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January 2024 Newsletter

What’s New With WELL

Over the past couple of months, WELL staff have been busy with different programs and activities. We are excited to share what we’ve been hard at work on: 

  • Announcing the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024: Sixteen local elected officials will embark on a journey to find solutions to their communities’ water challenges.
  • Registration for WELL’s 12th Annual Conference is now open!
  • WELL UnTapped 2024 Session 1 in the Media
  • Applications are now open for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Summer 2024 Program.
  • WELL has graduated the sixth cohort of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program. This marks a total of 68 graduates since the program began.
  • WELLos Spotlight: As our WELLos continue their leadership roles and enact positive change, we highlight their efforts to embody WELL’s mission.
  • Partner Spotlight:  Learn about new collaborations, major achievements, and the positive impact our partners are making in California and in the water sector.
  • California Water News: Catch some of the latest noteworthy water news from December.
  • Support WELL’s mission by donating today! Bring equitable water policy solutions to our state by helping us educate local elected Latino leaders on California water policy.

January Newsletter Commentary: 

Dear Friends of WELL,

Happy New Year! 

The year 2023 felt like a whirlwind with so many new milestones and programs completed. See our list of accomplishments and achievements below: 

  • WELL hosted our 11th Annual Conference in Van Nuys with 210 leaders in attendance—the highest attendance of all our annual conferences.
  • We hosted two fellowship cohorts for the first time in our organization’s history.
  • Twenty-three Fellows graduated from the UnTapped Fellowship Program this year.
  • Seven Fellowship graduates have hosted three WELL Legislative Water Workshops throughout the state. 
  • Victor Griego, President and Founder of WELL, wrote a guest commentary for Cal Matters titled “Education is vital for California Latinos affected most by the water crisis.”
  • Episode 43 of the “Water Talk Podcast: Educating & Empowering Elected Officials” featured a conversation with Leticia Gonzalez, Supervisor – District 4, County of Madera and UnTapped Graduate Class of 2022, and Victor Griego, President and Founder, Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL). 
  • WELL and NALEO cohosted a webinar with water experts to discuss efforts across the country to mitigate the effects of extremely dry weather on our water resources. Councilmember Rafael Trujillo from the City of Rialto, an UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2023, moderated this conversation.
  • The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California sponsored an inspection tour of the Colorado River WELL UnTapped Network (WUN). 
  • WELL, in collaboration with the Sonoran Institute, hosted the first California Growing Water Smart (GWS) workshop, which introduced cities to tools that will help them discover their watershed health and community resiliency goals.
  • Chinese-American Elected Officials (CEO) presented WELL with the “Community Partner of the Year” award.
  • WELL celebrated its 10th anniversary with a festive gathering of more than 120 friends, supporters, state legislators, and WELLos. Click here to watch the recap video.  
  • WELL hosted the San Joaquin Valley Water Summit. In attendance were 40 local leaders from throughout the region.
  • The WELL UnTapped Network (WUN) hosted its third annual WUN retreat in the City of Richmond.
  • Sixteen local elected Latino leaders in California were selected to embark on WELL’s UnTapped Fellowship program in January 2024. They represent various regions, including Northern California, the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys, and Southern California. 

To date, WELL has trained more than 1,300 local elected Latino officials in California in our conferences, workshops, and the flagship WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program. Our programs are needed more and more because, as the climate changes, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are testing California’s water resources, and our current local natural and built water management systems are not prepared to meet these challenges. We must do more as a state and in our local communities to respond to the resulting needs among our neighbors, friends, and families.

WELL plays a critical role in preparing our local elected leaders to better understand the solutions to some of these water policy challenges. WELL will host our 12th Annual Conference  March 15 – 16 in San Jose. Join us and learn how you can address your community’s water challenges.

Thank you for your support this year, and we look forward to the accomplishments WELL will achieve in 2024. 

¡Sí Se Puede!


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

Announcing the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program Winter Class of 2024

Meet the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program Winter Class of 2024!

The WELL UnTapped Fellowship is a selective, six-month program for local elected leaders aimed at helping participants make an impact on California water policy while addressing individual community water challenges. The UnTapped program creates an opportunity for local leaders to engage with water issues by exploring California’s water history and governance, infrastructure, finance, and the impact of climate change on water supply and quality. This curriculum is taught through the lens of the human right to water, with eyes on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the water sector.

