We heart our water workers❤️
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!