At the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, we celebrate our water workers every day. And what better month than Women’s History Month to highlight our gratitude for our female water workers who bring clean, safe water straight to our home every single day?
Did you know that women represent just one in five workers in our industry? That number is small but mighty and continues to grow. This month, we’re highlighting three all-star female water workers who are passionate about what they do.
Let’s dive into water industry work through the experiences of Heather Dyer, Leighanne Kirk and Lyndy Lewis. They encourage other women to tap into the exciting opportunities of the water world – whether it’s through environmental science, engineering and project development, operations and field work or administrative assistance, the water industry is flowing with opportunities.
CEO/General Manager at San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMD)
As CEO/General Manager for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMD), Heather Dyer’s role involves developing strategies to ensure Southern California can count on a reliable and resilient water supply for the next 50+ years. She focuses on long-term planning efforts, especially in the age of climate change.
A Seattle, Wash.-native, her passion for the water industry began when she traveled from Seattle to Alaska to work with a salmon cannery. That’s where her hunger to protect natural habitats, species and environmental factors for wildlife was born. Flash forward to 2010, when Dyer teamed up with the water industry through her work as a fisheries biologist and regulator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“The first thing that gave me a foot in the door with the water industry was that I cared about the resources and the people and became directly involved in helping solve complex environmental problems related to water supply projects,” Dyer said.
That particular environmental problem was the protection of the Santa Ana Sucker, one of only a few fish native to Southern California. The number of Santa Ana Suckers has been threatened by outside factors and habitat loss. Dyer explained that there are impacts from water supply projects to the natural resources of a watershed but that those impacts can be adequately offset through habitat conservation activities. She moved to Southern California to fulfill the Endangered Species Act for this region’s projects. Through this work, she formed a special partnership between U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Southern California water districts to provide strategic tactics for the protection and conservation of the Santa Ana Sucker.
“I have worked with regional agencies including SAWPA through collaboration on the Santa Ana Sucker conservation team – the team was already looking for ways to protect that species, and the water agencies were looking for a viable path to receive federal and state permits to remove surface flow from the river system,” Dyer said.
Dyer is currently the only female General Manager of a water district within the district partners of SAWPA. She regards this as an honor and also knows that her background being rooted in environmental protection and conservation of endangered species makes her unique in the water world.
“The most striking difference between myself and other water agency general managers was that I was an endangered species biologist and a former regulator. It was an amazing step that our board was open to the idea of someone like me with a background in environmental science and conservation to lead this agency and its long-term planning efforts,” Dyer said.
Dyer expressed true gratitude to all her colleagues throughout the watershed for their outpouring of support as she took on the title of GM in December 2019. She also offers advice to those who are considering a water career.
“My first recommendation is to find your passion. The water industry is a very broad field that is full of diverse opportunities that people otherwise would not know about,” Dyer said. “So, you’ve got to get out there, get to know people and find your niche. Step into the future with intention and locate a job that you would do for free. Then figure out how to get paid for it.”
Principal Water Resources Specialist at Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD)
As a Principal Water Resources Specialist, Leighanne Kirk assists the Water Resources and Facilities Planning departments with special projects. Her projects include the largest grant-funded project that EMWD has ever been awarded – a $45 million grant (with a total program cost of $90 million) called the Perris North Basin Groundwater Contamination Prevention and Remediation Program. She also works on the Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program, which is a multi-agency and multi-benefit partnership aimed at providing regional groundwater storage.
“Both of these projects provide great value to EMWD’s water supply portfolio and long-term water supply reliability for the Inland Empire.” Kirk said. “I am proud to be part of such groundbreaking initiatives to bring local and reliable groundwater supplies to the region.”
Along her water journey, Kirk has crossed paths with many female water workers across all levels who have inspired her. Kirk also offers advice to young people seeking a career in the water industry:
“There are always job opportunities opening up in the water industry and sometimes you may have to take on a different role to get your foot in the door,” Kirk said. “Don’t pass on opportunities that you are afraid of but that you feel is the right move for you and your career. Accept these challenges and follow your instincts – you won’t regret it.”
EMWD offers several workforce development opportunities including a college internship and two apprenticeship programs for electrical and mechanical maintenance. EMWD also partners with other agencies including the Western Riverside Council of Governments and CivicSparks which feature fellowship programs. In addition, EMWD’s partnership with Riverside County Workforce Development, California Family Life Center, and ResCare Workforce Services allows them to offer the Youth Ecology Corps Program for young adults with a high school diploma who are interested in water industry job opportunities. Visit http://www.emwd.org/joinemwd to learn more.
