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News & Insights

Water Systems Consulting is one of the highest-scoring businesses, with standout employee engagement

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Water Systems Consulting (WSC) has been named one of Inc. magazine’s Best Workplaces for 2019, our fourth annual ranking in the fast-growing private company sector.

WSC is the only company based in California’s Central Coast to receive this recognition, and joins other California based companies Asana, Pantheon Systems, and Plaid in this ranking. Browse the full list here.

Hitting newsstands May 28 in the June 2019 issue, and as part of a prominent Inc.com feature, the list is the result of a wide-ranging and comprehensive measurement of private American companies that have created exceptional workplaces through vibrant cultures, deep employee engagement, and stellar benefits. Collecting data on nearly 2,000 submissions, Inc. singled out 346 finalists.

Each nominated company took part in an employee survey, conducted by Omaha’s Quantum Workplace, on topics including trust, management effectiveness, perks, and confidence in the future. Inc. gathered, analyzed, and audited the data. Then the effort ranked all the employers using a composite score of survey results, aggregated into an engagement score. The engagement score for WSC was among the best in the country, and grew even higher in the ranking from last year.

WSC-staff

“WSC has made consistent investments to grow our talent, diversity, innovativion and service,” said CEO Jeff Szytel. “We’ve done this while enhancing company culture, and building upon its foundation to extend our legacy of engagement and leadership.”

The strongest engagement scores came from companies that prioritize the most human elements of work. These companies are leading the way in employee recognition, performance management, and diversity. It’s a different playbook from a decade ago, engagement has evolved from workplace perks to consistent investments in staff wellbeing, professional development, and other important elements that build meaningful workplace relationships.

While researching the finalists, Inc. and Quantum saw distinct themes:

  • 99 percent provide health insurance—and some cover the cost.
  • 49 percent allow employees to bring pets to work.
  • 65 percent take employees to offsite retreats to relax and recharge.
  • 16 percent offer paid sabbaticals to reward length of service.

“With today’s tight labor market, building a great corporate culture is more important than ever,” says Inc. magazine editor-in-chief James Ledbetter. “The companies on Inc.’s Best Workplaces list are setting an example that the whole country can learn from.”


By Jeffrey Szytel, CEO

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We’re 10 years old—and with that milestone, Water Systems Consulting (WSC) is poised for rapid growth within the water infrastructure industry. The stresses on water security are real and they are becoming more and more acute for the west coast communities we serve. Population growth, drought and climate change continue to impact our water security, the health of our watersheds, and our quality of life. As we look at the next 10 years, solving these complex problems will require us to continually innovate, ask “what if?” and creatively expand our team to deliver the value our clients have come to expect.

For that reason, I’m excited to announce six new hires who embody the passion, creativity and relationship-based leadership WSC brings to every community and client we serve. The breadth of their expertise is nothing short of exciting. You’ll be hearing more from them—and the work we’re doing—in the months to come.

  • Francisco Loureiro (San Luis Obispo, CA)—Originator who has built transformative technologies that create value, empower people and unlock new collaboration possibilities.
  • Rob Morrow (San Luis Obispo, CA)—Pacesetter and industry leader known throughout California for advancing integrated water resource solutions.
  • Sarah Walker (San Diego, CA)—Collaborator, creative powerhouse and visual designer who creates communications with meaningful impact.
  • Tiffany Meyer (Portland, OR)—Connector, prolific writer and master storyteller, with an authentic voice and gift to connect people to action.
  • Amy Martin (Irvine, CA)—Innovator and passionate water resources planner with diverse skills and a clear vision for the future of water in California.
  • Joe Kingsbury (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)—Integrator and experienced hydrogeologist with experience in all aspects of groundwater analysis, production and management.

 


WSC and its south San Luis Obispo County regional partners recently celebrated a major milestone toward reliable water supply. More than 100 people attended a ribbon cutting celebration and grand opening of the Central Coast Blue Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Facility. The demonstration facility is a key step for the Five Cities Community partners, including the cities of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande, and the Oceano Community Services District and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, toward the implementation of Central Coast Blue, an Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) project that will create new source of water by utilizing advanced treatment to take water that would have been discharged into the ocean and put it to beneficial use through groundwater injection.

Central Coast Blue Ribbon Cutting

“The ribbon cutting of the Central Coast Blue demonstration facility was a significant event for our community. It represents what is possible when the right technology, innovation, and agency partnerships come together to enhance our water supplies,” said Benjamin Fine, Director of Public Works/City Engineer. “As our Program Manager and Design lead, WSC, has had an integral role in successfully leading this regional and public-private partnership and the development of a drought-resistant and sustainable, quality water supply for our community.”

