Valor Water

Valor & Watermark - Because Every Drop Counts

By Kristine Gali, P.E., Technical Program Manager

Valor has been excited to become more involved with Watermark as we kicked off our volunteer engagement last year with the October Global Month of Service. Events included awareness of our local water system through trivia, supporting local organizations through beach clean ups, and facing off with our sister offices through a water pump challenge. This year, Valor is looking forward to getting even more involved with local organizations and educational outreach with local schools. Upcoming 2019 events include habitat restoration, tree planting, and water monitoring throughout the Bay Area.

Learn more about our past events below:

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Surfrider Foundation Beach Cleanup: Valor volunteered with the local San Francisco Surfrider Foundation Chapter in a beach clean up event near San Francisco Bay Bridge. Not only does a cleaner location make it more pleasant to spend time at the beach but it helps prevent fish, zooplankton, and invertebrates from ingesting harmful trash and plastic.

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A California Water Pump Challenge - Who can pump the fastest? (Not Valor): AIA offices in San Diego and San Francisco got first hand experience on using Xylem's Essence of Life stepping pump which was designed with rural farmers' needs in mind. California teams faced off in a pumping competition and realized it's not as easy (or leak free) as it looks!

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In 2019, Watermark continues to be in full swing at Valor, with the start of the Mark Your Mark 30-Day Challenge. The event runs from World Water Day on March 22 to Earth Day on April 22. The Valor Water team participated in the following events in April:

April 6: Fort Funston Nursery, where the volunteers supported the nursery which grows plants for a variety of Bay Area park sites. Habitats ranging from coastal bluffs to grasslands have been rehabilitated with the plants grown here.

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April 18: Lands End Trail Maintenance and Water Monitoring, to help revitalize and restore the native habitat of Lands End.

More events and updates on them will be posted throughout the upcoming months on the Valor Water Analytics blog.

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Team Spotlight: Introducing Lead Data Scientist, Dr. Bahman Roostaei

Q&A Session by Sabrina Strauss, Office Manager

In this feature, we interview team members to learn more about their passions and their interest in water.

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Bahman Roostaei comes from 17 years of theoretical Physics research in statistical patterns of random and quantum systems. Besides a PhD in Physics he has also an MSc degree in Data Science with focus on machine learning and advanced statistics. His main focus has been on developing software for analysis of sequential data such as water, energy consumption or RNA sequences. Bahman is passionate about environment and curious to how to monitor environmental elements using complex data. He also enjoys hiking, Persian Calligraphy and cooking in his spare time.

Q: How did you get into Data Science?

A: My background is in science, I am a Physicist. The tools and methods of prediction based on observation are the basics of what I used to do in Physics. Data Science is not much different. It just uses different types of algorithms and laws, but it is still the same for observations and predictions.

At some point I decided to change from academic research to Data Science, to come to the Bay Area and to pursue work in the private sector. At the point I made the transition, I learned about huge developments in Data Science. There used to be very little interesting activity in data science. From the time that Amazon Web Services came up and the cloud technology started to develop, big data started to become a big deal.Methods and algorithms were already out there, but they weren’t used much,  the technology for it was not advanced yet.

When I learned about AWS and learned how it is now easy and possible to use data science, I became interested I pursuing this field for my career. This was about 5 years ago.

Q: Why did you decide to apply for the Data Science position at Valor Water Analytics?

A: My first job in the Bay Area was a company that worked with meter technology and meter data, mainly electronic meter data. They measured house electricity consumption and focused on conservation of energy. I also have a personal interest in environmental data, including weather, energy, and pollution problems. I was looking for an environmental related job, but then I realized that there is also water meter technology that uses data science. That is why I applied at Valor Water Analytics.

Smoke on the Water: Valor Staff Tours California’s State Water Project

By: Maryana Pinchuk

Smoke and fire may have been in the air (literally) in California these past few weeks, but water is never far behind as a subject of concern for residents of the state. Earlier this month, while fires raged from Los Angeles to Sacramento, my colleague Renee and I accompanied staff from the Municipal Water District of Southern California, as well as other water utility staff and interested citizens from Southern California, on an inspection trip to learn more about the California State Water Project.

As Municipal Water District of Southern California Director Larry McKenney pointed out at the start of our trip, the state of California has the 5th largest economy globally (just ahead of Britain), and its productivity depends largely on the mostly water-scarce state’s ability to move water. The State Water Project is a system of dams, pumping stations, reservoirs, and aqueducts that conveys water from a small water-rich area in the northernmost part of the state to the dry but highly populous communities in the middle and south. The project is the largest provider of water and power in the state, and one of the largest in the world.