Principal Engineer and Regulatory Compliance at Western Municipal Water District (WMWD)
Lyndy Lewis began her water industry career 16 years ago. She explained that the water industry found her, not the other way around. Today, Lewis works at Western Municipal Water District (Western) as a Principal Engineer with a focus on regulatory compliance.
“When I graduated from college, I met a gentleman who worked at the water and power department of my hometown.” said Lewis, “I applied for a position there, not fully aware of the possibilities ahead but it was the door that opened up my whole career.”
Lewis’ current position is in water compliance. Water compliance teams act like watch dogs and ensure that Western’s projects and operations fully comply with state and federal standards so that customers receive safe, reliable, high-quality water 24 hours per day, seven days per week and 365 days per year.
“My team and I work to secure permits and oversee the air quality, drinking water quality, wastewater quality and hazardous waste elements of operations and make sure that everything complies with the ever-changing federal and state standards,” Lewis said. “In fact, California has some of the highest standards for drinking water in the world, so I take great pride in helping Western ensure we are always meeting or exceeding these standards for our customers.”
Along the way, Lewis has met several women who inspired her, including Jayne Joy. She is a mentor to Lewis and currently is an executive officer at Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board. Both women hold a background in chemical engineering.
“Jane was so knowledgeable and eager to help. Her confidence inspired me to speak up, ask questions and make my voice heard. Jane is a very genuine person who wants to see everyone shine and succeed. Her influence has greatly inspired my career path and guided my efforts along the way,” said Lewis.
Lewis believes that the confidence she has learned from mentors encouraged her to stay involved and follow her passion. She also explained that the water industry is a tight-knit, community-oriented industry that provides an essential service and helps protect public health.
“I love what I do and part of that is being an example to my daughters. I dream that one day they grow up to be passionate about what they do,” Lewis said. “I believe that passion helps to build confidence in the next generation of leaders.”
In the spirit of the month of love, we are applauding the people who make it possible for water to flow directly into our homes with a simple turn of the tap. What a luxury water is – whether it’s brewing your morning coffee, taking a relaxing bath or doing your laundry, it’s always there exactly when you need it thanks to the water workers who keep our water infrastructure running smoothly behind the scenes.
We sat down (virtually) with two water professionals to learn about their expertise and passion for bringing safe, clean and reliable water to California homes and businesses.
Meet Ryan Shaw, Director of Water Resources at Western Municipal Water District (Western) and Joshua Aguilar, Senior Engineer at Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA). Both coincidentally began their water industry journeys 15 years ago. Today, they focus on strategic planning and water resources.
Shaw’s key role is to find, acquire and secure water supplies for nearly 1 million people, both retail and wholesale customers who live, work and play within 527 square miles in western Riverside County.
“Water resources planning is just one piece to the puzzle,” Shaw said. “Once we finalize plans to secure a water source, we partner with our Engineering team to work on the design and construction aspects. Once the new project is commissioned, our Operations team takes over and maintains the site and ensures everything operates smoothly. This departmental collaboration across Western ensures our customers have clean drinking water delivered straight to their tap, on-demand.”
Shaw, Aguilar and other water workers in their departments are continually researching and locating new potential sources for water in the Southern California region. Both Shaw and Aguilar share a common goal – to ensure long-term and stable access to high-quality water for the customers in the communities they serve. Given that we live in a dry region where drought is a reality, their teams and agencies must be innovative, creative and efficient in how they locate and access water all while protecting the natural environment.
“The water we have today is the water we have had since the beginning of time,” Aguilar said. “Strategic planning is essential for long-term adaptability and water reliability. Water supply management and planning is a collaborative and continuous effort that is vital to enhancing long-term water resources.”
One example of a long-term water supply opportunity and challenge that water workers like Shaw and Aguilar tackle is creating the infrastructure that retrieves water from groundwater aquifers. Below the surface, there are local water sources flowing beneath us. In between the layers of soil, gravel and earth lies a groundwater aquifer where thousands of gallons of local water supplies flow naturally. Through infrastructure projects such as Western’s reestablishment of North Well, operation teams are able to source, treat and test local water to be used for their Murrieta service area customers.
