Women in Water

California’s water and wastewater utilities are hiring now. They’ll hire thousands of highly-skilled professionals for water jobs this year. We are looking to diversify the California water workforce and hire more women.  Read the profiles below of inspiring California water professionals and dive into the water profession. We can show you how.

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  • NEWS

      In 2020, Whittier College graduate Claudia A. Alvarez attended one of the WRD and West Basin career webinars and became interested in our sector. Claudia recently graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a  Master’s in Geographic Information Science. Now a proud member of the CWEA, she answered some questions for us: How did you...

    • NEWS

        As the exodus of water workers continues due to retirements, agencies are discovering a painful truth – the pipeline of incoming talent is running dry. Adding to recruitment struggles, most Californians don’t know water careers exist. For two water districts in southern Los Angeles County, the growing number of job openings and lack of public...

      • NEWS

          Her family and friends might have worried she was going a little crazy. Still, at 50, Lori Jones decided to leave her career as an elementary and middle school teacher and try something completely different. After seeing an advertisement for a Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College, she set her course for a new...

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            A biology class at Sonoma State University (SSU) piqued the City of Santa Rosa’s Principal Laboratory Analyst, Kathy Herman’s interest in the sciences. Her first position after graduating with a biology degree was as a Laboratory Technician for Brelje and Race Laboratories, Inc. in Sonoma County. “At Brelje and Race Laboratories, I was introduced to...

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              Following an extensive recruitment process, the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) Board of Directors (Board) has selected Assistant General Manager Rachel Murphy to become the new General Manager (GM) following the retirement of Steve Welch. Murphy has over 26 years of experience and will become the first woman to lead CCWD in the GM role....

            • NEWS

                We are pleased to welcome these impressive women in water for an insightful conversation about their professional journeys. Join us as we hear how they navigate challenges and balance their professional and personal priorities, share their best advice, and answer audience questions. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4TH 11:00 to Noon FREE for everyone REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR...

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                  In the Bayview this past spring, as huge concrete biosolids digesters began to rise on the Southeast Treatment Plant (SEP) site, Senior Project Manager Carolyn Chiu took a moment to reflect on the progress. Chiu is the Senior Project Manager on the SFPUC’s Biosolids Digesters Facilities Project (BDFP), the SFPUC’s largest infrastructure project under the...

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                    For several years in a row, Jamie Johnson ran for chair of the San Francisco Bay Section’s (SFBS) Students and Young Professionals (SYP) committee with little success. It was a position she thought would be exciting and inspiring, but she never thought she would take on that role amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges...

                  • NEWS

                      Despite her 21 years of experience, a steady pace up the proverbial ladder, a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from UCLA, and a master of science in civil and environmental engineering from UC Berkeley, this emerging leader is not through learning and is back in school working to a obtain a master’s degree...

                    • NEWS

                        This article first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Treatment Plant Operator magazine, published by COLE Publishing Inc., www.tpomag.com. It is reprinted by permission. Solar Panels, Cogeneration, Hydroturbines, and Wind Generators Are All on the Net Zero Agenda in Santa Cruz To Bird, senior wastewater treatment operator and interim operations supervisor, that means obtaining all...

                      • NEWS

                          As the exodus of water workers continues due to retirements, agencies are discovering a painful truth – the pipeline of incoming talent is running dry. Adding to recruitment struggles, most Californians don’t know water careers exist. For two water districts in southern Los Angeles County, the growing number of job openings and lack of public...

                        • NEWS

                            There are hundreds of interesting stories of how wastewater professionals made their way into the industry, especially for women who have entered a field historically dominated by men. Plant Operator II, Tyrese Powell-Slotterbeck’s journey began with a family connection. “My father Gary is a Grade 5 wastewater operator, and it was his vision to get...

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                              Take a little bit of her family’s service business, combine it with a passion for public works, a bachelors degree from UCLA, an MBA from Golden State University, and an unending appetite for change and communication, and you’ll have Lisa Malek-Zadeh, general manager of West County Wastewater District in Richmond. “I don’t see myself as...

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                                If you had told Madeline Kelsch just six years ago that her future would include working as a civil engineer in Los Angeles on a project that would rejuvenate the recycled water infrastructure throughout the city, she wouldn’t have believed it. Although open to new experiences, at the time, Kelsch was taking environmental science classes...

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                                  A history-making Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners is diligently building a sustainable future for one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The City of Los Angeles set a milestone in 2020 with the appointment of its fifth female commissioner, making it the only all-female Board in the city and the first-ever for...

