Valley Water Tours Go Virtual

As the world copes with COVID-19 and adheres to Shelter in Place order, many organizations and businesses transitioned to new methods to connect with members, customers, stakeholders and the community.  Zoom, Google Hangout and other virtual platforms are helping to make it all possible.

In response to the temporary new normal situation, Valley Water pivoted quickly to a virtual platform in place of in-person tour programs.

Valley Water Board of Directors Chair, Nai Hsueh.

“It’s important that we continue to serve our community during this health emergency,” said Nai Hsueh, Chair of the Valley Water Board of Directors. “We want to continue to support educators, students and the community at-large while we stay at home. And we look forward to resuming our-in person engagements with the community once we overcome this public health crisis.”

Valley Water now offers two virtual tour programs.

The Valley Water Infrastructure virtual tour features key elements of the agency’s infrastructure, including Anderson Dam Retrofit Project, Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project, Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, and water treatment facilities at Rinconada, Santa Teresa, and Penitencia.

Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, Valley Water conducted in-person bus tours of their facilities, such as Anderson Dam, the site of the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project.

New videos, an enhanced presentation loaded with photos and graphics, and a bevy of Valley Water subject matter experts, bring participants much of the information and vivid details previously experienced during the in-person tours. Valley Water’s highly acclaimed flood protection projects and projects funded by the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection are also revealed.

The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center virtual tour highlights an up-close look at the center’s various advanced treatment processes and explains the role of recycled and purified water as a future sustainable water supply. The tour includes several videos detailing the water purification process:  microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultra-violet light disinfection.

Both virtual tours were launched shortly after the Santa Clara County Public Health Department issued the Shelter in Place order. Our initial virtual tours were well received and scheduled tours are also garnering interest, with some bookings at capacity. For participants viewing at home, the tours have become potential “watch parties” with family members hopping along for the virtual ride and increasing attendance numbers. Conducted via the Zoom platform, Valley Water staff has created an exciting, interactive experience with Zoom features such as polling, chat, and video.

Screen capture of recent Valley Water Infrastructure tour conducted via the Zoom platform.

The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center tour is also trending with colleges, universities and private groups. Professors appreciate the opportunity to provide their students a window into real-world applications, such as advanced water purification operations. Just recently a University of San Francisco (USF) class on environmental engineering attended a private purification center tour.

Screen capture of USF Professor Amalia Kokkinaki’s class attending the virtual tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center.

“I would like to sincerely thank you . . . for providing a virtual tour of the purification center to my students. They are all soon-to-be environmental scientists, and they greatly benefit from exposure to real world applications of the science they are learning, and from exposure to important ideas like broader water resources management plans, and the role that local agencies play in these management plans,” enthused Dr. Amalia Kokkinaki, Assistant Professor, USF.

Virtual water infrastructure tour participants offered high praise as well, “Both my husband, Bill, and I enjoyed the video tour – we were looking forward to the original tour and truly appreciate the efforts all of you put into creating a replacement,” said Kathleen Owen. “It was interesting to learn about the Pacheco Reservoir, its history and plans for the future.  We think it will benefit all of us.  We were aware that Anderson Dam needed to be renovated but we didn’t know the extent of that project.  It’s huge!”

Valley Water is also receiving strong commendation from fellow water industry organizations, impressed with innovative alternative to in-person events and the speed of the transition to virtual tours. “Outreach is always important, but possibly even more vital during this pandemic lockdown period. I love the idea of Valley Water’s virtual infrastructure tour,” exclaimed Dennis Murphy, Water Director, Sustainable Silicon Valley.

To register for a virtual tour visit https://www.valleywater.org/tours. Valley Water is also providing private tours of the purification center to groups of 10 or more. Schedule a private tour here.

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