Water District Named Award Finalist for Outreach Program to Adults with Disabilities

Statewide water industry group recognizes the District’s fire hydrant painting jobs initiative. 

Rowland Heights, CA (Nov. 1, 2017) – Rowland Water District’s unique community outreach effort employing adults with disabilities to paint fire hydrants is a finalist for a prestigious statewide industry award.

The winner of the 2017 Huell Howser Best in Blue Award will be announced Nov. 29 at the Association of California Water Agencies’ Fall Conference & Exhibition at the Anaheim Marriott. The award recognizes innovative programs by public water agencies to meet outreach goals.

Rowland Water launched the first-of-its-kind fire hydrant improvement initiative in January 2016, in partnership with OPARC, a non-profit organization that facilitates meaningful employment opportunities for adults with disabilities in Southern California.

Rowland Water invited four individuals with disabilities to join its workforce. Participants are paid $15 per hour, more than twice what they would receive from government subsidies and nearly $5 more than the current California minimum wage rate.  In just one year, the four OPARC workers repainted more than 1,000 hydrants.

“The program not only gave participants a sense of achievement and pride in their work, it nurtured a remarkable spirit of community within the District and region,” Rowland Water District General Manager Tom Coleman said. “We are honored to be recognized as a finalist for the ACWA award.”

The program helped Rowland Water meet its strategic communication goals of prioritizing opportunities to benefit all partners, broadening the definition of community through additional outreach, and creating internal messaging that enhances staff morale and experiences.

“The District saw this as an opportunity to directly and positively enhance the lives of individuals with special needs by providing them with professional development opportunities and to raise awareness of the many challenges they face,” added Rowland Water District Board President Szu Pei Lu-Yang.

The district’s fire hydrant jobs program received special recognition from state senators Connie Leyva and Mike Morrell and state assembly members Eric Linder, Chad Mayes, Freddie Rodriguez and Marc Steinorth. Neighboring water agencies – La Puente Valley County Water District and Walnut Valley Water District – have since partnered with OPARC on programs of their own.

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