by CWEA members. CWEA established the endowment for an academic scholarship fund in 1988 with the main purpose of the program to provide educational funding assistance to individuals in the wastewater industry, to encourage continued education and to promote the water pollution control professions to outside groups and organizations including the academic community. When the idea of a scholarship program was conceived many years ago, Kirt Brooks became a member of the ad-hoc committee to define its objectives and selection criteria. It was renamed the Kirtland H. Brooks Scholarship in 1993. He saw the scholarship as a logical extension of the Association’s basic purpose of education of its members. Today it has provided over 100 outstanding students with scholarships thanks to generous donations from members like you.

This year during the Annual Conference in Palm Springs, CWEA’s 5S members (Select Society of Sanitary Shovelers) and CWEA Local Sections collectively donated $24,539!
  • Tri-Counties Section 
  • Los Angeles Basin Section 
  • Redwood Empire Section 
  • Monterey Bay Section 
  • San Francisco Bay Section 
  • Santa Ana River Basin Section 
  • Sacramento Area Section 
  • Desert and Mountain Section
  • Northern San Joaquin Section
  • Central San Joaquin Section
  • Golden Empire Section

Those contributions officially bring the donations over the $500,000 goal but we’re not stopping there! Scholarship donations are accepted throughout the year, not just at our Annual Conference. Kirt Brooks Scholarship recipients have gone on to serve the public in varied roles such as water quality lab analysts, engineers, university educators, pollution prevention professionals, regulators, utility managers, and operations and maintenance personnel.

Scholarship applications for the 2018-19 school year will be available online in September. The application deadline is January 15—plan now for next year. Scholarship applicants do not have to be members of CWEA; however, they do need a CWEA member to sponsor them.


KBS Donations

Nick Arhontes, Michael Flores and Larry Olivan making contributions to the Kirt Brooks Scholarship at the Annual Conference in Palm Springs

Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) and Orange County Water District (OCWD) mentioned in Time Magazine article on “What it Will Take to Rebuild America” which highlights agencies, companies and projects that are leading the way with “transformative infrastructure projects.”

One group of structures, nothing to look at, houses an Orange County Sanitation District water-treatment facility. Each day some 185 million gallons of raw sewage flows in, and eventually the treated water flows out—not toxic, but not potable either. This wastewater used to be pumped through long pipes to disperse in the Pacific Ocean. But now more than half of the treated product goes next door, to nondescript facilities operated by the Orange County Water District. The OCWD strains the water through microscopic filters, then forces it by reverse osmosis through superfine membranes, and finally bombards it with high-intensity ultraviolet light.

What flows out of the facility, in volumes sufficient to meet the daily demands of roughly 850,000 people, is as pure as a sparkling glass of premium ice water. Pumping stations return it to the Orange County aquifer to percolate into wells for future drinking. The process costs less, and consumes less energy, than importing water from the Colorado River.

So the next Hoover Dam is no dam at all. It’s technology, invention, efficiency. Take a look at Singapore—one of the world’s infrastructure leaders, according to Germany’s respected Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Using the technology pioneered in Orange County, the island nation has replaced 40% of its freshwater consumption with recycled NEWater, as they call it. Infrastructure is shrinking even as it grows more powerful.

Like DeWitt Clinton and Arthur Powell Davis, the leaders of Orange County had to let go of the past to reach for the future. In the mid-1990s, the sanitation district was faced with a need to upgrade existing infrastructure. But instead of doubling down on what they already had, they built something completely different.

Read the full article 

Clip above is from a One Water roundtable discussion held at AC17 sponsored by CDMSmith.

On January 22-23, 2017, OCSD saw influent flows that had not been seen since 1995. OCSD experienced peak flows of up to 586 million gallons per day (mgd) coming into both of their wastewater treatment plants. As events started to unfold, OCSD staff worked tirelessly to ensure that its facilities could handle the unprecedented flows that OCWD staff worked to ensure that the Groundwater Replenishments System (GWRS) would continue to run at its normal 100 mgd flow rate. This alleviated any concerns that flows would exceed their discharge capacity of the five-mile outfall line and force OCSD to use its one-mile outfall, which would have resulted in beach closures.

Preparing for high-flow emergencies: the OCSD program

Just when California water and sewer utilities were getting used to managing lower than normal flows, along came the “Pineapple Express” and the other atmospheric rivers.  With little warning, utilities have had to adapt to high flows caused by the seemingly endless march of rain events across the state.

Orange County is typical. The mid-January storm dumped more than seven inches of rain in certain areas of the County— more than normally falls in a calendar year during the multi-year drought.