The demonstration facility includes information about the treatment process, including educational videos, and visitors can even taste the purified water during the tour. As public officials shared at the ribbon cutting, the water “tastes great.” Once the full-scale Central Coast Blue facility is in operation, purified water will be injected into the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin, improving existing water supplies by 30 percent and reducing ocean discharge by 70 percent.

The demonstration facility, located at the City of Pismo Beach’s Wastewater Treatment Facility, will be in operation for one year to provide important results that will optimize future facility operations, including reducing energy and chemical use and costs.

WSC’s Program Manager, Dan Heimel, and President, Jeff Szytel, began providing leadership to Central Coast Blue during the study and planning stages and continued through program definition, stakeholder engagement, funding/financing assistance, facilitation of the public-private partnerships, groundwater basin model development, preliminary design, and implementation of the demonstration facility. We will continue to lead the project through design, construction, and start-up. WSC’s Strategic Planning and Communications team, led by Holly Tichenor, has facilitated the outreach, communications, and branding of Central Coast Blue.

The demonstration facility utilizes the latest in recycled water technology and is made possible through public-private partnerships, including lead supporter IDE Technologies. More than five technology firms have come together with WSC, Carollo Engineers, the Five Cities communities, and IDE to develop the demonstration facility to analyze new technology, optimize the design of the full-scale facility, and educate the public about Central Coast Blue.


WSC showed up to the California Annual WateReuse Conference in style with 11 staff who gave informative talks, led technical tours, hosted workshops, and shared the industry-leading work that WSC is a part of. This is the second consecutive year that WSC has been proud to contribute to the conference as a Platinum Conference Sponsor, the highest sponsorship available. As part of the sponsorship, WSC hosted the Welcome Reception on Sunday night that featured the Pure Water Brew Showdown – a networking event and friendly competition that showcased local craft brewers and the beer they brewed with water from the Pure Water Monterey pilot facility.

WateReuse

WSC gave five presentations at the conference, including two panel speakers at the WSC-hosted One Water Implementation Workshop. Laine Carlson, from WSC’s Rancho Cucamonga office, presented “Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Adaptable & Beneficial One Water Management.” Jeffery Szytel and Lianne Westberg from the San Luis Obispo office and David Hix from the City of San Luis Obispo presented “Striking a Balance to Create a Public Asset.” Jasmine Diaz and Emily Iskin from the San Luis Obispo office presented “Optimized for Today. Adaptable for Tomorrow.”

Jeff led the dynamic One Water Implementation Panel Discussion Tuesday afternoon that included seven panel speakers from Central Coast organizations and a structured question and answer session. Holly Tichenor from WSC’s Portland office spoke on “Strategic Communications” and the importance of outreach to the success of One Water implementation, and Lianne spoke on “One Water, One Energy” and how to break the cycle of increased energy use with increased levels of treatment.

WSC’s team played an integral role in planning the entire conference as part of the Central Coast Chapter of WateReuse. With the conference held on the Central Coast Chapter’s home turf, the Chapter and WSC stepped up to make sure the conference was a success. Eight WSC staff were involved in six conference planning committees, including the Technical Program Development Committee, Facilities Tour Committee, Awards Committee, Student Engagement Committee, Opening Session Committee, and the General Planning Committee. The conference was well attended, well received, and a lot of fun. The team is already looking forward to next year!


WSC helped our clients secure nearly $11 million in grant funding in the first three months of 2018 through several State programs.  In March 2018, the City of Camarillo was awarded a $10 million construction grant though the Department of Water Resources Desalination Grant Program for its North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter Project.  This is a huge win for the City and the local community.

The Project will pump and treat brackish groundwater using reverse osmosis treatment technology.  By treating the impaired groundwater, not only will City residents benefit from improved water supplies, but over time, the local farming community will benefit from improved groundwater quality in the basin. The North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter Project will be a vital community asset to help secure future water resources for Camarillo.  The Project will transform the City’s water supply sources, transitioning their portfolio from majority imported water to majority local water sources.

Multiple agencies serving the Big Bear Valley community also received significant grant funding though the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program.  WSC prepared a grant application on behalf of the newly created Bear Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), which received a $177,000 grant to prepare the Bear Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan.  As a representative of a disadvantaged community, grant funding is critical to enable the GSA to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and expand upon the sustainable basin management practices that the local agencies have been implementing for many years.  DWR granted the request for a waiver of the local funding match requirement so the grant will cover 100 percent of the project cost.

We want to celebrate the success of the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power, which prepared an application and also received a $782,298 grant from DWR to fund 100 percent of the Basin Resiliency Sawmill Well Pumping Plant Project.  This project will help support efforts to optimize management of hydrologic subunits within the groundwater basin to maintain healthy water levels even during dry periods, contributing to the resiliency of the Bear Valley Groundwater Basin.