Both Shaw and Aguilar have worked throughout the pandemic, as they are essential workers providing an essential service – water. Many things have changed about their jobs since COVID-19 hit.
“Since COVID-19, the state has mandated to all water agencies that they are not to turn off any customer’s water due to an inability to pay. Western has remained at 100 percent service capacity and we are proud that we have been able to supply water to all – especially during this challenging time,” Shaw said.
Added Aguilar: “IEUA and the region has done a commendable job ensuring water continues to be available to all. During these trying times, we have seen the heightened value of our preparedness, as well as our successful teamwork both in the office and the field to maintain a high level of service. COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of safe and reliable water that we strive daily to provide.”
Despite the current circumstances of the pandemic, both Shaw and Aguilar look to the future of water in southern California with excitement and hope.
“We are looking forward to how agencies and the industry can continue joining forces to evaluate and plan for the future of our water supply reliability,” Aguilar said. “The work we do is possible through true collaboration. Water challenges can be a complex puzzle with many moving pieces, but good things happen when we come together with combined efforts.”
We thank Ryan Shaw, Joshua Aguilar and the countless other water workers who provide clean, safe water to our region each and every day. We toast to their love and commitment to water and public service. Thank you, water workers!
Let your 2021 New Year’s resolutions quench your thirst for balance. 2020 may be over, but the world has not returned to “normal.” Heightened stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the shorter days of winter can take a toll. One simple act of self-care that you can incorporate into your New Year’s routine with a turn of a faucet is to drink more water!
Upping your water intake can positively impact your mind and overall wellness. Often New Year’s resolutions center around taking a new approach to add balance and harmony to our lives. Something as simple as drinking more water throughout the day can help boost your mood and keep you healthy and motivated. Check out how filling up more regularly at the tap will help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions:
Tap into water to wake up: Your body needs hydration after a long night’s rest. According to USA Today, one should start their morning off right with a refreshing ice-cold glass of tap water to begin hydrating immediately. Not only does this add a new layer of self-care to your routine, but ice water in the morning helps kickstart your metabolism for the day. A healthy metabolism can lead to weight loss and increased energy levels.
Tap into water to focus: When you are dehydrated to any degree, the ability to focus can be extremely difficult. This can lead to frustration and a sour mood. If you feel your brain start to get foggy, take a deep breath and enjoy a glass of refreshing water, straight from the tap. More H2O will give your body the hydration it needs to focus on learning new things, starting new projects and enjoying your hobbies.
Tap into water to smile: Serotonin is known as the “happy” chemical in your brain. If your body does not have enough H2O, the chemical processes in your brain are not able to function well. This can cause a decrease in the production of serotonin. Drinking water is the fundamental antidote to balancing our mood. Think of it as hydrating for happiness! Maintained and sustained serotonin levels can spark creativity and joy as you embrace a new year.
Tap into water to decrease stress: When we are stressed, it’s very common to forget to drink water. Yet that’s actually the most important time to stay hydrated. Cooling down from stress can start by drinking a glass of water. Pair a glass of H2O from the tap with daily meditation and you’ll be ready to increase the Zen in your life.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” What if we applied that same perspective to all of the vital resources that make their way to us for use every day? Before running water rushes through our pipes and into our homes, much of our tap water has taken a significant journey. This month, we want to show our appreciation and value for the expedition our Southern California water must take to show up flowing freely at our faucets.
Coastal Southern California is certainly not known for its white winters or frosty temperatures. We live in a dry region that is mainly developed on rock, meaning water isn’t as easily sourced as it is in other regions of the country. Our local water districts must truly get creative and go the extra mile to bring us the safe, clean and dependable H2O we rely on.
Much of your trusted tap water’s journey begins in the mountains where it starts as a snowflake in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains.
As temperatures rise and seasons change, the snow begins to melt and that water begins its voyage down the mountains to your tap!
The snowmelt travels hundreds of miles to flow into rivers, reservoirs and groundwater recharge basins, which capture that precious snowmelt. Rivers, lakes, creeks and ponds also collect and deliver water naturally. Facilities such as reservoirs and groundwater recharge basins are two different types of infrastructure investments your water district operates to assist in the capturing and management of the snowmelt.
A reservoir is an artificial lake where this snowmelt and water is stored. A groundwater recharge basin is a location where snowmelt, rainfall and runoff water is collected and stored in a groundwater aquifer below.