But the response by the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) to the wet weather may not be typical. The Sanitation District has developed an effective system of color-coded categories for managing higher flows. The system includes check lists and ranges from preparedness, to action, to recovery. Training and communication techniques assure that everyone is on board.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The OCSD operates two wastewater treatment plants, receiving a combined average dry weather flow of 185 mgd; combined design capacity is 660 mgd. The Sanitation District serves about 2.6 million people, encompasses 479 square miles, and maintains about 400 miles of separated sewer lines and 15 off site pump stations. Treated effluent from the District’s Fountain Valley Reclamation Plant is provided to the nearby Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS)–a joint effort between the Sanitation District and the Orange County Water District providing indirect potable water to 850,000 Orange County residents.

“This year’s rainy season has provided more than three times the average rainfall in the last five years,”  says Ed Torres, OCSD Director of Operations and Maintenance. “It’s a whole new paradigm for our staff—especially in operations. It seems like every week there’s a new storm coming in. We’ve had to take a different perspective on high-flow preparedness.”

That’s where the color codes come in. The OCSD system consists of code blue for preparedness; yellow, orange, red, for various wet weather conditions; and finally purple for recovery. The color codes are communicated via a call back system, text messages and emails throughout the OCSD plant staff and management in various departments.

Color-coded. Read more

The U.S. EPA is studying nutrient discharges from POTWs in an effort entitled the National Study of Nutrient Removal and Secondary Treatment.  The study will first involve requesting data from all POTWs in the U.S. to develop a baseline of nutrient loadings from the POTW sector as a whole, and second focus on conventional secondary treatment facilities to develop information on optimization, operation, and management to identify low cost techniques for increasing nutrient removal.

This study arose from an expressed need for information by multiple entities attempting to address significant issues regarding nutrient discharges and energy savings at POTWs. In some areas of the country, states, EPA, consultants, and academic institutions have been working with POTWs to demonstrate that nutrient reduction improvements do not always require major capital investments, but rather can be obtained by optimization of operation and maintenance (O&M) practices. For example, collaborative efforts have been underway in EPA’s Region 4 to optimize performance at POTWs to reduce energy usage, which coincidentally achieve significant nutrient reductions. However, despite individual successes, identification of candidate facilities is impeded due to a lack of basic information about facilities in general such as plant capacity, types of biological treatment, process control methods, aeration method, etc. Additionally, EPA looked at more than 80 different case studies of POTWS that were identified as having optimized their operations to compile a report on low cost modifications to improve nutrient reduction .From these 80 case studies, EPA was able to use the information from only 12 facilities to document the ability to optimize secondary treatment to improve nutrient reduction. The remainder of the projects were not selected because they lacked monitoring or cost data, or involved advanced wastewater treatment facilities. Therefore, these studies emphasize the need for baseline information on nutrient removal across varying geographic regions and varying secondary treatment trains, with and without optimized O&M, in order to provide the POTW community and states with enough information to investigate adoption of optimization practices at secondary treatment on a national scale.

The Need to Update Information on Nutrient Removal Performance at POTW Facilities

The second main need for this survey is to update information on nutrient removal performance at POTW facilities. Estimates on nutrient discharges from POTWs are outdated – up to 50 years old – and do not incorporate the process controls that many use today. Moreover, these estimates do not reflect variable attributes such as differential plant loadings or temperature effects. Regulatory entities, such as states, rely on estimates of POTW nutrient removal capabilities when developing waterbody and watershed plans, Total Maximum Daily Loads, or estimates of nutrient contributions from the POTW sector. Discharge data for nutrients are only reported by facilities if they have nutrient effluent limits or monitoring requirements, and influent data are rarely reported, if collected at all. Presently, only a small percentage of POTWs have these requirements to report nutrient concentrations. Thus, the estimates of nutrient loading, not to mention removal efficiency, coming from POTWs remain a very rough estimate. As states proceed with plans to address nutrient loadings, it will be helpful for them to have the data on the nutrient contribution from the POTW sector at the local watershed, regional, and national levels. Whether or not facilities decide to incorporate optimization processes observed in the study, this nutrient loading information will provide states and POTWs with necessary information to set realistic, achievable nutrient reduction targets.
The Study will consist of multiple phases of data collection.  EPA is preparing the first phase which involves taking a census of POTWs to collect basic information on location, size, and technology in place. Subsequent phases will involve collecting more detailed data from a representative sample of secondary treatment POTWs on technology operation and maintenance, and sampling data from a representative population of all POTWs.

For More Information…

For more information: Contact Paul Shriner at EPA | 202.566.1076 or WEF Staff: Claudio Ternieden | 703.684.2416.