After a competitive application process, we have selected 16 locally elected Latino leaders in California to embark on the UnTapped Fellowship program. This class comes from all areas of the state, yet they are united by their passion for water knowledge and for supporting their communities.

  • Adonis Galarza-Toledo, President, Coachella Valley Unified School District
  • Alma Hernandez, Mayor, City of Suisun
  • Anamarie Avila Farias, Boardmember, Contra Costa County Board of Education
  • Andy Ramirez, Director, Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District
  • Celeste Rodriguez, Mayor, City of San Fernando
  • Cesar Garcia, Councilmember, City of Duarte
  • Danielle Parra, Boardmember, State Center Community College District
  • Denise Delgado, Councilmember, City of Coachella
  • Destiny Rodriguez, Boardmember, State Center Community College District
  • Doriss Panduro, Councilmember, City of Fairfield
  • Evelyn Dominguez, Boardmember, Rialto Unified School District
  • Dr. Frank Figueroa, Councilmember, City of Coachella
  • Karin Eugenio, Director, Imperial Irrigation District
  • Kelvin Moore, Director, West Valley Water District
  • Stephanie Virgen, Councilmember, City of Coachella
  • Steve Gibson, Boardmember, Pasadena Community College District

To learn more about the 2024 UnTapped class, read their bios here

WELL’s 12th Annual Conference

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

WELL will bring together top water policy experts and practitioners to share their knowledge on California’s top water challenges and the opportunities to mitigate the impacts. Join us at our annual conference to expand your water knowledge and provide water solutions for your community. Full panel topics and descriptions will be announced soon.

  • Day 1: Water tour and welcome reception hosted at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda.
  • Day 2: The conference will be hosted at the Hilton in San Jose.

Click here to register. 

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 benefitssuch 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?  

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?

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

Description: Panelists 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? 

Need a hotel room? 

WELL has a room block available at Hilton San Jose, 300 Almaden Boulevard, San Jose, CA 95110

Click here to view the rooms available.

Applications Now Open for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Summer 2024 Program

Who is responsible for ensuring residents have access to clean and affordable water in your region? What impacts is climate change having on our water resources? 

WELL is now recruiting for our next cohort of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program. UnTapped is a selective, six-month program for local elected leaders that helps participants make an impact on California water policy while addressing individual community water challenges. UnTapped sessions are hosted in person, at various watersheds throughout California.

Local elected officials, whether city council members, school board members, or elected water district directors, have an incredible influence on water policy and on the delivery of water to our communities. Further, once UnTapped fellows graduate from the program, they are inducted into the WELL UnTapped Network (WUN), where they can continue to engage in learning and training opportunities focused on California water policy. Having such an extensive network means that together we can make our communities more resilient in the face of ongoing water challenges.

The cost to participate in the UnTapped Fellowship Program is $3,000 for city council members, county supervisors, and school board members, and $4,000 for water district directors.

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Summer 2024 Session Dates:

  • In-Person, Friday, July 19 – Sunday, July 21, 2024
  • In-Person, Friday, August 9 – Saturday, August 10, 2024
  • In-Person, Friday, September 13 – Saturday, September 14, 2024
  • In-Person, Friday, October 11 – Saturday, October 12, 2024
  • In-Person, Tuesday, November 12 – Wednesday, November 13, 2024

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024 Hosts First Session in the Coachella Valley

From January 19 – 21, 2024, the first UnTapped Fellowship Session for the class of 2024 was hosted in the Coachella Valley. This cohort is composed of 16 Fellows that come statewide, representing various areas of California, including the L.A., Northern CA, and the Central Valley regions. These Fellows embarked on their journey to learn how to make an impact on California’s water policy while addressing their community water challenges. The first session focused on teaching Fellows how to use the WELL Method of Inquiry to extract the information needed to make complex choices about water policy and management, they also visited various locations in the Coachella Valley region and interviewed guests and local residents 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, State Community Planner, USDA Rural Development; Elizabeth Marquez, TLMA Regional Office Manager, County of Riverside; 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 the residents in this region face.

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 and hydrology from Dr. Pablo Ortiz.

As tradition, the session with a moment of unity where the Fellows sang the song De Colores.