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                                    With no prior experience, Jennifer Rojas’ entry into the wastewater industry may have seemed a little unconventional. Today, after more than 10 years in her chosen field, she looks back on how adapting the managerial kills she already possessed and being surrounded by her knowledgeable team helped Rojas build a solid career. “I had just...

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                                      When Joone Kim-Lopez escaped South Korea under the threat of an invasion by North Korea, she was eight years old and didn’t speak English. Although she was happy to be in a country where women have more freedom and rights, she still felt isolated. With a great deal of effort, Kim-Lopez transformed that isolation into...

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                                        Patricia Macatugal is currently a second-year graduate student attending California State University, Long Beach to receive her Master’s in Water Resources Engineering. She received her Bachelor’s in Science for Civil Engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Patricia started her engineering journey in a high school environmental science class which ultimately got her thinking about...

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                                          CWEA member and registered civil engineer Lois Fong-Sakai was formally introduced as a representative of the San Diego County Water Authority to Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors Tuesday. Fong-Sakai, who joined the SDCWA board in April 2015 as a representative of the City of San Diego, succeeds Jerry Butkiewicz, who served on Metropolitan’s board...

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                                            According to the US census bureau in 2018 women made up only 5.8% of operators in the water and wastewater industry, and less than 25% of women are in utility work overall. Join our panel of dynamic women as they share their experiences with advocacy and mentorship, and the benefits that women bring to our...

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                                              CWEA selected Eshani Jha from Lynbrook High School as California’s first place winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, 2021. Jha’s project, Thiol Functionalized and Manganese Doped Biochar for the Removal of Toxic Organic and Inorganic Contaminants from the Water was selected as the first place project for California out of 21 papers submitted. Eshani,...

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                                                Join the Students and Young Professionals Committee Brownbag Luncheon on Mentoring with speaker Kerrie Greenfelder, Kansas City Municipal Water Division Department Manager for Burns & McDonnell and inaugural winner of the 2020 WEF Mentorship Award on June 9 at 12:00 p.m. Students can register for free. Members get a $130 discount before April 23. Cecilia...

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                                                  More women are joining the California water sector than ever before and moving-up to leadership roles. Major barriers and challenges still remain when it comes to recruiting and joining our profession. A diverse panel of women shared their experiences and insights on the barriers women face entering the water sector. The panel discussed key topics...

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                                                    CWEA’s Stockholm Junior Water Prize runner up from 2019 and 2020, Shreya Ramachandran, was recently featured in Discover Magazine, ABC7 News, Sierra Magazine and  a climate documentary for her research and outreach on grey water which premiered on PBS’s Peril and Promise.  The Grey Water Project is a non profit Shreya started which teaches people...

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                                                      waterTALENT Operator – Sabrina Sims Water Systems Manager – City of McCall, ID Director of Operations – Western Area Water Supply Laboratory Specialist/Manager – City of Williston, ND Emergency Response Operator – waterTALENT Water & Wastewater Superintendent – City of Alexander, ND Owner/Operator – WETWorks Public Works Director – City of Ranchester, WY Certifications: ID,...

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                                                         Calling all women (and women supporters) who want to feel empowered in the water, wastewater and power industries! Join us if you are interested in pursuing these amazing careers. This very special one hour webinar discussion features four woman who work on the frontlines of California water. We’re also celebrating these amazing water professionals...

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                                                          For Cheyanne Harris, it all started in middle school. Growing up in Sacramento, she attended the School of Engineering and Sciences – a specialized school that invited guest speakers from the math, science and engineering industries. What appealed to Cheyanne about engineering was the opportunity to make a positive impact on the community using math...

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                                                            Name: Dr. Kumudini Dharmawardana Title/Agency: Public Works Supervisor – Laboratory Certifications: CWEA Laboratory Analyst Grade IV Dr. Kumudini Dharmawardana always knew she wanted to pursue a scientific career that would make a positive impact in the world. After receiving her master’s degree in Analytical Chemistry and PhD in Biochemistry, Dharmawardana began working in medical research...

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                                                              Name: Lisa Boyko-Davidson Title/Agency: Laboratory Technician, City of Livermore Certifications: CWEA Laboratory Analyst Grade IV, CWEA Environmental Compliance Inspector Grade I Lisa Boyko-Davidson had an early start in the science field. “Growing up, my dad worked in an environmental laboratory and I remember helping him run biochemical oxygen demand tests when I was six years...

