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January 2023 Newsletter

Message from WELL

Happy New Year! For the first time this year, WELL is hosting two WELL UnTapped Fellowship Programs. Two weeks ago, the first cohort for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship class of 2023 began their sixth-month journey in the Coachella Valley to learn about California’s water history, water equity, the Salton Sea, and how they can make an impact in their community’s water challenges (see summary below.) The second cohort will be a part of the WELL AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Program beginning in July of this year. We are excited to be partnering with AAPI UnTapped Graduates and Community Leaders to be hosting this new cohort. 

As supporters of the AAPI community, we would like to also take a moment to acknowledge and honor the lives that were lost in the Monterey Park shootings this month. Our thoughts are with the victims, their family members, and the residents. Monterey Park is home to one of the largest AAPI communities in America, many of whom were celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated earlier this month and reminded us about the importance of diversity and the work we must continue to push in order to work toward racial equity and water equity in our communities. WELL is making progressive strides for these causes by educating and training local elected officials about California’s water challenges in order to help address impacts on their individual communities. We also help uplift the voices and work of women and people of color in the water industry in order to move all of us toward water equity. 

We hope you will join us for our 11th annual statewide conference this year; our aim is to help you stay informed about the water crisis California is experiencing and to learn about possible solutions. Registration is now open! More information is available below.

¡Sí Se Puede!


Victor Griego                                                   Paul C. Hernandez
Founder and Board President                     Executive Director

Adapting to a New Normal: California Water Strategies for the 21st Century. WELL 11th Annual Conference Panel Announcements

How have current weather conditions impacted our water supplies? How will residents be impacted by changing patterns to our state’s water resiliency?

Come hear from experts on the statewide, regional, and local impacts of the drought and resulting water deficits. Our panelists will discuss the effects of a changing climate on California’s water infrastructure and explore the infrastructure solutions to ensure water resources meet demand. They’ll also highlight the strategies that have been implemented in various cities, counties, and states to proactively combat the impact of a drier climate and the consequences of not implementing these solutions earlier.

For any questions or sponsorship opportunities please call/text us at 909-670-2928.

Click here to register

Thank you to our early sponsors! 

There is still time to become a conference sponsor. Click here for sponsorship opportunities.

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Session 1: January 20 – 22, 2023

The first UnTapped Fellowship Session for the class of 2023 kicked off in the Coachella Valley. This cohort is composed of 17 Fellows representing various areas of California, including the Greater Los Angeles area, Northern California, and the Central Valley. These Fellows embarked on their journey to learn how to make an impact on California’s water policy while addressing their local community water challenges. The first session focused on teaching Fellows how to use the WELL Method of Inquiry to extract the information necessary for making complex choices about water policy and management. They also visited various locations in the Coachella Valley region and interviewed guests to learn about community water challenges and the history of water in the area. 

Guest Interviewees included Cástulo Estrada, Boardmember, WELL and Vice President, Coachella Valley Water District; Patrick O’Dowd, Executive Director, Salton Sea Authority; Monica Telles, Community Facilities and Water & Environmental Programs Specialist, Indio Service Center, Rural Development, USDA; Elizabeth Marquez, TLMA Regional Office Manager, County of Riverside; Luis Andrade, Water and Environmental Program Director, USDA; and Peter Nelson, Director, Coachella Valley Water District, and Member, Colorado River Board of California. Fellows interviewed these guests to learn about the Salton Sea, the history of the conveyance systems in the region, and the water quality issues faced by residents in this region. 

These interviews also included on-site visits to the Salton Sea, the Coachella Branch of the American Canal, and the Polanco Parks (mobile home parks). Fellows also received a lesson on California water history from Professor Samuel Sandoval Solis, Policy and Curriculum Advisor, WELL, in order to understand the complexities of the watershed, water delivery systems, and other water issues in our state. Finally, Dr. Pablo Ortiz and  Dr. Samuel Sandoval Solis taught the fellows a lesson on hydrology. 

A special thank you to Cástulo Estrada, Boardmember, WELL and Vice President, Coachella Valley Water District; Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, District 36; and Mayor Steven Hernandez, City of Coachella, for hosting a dinner for the Fellows on the first night. 

The next session will be held in Tehachapi, California. 

To learn more about the 2023 UnTapped class, read their bios here.

Click here to watch the NBC Palm Springs News Coverage from 4:25 – 5:30 

Click here to watch the KESQ News Coverage

Click here to read Councilmember Manny Acostas News

WELL has partnered with AAPI UnTapped Fellowship graduates and local elected officials to plan, organize, and recruit for the WELL – AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Program with the aim of educating local AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) elected officials, providing a foundation of water knowledge in order to help them be better prepared to tackle California’s water crisis. Through this fellowship, AAPI elected officials will enhance their water knowledge and leadership skills, allowing them to take more effective action on water policy issues and assist in solving the state’s increasing water challenges.

High Road Training Grant: California Water, Wastewater, and Energy Workforce Development Program

WELL leaders received news of a $4 million grant award from the California Workforce Development’s Board High Road Training Partnership Grant Program, which will be used to implement the California Water, Wastewater, and Energy Workforce Development Program.

WELL is part of a four-member team that helped write the grant application. The grant program will focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion and will result in a collective group of trained workers who will secure jobs in California’s water and energy industry. Through careful program development and pilot testing, WELL will be able to create a workforce pipeline for underrepresented populations such as women, people of color, and Latinos.

The intent of this program is to promote more inclusive and equitable economic growth for workers within both the water and energy industries, with a particular emphasis on uplifting target populations.

Congratulations to the California Municipal Utilities Agency (lead agency), California African American Water Education Foundation (CAAWEF), the Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), and the broader coalition of trade associations, nonprofits, and vocational organizations who support the program. Together we will help shape this opportunity for California’s future workforce.

