| AWWA Member Spotlight -- Environmentalist advances use and understanding of recycled water
AWWA Articles

AWWA Member Spotlight -- Environmentalist advances use and understanding of recycled water

Uzi Daniel, Carson, Calif.

Uzi DanielJob title and employer: Manager of Operations, West Basin Municipal Water District

Education: B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara; M.S., Environmental Science, California State University Fullerton; California Grade II Treatment Operator and Distribution Operator; Registered Environmental Manager

Job duties: Manage the operations department for a wholesale water provider to 17 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Includes potable water, recycled water, desalted groundwater and conserved water. My department is responsible for water quality and environmental compliance; asset management; GIS; $45 million budget; advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) facilities; a 100+ mile recycled water distribution system; and the sale of potable water to customers serving nearly 1 million residents.

How and why did you get involved in the water sector? My heart always has been in the protection of the environment and community, and water is the perfect match for both. I used my experience as a full-time graduate intern with a landfill agency to land a job with a city water department in my 20s. The rest is history. Click here for a West Basin Municipal Water District video about careers in water, featuring Daniels.
 
What led to your focus on plant compliance and operations? I read once that less than 15% of college graduates work in the field they studied so I sought out internships, jobs and volunteer opportunities to keep me in the environmental field and be a 15%er! I’ve worked in compliance for 25 years, which gradually led to the opportunity of operations manager. 

Uzi Daniel and Sue Mosburg, CA-NV Section, at poster contest.At West Basin, we have some extensive NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) and WDR (Waste Discharge Requirements) permits for indirect potable reuse and discharges to the ocean, allowing us to produce advanced treated recycled water. We must meet tough requirement or risk shutdown, so it’s critical to know how compliance affects operations. We need to keep water quality parameters in mind as we design new systems or look at capital improvement. (Pictured right, Daniel and Sue Mosburg, CA-NV Section Executive Director, judge a poster contest)

Why do you put emphasis on building trust with your community? We can give up a lot of things that we don’t trust, but not water. I believe people think about this when they take a drink, cook, and bathe their children. Water quality issues that occur across the country affect all of us, so it’s critical to have localized transparency, frequent outreach, and community programs to establish and maintain trust. Communities need to know the information we provide is reliable and we want them to come to us for the correct information. Trust is so much harder to build back once it’s been lost.

How does your organization strengthen public trust? West Basin has a public education team to inform the community about the safety and need for recycled water. Before the pandemic, they organized school tours of our treatment plant, Water 101 classes and booths at community events. They also hosted an annual water harvest at our advanced treatment recycled water facility. We keep abreast of issues through water associations like AWWA and keep our website populated with material to demonstrate to our communities that we’re out there working with them and for them. 

CA-NV Sections 2018 leadership teamHow have you benefited from your AWWA involvement? I became engaged with my local section 25 years ago when my first boss, who was very involved with AWWA, brought me to a California/Nevada Section conference and encouraged me to sit in on a couple of committee meetings. I raised my hand and before I knew it became the vice chair of Water For People, forever changing my life and leading to two trips to Africa and one to India. (Pictured right, CA-NV Section’s 2018 leadership team, including Daniel as Section Chair)

It is so important to bring junior staff to our conferences. Feeling that exciting energy and being on a committee really fosters a sense of community. I often reach out to folks from my Section for advice and solutions. Being a part of that community helps me recognize that I don’t just have a job, but a career that is vested in an incredibly important industry.

Uzi DanielTell us about your hobbies and interests: I love outdoor activities (pictured left) with family and friends and volunteering. Some of my involvements include emergency response community groups, half a dozen animal rescue organizations, a homeless outreach program and a free medical clinic. Nothing is more inspiring than being around people who give of themselves with great passion every day.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I have fostered more than 175 dogs. And, I’m a breast cancer survivor.
(Pictures courtesy of Uzi Daniel)
 

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement