waterTALENT & CWEA Operator Profile Case Study – Women in Water
waterTALENT Operator – Sabrina Sims
Water Systems Manager – City of McCall, ID
Director of Operations – Western Area Water Supply
Laboratory Specialist/Manager – City of Williston, ND
Emergency Response Operator – waterTALENT
Water & Wastewater Superintendent – City of Alexander, ND
Owner/Operator – WETWorks
Public Works Director – City of Ranchester, WY
ID, ND, Water Treatment 4
ID, ND, WY Water Distribution 1
ND, WY Wastewater Treatment 1
ND, WY Wastewater Collection 1
WY Water Treatment 2
What is your role?
I am currently the Water Systems Manager for the City of McCall Idaho, COVID brought me to McCall in mid-May of this year. As the WSM I oversee the Water Treatment and Distribution divisions of the City and the work of an amazing crew. My career in water has spanned over 15 years and taken me thousands of miles. I started my water career as a pool manager learning all about water quality testing.
Soon after I was hired on by the Town of Ranchester, Wyoming as a Water Operator, within 1 year I had worked my way up to Public Works Director. I left Ranchester to start WET Works, my own “all things water” company. We specialized in contract operator placement, design build engineering, sample collections, and reporting.
I left Wyoming for an opportunity in Alexander ND, where I accepted a position as the Water & Wastewater Superintendent. After leaving Alexander I was hired by The City of Williston ND. During my time in Williston I spearheaded and was responsible for the certification of the lab at the water treatment plant propelling me to the Laboratory Specialist & Lab Manager. I left Williston to become the Director of Operations for Western Area Water Supply Authority but due to restructuring and then COVID my family and I have made the move to Idaho and my current position as the City of McCall Water Systems Manager.
Who inspired you to work in water?
My father inspired me to get into Water, one could say volunteered me. All my life my dad worked in water, starting out as an Operator and working his way up to Public Works Director of the town I grew up in. I spent my childhood playing at the water treatment plant and we took family snowmobile trips to check the plant in the winter. He retired there after 40+ years, but water runs in his veins, so he took a job with Wyoming Rural Water as their Source Water Specialist. My dad is my greatest resource and I am his.
Water fuels my passion by the immense need for clean quality drinking water. I love the challenge of treating 10,000 ntu water and making it less the .03 ntu. Or the opposite challenge of cleaning less then .4 ntu water and having it meet .1. Water provides unique challenges in all its aspects and getting to face these challenges daily keeps me fired up.
Does the water profession welcome and support women? What was your experience?
I think the water profession is very open and supportive to woman in the industry. I have seen it come a long way since I started so many years ago. At my first conference there were only a handful of women and most of them were part of the regulating authority not actual Operators. At my last conference there were 3-fold the number of woman Operators. At one of my first conferences, I witnessed a male Operator stand up and say that woman had no place in the industry, to which one of the female regulators responded that women were perfect for the industry and have the potential to be better operators then their male counterparts because of their attention to detail and analytical minds. I have met some of the most amazing woman in this industry and look forward to meeting so many more.
How many years before we get to 50/50 women and men?
I don’t know if we will ever get to a 50/50 ratio of men to woman, but we are certainly proving that we belong, and our numbers are growing steadily.
What is the most rewarding aspects of your work?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work besides knowing that I provide a fundamental necessity was being deployed to the City of Houston after Hurricane Harvey, thanks to waterTALENT. Harvey destroyed the operations at many of the wastewater plants in Houston, the 2 hardest hits were the Sims South WWTP & the Turkey Creek Plant WWTP. waterTALENT brought me on to be part of the recovery effort. We were tasked with building 2 types of wastewater treatment plants. At Sims South WWTP we built by hand a conventional treatment system using frac tanks, PVC, AOD pump, rare earth magnets and dog food (a very specific kind, too). Turkey Creek was our advanced plant consisting of diffused oxygen and an Actiflo trailer unit. Both plants were able to meet and exceed Texas state effluent requirements and we proved that with a group of operators from all over the US a compete plant could be built by hand. This experience taught me more about myself and what I could accomplish then anything in my career to date. waterTALENT mobilized 15+ emergency response operators, and assuming the City has access to its appropriate resources during times of emergency, anything is possible with the right group of people no matter the circumstances.