CWEA is gathering nominations for an Emerging Leaders story to appear in the Summer 2017 Wastewater Professional

We are looking for accomplished water professionals who are making a significant, positive impact on California’s water and they have not yet been recognized for that effort. 

CWEA Definition of Emerging Leader

Emerging leader describes an individual who:

  • Has demonstrated the potential to assume a leadership role in an organization.
  • Are strong performers who have the potential, ability, and aspiration for continuing their impact on the profession in a leadership role.
  • Show commitment to the organization, exert influence, and demonstrate a willingness to step up and take on more responsibility.
  • Have desire to grow both personally and professionally through networking with like-minded professionals and volunteer work in our profession.
  • Impact will last for a couple of years or more.

Nominators need to be a CWEA member. The nominee does not have to be a CWEA member but should be involved with California water and should live in California. Self nominations are eligible – make your case for the impact you’ve had and you might get picked!

The Emerging Leaders will be selected by a panel of seasoned industry leaders and will be interviewed and profiled in the Wastewater Professional.

Nominations due May 10!

See form for submitting nominations at:

Help support emerging leaders – your firm can sponsor this special section. Contact Alec Mackie, CWEA,

View previous Emerging Leader stories here.

About this series:  Each month CWEA is interviewing an innovative water thinker. We’re asking each person “The future of the water profession is …”

Howard Brewen
Water Resource Recovery Facility Superintendent
Public Utilities
City of San Luis Obispo

Howard Brewen took the road less traveled to his position as superintendent of the Water Resource Recovery Facility for the City of San Luis Obispo.  Raised on his family’s ranch in north San Luis Obispo County, he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, obtaining his trainer’s license, issued by the California Horse Racing Board, at the young age of sixteen.  He was accepted to UC Davis, achieving a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. 

To pay for his schooling, Howard put his trainer’s license to good use:  he purchased a seasoned race horse that had fallen by the wayside, rehabilitated him, and raced him each summer on the state’s fair circuit, earning enough money to pay the following year’s tuition. 

Howard built on his success on the fair circuit, expanding his racehorse stable to the major tracks in northern and southern California, eventually managing sixty horses and thirty employees.

After 20 years of big city life, Howard wanted to get back to his roots and returned to rural living in Paso Robles where he tried something completely different: a nine-month temporary position with the City of San Luis Obispo in its Wastewater Collections department. The only stipulation was that he commit to the full nine-month term.

“I found myself sitting in a wastewater collection ditch, listening to other more experienced operators talk about the challenges associated with this industry.  I realized that I had the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to the public sector.  This is an important industry filled with really great people.”

Howard began keeping journals and memoirs of his work experience, saving them for the day when he would have the opportunity to help improve the methods and processes used in the industry.  At the end of his temporary contract, he was hired as a permanent full-time employee in Wastewater Collections, obtaining a Grade 3 Certification.  After two and a half years in Collections, Howard transferred to the Water Reclamation Facility (later renamed the Water Resource Recovery Facility) where he worked his way up to a Grade 5 Wastewater Treatment Operator Certification, eventually being hired as Facility Superintendent.

Howard is also a long-time CWEA volunteer serving this year on the annual conference Educational Program Team.

What do you believe is the future of the water profession?

I absolutely believe to my core that this is the most exciting time ever to be in water.  Who wouldn’t want to be a water professional?  It’s such an exciting time because a myriad of factors and information have come together, and aligned, and the public is becoming more aware of the importance of water.

We have a series of opportunities, not challenges, ahead of us.  The unique set of circumstances such as the drought, infrastructure awareness, and safe drinking water have all led to a public awareness of water that did not exist before.

But we’re moving from a time of having separate processes for water and wastewater.  There is only one water cycle and we are moving to the point of having only one water profession; one that will encompass all aspects of the water cycle.

Potable reuse is a tremendous opportunity.  That train has left the station and is gaining momentum.  It is up to those of us in water to take new innovations and technologies and understand how to adapt those to this industry in a timely manner.  We have to get beyond the traditional fifteen years it usually takes to implement ‘new’ technologies. 

The huge retirement numbers we are facing is another opportunity.  First of all, we need to find a way to retain the knowledge currently being carried around in all of these brains.  Second, we need to know what kind of person we need to hire, not for just right now, but to hire the skill set that we’re going to need for three to five years down the line.  It is important not to just hire the same as we have done in the past.

Read more

From Coombs Hopkins:

The Coombs-Hopkins Company is pleased to announce a new addition to the CHC team, Brad Leidecker as our newest Sales Engineer. Brad will be based in the Walnut Creek, California office covering portions of the Bay Area and areas north of Sacramento.

