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Annual WELL Conferences

The Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL) 12th Annual Statewide Conference was held from Friday, March 15 to Saturday, March 16, 2024, in San Jose, CA!

The conference brought together top water policy experts and practitioners to share their knowledge on California’s top water challenges and the opportunities to mitigate the impacts. 

Click here to view post-conference material, including photos and presentations.

Conference Overview:

Friday, March 15:

  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm – Water Tour
  • 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Evening Reception hosted at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda

Saturday, March 16:

  • 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Conference hosted at the Hilton San Jose Address: 300 S Almaden Ave, San Jose, CA 95110

MC Friday Night: Doriss Panduro, Councilmember, City of Fairfield, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024

MC Saturday: Celeste Rodriguez, Mayor, City of San Fernando, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024

Panel #1: How can we incorporate principles of equity into the design and upkeep of existing and upcoming water infrastructure projects?

Description: Panelists will share how we can invest and design water infrastructure projects to benefit minority communities that have historically been overburdened with ecological inequities. Questions to ask include: How can we keep water affordable while prioritizing infrastructure maintenance and conservation efforts? What investments in infrastructure improvement projects can be used to provide community benefits, such as local workforce development, neighborhood revitalization, and contracting and procurement for small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses? What new and existing projects can be designed to preserve the long-term accessibility of water resources without harming local communities or the environment? 

Moderator:Destiny Rodriguez, Trustee, State Center Community College District, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024

Panelists:Karina Cervantez, Managing Director, California Association of Mutual Water CompaniesClifford Chan, General Manager, East Bay Municipal Utility DistrictErick Orellana, Senior Policy Advocate, Community Water Center

Panel #2: How are extreme weather events impacting our water resources, infrastructure, and water quality?

Description: Panelists will share the impacts of climate change on communities and how early investments will support long-term water resources. Questions to ask include: How will climate change impact the long-term reliability of our water resources? How can we prepare our communities to mitigate the impacts of severe weather, droughts, fires, and flooding? How can local elected officials access funding to address water quality challenges in their communities?

Moderator:Danielle Parra, Trustee, State Center Community College District, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024

Panelists:Heather Cooley, Director of Research, Pacific InstituteJeanine Jones, Interstate Resources Manager, California Department of Water ResourcesDr. Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida, Senior Water and Climate Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists

Panel #3: What state and local policy changes are needed to meet California’s future water needs?   

Description: Panelist will discuss the policy changes and water management strategies needed to ensure sustainable water usage. Questions to ask include: How will changes to state and local water policy impact the management of our water resources in the next year? How will the renegotiation of water allocations for the Colorado River impact local and state economies and sustainability goals? How are water shortages in Native American Tribal Lands being taken into consideration?

Moderator:Alma Hernandez, Mayor, City of Suisun, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024

Panelists:Dr. Newsha Ajami, Chief Development Officer for Research, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryNgodoo Atume, Water Policy Analyst/ResearcherBianca Sievers, Deputy Director for Special Initiatives, California Department of Water Resources

WELL’s 11th Annual Statewide Conference took place on Friday, March 31 – Saturday, April 1, 2023, at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, CA. 

Conference Overview: 

March 31: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Evening Reception

Keynote Speaker:  Grace F. Napolitano, Congresswoman, CA D-31

April 1: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Conference

Morning Keynote Speaker: Dolores Huerta, President and Founder, Dolores Huerta Foundation

Lunchtime Keynote Speaker: Barbara Romero, Director and General Manager, LA Sanitation & Environment

MC: Dr. Sabrina Bow, President, Azusa Unified School District, and UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2023

MC: Anna Velazquez, Mayor, City of Soledad, and UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2023

Panel 1: What are the impacts of a hotter, more extreme climate in California’s various regions?

Description: Panelists will discuss the water impacts we are experiencing statewide and regionally. Questions to ask include: How are residents being impacted in rural and urban areas? What are the lasting impacts of aridification on our water resources? What are the challenges to California’s water portfolio?

Moderator: Elsa Mejia, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Madera, and UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2023


Kristina Dahl, Principal Climate Scientist, Union for Concerned ScientistTony Estremera, Director, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Boardmember, WELLGokce Sencan, Research Associate, PPIC Water Policy Center

Panel 2: What changes do water suppliers need to make in order to adapt to and combat the impacts of a hotter and drier climate?

Description: Panelists will discuss the impacts on California’s water infrastructure due to a changing climate and the solutions that must be implemented to ensure our water resources meet demand. Questions to ask include: Who are the regional water suppliers, and who is responsible for managing these water supplies? What natural and built infrastructure makeup California’s water portfolio, and what infrastructure changes should we expect in the future? What should our infrastructure look like in 5 to 10 years, and how do we fund it?

Moderator: Jazmin Lopez Leos, Director, Valley County Water District and UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2023


Anselmo Collins, Senior Assistant General Manager – Water System, Los Angeles Department of Water and PowerJoone Kim Lopez, General Manager, Moulton Niguel Water District, and Boardmember, WELLZoe Rodriguez Del Rey, Water Resources Manager, Coachella Valley Water District

Panel 3: What strategies can be implemented to mitigate the impacts of California’s water challenges on our economies, communities, and environment?

Description: Panelists will share strategies that have been implemented in different cities, counties, and states to proactively combat the impact of a drier climate and the consequences of not implementing these solutions earlier. Questions to ask include: What types of policies or programs have been implemented as best practices outside of California? What changes must be made at the state, local, and residential levels in order to see the greatest benefit? How can local elected officials work with water suppliers to help implement these solutions?

Moderator: Brenda Olmos, Councilmember, City of Paramount, and UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2023


Adekunle Ojo, Water Resources Manager, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water DistrictTracy Quinn, Chief Executive Officer, Heal the Bay, and Boardmember, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern CaliforniaJoe Yun, Executive Officer, California Water Commission

Click here to view photos from the Southern California Conference.

Click here to view presentations from the panelists. 

2022 is WELL’s 10-year anniversary, to celebrate we are hosting a conference series. The second conference will take place from Friday, June 10 to Saturday, June 11, 2022, at the Water Replenishment District of Southern California, Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling and Environmental Learning in Pico Rivera, CA. 

Water is one of the top public policy issues affecting our state. Are you involved in the water discussion? Join us to learn more about this critical issue and help support your residents and local economy as the state faces a third year of drought. 

Conference Overview: 

June 10: 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Tour of Water Replenishment District of Southern California, Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling and Environmental Learning; Evening Reception

June 11: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Conference

Panel 1: How is climate change impacting our water supply, and are cities prepared for the future?Description: Panelists will discuss the consequences of climate change on the water industry. They will discuss questions such as: What are the environmental and human-induced factors causing climate change? What are the impacts of rising temperatures on the frequency of extended drought periods, natural and built infrastructure, and wildfires?

Moderator: Sherry Wanninger, Director, Moulton Niguel Water District


Shivaji Deshmukh, General Manager, Inland Empire Utilities Agency

Vanessa Velasco, Senior Environmental Scientist – Specialist, Climate Change Specialist | Southern Region Office, California Department of Water Resources

Dr. Tapan Pathak, Specialist in Climate Adaptation in Agriculture, UC Merced – Sierra Nevada Research Institute

Panel 2: What is driving the rising costs of delivering water to residents and businesses, and what resources and strategies are available to mitigate such costs?Description: Panelists will share strategies and programs to help offset the cost of rising water prices and grant opportunities for infrastructure improvement projects. They will discuss questions such as: How would a water rate increase affect residents and businesses? How are conservation efforts, aging infrastructure, regulatory compliance, and contaminants impacting the financial outlook for local water agencies? How can local officials protect vulnerable ratepayers under the confines of Prop 218 and Prop 26? How can the public financial burden of water investment projects be minimized?

Moderator: Dr. Monica Sanchez, Mayor, City of Pico Rivera


Meg McWade, Director of Public Works, City of Fullerton

Anselmo Collins, Senior Assistant General Manager of the Water System, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Dr. Maura Allaire, Assistant Professor, UC Irvine

Small-Group Discussion: How can you prepare your constituents for increased water rates?Description: Attendees will break into small groups and select a moderator to lead this discussion on how local elected officials can prepare residents and businesses for upcoming water rate increases.

Moderator: David Muse, Vice President, Valley County Water District

Panel 3: What new water initiatives could lead Californians toward sustainable water usage in the future?Description: Panelists will discuss current water projects and policy initiatives in California to show how diversifying the water supply and improving water efficiency will lessen the demand for imported water to large metropolitan communities. Questions to ask include: Where does all of California’s imported water end up after it is used? Can water supplies be increased without importing new water? What are other regions doing to be more efficient with their water usage?

Moderator: Danielle Soto, Director – Division VI, Three Valleys Municipal Water District


Gregory Pierce, Co-Director, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

Esther Valle Rojas, Manager of Watermaster Services & Water Resources, Water Replenishment District of Southern California

Kurt Schwabe, Associate Dean/Professor of Environmental Economics and Policy, School of Public Policy, UC Riverside

Traveling from out of town?

Doubletree by Hilton – Whittier Los Angeles7320 Greenleaf Avenue, Whittier, CA 90602

Hotel Telephone Number:  (562) 945-8511

Click here to view photos from the Central Valley Conference.

Click here to view presentations from the panelists.

2022 is WELL’s 10-year anniversary, to celebrate we are hosting a conference series held in-person. The first conference will bring attention to the Central Valley region by hosting it in Selma, CA on Saturday, April 2, 2022. This year it is important to bring our attention to the Central Valley region because its communities are disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the drought, and a lack of access to clean, affordable drinking water.

Each year we bring together leaders from across California with the aim of helping them learn best practices in water management, innovative solutions for water disparities and challenges, and how to better access financial resources that address both. Conference speakers will share their expert knowledge to help local leaders drive solutions for California’s water challenges.

Registration is now open.


Keynote Speaker:

Betty T. Yee, California State Controller

Luncheon Speaker:

Mark Arax, Journalist & Author

Event MC’s:

Irais Lopez-Ortega, Councilmember, City of Calistoga, VP Board of Directors of WELL, and UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2019

Olivia Trujillo, Mayor, City of Arvin and UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2020


Panel 1: From Water Policy to Project ImplementationOver the past decade, California has passed several policies and bonds aimed at addressing water disparities in small and rural communities throughout the state. How these funds get disbursed then becomes a challenge for state officials. On the procurement side, communities are also struggling with the process. These challenges are hindering the solutions to the water disparities these communities face. The panel will discuss current funding available to help a variety of water disparities. They will also share tools to help local leaders tap into technical support resources that will help them successfully bring small communities, like the ones in the Central Valley region, access to clean, affordable drinking water.


County of Tulare: Eddie Valero, Supervisor/Chairman


Office of California Governor Galvin Newsom: Maria Herrera, Central California Regional Director, External AffairsCalifornia State Water Resources Control Board: Laurel Firestone, Board MemberCounty of Tulare: Denise England, Water Resources Program Director

Panel 2: An update on SGMA and the implementation of Groundwater Sustainability PlansIn 2014, the California Department of Water Resources passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which created 515 entities known as Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). These agencies are tasked with developing and implementing groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). The goal of the GSPs is to outline how the agencies will sustainably manage their water use in order to mitigate water overdrafts within 20 years. Meeting this goal has become difficult for communities that rely significantly on groundwater usage. The panel will provide a SGMA timeline and highlight the barriers community leaders have faced in attempting to comply with this policy. The panel will share how they have overcome those barriers and provide creative solutions to meet sustainable water usage goals.


Fresno Irrigation District: Gary R. Serrato, Former General Manager


North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency: Kassy Chauhan, Executive DirectorCounty of Ventura: Carmen Ramirez, Supervisor/ChairwomanUnited Water Conservation District: Mauricio Guardado, General Manager

Panel 3:The Economic Impacts of Drought and Potential Solutions for CommunitiesWith drought conditions that have worsened in the past two years, communities are facing critical water shortages. These shortages are impacting our farms and development projects, both of which are critical to boosting California city economies. This economic problem has become increasingly urgent as the climate crisis has made water shortages more severe. The panel will address water shortages and share some of the challenges and innovative solutions local leaders are implementing to boost their local economies.


