ARCS Scholar Alumni Shadi Sami is the Principal Civil Engineer for the largest capital improvement program in the City of Poway, CA. – a $70-million water improvement program. The decision and commitment to upgrade the system and bring it up to today’s industry standards “is a big deal for Poway,” Sami says. She was hired into the city’s public works department in 2020 to guide the intricate project. Poway is in San Diego County, and the water treatment facility serves about 50,000 residents.
“Water is essential for human life and safety,” Sami says. “The water infrastructure is old and needs to be replaced. The Operations and Maintenance staff have been maintaining the infrastructure but it’s time to bring it up to today’s industry standards.”
Poway’s main water storage reservoir (for 10 million gallons of water) was built in 1964 and the water treatment plant was built in the 1970s. As the only source of city water “it’s not possible to take the treatment plant offline for long periods of time since it’s currently the city’s only source of treated water,” Sami explains. “The city is working on alternate water sources to allow the treatment plant to be taken offline for maintenance and repairs,” she says.
“If agencies invest in having a more diverse water supply portfolio and redundancy in their system, they can ensure that residents get safe and reliable water service. The types of projects I’m working on are unique,” Sami explains. “They include bypassing the existing 10-million-gallon Clearwell in order to replace it and working on a new treated water connection with the San Diego County Water Authority.”
Sami moved from Iran to San Diego with her family at the age of 12. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from San Diego State University, where she was an ARCS Scholar and ranked number one in the Department of Civil Engineering. “Working where you grew up is very rewarding", she shares. "It’s great to see the results of the work and the improvements you’re making in the community where you grew up.”
The Water Infrastructure Improvement Program in Poway has multiple phases. In order to replace the 10-million-gallon clean water storage reservoir, a bypass system was required that included a pump station, a pressure regulating station, transmission pipelines, and two bolted steel tanks. That phase has been completed and is running smoothly. Now, the one large water reservoir with the floating cover will be replaced with two pre-stressed concrete tanks. That project will start construction this summer.
One other project with the system overhaul will include getting water from a second source by establishing a treated water connection with the San Diego County Water Authority. “Once we establish that connection to their treated water pipeline, we’ll have two different ways of sending clean water to our residents,” Sami states. “We’ll have redundancy in our system.”
Sami says she is thankful for the ARCS Scholar Award while working on her master’s degree. “As a young engineer, and a woman, entering this field, it can be a little intimidating,” she says. “Being the minority in the field is not easy. As you get older you develop resiliency and you become more confident in your own skills.”
For more details about Poway’s major water system overhaul, click here.