Sunset over the San Luis Reservoir, the fifth largest reservoir in the state.

Sunset over the San Luis Reservoir, the fifth largest reservoir in the state.

This sophisticated system of water conveyance begins in the Feather River near Sacramento. Water from the river collects in Lake Oroville and passes through Oroville Dam before proceeding on to the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. The water then travels down the California Aqueduct to the San Luis Reservoir, where it is pumped further south to meet the water needs of Southern California communities, including Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to the west (via the Castaic and Pyramid Lake reservoirs), and San Diego and Orange County to the east.

Pyramid Lake Reservoir, completed in 1973, is the deepest lake in the state. Here, water is held and conveyed to Castaic Lake Reservoir and from there supplies northwestern Los Angeles County.

Pyramid Lake Reservoir, completed in 1973, is the deepest lake in the state. Here, water is held and conveyed to Castaic Lake Reservoir and from there supplies northwestern Los Angeles County.

The State Water Project may not exactly be the most well-known tourist attraction in the state, but it is the secret engine that powers some of the most iconic features of California, from the glitzy pools of Hollywood to the more modest groves of California almond trees – a crop that, like asparagus, melon, cotton, and other local cash crops, thrives in the dry and temperate Mediterranean-like climate of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta.

Cotton growing in the Delta. We learned that California cotton is sold and prized worldwide for its high quality and even ends up in some products marketed as “Egyptian cotton”!

Cotton growing in the Delta. We learned that California cotton is sold and prized worldwide for its high quality and even ends up in some products marketed as “Egyptian cotton”!

Joe Del Bosque discusses almond cultivation and shows us his trees

Joe Del Bosque discusses almond cultivation and shows us his trees

Almonds, we learned from longtime Delta resident and farmer Joe Del Bosque of Del Bosque Farms, are a cousin of the peach tree, and farmers have learned to graft almond saplings to the hardier peach roots, which are less susceptible to rotting in heavily irrigated soil. But the ingenuity of the Delta farming community is meeting its match in the precarious ecology of the Delta, where a system of levees built in the 1800s to turn marshland into farmland is beginning to show its age, and where soil erosion and earthquakes threaten the $50-billion-a-year agricultural business.

Over breakfast in the state capital, with the lingering smell of smoke providing an uncomfortable reminder of the increasing danger posed by climate change and extreme weather, we were shown a presentation about the challenges facing the Delta in the next 50 years. We watched a model simulation of the probable effects of a major earthquake – long overdue in the area – on water quality in the Delta. We all winced as the model showed the levees disintegrating and a cloud of salt water from the San Francisco Bay pumping steadily eastward hour by hour. According to the simulation, by the end of a week after the initial quake, all of Southern California’s water supply would be rendered non-potable.

Suisun Marsh , one of the few preserved tidal marshes that showcase how the Delta looked before it was transformed by agriculture.

Suisun Marsh, one of the few preserved tidal marshes that showcase how the Delta looked before it was transformed by agriculture.

To address the very real possibility that gradual (through levee erosion) or sudden (through a major quake) salinization may one day cripple the Delta leg of the State Water Project, the Municipal Water District of Southern California is proposing to create a set of tunnels through the area. This would ensure that fresh water could continue to be channeled through the Delta to consumers in the south, even if the Delta were flooded with brackish water. The proposal, called the Water Fix, has raised objections from some conservation groups that argue against diverting flow from the rivers in the area. However, others contend that what the wildlife that already struggle to thrive in the agriculturally-dominated waterscape of the Delta need is not higher throughput in the rivers, but other conservation practices – e.g., fish weirs and controlled flooding of fallow farmland to allow fish fry to mature in a predator-free environment before returning to the river system – that are not incompatible with the Water Fix.

A fish weir near Sacramento – during a major rain event, fish and water will be directed into this fallow field to mitigate flooding and provide a safe environment for fish fry to grow in.

A fish weir near Sacramento – during a major rain event, fish and water will be directed into this fallow field to mitigate flooding and provide a safe environment for fish fry to grow in.