WELL Boardmember Joone Kim Lopez and Executive Director Paul C. Hernandez Named to the ACWA Foundation Board of Trustees

On November 18, 2022, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Board of Directors appointed the nine people who will comprise the new, nonprofit ACWA Foundation Board of Trustees. The foundation is being created to advance workforce and leadership development in the water industry by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Joone Kim Lopez Boardmember, WELL, and General Manager of Moulton Niguel Water District; and WELL’s Executive Director Paul C. Hernandez were nominated by ACWA’s President Pamela Tobin and were ratified by the ACWA Board of Directors to serve as trustees on the board.

The ACWA Foundation Board of Trustees will operate separately and independently from the ACWA Board of Directors and provide oversight for the foundation. 

Jennifer Santana, President, Upper San Gabriel Valley Water Company, and UnTapped Graduate Class of 2020: For the first time in its 63-year history, the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (Upper District) will be led by a woman president following the Board of Directors’ annual board reorganization. Santana is serving her second term on the board and was the first woman elected to the Upper District board in 2018. She represents Division 5, which includes the cities of Baldwin Park, Duarte, El Monte, and Irwindale.

“It’s an honor to serve the board in this capacity,” Board President Jennifer Santana said. “I recognize the significance of my appointment not only as a defining moment for women in water but also for the critical time we find ourselves in today as we battle the effects of climate change. Together, the Board and I will seek solutions to these challenges and make the necessary investments now to ensure sustainable water supplies for future periods of drought.”

Salvador Melendez, Councilmember, City of Montebello, and UnTapped Graduate Class of 2020: Melendez helped welcome the Colectivo de Federaciones y Organizaciones Mexicanas Migrantes en EUA (COLEFOM). Amongst the group were eight senators from the seven different political parties in Mexico and more than 200 Mexican leaders. They discussed issues relating to the consulate, the right of Mexican migrants to vote here in the U.S., among other important issues. 

Emma Sharif, Mayor, City of Compton, and UnTapped Graduate Class of 2020: Signs for Life, a new community initiative, is dedicated to helping a Compton neighborhood disassociate itself from any gang ties. By posting anti-gang signs on local streets and hosting cookouts, organizers hope to break a chain of destruction that Peach Street community members have been living with for decades. This thoughtful idea originated with Hector Tapia, who launched the group Signs for Life and created the event called Meal with the Mayor, a celebration of the fact that gang activity has decreased. Mayor Sharif applauded Tapia and the neighborhood for taking back their community and saving lives. The Signs for Life community initiative aims to disassociate the Compton neighborhood from gang ties.

Eddie Valero, Chairman, Supervisor, County of Tulare, and UnTapped Graduate Class of 2022: The County of Tulare Board of Supervisors approved the American Rescue Plan Act sub-recipient agreement with the Orosi Public Utility District for the Well No. 5A Project in the amount of $500,000. The proposed project includes the construction of an auxiliary power plan to provide power to pumps that would produce both groundwater and pressurized water from storage tanks to serve local communities during power outages. This project will not only provide a reliable source of potable water to the community of Orosi, but it will also provide increased capacity for drought resilience, suitable water pressure and flow to households and businesses, and improved fire service. 

WELL Partner Highlights

PepsiCo: In December, PepsiCo solidified its partnership with our organization as a WELL Associate Member. PepsiCo joins our associate members at the Platinum level, the highest among our associate memberships. WELL appreciates PepsiCo’s continued recognition and support of our work. 

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD): WRD welcomed the Reno, Nevada delegation to the Albert Robles Center (ARC). The tour was accompanied by the Western Regional Water Commission, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, and the Northern Nevada Water Planning Commission. The delegation visited ARC as the City of Reno prepares to construct a muti-benefit facility of its own.

Coachella Valley Water District: The Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) held a press conference to announce $3.45 million in federal funding secured by Congressman Raul Ruiz (CA-25) which will be used to improve access to clean drinking water in the Eastern Coachella Valley. The funding will aid the construction of the Valley View Mobile Home Park Water Consolidation Project for underserved communities that depend on unreliable private water systems. The consolidation project will connect nine small water systems of up to 135 connections, affecting nearly 675 residents. This project will also facilitate future connections to four nearby mobile home parks, serving approximately 190 residents. These communities currently use water from private wells, which can have high arsenic, nitrate, and fluoride levels.

California Water News January

Worried that you may have missed some important water news this month? WELL has you covered! Here is a sample of noteworthy water news for the month of January:

    1. NPR: California is getting drenched. So why can’t it save water for the drought?
    2. Office of Governor Gavin Newsom: State Water Project to Increase Expected 2023 Deliveries
    3. Los Angeles Time: In California’s Imperial Valley, farmers brace for a future with less Colorado River water
    4. Cal Matters: Is California’s drought over? Here’s what you need to know about rain, snow, reservoirs and drought
    5. The Washington Post:32 trillion gallons of water in 3 weeks: California storms by the numbers

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 Water Education for Latino Leaders



 Water Education for Latino Leaders

Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL) educates local Latino elected officials on California water policies to promote timely and equitable actions that strive to develop a robust economy, healthy communities, and a resilient environment for all Californians. Visit our website: www.latinosforwater.org.

WELL Associate Members

The WELL Associate Member program, established in 2020, connects organizations to Latino leaders who share similar interests, allowing members to strategize about the best ways to solve California’s water challenges. The participation of our Associate Members is a key component of our mutual continued success. We thank our Associate Members, listed below, for their support. If you would like to learn more about the Associate Member Program, please visit latinosforwater.org/associatemembers.