New law creates path to water industry jobs for military veterans

New law creates path to water industry jobs for military veterans

Assembly Bill 1588 has been signed into law, making it possible for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

State legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates, businesses and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park on Wednesday to celebrate the signing of AB 1588 by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (San Diego), Adam Gray (Merced) and Tasha Boerner Horvath (Oceanside).

The bill was co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and Otay Water District as the water and wastewater industries face a wave of retirements statewide. Known as the “silver tsunami,” more than 30 percent of the San Diego region’s 4,500 water and wastewater professionals are expected to reach retirement age by 2024.

“What we are missing, and what this bill addresses, is a pathway in which we honor the experience of our veterans and allow that experience to qualify them for a career path in our civilian water systems,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Thanks to Governor Newsom, that pathway now exists. California will now properly credit the service of our veterans and enable them to secure good-paying jobs here in our water system. In this time – when the importance of clean water and good paying jobs is undeniable – let’s create bridges not barriers.”

AB 1588 provides a pathway for veterans – who worked in water and wastewater while in the military – to apply their advanced skills and experience toward state and industry certifications in the civilian water and wastewater treatment and distribution operator fields.

Helix Water District’s board has supported AB 1588 since its introduction. “This bill is a win for both veterans and the water industry,” said U.S. Army veteran and Helix’s Board Vice President Mark Gracyk. “It provides veterans with a clear career path as they transition to civilian life, and it provides water agencies with an expanded hiring pool of experienced and dedicated individuals.”

When the power goes out, your water service does not.

When the power goes out, your water service does not.

As semi-rural portions of California are experiencing planned power outages, some California residents have experienced interrupted water service.

We know that having water service during a power outage is important.  For this reason, Helix has taken extra steps and planned for this sort of emergency so that we can continue to reliably provide you with water. Our pump stations, treatment plant and other facilities are all equipped with back-up generators. The district maintains a warehouse of extra parts, supplies and fuel to allow for continued operations, no matter the disruption.

To learn more, or see how you can be prepared visit:

Above: One of Helix’s mobile generators for smaller pump stations

Reserve your Spots: Helix Water Talks on October 26

Reserve your Spots: Helix Water Talks on October 26

We have openings for Helix Water Talks on Saturday, October 26. Come take a behind the scenes look at our water distribution system and how we deliver water to over 275,000 people in El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley. Learn about pipe, valves, meters and more.

Join the tour!


8:30-9:00 a.m.

Coffee and refreshments

9:00-9:20 a.m.


9:30-11:00 a.m.
Walking tour, presentations and demonstrations on:

  • Repairing water mains
  • Installing water service lines and water meters
  • Helix’s water meter maintenance and replacement program
  • How customers can detect low-flow leaks
  • How we maintain multiple generations of infrastructure
  • The role of design and construction standards
  • Emergency preparedness
  • And more…

11:00-11:30 a.m.
Questions and answers

We encourage you to reserve your spots on the tour (up to four) as soon as you can, because our past Water Talks filled up fast. We look forward to meeting you.


Reserve your spots today!

DIY Energy Saving and Sustainability Toolkits now available for La Mesa residents

DIY Energy Saving and Sustainability Toolkits now available for La Mesa residents

The City of La Mesa, in conjunction with Helix Water District and SDG&E, is making it easy for its residents to save energy, conserve water and reduce waste by providing DIY Energy Saving and Sustainability Toolkits which are available for free checkout at La Mesa City Hall and Helix Water District.

 What’s in the toolkit

The DIY toolkit includes step-by-step instructions and all of the tools and free resources that you need for a do-it-yourself home energy, water and sustainability assessment. You’ll install the free resources at your home and return the tools when you’re done. The toolkit includes:

Free Resources (you keep and install)

LED light bulb

Weather stripping

Outlet gaskets

Detect-A-Leak toilet tablets

Low-flow showerhead

Low-flow faucet aerators

 Tools (return with the kit)

Kill-A-Watt meter

Infrared laser thermometer

Refrigerator thermometer

Water flow rate bag

Water pressure gauge


Plumbers tape

 and more!

 How to check out a toolkit

The DIY toolkits are available to City of La Mesa residents and can be checked out for up to two weeks. Make your online reservation and choose your pick-up location – either La Mesa City Hall or Helix Water District’s administration office at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa. When you’re done with kit, simply return it to the pick-up location.

