Choosing to work in public service comes with the reward of getting to help provide essential services and necessary infrastructure to constituents. But it also comes with some incredible challenges, tight budgets and the knowledge that mistakes made in the line of duty could lead to taxpayer dollars wasted or lives inconvenienced.
In order to recognize those that that work hard for their local governments on behalf of its citizens, the American Public Works Association (APWA) names 10 leaders in public service and public works as their “Leaders of the Year,” each year. To make it onto this list, public and private employees need to have dedicated their careers to the service of their government and its constituents, while making incredible contributions to furthering and bettering their communities.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with another APWA leader in public service, Josh Watkins. Josh leads the Water Division of the Public Works Department for the City of Redding, CA, where water restrictions make his job interesting and extremely important for the local residents.
During our discussion, we talked about Josh’s career in public service, his work for the Water Department and the role that digital design solutions play in helping to deliver water to the more than 90,000 people of Redding, CA.
Here is what Josh had to say:
GovDesignHub: Can you tell our readers a little bit about your role as the Water Utility Manager for the City of Redding? What is the Water Department responsible for, and what are your responsibilities within the organization?
Josh Watkins: I am the leader of the Water Division of the Public Works Department for the City of Redding, CA. The Water Utility employs 32 people with an annual budget of $20 million. Funding sources include revenues from residential, commercial, and industrial water use. As an Enterprise Utility, operations are financed and operated in a manner similar to private business enterprises, where the costs of providing goods or services to the general public on a continuing basis are recovered primarily through user charges.
Our division is responsible for providing water service to more than 90,000 people in the Redding area. The water system infrastructure includes two water treatment plants, 17 groundwater wells, 559 miles of conveyance and distribution pipelines, 10 pump stations, 7 pressure zones, and 12 reservoirs providing a total of 33.5 million gallons (MG) of storage.
In 2017, the City water system had an average of 29,300 connections and average daily demand was approximately 20 million gallons per day (mgd), with maximum-day demand (MDD) of 44 mgd.
GovDesignHub: That is a lot of water! So, how did you come to be the Water Utility Manager in Redding? What was your career and experience in public service and public works prior to taking this position?
Josh Watkins: I have worked for the City of Redding for 13 years. For the past two years, I have been Water Utility Manager.
I started as Project Manager and Resident Engineer on a wide array of capital construction projects – water treatment plant improvement projects, water/wastewater pipeline replacement, street pavement maintenance, storm drain repair, shop buildings, traffic signal construction, “Safe Route to School” sidewalk installation, and reservoir maintenance.
I supervised 4 public works inspectors and oversaw all private encroachment permits, grading permits, and land development projects, including subdivisions and large commercial developments. I managed the Pavement Management program – called StreetSaver – for the City and worked with the Pavement Committee to select streets and type of maintenance.
Previously, I worked for a private civil engineering firm which specialized in civil engineering design, construction management, infrastructure asset management systems and GIS for public municipalities. While there, I managed projects for multiple public agencies, including cities, counties, airports, sanitary districts, ports, and the U.S. Government, among others.
GovDesignHub: What are some unique challenges that the City of Redding faces that other cities or municipalities may not when it comes to water management?
Josh Watkins: The City of Redding has many of the same water management challenges; aging infrastructure, staff retirements, tightening regulations and water quality standards.
Unique to Redding, is that we are located in the “rainy” part of the state of California. Due to the hard-work and foresight of our fore-fathers we have 3 diverse water supply sources but the State of California is limiting our water usage because the more populated parts of the state don’t have water wealth that we do.
GovDesignHub: What role is technology playing in changing how you do your job and deliver service to constituents? What notable, recent technology and IT implementations has Redding invested in to improve service or operations?
Josh Watkins: We are using GIS and mobile devices more and more to manage our system. We are improving our SCADA systems to reduce trips to our pump stations, tanks, and wells. We track our valve turning and hydrant maintenance programs on iPads.
GovDesignHub: What role do digital design solutions (CAD and BIM solutions) play in the Water Division? How are they utilized?
Josh Watkins: All of our Capital Improvement Projects are designed in CAD and then archived as PDFs for quick reference.
GovDesignHub: One of your accomplishments that was recognized by the APWA involved your work with CAD designs and data. Can you tell our readers about that?
Josh Watkins: The City of Redding’s construction standards are drawn in CAD. I managed a project to update those standards and distribute to City staff, engineers, contractors and neighboring agencies who adopted our standards.
We were still printing hard copies of the 2” thick binder with 200+ pages so we transitioned to an electronic version on our website – so much simpler!
GovDesignHub: What technologies and IT investments are you and the Water Division looking to implement moving forward? Why are these important investments for the organization in the near and long term?
Josh Watkins: We are moving toward AMI for our water meters but are only about 10 percent there. The City also has its own electric utility so any customer service changes are done in unison. Our GIS is strong and we are moving to CarteGraph’s OMS software so we can use that data more efficiently.
To learn more about the Water Department in Redding, CA, click HERE. To learn more about the role that technology – especially digital design technologies – can play for public utilities, click HERE.