From there, Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain water is pumped into California’s State Water Project, which transports the water to farms and cities throughout Central and Southern California. The water is cleaned, treated and tested by scientists and engineers to ensure that your water meets or exceeds federal standards.
Snowmelt, rainfall and imported recharge water provides water to 23 million people living in cities stretching from the Bay Area to Southern California. It’s fascinating to realize that the tap water in your glass and the water that washes our cars and irrigates our crops may have begun as snow. We are thankful for each drop because it is as precious as the snowflakes that created it.
The importance of gratitude is as essential as, well … water! November marks a time of year when we traditionally pause to give thanks and reflect on what we cherish most. 2020 is redefining the word ‘essential’ and has sparked a months-long nationwide pause. Thankfully, the safe and reliable water we all depend on did not take a day off.
It is easy to forget the madness of March when the nation went into a toilet paper shortage. How useless would all that hoarded toilet paper have been if we did not have water to flush our commodes?
What about when bottled water was flying off the shelves faster than essential workers could restock it? Unlike the water bottled in single-use plastic, your trusted tap water was never out of stock.
And now you’re washing your hands continuously, right? The water straight from your tap has helped protect you from germs more than ever before.
We know that you have had so much more than water on your mind this year. But thankfully, tap water never had to be added to your list of concerns. Tap into your gratitude for H2O below and check out five reasons why we are thankful for water.
Thank you, H2O!
- Our water is such a multitasker: Personal hygiene, watering crops, marine activities, the beverages we enjoy, fighting fires, sanitizing surfaces, and the list goes on. Water is part of everything. In one way or another we are always using water – or products that were created using it. Our water does it all.
- Our water feeds us: Farmers rely on and value water to produce the foods we eat every day. For example, 19 gallons of water are required to grow just one apple. Water is the key to the growth of the crops we eat to survive and stay healthy.
- Our water is affordable: Tap water is incredibly inexpensive compared to single-use bottled water. Not to mention that most bottled water is sourced from public water supplies – meaning you’re paying a huge premium for the same tap water that comes straight from your sink for much less. Don’t buy it and trust in tap!
- Our water is clean: Water quality and safety are top priorities. We continually monitor and test the water you depend on. Our practices ensure that our water meets and exceeds some of the most rigorous standards in the nation.
- Our water works overtime: Think about it – our tap water never takes a day off. The water we need and love is always available to quench our thirst, grow our food and keep us clean. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
The water that flows from our faucets is clean, fresh and safe. From sourcing to treatment, our tap water is held to the highest standards – but unfortunately, some people still believe the misconception that bottled water is safer than tap water.
This Halloween season, don’t listen to scare tactics about tap water! We’re taking this opportunity to “creep it real” and debunk a few myths you may have heard about bottled versus tap water.
The tap water that flows through our pipes – originating in our Santa Ana Watershed – is liquid gold. It’s continually monitored and tested, meeting and exceeding some of the most rigorous standards in the nation. Let’s set the record straight on our water quality and safety. Once you have discovered the high quality water that flows straight from your tap, you’ll want to fill up your own reusable bottle at home and hit the trails for fall adventures.
The truth is that bottled water is a big money-maker for those who sell it. Bottled-water companies need to convince customers to pay big bucks for a product that’s actually inferior to tap water. What’s more, bottled water is not held to the same high standards as our tap water. Now that’s scary!
Myth: “Bottled water is cleaner than tap water.” Wrong. Side-by-side comparisons of FDA standards for bottled water show that our tap water meets and exceeds those standards. In fact, most bottled water is sourced from public water supplies – meaning you’re paying a huge premium for regular tap water. Don’t buy it.
Myth: “Bottled water tastes better.” Yes, water from different areas can taste a little different depending on the natural, safe minerals and other variations in the water. But tests show that your tap water is of the highest quality – and since most bottled water originates as tap water, there’s no reason to assume it’s superior. For a fun family activity, challenge your family to a blind taste test. You may be surprised that you prefer the water straight from your tap. Try chilling it in the fridge, adding ice or a slice of lemon or lime. Add a sprig of rosemary, a slightly mashed strawberry or a melon slice for zest.
Myth: “Bottled water is more convenient.” OK, we understand that it can be tempting to grab a plastic bottle of water when you’re in a rush. But what could be more convenient or economical than filling up a reusable bottle at any nearby sink or drinking fountain? Many public and private facilities have installed stations where you can easily fill up your bottle. Once you know the truth about tap water, you’ll realize that this is not only a safe option, it’s a convenient option. It’s also better for the environment – reducing the waste from single-use plastic bottles.
