Waterwork – December 2020
The President’s Corner

Catherine Curtis, SFPUC & BAYWORK President

As we proceed to the end of this calendar year, I extend well wishes to all of our signatory agencies, stakeholders, and BAYWORK leadership members over the holiday season. It has been a tough year with COVID – 19 affecting all of us in a myriad of ways. BAYWORK has had to cancel many of our planned events and adapt to online platforms for meetings and events. Congratulations to the BAYWORK Committees who have made this adjustment successfully. We are becoming as good in the virtual world as we were with our live event offerings. We have invested in online tools and platforms to quickly adjust to a new way of doing business. With vaccines rushing to be approved and available, the hopeful predictions of normalcy by the end of Summer 2021 is welcome news. The most important thing is for everyone to be safe and well during this pandemic.

Candidate Development efforts have included virtual career fairs, veteran events and helping students in a virtual arena practice their interview skills and get coaching and feedback. We continue to work with community colleges, CWEA, and other stakeholders. We are planning for internships and building and implementing an instrument technician apprenticeship in the next six months. JVS, our partner, has been awarded a High Road Training Partnership grant which will help fund this effort. If you are interested, please contact Michael Kushner, our BAYWORK manager.

Staff Preparedness has been very busy as well. The Training Buffett, an annual BAYWORK event, was offered in November on a virtual platform and we had great attendance and very good feedback. We are planning many webinars and an all-day workshop on the Digital Worker on May 27th.

Our newly designed and responsive website rolled out in September and we received very positive feedback. Besides being attractive, it’s easy to use, especially on mobile devices.  Our social media team has been very busy posting on all our platforms. If your agency has information that you would like posted such as an agency event or a job announcement, please contact bayworksocialmedia@gmail.com.

Add to your New Years Resolutions – “Get involved in a BAYWORK committee”.  It’s a great way to contribute, to build your skills and to meet some of the best people in our industry.  Interested? Contact one of our committee chairs to learn more.

Thank you for your involvement in BAYWORK!

BAYWORK’s First Virtual Training Buffet 2020 Draws Largest Attendance Ever

  –  by Kory Loucks-Powell, BAYWORK

More than 200 participants, instructors, and BAYWORK staff attended our first virtual BAYWORK Training Buffet over three days in November – far more participation than BAYWORK has ever had at our in-person events.

Since 2015 BAYWORK has offered our “All You Can Learn” BAYWORK Training Buffet – a smorgasbord of water and wastewater trainings, many of which qualify for California Water Environmental Association (CWEA) and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) contact hour certificates.

The 12 sessions offered a wide variety of classes including an

  • “Overview of Anaerobic Digestion,” by Monte Hamamoto of Silicon Valley Clean Water;
  • “Why Should Operators Care about Capital Planning,” by Lydia Rossiter of Valley Water;
  • “Water Treatment Operator T-3 and T-4 Exam Prep Class,” by Dan Gill from East Bay Municipal Utility District;
  • “HR During the Time of Covid-19 Panel,” with panelists Michelle Gallardo from Dublin San Ramon Services District, Linda Charfauros from the City of San Jose, and Teji O’Malley with Central San; and
  • “Electrical Safety” with Dennis Parle from Valley Water.
  • Racial Equity in Our Industry”, a panel discussion led by Robert Scott of Valley Water, and BAYWORK Vice-President

As with all BAYWORK events, all sessions were free.

As always, the instructors were all volunteers from Bay Area water and wastewater agencies who offered their time, energy, and enthusiasm to share their skills and knowledge with others. Whereas, in previous years the one-day conference was held at the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Oakland headquarters, this year it was all online. As with anything new, there were many advantages to the online platform and many lessons learned.

Thanks to participants for your helpful feedback. Heidi Benenson of East Bay Municipal Utility District liked the workshop on “Working Styles: How to be a More Effective Leader,” given by Karoline Terrazas of Union Sanitary District, who “was personable, vested, and shared meaningful information that we can apply with our teams.”

Kallie Kull with Marin County was moved, as many who attended were, by the panel session on “Racial Equity in Our Industry”, with panelists Derry Moten from EBMUD, Masood Ordikhani of SFPUC, Linda Nguyen with Valley Water, Sonja Stanchina of Contra Costa Water District, Ryan Pedrotti with Sonoma Water, and Stephanie Orosco with San Jose Water. Kull said, “Thank you for this simulating panel – I took away several ideas that will help me see and understand embedded inequities in both my work-place and life.” Mary Reynolds with Central San observed, “the topic and discussion was outstanding.  It’s not comfortable to sit and speak about racial inclusion but it is a discussion that MUST be had in order to heal and move forward.” The panel was the first event in an ongoing BAYWORK effort addressing racial equity and inclusion.  If you are interested in working on this project contact Robert Scott at rscott@valleywater.org.

