By September 7, 2018 0 Comments Read More →

Interview – William Wong


InterView
By Chris Murphy

One of the best things about Modesto is that we do business with our friends and many of the people we know and enjoy, run our local businesses and manage some of our most vital resources. Will is a great friend to all that he knows and loves Modesto and his neighborhood. This is key as he really knows what it means to work hard to make our city better for the future. Most people just think about utilities as their electricity, water and sewer, but so much more of this is about designing systems for the future.

Water is top of mind right now as our community fights the State Water board so that our community and agriculture and thrive. Water is the first word in our city motto. It is precious and we can’t waste a drop. It takes innovation, creativity and change of habits, William Wong has been doing this for quite some time and he is now the Director of the City of Modesto Utilities department. Will was raised in Modesto, attending Davis High and UC Davis. He is one of the ones that came back live with his wife and kids and make our community better. Let’s get to know Will a bit more and find out some of the cool things he and the city are working on.

ModestoView:
What did you want to be when you were growing up here in Modesto?
Will Wong: Growing up on a small orchard in north Modesto, I was always interested in taking things apart, seeing what made it work, and then putting them back together. I was also naturally inclined to math and science, and loved problem solving, so I guess my destiny was to be an engineer.

MV: What inspired you when you were growing up?
WW: My parents. Both were immigrants that came to the US to make a better life for themselves. Understanding their sacrifices, struggles and being raised with their work ethic helped me be the person I am today.

MV: Why utilities? How did you find this passion?
WW: I first got interested in water engineering at UC Davis. I had a class project that required us to design a wastewater treatment plant for a community. I found it fascinating how we can take sewage and build a facility with equipment that could clean it up. It was like putting puzzle pieces together, and it totally clicked for me after that. After graduating in 1993, my first job was with a company in Austin, Texas that designed and made equipment for both water and wastewater plants. That experience helped me get a job with the City of Modesto in 2001 and I have been planning, designing and constructing water-related projects ever since.

MV: Water is a finite thing here on earth, and many are fighting over it, what is Modesto doing that will be a game changer?
WW: Modesto has been very progressive in being great stewards of our water resources. We are starting a One Water Modesto initiative to help build public awareness of the importance of water in Modesto. It’ll be a proactive approach to engage our ratepayers on how the City is bringing our water “full circle”.

The City partnered with Modesto Irrigation District to construct a water treatment plant at Modesto Regional Water Treatment Plant. Using treated Tuolumne River water conjunctively with the City’s groundwater has been an incredible benefit to our aquifer, allowing the City to “bank” unused groundwater over the years. This banked groundwater help Modesto get through the recent 4-year drought and our aquifer is still in good shape. The city was able to do this with active water management.

In addition, the City has been able to bring our water full circle. We are very proud that City is now in the recycled water business. With the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program, Modesto is now selling recycled water, which comes from our homes, businesses and industries, to the Del Puerto Water District. The North Valley project is a regional effort to address water shortages in the area. Modesto is able to deliver almost 15 million gallons of recycled water per day to the district. Turlock is about to embark on their portion of the project. When it’s complete, the project will deliver up to 27 million gallons per day of recycled water. The North Valley project is one of the largest beneficial water reuse projects in the county. That’s something that we all can be proud of.

MV: The Jennings road facility is truly innovative, do you think we can change people’s minds about what fresh water means?
WW: Absolutely, Over 10 years ago, no one really wanted even considered using “treated wastewater”; there was a “eww” factor with that. However, recycled water has to meet very stringent Federal and State requirements. In fact, recycled water is cleaner than what we see in river. If you think back to when we were kids learning about the water cycle (evaporation, precipitation, transpiration, etc…) all water on the planet is recycled at some point. With the drought and the scarcity of water, everyone’s sense of water became heightened, and the importance of water, in whatever form, became a potential source. In fact, recycled water is considered “new water”. Now, people are seeing recycled water as another resource.

MV: What advice would you give to the regular homeowner to help them conserve and make a difference.
WW: Conservation is a new way of life in California, Water is a finite resource, and all of us should do our part to ensure water is available in the future. Water conservation tips are available on the City’s website www.modestogov.com/905/Water-Conservation. We also offer Water-Wise House Calls, a free service where our water-use specialists come to your home and analyze the your indoor and outdoor water use. Call 209-342-2246 to schedule an appointment.

I also encourage our residents to take advantage of the City’s water rebate program. The City offers rebates for new high-efficiency appliances and turf replacement. You can find more information at www.modestogov.com/1659/Water-Rebates.

MV: Do you think we will ever have a gray water system here in Modesto?
WW: No, not at this time. The City has designed its sewer and wastewater treatment system to meet current and future demands.
MV: What does Water, Wealth, Contentment and Health mean to you?
WW: Our forefathers were really forward thinking when they decided this motto (over the first place “Nobody’s Got Modesto’s Goat”). They recognized the importance of water in our region. It’s a great reminder that the City was built to support our most important industry: Agriculture. Without water, there is no Modesto.

MV: Tell us something about the City of Modesto Utilities department that people might not know.
WW: The City has a dedicated and hardworking personnel that ensures that all residents receive essential water and sewer service 24/7, 365 days a year.

MV: Describe your ideal day in Modesto?
WW: Being able to get through all my emails! Actually, my ideal day is being able to resolve issues with my Utilities Department co-workers and help our customers out.

MV: If you could ask Modestans to do one thing that will make our community better, what would it be?
WW: Be civil to each other. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. We may not all agree on everything, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

MV: Beatles or Stones?
WW: Definitely Beatles.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.