City of Antioch: Monica E. Wilson, Councilmember


Madera County Water and Natual Resources Department: Stephanie Anagnoson, DirectorTulare County Resource Management Agency: Michael Washman, Associate DirectorSelf-Help Enterprises: Tom Collishaw, CEOCalifornia Water Service: Ken Jenkins, Chief Water Resource Sustainability Officer

The WELL 2021 Virtual Conference on May 27th aims to bring the link between water and the economy into the spotlight. While the world remains focused on the ongoing pandemic and subsequent economic challenges, WELL will highlight how water plays a pivotal role in the state’s economic recovery. This all-encompassing conference will leave people walking away with this key takeaway: Water is a gift, and if cared for properly, it can play an important role in the state’s most pressing economic and social problems.

Watch the conference recordings here:

1. Investing in the Water Sector to Boost the Economy During and After COVID

2. Human Right to Water Challenges in Urban and Rural California

3. Affordable Water for a More Resilient California

While it is our priority to make our educational content free and accessible to all, WELL is funded in part by your generous donations. Please consider supporting this WELL Virtual Conference by making a donation upon registering. Our suggested donation is $50, but we will gratefully accept anything you are able to give. Every dollar counts, and we appreciate your support!


WELL convened its state-wide educational water conference for local elected officials virtually on November 13, 2020. The WELL Virtual Conference provided elected officials with a better understanding of important water issues in order to maximize the positive impact they have in their communities.

Watch the conference recordings here:

Morning Reception & Keynote from Senator Bill Monning

Panel 1: Preparing Our Water Infrastructure For The Next 100 Years

Panel 2: Smart Growth in the Face of Water Stress

Panel 3: The Politics and Policies of Water

Event Program

9:45AM | Conference Launch

10:00AM | Morning Reception

10:30AM | Panel 1: Preparing Our Water Infrastructure for the Next 100 Years

11:20AM | Panel 2: Smart Growth in the Face of Water Stress 2020

12:05PM | Networking & Lunch Break

12:40PM | Panel 3: The Politics and Policies of Groundwater

1:20PM | Closing Remarks

1:30PM | Option Social (Half) Hour

2:00PM | Adjourn

Click here to view resources and Powerpoints from the 2018 conference

DAY 1: Thursday, March 22, 2018


Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Save the Delta

Curt Schmutte, Engineer, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California


Pedro Nava, Former Assembly Member and current Chair, Little Hoover Commission

UnTapped Fellows


DAY 2: Friday, March 23, 2018



UnTapped Fellows, WELL video presentation


Tapping into Financial Resources and Building Collaborative Relationships to Better Protect Your Community

Tony Estremera, Director, Santa Clara Valley Water DistrictArt Hinojosa, Chief of Integrated Regional Water Management, Department of Water ResourcesJosephine Axt, Chief of Planning Division, Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of EngineersModerator: Corina Lopez, City Councilwoman, City of San Leandro

10:15 AM – 10:35 AM BREAK


Managing Stormwater to Increase Supplies

Paul Alva, Assistant Deputy Director, Los Angeles County Dept. of Public WorksAndrew Fahlund, Senior Program Officer, The Water FoundationSam Pedroza, City Councilmember, City of ClaremontModerator: Acquanetta Warren, Mayor, City of Fontana


Norma Galindo, Board of Directors, Division 5, Imperial Irrigation DistrictDr. Mindy Romero, Founder and Director, UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project


Preventing Interruptions to Regional Water Infrastructure and Accessing Emergency Funding

Jay Lund, Professor of Civil Engineering, UC Davis Center for Watershed SciencesEric Lamoureux, Acting Deputy Director, Response and Recovery, Office of Emergency ServicesAlvaro Preciado, Mayor, City of AvenalModerator: Carmen Ramirez, City Councilwoman, City of Oxnard

2017 Annual Conference in San Diego, CA

WELL is convening a state-wide educational water conference on March 23-24th, 2017 in San Diego for California local elected officials. Local elected officials can make a difference for all Californians by taking the necessary steps to understand the dynamic of California water to assure adequate clean water for our communities, and protect our natural resources and our local economies.

Our hope is to facilitate understanding toward comprehensive long-term water policies that will sustain California’s economy and quality of life.

We invite you to participate!

Limited scholarships are available, RSVP soon!

Sponsored by Water Education for Latino Leaders, Water Foundation, & Public Policy Institute of California.

To download the flyer for the conference, click here.