 The toolkits are a partnership between the City of La Mesa, Helix Water District and SDG&E to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the City of La Mesa meet their climate action plan goals. Help make your community cleaner and greener by making your reservation today!

You can learn more about the program and watch the City of La Mesa’s video here.

Helix helps restore water system in Paradise

Helix helps restore water system in Paradise

Photo: The crew from Helix and Padre Dam with Paradise Irrigation District employees. The banner is signed by Helix and Padre Dam board members and employees.

Helix Water District sent four operations employees to Paradise, the northern California town leveled by the Camp Fire in November 2018, to help restore the community’s water distribution system.

They left Helix’s operations center at 3:30 a.m. on August 18, with two employees from neighboring Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and worked Monday through Friday in Paradise.

“If you closed your eyes, all you heard were friendly people. Everyone in town was very positive,” said Helix Utility Crew Supervisor Dan Baker. “But, when you looked around, there were trucks and workers everywhere — rebuilding.”

At the end of July, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) reported that they had removed 75 percent of the structural debris from the Camp Fire in Paradise and Butte County, including 1.6 million tons of ash and debris, over 518,000 tons of concrete, 37,000 tons of metal and over 446,000 tons of contaminated soil.

On August 6, Paradise residents gathered to hear the progress reports from all of the local and state agencies involved in rebuilding the community. The California Office of Emergency Services is developing a plan to remove the hazardous trees still standing, the town is opening a resource center to streamline the permitting process for residents rebuilding their homes, and the school district is making sure the new school year begins on schedule.

Top: Fire damage in Paradise, California. Below: Helix employees John Wilson, Eric Hughes, Dan Baker and Bryan Watte, and Padre Dam workers Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley.

But a safe water supply is still an issue. The water distribution system was contaminated during the fire with Benzene, a known carcinogen. Fire officials believe that the system depressurized during the fire and sucked in a toxic mix of gases from burning homes. This also happened in Santa Rosa during the Tubbs Fire in 2017.

Paradise Irrigation District General Manager Kevin Phillips reported to residents on August 6 that the district lifted water advisories on 133 standing homes and is testing and restoring water quality at 30-50 standing homes each week.

When Helix offered mutual aid assistance through the Office of Emergency Services, Phillips said they had cleared the gases from their water mains, but could use help testing and restoring water quality in customer service lines — the small pipe that connects a home to the water main. Helix sent Baker and Bryan Watte from its meters and valves section and John Wilson and Eric Hughes from its construction section to provide that help.

From 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the four went from one water meter to the next, collecting a water sample at each standing home and installing a highline to deliver safe water to the home until the sample was tested and the customer service line approved for use. They also assisted with the installation of backflow prevention assemblies to prevent contamination from the ongoing construction throughout the community. Phillips reported to residents on August 6 that PID had installed 275 backflow prevention assemblies to date, and had 400 more to install.

Monday evening, after their first day in Paradise, Baker emailed Helix Operations Director Kevin Miller that, “There’s a lot of work up here but the town is healing. I think I speak for all four of us when I say I’m proud to be a part of this.”

In fact, Baker was speaking for everyone at Helix. Field Supervisor Paul LaFalce said, “We lost four valuable people here at Helix for a week, but everyone was so supportive of what was happening in Paradise that they covered for them and made up the difference. It was good to see.”

The four took with them to Paradise a “California Strong. Paradise Strong.” banner signed by board members and district employees at both Helix and Padre Dam. Helix engineer Jeff McMaster emailed, “Sending a crew to help, the banner, this definitely reinforces the pride in working here.”

Helix Water District provides water treatment for much of San Diego’s east county suburbs and water distribution for the 276,000 people in the cities of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon, the Spring Valley community and unincorporated areas of the county.

Helix launches smart leak detector rebate program

Helix launches smart leak detector rebate program

Customers of Helix Water District are now eligible for a $100 rebate when they purchase a qualifying smart leak detector device.

Smart leak detectors allow you to monitor your home’s water use in real time, 24/7. They sync to your smartphone and alert you if there is high consumption or a leak at your property. This can help you manage your daily water use and protect your home from expensive leaks. There are two types of smart leak detectors: plumbed devices and external devices. Learn more about plumbed versus external devices and the rebate program here.


It’s easy to apply!

