Tenth Annual San Bernardino Water Conference honors six water industry leaders

By on August 15, 2016
San Bernardino County Water Conference

Six water industry leaders – including both individuals, water agencies, and education and conservation programs – were honored at the Tenth Annual San Bernardino County Water Conference recently held at the Ontario Convention Center.  The awards were presented by Carlos Rodriguez, CEO of the BIA Baldy View Chapter and Jonathon Weldy, President of Meridian Land Development.

Some 350 attendees convened to examine current issues within the industry including preparing the next generation for water careers, how to communicate your water message, two sessions on the unintended consequences of the new normal (of conservation) – one on the consequences of conservation for water agencies and the other on the effects for homes, cities and builders. The conference also did a brief retrospective on the ten years of the San Bernardino County Water Conference, where the industry was, where it is and the known issues for the years to come.

Highlighting the conference was the presentation of the six awards. Receiving the Water Innovator of the Year Award was the Mojave Water Agency (MWA) for their Small Systems Assistance Program. MWA and other larger water agencies in San Bernardino County recognized that smaller agencies in disadvantaged areas in the county’s High Desert region were struggling to keep pace with a variety of water issues including adherence to new regulations, challenges with financial information, sustainable operations, rate structures and other challenges.  Kirby Brill, general manager of MWA said his agency and its partners realized that for the region’s water industry to thrive all agencies needed to keep pace within the industry.

With $200,000 seed money from Mojave Water Agency, and a defined partnership with the California Rural Water Association (CRWA), a coalition was formed and a knowledgeable core of management skills and training was made available to the region’s smaller water agencies. Additional funds were raised, CRWA hired a full time dedicated expert to rotate to the water agencies with less than 3,000 connections (or is pumping less than 3,000 acre feet per day) to provide a variety of on-site expertise. Additionally, free workshops were held on many of the problematic areas beleaguering the small agencies.  Some 40 agencies attended the series of workshops; ten of the agencies are now working with CRWA to develop master plans to identify and prioritize their problems and subsequent goals.

Dustin Hardwick, director of Resource Development for CRWA, said that his team travels the state to assist with field work to shore up the plans and operations of various agencies.  Daniel Smith, general manager of the Apple Valley Heights County Water District, has said that one of the advantages of working with MWA and CRWA has been assistance with the grant funding process.

Smith said, “Without their help it’s too difficult, too complicated,” to complete a grant that measures some two inches thick.  “I can’t say enough good things about Mojave Water Agency,” said Smith. “We look to them as our mentors and leadership team.”

Receiving the Conservation Project of the year Award was National Core, based in Rancho Cucamonga.  National Community Renaissance (National CORE), is one of the nation’s largest and most innovative nonprofit community builders, managing nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate housing units in California and three other states.

National CORE National CORE launched a water conservation program — “Doing Our Part” — in 2015 amid one of the worst droughts in California history. Since then, more than 48 million gallons of water have been saved through conservation efforts that include:

  • Turf removal and smart irrigation. To date, nearly a quarter of a million square feet of turf has been replaced with drought-tolerant plants.
  • Installation of high efficiency toilets, shower heads and flow restrictors, saving 26.6 million gallons of water per year.
  • Installation of high efficiency front load washers, saving 9.3 million gallons of water per year.
  • Careful monitoring of water usage at each property. Using information collected by WegoWise, National CORE has been able to triage a long list of potential retrofit projects, and identify those with the highest priority. That data is shared with on-site staff so that they’re familiar with every drop of water used.

In addition, National CORE has started a Most Water Efficient Community competition to engage residents in water conservation efforts. In August, residents at the property with the largest reduction in water usage will have the chance to win prizes ranging from gift cards, a big-screen television and tickets to Disneyland.

“Effective conservation begins by understanding how we’re using water, then taking the necessary steps to preserve this essential natural resource,” said Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer of National CORE. “We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do so far, but realize it’s is only the beginning.”

Rodriguez of BIA Baldy View Chapter, hailed National CORE’s efforts saying, “The dedication of National CORE to conservation is admirable…”

Also receiving awards in various categories at the conference were:

  • The Water Zone (radio program) as the Communication Program of the Year;
  • San Bernardino Valley College’s Water Supply Technology Program as the IE H2O Hero Education Partner;
  • Beverly J. Lowry as the Elected Official of the Year; and
  • Inland Empire Utilities Agency “Kick the Habit Campaign” as the Collaboration Program of the Year.