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                                                                Name: Farnoush Levers Title/Agency: Associate Civil Engineer, City of Livermore Certifications: Professional Engineer (PE), Construction General Permit Qualified Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) Practitioner/ Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSP/QSD) Only one in ten civil engineers are women, but that statistic did not deter Farnoush Levers from being drawn to the field. After completing her civil engineering...

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                                                                  Name: Brenda Gastelum Title: Water Utility Mechanic II Tenure: 2 years, 3 months Agency: Long Beach Water Department What is your role? My role as a Water Utility Mechanic ll is to clean, inspect and make repairs on sewer lines. Currently, I am a member of our sewer section Pipe Patch crew. This is a...

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                                                                    Name: Alondra Soto  Title: Water Utility Mechanic 2 Tenure and certifications held: 2 years and 2 months.  Distribution 2, CWEA 1 and scheduled to take my CWEA 2 on October 2!  Name of agency: Long Beach Water Department  What is your role? I work in the sewer division of the Long Beach water department. My...

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                                                                      Name: Anna Bell Title: Lab & Compliance Supervisor Certifications Held: Wastewater Operator Grade V and Laboratory Analyst Grade II Employer: Valley Sanitary District Tenure: With VSD since 2013, In Industry since 2007 What is your role? I am the Laboratory & Compliance Supervisor and a Wastewater Grade V Operator. When not directly overseeing the Laboratory...

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                                                                        Video Profile “The requirement to continue training is vital because it ensures we stay up to date with current trends in the field.” Tara McClinton Volunteer TCP Moderator Lab Technician II Napa Sanitation District Laboratory Analyst, Grade 4 Environmental Compliance Inspector, Grade 4 This month’s member Q&A is with Tara McClinton, a CWEA member since...

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                                                                          Anna Bell not only knows her laboratory, she understands the treatment process and how the lab data affect plant operations.  That’s because she’s not only a certified laboratory analyst, she’s also a grade V wastewater operator, and that enables her to know exactly what the analytical data mean out there where the wastewater meets the...

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                                                                            Oyuna Jenkins has been working all her professional life to serve the public.  That ethic goes back to her native Mongolia, where she earned a university degree in chemical engineering. In the U.S. she says she wanted to find a job that capitalized on her education, and she worked for a small analytical laboratory for nine years...

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                                                                              Flor Burrola is committed to environmental sustainability. As a civil engineering associate II with LA Sanitation & Environment (LASAN), she feels great about where she is and passionate about the projects she works on.    “I’m lucky to be working with the city’s Wastewater Engineering Services Division, planning and collaborating with multiple departments and agencies,” she says.   A recent example was a...

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                                                                                As environmental professionals work to address the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, is time dedicated to the California Water Environment Association (AAEES) well spent? The answer from an active volunteer, Wendy Wert, P.E., BCEE, is a resounding yes and a compelling story. Wendy is registered civil engineer with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts....

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                                                                                  Read the original profile from Comstock magazine. Cindy Messer was sworn in as chief deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources the day after the Oroville Dam crisis began in February 2017, when damage to both the main and emergency spillways forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 residents. Find more info on...

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                                                                                    Colleen Larsen, Geographical Information Services Coordinator Twenty-one years at Padre Dam Municipal Water District US Naval Reserves: Eleven years Colleen Larsen, a veteran of the US Naval Reserves, now serves the community as the Geographical Information Services (GIS) Coordinator at Padre Dam Municipal Water District. In her eleven years in the Naval Reserves, Colleen supported...

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                                                                                      Rhondi Emmanuel, Administrative Services Manager, Vallecitos Water District Tenure and certifications held: 7 years; IPMA-SCP Branch/years of service: USMC/9 years What is your role? As Administrative Services Manager, I’m responsible for multiple departments including human resources, public information/conservation, information technology, and risk management. What / who inspired you to work in water? To be honest, I never really thought about working in the water industry.  Since my...

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                                                                                        The California State Senate has voted to confirm Laurel Firestone as a member of the State Water Resources Control Board, following her appointment by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this year. “It is an honor to be appointed by Governor Newsom and confirmed by the Senate to serve the people of California in this capacity.” Firestone said....

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                                                                                          Nataly Dakak loves what she does, encourages other young women to get into water and other STEM fields, and sees potable reuse of wastewater as the practice of the future.  She’s an environmental engineering associate at the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, and has responsibility for enforcing the Industrial Waste Control Ordinance and the USEPA wastewater pretreatment standards..  Her passion with water systems developed during her undergraduate studies...