Myth: “Bottled water is a good value for my money.” Nope. There is no better value for your money than tap water. When you purchase water – whether in gallon jugs or slim serving-sized bottles – you’re paying for the cost of the packaging, transporting, and marketing of the product. That’s why a typical 16-ounce bottle of water can cost $1.25 at a convenience store. From the tap, that same amount of water costs pennies. The smarter choice for your wallet is to choose tap, every time.
As businesses in California begin to open again after several weeks of closure, there are many tasks that need to be accomplished in order to open to the public safely. One such crucial task is flushing all of the building’s water systems to ensure optimal safe water quality. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website states, “The temporary shutdown or reduced operation of a building and reductions in normal water use can create hazards for returning occupants. Two potential microbial hazards that should be considered prior to reopening after a period of building inactivity are mold and Legionella (the cause of Legionnaires disease).”
The longer water sits in the pipes of buildings not in daily use, the more likely it is that these microbial hazards as well as lead, copper and chemicals will build up in the water supply. This doesn’t just apply to drinking water: water splashes from sinks, showers, water features and flushing toilets can release these organisms into the air, which can be very harmful if inhaled. It only takes a few days for these organisms and chemicals to reach unsafe levels in pipes, filters and water softeners. This means that after several weeks of disuse, it is absolutely essential to flush your building’s water systems with fresh water before reopening your business.
The first step is to identify all sources of potable water in your building. This includes, but is not limited to: all hot and cold water taps, toilets, showers, bathtub fixtures, ice makers and water dispensers in refrigerators and freezers, decorative water features, and drinking fountains. Once you have identified all potable water sources, you can begin flushing the water system.
Start by turning on all water taps with drains and let them run for 10-15 minutes. Also, check the drains to make sure they are clear and working properly. This may need to be done in sections by floor or room, depending on the size of the building. The goal is to clear any stagnant water in the building and replace it with fresh water.
While the taps are running, flush all toilets in order to empty the bowls and tanks and refill them with fresh water.
For your refrigerators and freezers:
Dispose of any old ice, and clean the machine. Dispose of any new ice for three to five cycles. Turn on any water dispenser taps to flush the system and refill to the water line in the refrigerator.
Clean all decorative water features, making sure there is no slime or film on the surfaces. Flush the system with fresh water, refill and add appropriate disinfectant.
If the hot water in the building has any sort of unusual odor, or if the manufacturer suggests draining the system after disuse, it is recommended that you drain and refill your water heater, making sure the temperature is set to at least 140°F.
Keep in mind that you may wish to equip anyone carrying out these procedures with PPE, such as face masks to reduce the risk of inhalation of airborne bacteria from water splashes. Following these steps is essential to ensuring the health of your staff and customers as we move forward towards returning to business as usual.
Further resources and information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html.
A massive part of our great state’s economy revolves around the agricultural industry. The state of California produces nearly half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. California’s agriculture is responsible for billions of dollars in revenue each year; over 400 commodity crops are grown here, the top three being dairy, grapes, and almonds. With over 40 million acres (over a quarter of the state) dedicated to pastures, vineyards and crop fields, the impact of waste produced by California’s agricultural industry is no small concern.
Such a massive scale of agricultural production creates a large amount of waste. Agricultural runoff is a type of nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, or pollution that comes from multiple sources. In relation to agriculture, sources of NPS pollution include sediment, fertilizer and pesticides, as well as bacteria, nutrients and waste fromAccording to the website for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “States report that nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems.” Irrigation and rainfall carries agricultural runoff away from its source, eventually ending up in rivers, lakes, coastal waters and wetlands – not to mention potentially contaminating our underground sources of drinking water. Because the pollution happens slowly over a long period of time, the water quality gradually declines, and in some case resulting in negative impacts to fish and wildlife habitat as well as eventual contamination of groundwater.”
Given the importance of both California’s agricultural industry, it is essential to find ways to limit the damage caused by agricultural runoff. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Center for Disease Control, increased regulations in an effort to improve water quality and control damage caused by agricultural runoff. Water quality control boards in each region are responsible for finding ways to regulate and enforce proper monitoring and management of any issues that affect water quality.
