Celebrating 50 Years of Service: José “Joe” Villagomez

On March 2, 2021, José “Joe” Villagomez celebrated 50 years of service at San Jose Water (SJW). As a Crewleader A in the Distribution Systems (DS) Department, Joe leads a crew of 3 every day to maintain the company’s water mains, valves and hydrants.

Joe Villagomez throwback
Joe (left) pictured here with Bob Chaffin, the only other SJW employee to beat out Joe’s 50 years of service with 55!

In March 1971, Joe was down to his last few dollars. Just out of the service with a wife and newborn daughter, Joe knew he needed a job to support his young family. He pulled up to SJW’s building on W. Santa Clara Street and filled out an application right before lunchtime. He was called back for an interview at 1 PM and hired at 3 PM!


Innovation in Action: Remotely Operated Vehicle Saves the Day – Underwater!

San Jose Water typically uses an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for inspections and sediment collection in our tanks. However, the team found a new use for the ROV when a large tank sprung a leak.

View from the ROV inside the tank
View from the ROV inside the tank

The leak was large and although our crew members tried to make repairs on the fly, the sheer power and volume of water rushing out was unmanageable. The hole was plugged as a short-term solution. The team went back to the drawing board to figure out how repairs could be made. Options considered included completely taking the water out of the tank; hiring a diver to plug the hole

On the Job with Distribution Services: Emergency Leak Repair

SJW employees in full PPE capping the main
SJW employees in full PPE capping the main

In a perfect world, routine maintenance and repairs happen between 8 AM and 5 PM. Fortunately, San Jose Water’s Distribution Services (DS) team is on call to serve our customers 24 hours a day. A perfect example of this dedication occurred the night of August 6-7, 2020.

A leak on a 17” main at Camden Avenue and Hicks Road in San Jose required immediate attention. Not only was there water loss, but the source was under a bridge embankment adjacent to the Guadalupe Creek. Keenly aware of our environmental responsibilities, we did not want chlorinated water to enter a waterway and cause

Meter Shop – Keeping the Meters Measuring

Abe loading his truck with new meters to be installed that day.
Abe loading his truck with new meters to be installed that day.

Fun fact: there are more than 230,000 water meters throughout SJW’s 140-square mile service area, and just one department responsible for making sure each and every one of them are in tip top shape: the Meter Shop!

There is more to these water meters than meets the eye. SJW has an entire department committed to making sure its meters accurately measure the water so customers pay for only the water used – and not a penny more!

This tight-knit group of employees are responsible for using their knowledge of mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic principles to replace, repair, and test

On the Job with Field Service: SJW’s First Responders

San Jose Water employee Armando Quintanar investigating a meter leak
Armando Quintanar investigating a meter leak

Much attention and deserved appreciation has gone to Essential Workers and First Responders during the COVID-19 crisis. At San Jose Water, we want to recognize our own: the hard-working men and women of our Field Service crews, also known as ALERT (Active Local Emergency Response Team). 

You may know them as the friendly folks in blue shirts who are first on the scene when a leak happens.  Other critical duties include changing out older meters as mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and responding to customer inquiries such as high bills or pressure issues.

Cahalan Tank Fire

Cahalan fire
The fire smolders around SJW’s Cahalan Tank

A fire in the Santa Teresa foothills of San Jose scorched 90 acres on Thursday, June 4, 2020. Not only were nearby residents evacuated and air tankers called in to drop retardant, but SJW Operations staff also jumped into action. Our Cahalan tank was right in the middle of the fire area.

Around 5 PM on Thursday, Operations Supervisor Richard Tapia was notified by our Crewleader, Ed Heldebrant, that our tank was on fire. Looking up, Heldebrant could see a huge plume of smoke and started receiving calls from friends,SJW Dispatch, and Fire Dispatch. Our East Side Operator, Tim Mangrum

On the Job with SJW Distribution Service Inspectors

While the entire community is under a shelter-in-place order, essential San Jose Water (SJW) workers are on the job to make sure your water is flowing safely and reliably.

Distribution Service (DS) Inspectors perform critical work day in and day out. Just a few of their responsibilities include marking existing water lines before any excavation begins, locating leaks in mains and service lines, performing hydrant and valve maintenance, and operating the vacuum excavator truck.

DS crew marking up street

Collaboration is Key

Our DS Inspectors’ job doesn’t end there. Need to dig up a roadway to make an

San Jose Water – Protecting our Employees While Keeping the Water Flowing During COVID-19

While we are committed to providing clean drinking water to the communities and families that we serve, we wanted to also let everyone know of the steps we are taking to keep our employees safe.

As part of normal operations, we plan for emergencies such as earthquakes and wildfires. We have business continuity plans in place to make sure our operations are maintained in the face of adversity. COVID-10 has created some unique challenges.  Below are some details of critical steps to keep our employees safe:

  • We closed all facilities to the public.
  • All incoming Customer Service calls

Employee Spotlight: Gavin Devries

For most people, visiting the South Pacific island of Fiji sounds like a dream vacation. For Gavin Devries, Manager of Capital Planning at SJW, it was an opportunity to make a difference in the world by using his professional skills and education to serve his country as a civil affairs officer in the United States Army Reserve (USAR) over the summer.

Devries began his journey with the U.S. Army in 2007, during the height of the Iraq War, where he served as a civil engineer for the medical service corps. Here, he worked with multi-national forces and local Iraqis on water and wastewater