Wyndham Hotel Bayside Hotel 1355 N Harbor Dr. San Diego, CA 92101


Day 1 – Thursday, March 23, 2017

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM TOUR OF PURE WATER SAN DIEGO: A Potable Re-Use Facility

Facilitator: Pete Silva, WELL Board MemberSpeaker: Halla Razak, Public Utilities Director of the City of San Diego

3:30 PM – 5:00 PM PANEL DISCUSSION: Challenges to Water Infrastructure Projects

Moderator: Pete Silva, WELL Board MemberSpeaker: Mark Watton, General Manager of Otay Water District


Speakers:Assemblymember Eduardo GarciaCouncilmember David Alvarez, City of San Diego


Day 2 – Friday, March 24, 2017


9:00 AM – 10:30 AM GOVERNANCE OF WATER PANEL DISCUSSION: How to Get Elected and Appointed to a Water Board

Moderator: Nancy Sutley, WELL Board MemberSpeakers:Karina Cervantez, Board Member of the State Water Resources Control BoardMayor Albert Robles, City of Carson and Director of the Water Replenishment District

10:30 AM – 10:45 AM BREAK

10:45 AM – 12:15 PM WATER INFRASTRUCTURE & FINANCE 101 PANEL DISCUSSION: How do Regulations Affect Costs of a Water Infrastructure Project

Moderator:  Ron Gastelum, WELL Board MemberSpeakers:Castulo Estrada, Director of Coachella Valley Water DistrictCouncilmember Carmen Ramirez, City of OxnardStephen Arakawa, Bay-Delta Initiatives Manager of Metropolitan Water District


California PUC Commissoner Martha Guzman-Aceves

Click here to view the 2017 Annual Conference


2016 Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA

DAY 1: Friday, March 4, 2016

9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Registration

10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Welcome and Morning Speaker

Tony Estremera, Director,  Santa Clara Valley Water District

Tom Steyer, Founder and President of NextGen Climate

11:05 AM – 12:05 PM Governance of Water

Celeste Cantu, General Manager, Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority

12:05 PM – 1:20 PM Lunch

Address: “The Demographics of Leadership in California Water”

Speaker: Dr. Mindy Romero, Director, California Civic Engagement Project, UC Davis Center for Regional Change

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM Basics of California Water Infrastructure and Finance

Ron Gastelum, President and Chairman, Water Conservation Partners, Inc.

Brian Thomas, Managing Director, Public Utilities Commission

2:30 PM – 4:30 PM Facilities Tour – Santa Clara Valley Water District Recycling Project

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM Reception

Sponsor Welcome: Victor Griego, WELL Board Member

Keynote Speaker: Catherine Sandoval, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission


DAY 2: Friday, March 5, 2016



Victor Griego, WELL Board Member

Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County, District 2 Supervisor

Lester Snow, Executive Director, Water Foundation


Moderator: Andrew Fahlund, Program Officer, Water Foundation

Diana Mahmud, Mayor, City of South PasadenaRobert Silva, Mayor, City of MendotaTony Estremera, Director, Santa Clara Valley Water District

10:35 AM – 11:00 AM Address

Anthony Rendon, Speaker-elect of California State Assembly

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM California’s Human Right to Water and Who Pays

Moderator: Gita Kapahi, Director, Office of Public Participation, State Water Resources Control Board

Esmeralda Soria, Fresno City CouncilmemberThe Honorable Mike Eng, Author of AB 685, The Human Right to Water BillKarina Cervantez Alejo, Watsonville City CouncilmemberAdan Ortega, Executive Director, California Association of Mutual Water Companies



Celeste Cantú – Governance

Mindy Romero – Demographics

Brian Thomas – Finance

Lester Snow – Management

Andrew Fahlund – Storm Water

Gita Kapahi – Right to Water

Photo Galleries:

Speaker: Tom Steyer

Speaker: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon

Speaker: Catherine Sandoval

Speakers: Cindy Chavez & Lester Snow

Governance of Water Presentation

Demographics of Leadership

Water Infastructure & Finance Presentation

Stormwater Presentation

Human Right to Water

Facilities Tour


2014 Annual Conference in Sacramento, CA

Click here to view the program


2013 Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA

Click here to view the program