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News & Insights

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.


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.

WSC is continually growing to meet our clients’ needs and enhance our staff collaboration.

In December, WSC opened its Temecula Valley office in Wildomar which creates more workspace and will grow collaboration between WSC employees in Southern California. The convenient location near Interstate 15 expands our ability provide the high-quality, responsive service that our clients in the region expect from us. WSC now has eight offices to serve clients in California and the Pacific Northwest.

WSC’s Matthew Rodrigues, PE, and Paul D’Santi are the first two WSC employees to make the Temecula Valley office home. The new location will enable them to become more involved in industry and local associations in the lower portion of the Inland Empire.

Temecula Valley Office

32395 Clinton Keith Road, Suite A206
Wildomar, CA 92595
Phone: (951) 678-0006
Fax: (909) 354-3482

WSC is excited to welcome Mr. Justin Pickard, PE, LEED AP BD+C, to the WSC family. Justin has more than 15 years of construction and project management experience in the public and private sectors. He joins WSC after spending the past six years at West Basin Municipal Water District (West Basin) where he most recently was the Supervising Engineer in charge of managing the implementation of a $50+ million a year Capital Improvement Program. Justin is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, a registered Professional Engineer – Civil, and is a certified LEED Advanced Professional Building Design + Construction.

Understanding the culture of public utilities, including their needs and expectations, is something WSC strives for and Justin’s perspective strengthens our ability to do so. His experience in the public sector showed him that many consultants are often challenged to deliver on their promise of personalized client service. WSC’s reputation for meeting that promise stood out, Justin said.

In addition to the natural alignment between the technical expertise and client-focused philosophy that Justin and WSC share, he was drawn to the unique workplace culture.

“The emphasis WSC places on employee growth and development stood out to me,” Justin said. “Jeff has a really unique vision and WSC’s leadership is very different than what I see in this industry.”

Justin Pickard

Justin is working out of our San Luis Obispo headquarters where his experience and leadership will complement WSC’s construction management and program management practices. With a background spanning a wide range of services, including implementing essential One Water projects, he will quickly integrate with our team and bring significant value to our clients and WSC.

His project experience includes the construction of three advanced treatment facilities which included Reverse Osmosis and Microfiltration processes, program management for a complicated 40 MGD pump station that sends wastewater to a recycled water facility, and resident engineering services for an ocean water desalination demonstration facility.

On a personal note, Justin and his wife Karen, a nurse practitioner at Kaiser Permanente, have a 2 ½-year old son named Otto. They are looking forward to the bountiful outdoor activities the California’s Central Coast has to offer, as well as the reduced commute to work. A brief stint providing construction services in San Luis Obispo in 2005 planted the seed for his return.

Justin Pickard