By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 09.26.2021 (online 09.25.2021)
With a retirement, particularly at the end of a long tenure, plenty of institutional knowledge can leave with the employee. Some of it is technical knowledge, but some of it is historic – why were certain things done the way they were can speak to the values and abilities of the time. For Las Cruces Utilities (LCU), former LCU Director Dr. Jorge A. Garcia’s retirement meant a need to capture some of the history of the City’s water system – one he worked on for over 30 years.
For the last six months, Garcia has been back at LCU formally as a consultant for other projects, but he’s been consulting as a mentor for the last two months, pulling together and walking new LCU leaders in both operations and engineering to explain how the systems of the utilities developed.
“It’s important to know the background as to how things were built, such as with the different pressure zones and the hydraulics of the system,” Garcia said. “Growth of the city came in phases that guided us where we are today. How did the water master plan develop? Why was this the layout we went with?”
In small group classes, Garcia wanted both engineers and operators from water production and water distribution. “We don't operate in a vacuum. They need to understand there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and they need to be ready to collaborate,” he said. “Those who design and those who carry it out in the field may have different viewpoints. Everything's tied together. It's not just about doing an engineering calculation.”
He explained that LCU works in tandem with City planners and, under the direction of City Council, to build utilities in new developments in a cost-effective manner.
Garcia said, “We're designing and modeling scenarios of predictive ability along with what's going to happen in the existing system, especially adding new subdivisions. There’s analysis to how that will affect the infrastructure around it.”
“It’s been a bit like going back to college,” LCU Senior Engineer Rocío D. Nasir, P.E., said. “What’s been valuable is that we’re doing specific modeling not just on a theoretical model, but it’s our system – our pipes, our zones, our real issues.”
LCU Interim Water Production Supervisor Paul Gamboa explained that learning about the elevation of tanks determines where zone breaks are located. “This is important to us in water production because it determines where we place our pressure reducing valves in the water system and at zone breaks,” Gamboa said. “We are learning about how the water models are created and used by our engineers to imitate real-life conditions and scenarios in the City’s water system.”
LCU Water Production Operation Jacob Cabrales added, “And, we’re discussing issues with each other that in the past wouldn't get addressed until certain projects had already begun.”
The collaboration not only gave current engineers and operators a way to get to know each other but also to understand each other’s dedication to their city.
“My biggest takeaway from this experience is seeing how much each City employee cares about their job and making Las Cruces better,” LCU Engineering Tech Marissa Vistine said. “It's very cool to see the wealth of knowledge Dr. Garcia can bring to the table and how each person is working together to do something great that couldn't be done alone.”
Garcia said, “They're good people, very competent. The more I can give them, the better off they're going to be in terms of carrying the torch.”
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
Photo Caption: Former LCU Director Dr. Jorge A. Garcia is back in his element, teaching the historical background for the Las Cruces water system that he’s worked on for over 30 years.