Brad brings a breadth of consulting and public experience to the CHC team that will serve our Principals and Clients well. He has over ten years of practical and technical experience covering planning, design, construction and project management.

Brad previously served as an Associate Engineer for the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District.

CWEA Mark Pattison leaves his mark on Crestline Sanitation District

As reported in the Applehorn News – story and photo by Gail Fry

From left to right: Crestline Sanitation District President Matthew Philippe, General Manager Mark Pattison and Operations Manager Rick Dever at the Summit Valley discharge site on November 14, 2016, where they met with Skanska employees to begin delivery of recycled water for the State Highway 138 (East) Re-alignment Project. (Photo by Gail Fry)

After 37 years as an employee with the Crestline Sanitation District, general manager and CWEA member Mark Pattison announced his retirement effective March 31. Pattison will be replaced by former operations manager and CWEA member Rick Dever. Dever was appointed as the new general manager at the district’s March 9 regular meeting.

In an interview with The Alpenhorn News, Pattison shared how he started his career in the wastewater field as a lab tech, where he came to know Crestline Sanitation District (CSD) employees and was eventually hired as an “operator-in-training,” He worked his way up to operator I, operator II, lead plant operator, chief plant operator, operations manager, interim general manager and then general manager.

Pattison opined changes to regulatory requirements were the biggest change he experienced at the district during his 37-year career. At one time during his long career, CSD was operated by San Bernardino County Special Districts. He recalled when employees worked all over the county.

On November 4, 2008, residents of Crestline and surrounding communities voted in favor of making CSD an independent district. They elected an advisory board consisting of Ken Stone, Sherri Fairbanks, Matthew Philippe, Mike Pate and Penny Shubnell. The district became officially independent in October 2010.

Pattison was promoted to interim-general manager on November 9, 2012, when CSD General Manager Kathy Whalen retired. Five months later, on April 11, 2013, Pattison was appointed general manager.

Three months later Rick Dever was appointed operations manager. Dever, a Crestline resident since 1974, had worked at Lake Arrowhead Community Services District for 27-years, earning the position of operations foreman.

Pattison explained one of CSD Strategic Plan’s goals was to “always put the agency in a position where there was someone else who could step in and do the job” and so Pattison took Dever under his wing.

Accomplishments during Pattison’s term as general manager include replacing two pumps and generators at its Forest Shade Pump Station in August 2013, protecting Lake Gregory from potential sewage spills, negotiating and finalizing an agreement with its newly formed employee union at a May 27, 2014, special meeting, televising and inspecting 70 miles of sewer pipeline, cleaned 11,000 feet and slip-lined 5,315 linear feet and rehabilitated six manholes by December 2014, upgraded its billing system in mid-2014, implementing a five year rate increase after six years “to improve its infrastructure at its October 5, 2014, meeting, evaluating its outfall line in late 2015, filing its ongoing lawsuit against the City of Hesperia to protect its right to continue discharging effluent on the Las Flores Ranch in Summit Valley on February 25, 2016, passing a random audit conducted by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control board mid-2016, completing its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, receiving approval from the State Water Resources Control Board to sell its recycled water late 2016, and contracting to sell its recycled water to Skanska for its State Highway 138 (East Re-alignment Project).

Pattison credited Dever with improving the district’s safety program, lowering the district’s workman’s comp insurance rates, accountant/bookkeeper Dawn Grantham with upgrading its billing system and electro-mechanical specialist Jordan Dietz with working on a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) (wireless) system for the district.

Dever is confident he can lead the district into the future based on its supportive board and great staff. His first goal is completing a master plan taking the district “20 years into the future.”

“We were comfortable promoting Rick and I really enjoyed working with Mark, he was a very competent manager,” CSD Director Penny Shubnell voiced.

“Rick is just as capable as Mark,” Shubnell opined, explaining she has “full faith” in Dever that he will “take it to higher limits” and thinks “the whole board would agree with me.”

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) have released the first set of no-cost materials to help members communicate about the value and importance of water. The materials are designed to complement and work in collaboration with the national Value of Water Campaign messaging and resources.

As two of the founding partners of the Value of Water Campaign, WEF and AWWA are working together to provide supplementary tools and resources to further support WEF Member Associations, AWWA Sections, and utilities in your efforts to educate and inform consumers, public officials, decision-makers, and stakeholders about the value of water, water and wastewater services, and the need for infrastructure investment.

This staggered rollout begins with a series of U.S. infographics, with three more expected later this month. Additional materials will be added to the toolkit and released through June, including a communications plan to assist with implementing these materials according to your specific needs and target audiences.

The materials are available for download at Share these resources with fellow members and utilities.

Please contact Lori Harrison in WEF’s Communications Department with any questions.