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                                                                                             Lucia Diaz used to hang around her dad’s construction firm, an experience she says taught her well about contractors, construction drawings, plans and specs, and big projects.  She’s put that background to good use as Facilities Program Supervisor for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. She’s been working for IEUA for 13 years, and now supervises a staff of seven.  She admits that...

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                                                                                              Amy Hwang wanted to be where the action was. Water. Wastewater. Water reuse.  So after receiving her engineering degree from the University of Texas, she came to California, and got her master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. After working a bit as consultant, she joined the engineering staff at Central Marin Sanitation Agency.  “I decided to...

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                                                                                                Support for our coverage of Women in Water is provided by DN Tanks. The Professional Development Committee and the Students and Young Professionals Committee of the San Francisco Bay Section of the CWEA held a Supporting Women in Wastewater Workshop and networking dinner on May 9, 2019. The event had almost 90 attendees and kicked...

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                                                                                                  Support for our coverage of Women in Water is provided by DN Tanks. At AC19 Palm Springs, CWEA held it’s Second Annual Women Impacting Water Breakfast. It was a morning of networking, inspiration, encouragement and career advice. Megan Yoo Schneider of Seven Management Consulting lead the audience and panelists on an interactive discussion on challenges,...

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                                                                                                    As she retires, CWEA executive director Elizabeth Allan points with pride to the many achievements of the organization during her 17 years serving as the leader of the association’s professional staff. But it’s the people and the professional relationships she’s built that she will miss most once she leaves this spring. “We have great volunteers,...

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                                                                                                      Angela Lowrey was named by the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) as the state’s Communicator of the Year for 2019, recognizing her dedication to clean water education and resource recovery outreach, her overall expertise in the communications field and for her award-winning creativity in her work. She was presented with the Communicator of...

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                                                                                                        Valerie Leone became interested in the water profession when she was working for a metal finisher. It was there she learned about wastewater regulations and decided she wanted to be a part of something that allowed her to benefit the environment, community and future generations. As the Industrial Source Reduction and Control Program (ISRCP) manager at...

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                                                                                                          Meet Cari Dale, Water Utilities Director, City of Oceanside, a recipient of the Kirt Brooks Memorial Water Environment Scholarship in 2004. Cari graduated from Cal State San Bernardino with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis on Water Resources in 2005. Her Master’s project focused on Achieving Effective Asset Management for Water and Wastewater...

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                                                                                                            Coverage of water workforce topics supported by waterTALENT Debi Lewis Past President 2017-2018 Professional Engineer Stantec Debi Lewis’ career began in business administration working for an ad agency. She started as a secretary in the Pasadena office of James M. Montgomery, which later became MWH and is now Stantec. Eventually she became an office manager...

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                                                                                                              Shannon Simmers has covered a lot of ground in the last seven and a half years…from earning a college degree, to volunteering and then working at the Riverside Water Quality Control Plant and now for Redlands Municipal Utilities, and chairing the CWEA’s P3S committee. That takes determination and persistence, and she has it. “When she...

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                                                                                                                In a profession dominated by men, Dorien McElroy stands out. She manages the sewer Collections System for the Irvine Ranch Water District. “One usually doesn’t associate collections system management with a woman,” says Judith Marquez, Environmental Analyst/Consultant of Innovare Environmental who nominated her. “But she is passionate about her job in a way that makes...

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                                                                                                                  Support for our coverage of Women in Water is provided by DN Tanks. We’re hiring! Water and wastewater utilities across California need talented, hard working professionals to help keep our water clean and healthy. This interview is with: Elizabeth Meyerhoff Environmental Specialist Coachella Valley Water District The interviewer is CWEA leader: Judith Marquez Innovare Environmental...

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                                                                                                                    In keeping with the October Wastewater Professional theme of “Women in Water,” the CWEA History Committee has produced a brief profile of a woman who was a pioneer in the history of CWEA’s governance. Background Historically, the wastewater collection and treatment field in California was dominated by men through most of the 20th century.  And,...

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                                                                                                                      Support for our coverage of Women in Water is provided by DN Tanks. The Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW) Commission unanimously selected Teresa Herrera as manager, succeeding Daniel T. Child, who retired from public service and has begun his own wastewater consultancy business. Herrera becomes the third manager in SVCW’s nearly 50-year history following Child...

