As part of CAP’s Know Your Water series, you will be meeting some of the employees who work each day to ensure Colorado River water flows through our 336-mile aqueduct to reach our municipal, agricultural, industrial and tribal customers..
Today, learn more about Joe Turnbough from Mechanical Maintenance.
Q: In a nutshell, what do you do for CAP?
A: I supervise a group of overhaul mechanics commonly referred to as HOGS, which stands for Heavy Overhaul Group. We have our fingerprints on every moving part here at CAP. We do preventive maintenance on the big pieces of equipment to ensure they’re reliable and are also called on to fix equipment on our canal system that isn’t working the way it should. We spend time in the plants working on the large pumps that lift the water and on the trash rakes in the forebay that keep debris from entering the pumps. We also work out on the canal, making sure the turnouts that are used for water deliveries and the radial gates that help control the water flow are working properly.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
A: It all started working with my Tata (Grandfather). When I was a kid I would work with my Tata during the summer, helping build fences or doing small concrete jobs. And I loved it. Since then, I’ve always worked with my hands and wanted to learn more about how things work.
Q: How does the work you do on a daily basis affect our water supply?
A: As a supervisor, it’s my job to ensure our crews do the work that makes our pumps, radial gates, turnouts, and basically the canal and whole delivery system work properly. Without even one of those key components, water doesn’t move and get delivered to our users. It is a big responsibility and one that I take very seriously.
Q: What are some of the technical advances that allow you to do your job more effectively and efficiently?
A: There are two things that come to mind. First, the laser alignment equipment that we are now using when we work on the pumps has helped us a lot. The laser has a sender and a receiver; basically the laser shoots a beam of light to a receiver. After taking a few sets of readings, the laser will tell you which foot base needs to be adjusted and how much shim material we need to add/minus. That precision is critical, because without proper alignment, the bearings will wear out sooner and can cause our pumps to shut down.
And then there’s advances in communication. We work in remote areas and communication is very important to us. Sometimes our job details can change two or three times in an hour, so being able to log on and communicate with our engineers and plant personnel who are often many miles away is key to being able to work efficiently and effectively.
Q: What's the most challenging part of your work?
A: We work on so many different types of equipment -- vertical pumps, horizontal pumps, radial gates -- and do so many things -- replacing valves at plants, hydraulic cylinders at the waddle towers, cylinders at the turnouts, valves at plants -- so I would say staying sharp on everything is the most challenging part of my work. For example, right now I am working at Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant on an overhaul of unit 5, one of the six pumps that lift water 825 feet, and it has been eight years since I last did an overhaul there.
Q: What's the most gratifying part of your job?
A: We tend to forget that we live in a desert and we are reminded every summer how important water is for us, our children, and grandchildren. Knowing that we play a big role in bringing water to our state is pretty gratifying.
Q: What is your favorite part about working at CAP?
A: I am lucky that the most challenging part of my job is also my favorite. It’s really that we are always doing something different and challenging my technical skills. One week we can be in Tucson working on a pump, two weeks later we can be out in the west end of our canal working on radial gates.