  1. Purchase a qualifying device on or after August 1, 2019.
  2. Complete the application.
  3. Submit your application and a copy of your sales receipt to


Qualifying devices

A qualifying device requires all of the following characteristics:

  1. Automatically records water use at a minimum of five minute intervals;
  2. Automatically alerts or notifies users of unusual water usage including spikes in usage and continual flows; and
  3. Provides customers with a platform to view their water consumption data.

Some devices require tapping into your existing plumbing and may require a licensed plumber for installation, while others simply attach to your water meter.

Examples of models that meet the qualifying device characteristics include:

Plumbed Devices

External Devices


DISCLAIMER: Helix Water District does not endorse individual vendors, products or services. Therefore, any reference herein to any vendor or product by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise does not constitute or imply the endorsement or recommendation of Helix Water District.

Rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are not guaranteed.


Helix crew heading to Paradise

Helix crew heading to Paradise

Photo / From left to right: Helix employees John Wilson, Eric Hughes, Dan Baker and Bryan Watte, and Padre Dam workers Jesse Knowles and Austin Darley.

Next week, four operations employees from Helix Water District and two from Padre Dam Municipal Water District will help restore water quality and the water distribution system in Paradise, the northern California town leveled by wildfire in November 2018.

Paradise Irrigation District requested mutual aid through California’s Office of Emergency Services and Helix will be the ninth agency to reach out and help. The six-man crew will leave Helix’s operations center in El Cajon at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 18, assist the Paradise Irrigation District Monday through Friday, and return on Saturday, August 24.

Read Karen Pearlman’s Story in the San Diego Union Tribune


Explore our water resources on July 25

Explore our water resources on July 25

Join us on this Thursday evening in July for a presentation on Helix’s water supply. We’ll discuss where our water comes from, the history of the large infrastructure projects we still depend on today, the challenges we’re facing now with a changing climate and growing population, and the portfolio approach to water resources management that many consider our best path to sustainability. Enjoy coffee and cookies before and during the presentation and a discussion after.


6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
7811 University Avenue in La Mesa
Helix Administration Office


6:30 p.m.      Hello!
6:40 p.m.      Welcome and introductions
6:50 p.m.      Presentation
7:35 p.m.      Discussion
8:00 p.m.      Good night!


Winners of the 2019 Lake Jennings Spring Photo Contest

Winners of the 2019 Lake Jennings Spring Photo Contest

Helix Water District announced the winners of its 2019 Lake Jennings Spring Photo Contest.

Now in its eighth year, the contest drew 60 entries from throughout the county. This year’s theme was Life at the Lake, and each of the entries highlighted the unique beauty of camping, fishing, hiking, spotting wildlife and enjoying the view at Lake Jennings. The contest was open to photos taken between March 1 and May 31, 2019, at the local reservoir which is located in Lakeside. The following photographers took top honors:

Adult Category:
1st Place – Randy Siegel, Sunrise Over Lake Jennings
2nd Place – Kurt Scherbaum, Great Horned Owl
3rd Place – Frances Schnall, Patience
Honorable Mention – Fred Kropveld, Jennings Scenic 3
Honorable Mention – Wes Van Fleet, Awe and Creation

Youth Category:
1st Place – Ryan Cobain, Rainbow
2nd Place – Cricht Ruediger, Lake Jennings View Scape
3rd Place – Aure Ruediger, Lake Jennings Ducks and Anglers
Honorable Mention – Luke Macy, Silver Linings
Honorable Mention – Jaden Cobain, Rocks

The district will honor the winning photographers at an awards ceremony during its Committee of the Board meeting on Wednesday, June 26 at 3 p.m. at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa. The winning photos are also available on Lake Jennings’ Facebook page at

The Winning Images

Sunrise Over Lake Jennings

Randy Siegel
1st Place / Adult

Great Horned Owl

Kurt Scherbaum
2nd Place / Adult


Frances Schnall
3rd Place / Adult

Jennings Scenic 3

Fred Kropveld
Honorable Mention / Adult

Awe and Creation

Wes Van Fleet
Honorable Mention / Adult


Ryan Cobain
1st Place / Youth

Lake Jennings View Scape

Cricht Ruediger
2nd Place / Youth

Lake Jennings Ducks and Anglers

Aure Ruediger
3rd Place / Youth

Silver Linings

Luke Macy
Honorable Mention / Youth


Jaden Cobain
Honorable Mention / Youth