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                                                                                                                        The Samueli School Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering held a water symposium to honor the exemplary career of longtime faculty member and CWEA member Betty Olson. Olson, who researches public health aspects of water and wastewater, joined UC Irvine in 1974. In her 44-year career, she also served as a professor of environmental health,...

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                                                                                                                          Director of Wastewater at EBMUD treatment plant, Eileen White, discusses her career in the industry. #womenimpactingwater

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                                                                                                                            Support for our coverage of Women in Water is provided by DN Tanks. Video produced by the Water Career Pathways program at West Valley College. #womenimpactingwater

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                                                                                                                              Water & Wastewater Digest’s Class of 2018 Young Professionals includes two Californians… Nataly Dakak Environmental Engineering Associate City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation Age: 25 Education: Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from the University of California, Riverside. Master of Science in civil engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. Professional accomplishments: Protecting the City...

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                                                                                                                                The lead sponsor for the Women Impacting Water breakfast is CDM Smith. CWEA held its first Women Impacting Water breakfast meeting at the Annual Conference in Sacramento this past April. The event was so popular it sold out. It was an inspiring morning of networking and discussion with California water leaders, engineers, operators and scientists....

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                                                                                                                                  Story provided by Society of Women Engineers A joint Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) research study recently released found that there is a lack of role models for women of color in engineering, gender and racial biases encountered in the workplace, and a level of disillusionment regarding the level of...

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                                                                                                                                    Support for our coverage of Women Impacting Water comes from Water Career Pathways

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                                                                                                                                      Support for our coverage of Women in Water is provided by DN Tanks. CWEA had the fortunate opportunity to conduct a round table discussion with four inspiring California water leaders. Debi Lewis, Kathy Suter, Tracy Stigers and Heather Collins shared personal experiences of being a woman working in water. Our conversation included the narrowing gender...

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                                                                                                                                        For Lisa Arroyo, wastewater systems manager for the City of Santa Barbara, the hardest part of being a women in the clean water profession is balancing family with a job. “I have two small children,” she explains. “Sometimes it is hard to turn off work and concentrate on being a mom. Changing your focus is...

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                                                                                                                                           Years ago, Amber Baylor read Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, packed up her car, and headed for California. She’s never looked back. “California represented the most complex water system in the world,” she says, “and I wanted to be part of it.” She got her wish and after 10 years managing a water quality laboratory, she...

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                                                                                                                                            Only one in seven engineers in the United States is a woman, according to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. And in wastewater, only one in 20 treatment plant operators across the country is a woman (The Institute for Women’s Policy Research). So, is the gender ration any more balanced in California? Yes...

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                                                                                                                                              Michelle Beason, regional manager for National Plant Services in Hayward, is responsible for her company’s sewer and storm water services throughout northern California, Oregon, and Washington. After a student internship with EPA in her home state of Michigan piqued her interest in environmental work, she earned a Civil Engineering degree from Purdue University, and worked...

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                                                                                                                                                Michelle Tarantino is one of only two women in the group of 20 operators at the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District in Martinez. Yet she sees no particular barriers keeping women from the field, as long as they are determined to succeed and willing to put in the time. “The sky is the limit for...

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                                                                                                                                                  After two years with the city, Milpitas Public Works Director and CWEA member Nina Hawk is leaving to become the chief operating officer of water utility enterprise at Santa Clara Valley Water District. “Nina is a rare talent, and I’m very sad to see her leave our city.  But I am also very excited to...

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                                                                                                                                                    (Alexandria, VA) – On Tuesday October 3, 2017, during WEFTEC in Chicago, IL, the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) awarded Shaily Mahendra, Ph.D., with the 2017 Paul L. Busch Award. With the $100,000 prize, Dr. Mahendra proposes to encapsulate enzymes in nanoparticle cages called vaults. Ultimately, if one or more enzymes involved in biodegradation...

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                                                                                                                                                      Press Release from siwi.org Contact: Ms. Rowena Barber Communications Manager, Outreach & Media Relations [email protected] In its citation, the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee recognized Professor McCaffrey’s “path-breaking leadership and legal scholarship in international water law. He has made a unique contribution in three specific areas: his seminal work on Treaty negotiation; his major scholarly works, including his...

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                                                                                                                                                          Christina Claxton does far more than analyze drinking water and wastewater samples in her position as a Laboratory Analyst with the City of San Luis Obispo’s Water Quality Laboratory.  She’s on a mission to improve communications, succession planning, and the opportunities for employees to grow professionally and personally.   “As a leader who is compassionate...