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.”