CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence Award

Manuel Colunga, field operations supervisor for the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, accepts the CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence Award Monday in Indian Wells.

San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District’s Manuel Colunga selected from among all public employees in the state for the honor, which was awarded last month.

 Manuel Colunga, field operations supervisor for the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, was awarded this year’s CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence Award —- an honor bestowed each year on one outstanding public servant in California — the district announced Monday.

 The award was presented at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s Education Forum in Indian Wells. A video, paying tribute to Colunga’s work and volunteerism in the community, was posted on the CalPERS website alongside past recipients of the award.

 “The efforts of public servants often go unnoticed, even as they work diligently behind the scenes to educate us, protect us, keep us healthy, and provide essential services and infrastructure,” CalPERS stated on its website. “That’s why we created the CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence award.”

In his role at the district, Colunga keeps watch over the 18 miles of canals, 26 miles of roads and 73 recharge basins he patrols daily with his small team within the San Bernardino Valley Wash. As a steward of the land and the water, it’s his job to watch the skies, anticipate water flows, reshape contours of the earth and capture water — recharging it into the groundwater basin that serves the San Bernardino Valley region.

 Colunga is also a committed member of the community. He has volunteered as a trainer for the Redlands YMCA Youth Circus for more than 18 years.  

“Manuel is an exceptional person, and we are extremely lucky to have him on our team and helping out in our community,” said district General Manager Daniel Cozad. “From the standpoint of doing what’s right and helping others, he clearly exemplifies the values and principles of public service in all his professional and personal interactions.”

The Conservation District serves an area totaling 50,000 acres within unincorporated San Bernardino County as well as portions of the cities of San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Redlands, and Highland. The district serves 227,580 people who use well water through partner water agencies. In addition, cities and agriculture in Riverside County pump and use water recharged by the district. In 2017-18, the district recharged more than 4 billion gallons of native river, creek, and State Project water on behalf of its customers and water partners.

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