| AWWA Member Spotlight -- Jenna Shimmin, Coachella Valley Water District, Palm Desert, Calif.
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AWWA Member Spotlight -- Jenna Shimmin, Coachella Valley Water District, Palm Desert, Calif.

Jenna ShimminPosition: Conservation Manager 

Education: M.P.A., Public Administration, Argosy University; B.A., Criminal Justice, California State University-San Bernardino
AWWA involvement: Vice Chair, Water Conservation Practices Committee; Member, Water Efficiency Programs & Technology Committee; Chair, Water Management & Efficiency Committee, California-Nevada Section; Vice Chair, Section Inclusion & Diversity Committee; Vice Chair, Section Water Use Efficiency Certification Committee; Chair, Section Audit Committee

How did you get involved in the water industry? My dad and stepmother worked for the City of San Bernardino and thought it would be a good place for me to work during college. I joined the water department in February 2004 as a part-time customer service representative and fell in love with the utility’s many components and services. The people were great, always willing to explain to me what they did. 

Jenna Shimmin with familyWhat led to your focus on water conservation? I moved into a clerical position, which gave me the ability to work with many facets of the utility’s customer-facing side. I became the unofficial department photographer, which allowed me to see behind-the-scenes operations and infrastructure. As I worked with the department’s public liaison I learned about conservation and communication. He was in the military reserves and got deployed, and I managed a small conservation program in his absence. The timing coincided with the passage of California legislation requiring a 20% reduction in water use by the year 2020. I learned a lot and increased our efforts. (Pictured right, Shimmin with her husband and daughter.)

I completed my undergraduate criminal justice degree during an economic downturn. It was difficult to get hired in that sector, which felt like the universe telling me to stay, learn and do water conservation. Since then, water management has become my passion! I’ve held roles at various cities and water agencies and expanded my scope to focus on other environmental issues including waste diversion and air quality. I’ve learned how many things truly impact water quality and water supply and how everything we do is tied to water. 

How has your work evolved during drought in the Western United States? From that first program I oversaw through subsequent programs over the years, I definitely experienced lots of growth and lessons learned. I started with an already established program that I was able to grow and was eventually given the chance to start a new program – just months before AWWA G480-20 Water Conservation and Efficiency was first released in 2013.

Once AWWA guides and standards became available, I modified my programs. I learned to see the value of ensuring that customers have a relationship with their water utility, particularly the conservation department. I also learned it’s just as important to have emergency response plans for periods of drought as it is to have plans for promoting conservation during “normal” times. It’s helpful to find fresh ways to keep conservation on your customers’ minds. 

Shimmin after completing raceWhat have you worked on with AWWA’s Water Conservation Practices Committee? I helped with the second revision (G480-20, released February 2021). I believe they had just kicked off revisions when I came onto the committee, so I was able to be there for the bulk of things. The hardest part was reminding myself this standard wasn’t specific to California. Viewing it from a much wider perspective helped me see other aspects of the water sector through that same filter. (Pictured left, Shimmin after completing a race.)

What is a best practice for utilities to manage their water supplies? It’s vital to really know the types of customers and their unique water needs in your service area and have proper meter classification to respond to or enforce regulations. For example, I don’t hear enough about giving credit (in budget-based tiered rates) for process water. We’re still learning about the many different industries within my district. Having a better understanding of how they use water will in turn help us to better understand the conservation potential. 

How have you benefited from your AWWA membership and involvement? The first ACE conference I attended was in Southern California. I attended a water conservation networking event and met folks involved in California-Nevada Section leadership roles. I was intrigued by what they did and how they seemed to have a ready-made friend group at the conference. At the Section’s fall conference, I was invited to participate in committee meetings and noticed how attendees discussed their issues and got ideas and solutions from each other. Time and time again, I’ve seen folks help other agencies out with problems big and small. That’s why everyone should be an AWWA member. 

Describe your family and/or hobbies and interests. My husband, Daniel, is a commercial airline pilot. We’ve been married for eight years and have a four-year-old, Amelia, who got her name from Daniel’s love of aviation. When I’m not running after Amelia, I’m either training for or running a race. I prefer 5Ks but am not afraid to run anything up to a half marathon. I also enjoy movies, traveling and photography.