A timely and informative class on the “The Digitalization of the Workplace,” presented by BAYWORK President Catherine Curtis with the SPUC, drew insightful comments. Desmond Barca, also with the SFPUC, said that he liked the presentation, adding that he is interested in more workshops on this topic, including “workshops for developing free tools for doing a better job of managing change, and identifying when, where, why, who, and how to train.”

BAYWORK will continue to present classes that matter to water and wastewater agency staff, including the Training Buffet, webinars, and a workshop in the spring continuing the discussion on the digital worker. This event’s presentations will soon be available on our Past Events page.

JVS/BAYWORK Trainees Shine

– by Michael Kushner, BAYWORK Manager

BAYWORK and our partners at JVS had ambitious plans for internships and pre-apprenticeship last spring before the pandemic hit.  When agencies quit allowing non-employees into their facilities, that all changed.  However, there was one bright spot. In late summer, the City of Roseville opted to take an instrument tech intern that we had recruited from the Los Medanos College ETEC program.  Although we only placed a single intern, her success demonstrated the potential for this program

Amber Keener made the most of her internship opportunity at Roseville, and the Roseville team went all-in to help her learn.  The results exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Amber not only got great real life experience but Roseville got a productive team member.  It had been a number of years since the City’s Environmental Utilities had taken an intern in the skilled trades. They felt they didn’t have the bandwidth to devote time to an intern unless they got real productivity in return. After Amber, they are eager for another intern next summer.  Listen to a video in which Amber shares her appreciation for BAYWORK and JVS.

BAYWORK and JVS have also partnered on two cohorts of our pre-apprenticeship program, designed to prepare participants to pass entrance exams for civil service jobs and apprenticeship programs, and to interview successfully.  One of our current pre-apprentices, Karlo Tolentino, was recently offered a maintenance worker position at the City of Redwood City.  Others have applied for OIT positions at various agencies and have made it to the interview stage. 

Once the pandemic recedes, we are hoping that many agencies will join in both the internship and pre-apprentice programs to give on-the-job experience to those trying to secure maintenance and operations jobs in our industry. BAYWORK and JVS are actively working to build a stronger candidate pool for our industry; one that contributes to agencies’ goals for equity and diversity.

A New (Virtual) Reality – Online Career Events

–  by Steven Currie, EBMUD & BAYWORK CDO Co-Chair

Despite COVID-induced social distancing, BAYWORK agencies have continued to engage diverse candidates thanks to a plethora of innovative virtual/online event formats.  Recent virtual career events that have involved BAYWORK agencies include:

  • 10/06/20 Women in Water Webinar (w/CWEA)
  • 10/08/20 Vets in Water Webinar (w/CWEA)
  • 11/14/20 National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE- Region VI) Career Fair
  • 11/19/20 Virtual Career Fair: Hire Together–Regional Virtual Career Fair
  • 11/19/20 Los Medanos College w/JVS: Career Panel & Mock Interviews
  • 12/04/20 Laney CTE Expo Event

Admittedly, this new (virtual) reality has proven to be a bit of a learning curve for employers as well as for the candidates who attend.  Yet the benefits of virtual over in-person events have become clearer over the past several months.  Virtual events allow employers to avoid some of the inescapable limitations of an in-person event such as travel time, coordinating and transporting physical materials, and limited staffing availability.  For these reasons, virtual events are likely to continue as the preferred format, well beyond the current COVID-induced social distancing requirements, which fast-tracked us to this new normal.

If your agency is interested in helping to coordinate or participate in a future virtual BAYWORK event, please contact Michael Kushner at sfbaywork2011@gmail.com.

All Aboard the BAYWORK Virtual Workshop on Wheels 2020

–  by Kory Loucks-Powell, BAYWORK

BAYWORK’s popular Workshop on Wheels in-person event pivoted to a virtual experience for the first time, in response to the pandemic. On October 15, 2020, BAYWORK had 46 attendees and presenters “ride” the virtual bus, “stopping” at four Bay Area locations: Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District (FSSD,) the City of Roseville, the City of Hayward, and Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW.)

Everyone got into the “traveling” spirit of the event, which made this Workshop on Wheels fun and engaging. The first stop was at FSSD, where Jordan Damerel, Chief Engineer and Ben Carver, Operations Supervisor, showed their High-Speed Turbo Blowers, complete with a video of how the blowers are cleaned. FSSD has participated in BAYWORK events for years and is now officially a BAYWORK signatory member.

Then it was everyone back on the virtual “bus” traveling at light speed to the City of Roseville where Marisa Tricas, Utility Government Relations Administrator, Environmental Utilities, gave a presentation on their recently won $32 million innovation grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The City of Roseville is one of our newest members as well, and we are pleased to have them join the BAYWORK community.

At the next stop, Bert Weiss, Operations and Maintenance Manager with the City of Hayward, gave a combination video tour and presentation of their unusual and unique Hesperian Pump Station. Attendees got to “walk” around the plant with Bert from the comfort of home or office. Although the City of Hayward has been a long-term BAYWORK signatory member, this is the first time we have visited the water side of their operations.

The last stop was at SVCW, where Aniruddah Bhagwat, Senior Engineer and Arvind Akela, Engineering Director, spoke about their innovative Tesla battery installation, including their lessons learned. SVCW also recently became a BAYWORK signatory member.

While we hope to hold Workshop on Wheels events in-person in the future, the BAYWORK Staff Preparedness Committee agreed that there are real advantages to visiting sites “virtually” and, going forward, they plan offer at least one virtual WOW every year.

To view the event, go to baywork.org.

“I enjoyed all the presentations – it was great… I think it worked out really well, considering it was a video and these are not normal times.”

  • Michael Dela Rosa, CS Mechanic 2 with Union Sanitary District

“One word – Awesome!”

  • Jonathan Gong, Assistant Engineer, Valley Water

The Digital Worker Initiative

by Catherine Curtis, SFPUC & BAYWORK President

This year BAYWORK is engaged in an initiative to develop a whitepaper and workshop on The Digital Worker. Water and wastewater utilities have been using digital tools for decades, including work order systems, knowledge management systems, automated billing systems, asset management systems and systems control and data acquisition systems. With recent developments in Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual and augmented reality platforms, and data storage and transmission technologies options for digital usage and the changing technological landscape have direct implications for how work is done and training delivered in the water/wastewater industry. BAYWORK has been researching how these technologies can impact the strategies outlined in our BAYWORK Roadmap goals of Candidate Development, Staff Preparedness, Optimized Use of Staffing Available, and Cost Effectiveness through Collaboration.

Work began in 2019 with a survey of our signatory agencies and presentations of  a workshop on Workforce Implications of Digital Water at the WEF/AWWA Transformative Issues Symposium on Workforce. BAYWORK also conducted three focus group meetings with a small, medium and large sized utilities in January 2020 to deepen our understanding of their survey answers. In February, BAYWORK held an all-day workshop at the Utility Management Conference. This workshop outlined eight areas where BAYWORK could provide support and guidance:

  1. Selection of tools (e.g., considering the knowledge and skills required for effective use of the tool, and contacting other utilities to investigate workforce aspects of implementation)
  2. Corporate Culture, Leadership, and Change Management
  3. Coordination with existing workflows, systems, nomenclature, and naming conventions
  4. HR support for addressing issues such as new classifications needed, new skills needed for existing jobs, and recruitment of individuals with needed skills
  5. IT Support for system implementation and maintenance
  6. Initial and ongoing staff training
  7. Implications for candidate development (e.g., curriculum of community colleges and union training programs)
  8. Artificial intelligence

Shelter-in-place orders, which were put in place soon after the UMC Conference, put an unexpected spotlight on the significance of distance work and digital skills. Whereas digital skills have been described as required for the workforce of the future, the pandemic illustrated that they are needed by workers today.

Completing the Initiative

Cheryl Davis of CKD Consulting is leading the development of the whitepaper and has put together a BAYWORK White Paper Advisory Committee that includes national industry experts on use of digital tools, as well as representatives of BAYWORK agencies. In our kickoff meeting the Advisory Committee, recommended adding cybersecurity to the list of issues with workforce implications. Some of the Advisory Committee members may also be invited to participate in the BAYWORK Digital Worker Workshop. The US EPA recently held a webinar of digital tools in water. We are pleased that BAYWORK has laid a strong foundation for work on this emerging issue for our industry.

Stay tuned for more information about the Digital Worker Whitepaper and Workshop scheduled for May 27, 2020. We hope you will join us in this endeavor.

BAYWORK Webinar: Vancouver, WA Reduces Risk with Major SCADA Upgrade

by Kory Loucks-Powell, BAYWORK

Nothing brings us all together like aging infrastructures and out-of-date technology.

On October 21, 47 water and wastewater professionals attended a BAYWORK webinar focusing on the recent SCADA upgrade in the City of Vancouver, Washington.  The population of the metropolitan area and surrounding towns is about 400,000, similar in size to San Mateo County.

Frank Dick, Wastewater Engineering Supervisor, with the City’s Wastewater Division described their process of selecting and implementing new technology. The city worked in partnership with Jacobs Engineering, formerly CH2M.

Vancouver saw this upgrade as necessary in order to reduce risk associated with outdated and obsolete components and systems. The upgrade improved system reliability and security; providing new functions to improve process control and help reduce the need for manual labor. They also were able to updated and improve system documentation.

Participants in the webinar commented

 “The SCADA system is similar to what we use at the water plant –   something we can improve on with capital projects software upgrades…Great presentation.”

  • Sukhpreet Mann (DSRSD)

 “I am going to use your upgrades as an example of the way things should be and the code on DHS critical infrastructure is also a help.”

  • Ben Chen (Valley Water)

To view the presentation and related materials go to baywork.org.


  • January 2021               Webinar – The Adoption of New Digital Tools at Central San
  • March 2021                   Operator Certification Prep Classes
  • May 27, 2021                 Workshop on the Digital Worker

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