We wrapped up our trip with a visit to the Jensen Water Treatment Plant, the last stage that State Water Project water passes through before being delivered to SoCal customers. In the hills to the north of the plant, the Los Angeles Aqueduct (not part of the State Water Project) delivers an additional supply of water from Mono Lake to the city of Los Angeles. As evidenced by the heated history of that water infrastructure project, culminating in the legendary California “Water Wars” depicted in the 1974 noir film Chinatown, controversies around water are far from new in this state. And yet, through over a century of conflict over water rights and allocation – as well as the additional issues posed more recently by increased water scarcity – California’s water infrastructure has continued to rise to the occasion and meet the ever-growing needs of the state and its residents. California’s water supply may seem precarious, but water utilities and their staff are certainly used to facing and overcoming challenges, and the successes of the past point to hope for the future.

Maryana and Renee from Valor at the Jensen Water Treatment Plant, with the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the background.

Maryana and Renee from Valor at the Jensen Water Treatment Plant, with the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the background.

Watermark Month of Service

The Valor Water Analytics team participated with several events during Xylem Watermark’s Global Month of Service, during which Xylem employees around the world came together to participate in volunteer events in service for their respective communities.

Beach Cleanup 10.28.18

The Valor Water Analytics team in San Francisco participated in their very first Watermark volunteer event, a beach clean up organized by the Surfrider Foundation SF Chapter. The organization’s mission is to protect oceans and beaches through a powerful activist network. They organize clean-up events on a regular basis and raise community awareness around reducing pollution in beach habitats. The Surfrider Foundation operates in several cities in California, as well as in other coastal areas across the United States, with 81 chapters in 10 regions.

It was wonderful to see a huge turnout at the cleanup event by Xylem employees, local school groups, and others in the community. There were more people than buckets for the collection of garbage and we noticed a variety of volunteers of all age groups, from toddlers to elderly people. The Valor Team was very successful in their search for trash and collected items including several cigarette butts, Styrofoam, beer bottle caps, and even a fork and spoon ended up in one of the buckets! It was a great experience and a huge inspiration for the team to participate more regularly in such events.

You can find more information about the Surfrider Foundation and their mission on their website: https://www.surfrider.org/

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Watermark 101 10.29.18

The Valor team is geared up and ready to give back! We held a Watermark 101 lunch and learn as part of the October MOS events to kick off Valor’s involvement with Watermark. The team learned more about the Watermark vision, how to get involved, and brainstormed events for the upcoming year. We wrapped up with a competitive game of Watermark Trivia! Topics included our local water system, Xylem and Watermark, state of our water infrastructure, and the national water investment gap. Not surprising, our winners were Valor founder Christine Boyle and Valor veteran Renee Jutras. The rest of the team will be studying hard for round two in the future!

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Halloween 10.31.18

This years Halloween theme was water. It was time to put on our thinking caps and get creative. Here’s how the Valor team did!

We had a rain cloud, a sea monkey, Dory, a dead meter, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mermaid, and Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

And the winners...

Most On Xylem Message: TGPGP

Most "One of Those Days" Feeling: Rain Cloud

Most "Sharkey Kids Favorite": Dory

Most "Best Sea Friends Experience": Mermaid + Sea Monkey

Most "Can I Borrow That Costume": Leonardo

Overall Winner: Anomalous Zombie Meter

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Valor Water Analytics Acquired by Water Giant Xylem

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We are excited to announce that Valor Water Analytics (Valor) was recently acquired by industry leader Xylem Inc (NYSE: XYL). Xylem is a $13B water technology company that services utility and commercial clients across 150 countries.

Dr. Christine Boyle founded Valor in 2013 with a mission to bring big data solutions to water utilities in order to improve their financial and water resource sustainability. To accomplish this, Valor created a suite of world-class software products. Valor’s products are now deployed in ten states across the USA, including notable utilities such as American Water and Suez. Its “Hidden Revenue Locator” product is widely recognized as a best-in-class technology for automated loss detection. The company remains committed to integrating its technology with all meters across the US and beyond. Valor will now execute on this ambitious vision under the Xylem umbrella.

The alignment of Valor and Xylem in product and vision made this acquisition the right strategy for Valor’s next stage of growth. Under Xylem, Team Valor continues and will spearhead Xylem’s Silicon Valley branch and lead Xylem’s advanced data science initiatives. Valor’s product lines will join Xylem’s existing suite of advanced analytics products. This exit demonstrates the value of building an innovative water technology that brings measurable value to the water sector.

Valor had previously raised $2.8M from investors such as the Urban Innovation Fund, Y Combinator, 500 Startups, Apsara, Hydro Venture Partners, Shore Ventures, Syzygy, and Matadero Ventures. These investors supported this exit and are excited for the next chapter of Valor.

Valor is looking forward to solving the world’s water issues as part of Xylem’s world-class team of dedicated water professionals.