Locally the Western Riverside County Agriculture Council has implemented measures that support positive environmental stewardship relating to agricultural runoff in our region and protect our drinking water resources. Over the past 16 years, dairy and agricultural operators in the San Jacinto River Watershed have banded together to voluntarily reduce the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for nutrients released into our watersheds. The Total Maximum Daily Load is the term used to quantify the total amount of pollutants that can be safely released into waterways while meeting water quality standards.
In order to qualify for new farming permits the Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) requires compliance from agricultural called a Conditional Waiver for Agricultural Discharges. These regulations are intended to improve water quality within the watershed, however some have expressed concern that the permitting fees can be excessive, the requirements are complicated and question whether the regulations are in fact benefiting the watershed. Regional collaborations such as Lake Elsinore and Canyon Lake TMDL Task Force or the Middle Santa Ana River TMDL Task Force, consisting of multiple agencies and organizations responsible for the TMDL compliance, have been formed by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority to play an important role in finding effective solutions to protect drinking water resources. In partnership with the Regional Board, the task forces help ensure that the concerns from agriculture producers are shared and mutually beneficial ways to protect our vital water resources are explored.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the United States, Americans are concerned for their health. Following self-distancing orders and taking precautions when leaving the house has becoming the “new-normal.” While staying at home and minimizing contact with others can limit potential exposure, are there dangers in our own home that can spread Coronavirus, such as our drinking water?
No, in fact the water that is delivered to your home is safe for drinking, bathing and washing. Your municipal water district is responsible for providing a reliable and safe water supply to your home every day. It must undergo rigorous treatment and requires mandated sampling and testing. The treatment, or disinfection, of the water delivered to homes and businesses rapidly facilitates the die-off of the COVID-19 virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Water agencies in Southern California continue to monitor for public health recommendations concerning coronavirus and tap water safety. The virus does not provide a threat to treated water supplies. Filtration and disinfection, such as chlorine and advance treatments ensure that viruses are killed during the treatment process. Your tap water meets or exceeds the water quality standards and should not be a concern relating to COVID-19.
Originally built in 1923 as a single-lane bridge connecting Riverside with West Riverside, over the Santa Ana River, is a historic Riverside gem. It was known as the Rubidoux Bridge, the Santa Ana River Bridge and the Mission Bridge, constructed with Mission style towers at each end and featuring the Raincross symbol across its length. The Raincross symbol was created by combining the image of the mass bell used by Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California Missions, and the cross design, which the native tribes of the area prayed to for rain. This symbol has been heavily used in architecture in Riverside since the early 1900’s.
The choice of a symbol identified with rain as a design feature of this bridge may have been darkly prophetic, as in March of 1938, a vast swath of Southern California was utterly devastated by flooding. Beginning at the end of February and building in intensity into the beginning of March, rainfall inundated Southern California, as two different weather systems passed through the area.
The Santa Ana River swelled and flooded its banks, filling with debris. The debris built up against a bridge north of Riverside until the bridge gave way, sending a surge of water crashing down the length of the Santa Ana River. Bridges all along the length of the Santa Ana River were completely destroyed by the flooding, including the Santa Ana River/ Rubidoux/ Mission Bridge. Riverside was hit particularly hard by this devastation, with many people forced to leave the area. Others were completely cut off and isolated, trapped in their homes, as the flood waters moved so quickly that there was simply not enough time to get a warning out to everyone. Both light and power were cut off for several hours, phone and telegraph poles were knocked down, and parts of Orange County were completely underwater.
The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers also burst their banks, further contributing to mass flooding across the entire LA basin. All in total, over 5,000 homes and business were destroyed, and over 100 lives were lost in the 1938 flood.
In the aftermath, a number of dams were built in order to prevent another such catastrophe from occurring. The Los Angeles River was channelized, built up with concrete to allow faster flow of floodwaters to the sea and prevent the river flooding its banks again. The Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District was formed a few years later in 1945, to ensure public safety against any future flooding scenarios. Rainfall is essential in order to replenish our local groundwater supplies, but infrastructure is critical to ensure that water is diverted to areas where it can be captured as well as to maintain public safety.
The remaining parts of the Mission Bridge were removed in 1958, when a new bridge was constructed across the Santa Ana River. Southern California learned from the tragedy, rebuilt and moved on. The towers of the Rubidoux/Mission Bridge were relocated and now can be seen at the Carlson Dog Park in Riverside.
For more historic photos of the Santa Ana River Bridge: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt0m3nc1wf/