A fresh approach to outreach and education in 2018 included a new value of water program called “Brought to You by Water” – a reminder of the significance of water supply reliability for the region. At the same time, a regional report showcased the significance of water reliability to San Diego County’s growing economy and quality of life, and the Water Authority rolled out a new online platform for enhancing engagement in water issues: The Water News Network. With assistance from regional partners, the Water Authority made significant advances in helping underserved communities access water-saving technology and participate in grant-funded projects. In addition, the Water Authority teamed with its member agencies to develop educational resources that convey the importance of potable reuse and the technologies that make it work.
The Water Authority partnered with leaders from key economic sectors – tourism, manufacturing, brewing and agriculture – to launch a regional outreach and education program called “Brought to You by Water” in June aboard the USS Midway. The year-long initiative was designed to communicate how San Diego’s thriving $220 billion economy and unbeatable quality of life are made possible by safe and reliable water supplies provided by the Water Authority and its 24 retail member agencies. As part of the program, the Water Authority produced eight videos with key industry partners to share the importance of water supply reliability, and staff participated in numerous events around the region to discuss water issues with residents. A giant beach ball – 10 feet in diameter and branded with the Brought to You by Water logo – quickly became an icon of the campaign. Hundreds of stakeholders signed the ball and wrote short notes on it about their favorite things Brought to You by Water.
A San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation report published in June underscored the economic significance of regional investments in water supply reliability for the region. The report focused on more than $2.4 billion invested by the Water Authority in five major infrastructure projects over the past two decades. Those projects generated $4.8 billion in total economic impact, supporting an average of 1,475 jobs annually over two decades and creating more than $1.8 billion in local wages and salaries. In addition, the report showed that more than 2,800 people work in the water and wastewater sectors at the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. According to the EDC, access to safe and reliable water supplies supports $482 million in total regional sales of goods and services daily – equivalent to the economic impact of nearly three Comic-Cons a day.
Adapting to the changing media landscape, the Water Authority established an online hub of news and information about water issues – the Water News Network – in May. The agency created the WNN website as a core element of Brought to You by Water outreach program for communicating complex issues to civic leaders, elected officials, the business stakeholders and ratepayers. Each week, the Water Authority and its member agencies generate several original stories, photos and videos for the site and share them on social media. In addition, the Water Authority curates water-related stories by local, state and national news media and trade media outlets every business day. Staff also distributes daily email summaries of top stories to stakeholders across the region to promote understanding of water issues.
Five recipients of the inaugural Water Legacy Awards were honored during a May ceremony in the Water Authority’s Board room designed to engage alumni of the Citizens Water Academy and thank them for their contributions to informed regional discussion on water issues through leadership, advocacy and communication. The five honorees were Sophie Barnhorst (Young Leader), Gabriela Dow (Social Influencer), Jack Monger (Outstanding Advocacy), Rory Johnston (H2O Champion) and Don Billings (H2O Champion). In addition to the legacy awards, state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins issued a certificate of recognition to each of the honorees.
New educational resources, including a microsite and animated videos, produced by the Water Authority in October underscored the regional commitment to increasing awareness and acceptance of potable reuse as the next major source of water supply. The Water Authority teamed with its member agencies to develop the educational resources, which convey the importance of potable reuse and the technologies that make it work in an easy-to-understand way. The outreach tools complemented the Water Authority’s long-running efforts to support local advances in water purification technology and promote the adoption of science-based regulations for potable reuse statewide. By 2035, the Water Authority expects about 17 percent of the region’s drinking water will be produced through potable reuse.
A $5.5 million planning grant awarded by the Department of Water Resources to the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Program in August promoted the involvement of disadvantaged communities in IRWM. The grant supports eight disadvantaged community projects in the San Diego region and one in southern Riverside County, along with an assessment of the needs of disadvantaged communities in the region. This grant supplements ongoing efforts by the San Diego Regional Water Management Group, comprising the Water Authority, the City of San Diego, and the County of San Diego. The regional management group has routinely encouraged engagement by disadvantaged communities in IRWM opportunities. Since 2008, DWR has awarded eight grants to the San Diego region totaling $96.4 million and supporting 67 projects throughout the region.
Water Authority Honors Top Student Scientists for Water Projects
Each year, the Water Authority provides scholarships to honor outstanding water-related entries at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair. Prizes are awarded to winners in both junior and senior divisions. This year, awards were presented to the students at the Water Authority Board meeting in April, at which the honorees shared their work with Board members.