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

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024 Session 1 in the Media

WELL Boardmember Cástulo Estrada, and Director, Coachella Valley Water District; and Stephanie Virgen, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Coachella, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024, Fellow were interviewed by KESQ. Click here to watch.

Celeste Rodriguez, Mayor, City of San Fernando, and Kelvin Moore, Director, West Valley Water District, two Fellows of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024. Click here to watch. 

WELL Graduates the 6th Cohort of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program

WELL hosted the eighth, and final UnTapped Fellowship Session for the AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023 in Sacramento, CA.

WELL hosted a graduation dinner. To celebrate the WELLos graduation, in attendance were Virginia Madueno, Chairmember, Delta Stewardship Council; Marc Grossman, Spokesperson, Cesar Chavez Foundation; Dave Eggerton, Executive Director, ACWA; and Victor Griego, President and Founder, WELL.

On day two, the WELLos traveled to the town of Hood to discuss the Delta Conveyance Tunnel with a local resident. The group then went to the Locke Historic District to hear the history of Chinese immigrants’ roles in shaping the Sacramento River Delta. WELLos then visited the Big Break Regional Shoreline to learn more about the region before heading to the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory to learn about conservation efforts for the delta smelt. The last stop of the day featured a visit to Statin Island, a farm and wildlife conservation project along the Delta. The day ended with next-step discussions on how WELLos can implement what they learned in their legislative workshops.

This session signified the Fellowship’s end and the start of their work to help bring clean and affordable drinking water to their communities. The cohort will now begin working to put together their planning committees for hosting a water workshop in their community. The seven graduates are also now part of the WELL UnTapped Network (WUN), bringing the total number of Fellowship graduates to 68—an array of California local elected officials that includes mayors, city council members, and others.

WELL Welcomes Two New Team Members: Marissa Stanley and Micheal Baca, Civic and Political Engagement Managers, Based in Southern California and Northern California

In January, WELL welcomed two new Civic and Political Engagement Managers who will engage with elected Latino leaders from their respective regions. Marissa Stanley will engage the Southern California region and Micheal Baca will engage the Northern California and San Joaquin Valley regions.

Marissa and Micheal will play a crucial role in advancing WELL’s mission to educate and empower California’s Latino leaders in water policy. 

Marissa Stanley is committed to empowering her local community. With a background as a Legislative Aide for the City of Long Beach and as a District Executive for the Greater Los Angeles Area Scouting, Ms. Stanley has dedicated her career to fostering community engagement and driving positive change.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stanley has actively collaborated with elected officials on various issues, aiming to enhance the quality of life within her community. Her dedication has played a pivotal role in addressing community concerns and advancing initiatives that contributed to the overall well-being of the residents. Ms. Stanley has played a key role in recruiting and nurturing talented individuals to assume leadership positions, efforts that not only strengthened organizational structures but had a lasting impact on the development of future community leaders.

Ms. Stanley’s unwavering dedication to community service extends to critical issues, including water conservation, showcasing her commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of her fellow community members.

Marissa Stanley graduated from the American University of Paris with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, Law and Society.

Micheal is responsible for overseeing WELL’s civic engagement initiatives and organizing efforts, developing strategic campaigns in collaboration with WELL leadership, and fostering partnerships with key stakeholders and community leaders.

Micheal’s career is marked by a strong commitment to community service and sustainable community development. His experience as a weather forecaster in the U.S. Marine Corps provided him with unique insights into environmental challenges, enhancing his analytical and communication skills. Following his military service, Micheal’s path led him to roles in community organizing within the spheres of politics and education, where he honed his skills in grassroots mobilization and civic engagement.

Micheal holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and a Master of Education in Human Relations from Northern Arizona University.

Cástulo Estrada, Vice President, Coachella Valley Water District, and WELL Boardmember, Celebrates the Completion of More Than 100 Consolidations with the State Water Resources Control Board

Marking the completion of more than 100 consolidations that have given 90,000 Californians reliable access to safe drinking water, the State Water Resources Control Board led a celebration at Westside Elementary, one of many places across the state that has benefited from consolidation. The State Water Board was joined in this celebration by U.S. EPA Region 9, the Coachella Valley Water District, the Coachella Valley Unified School District, the SAFER Advisory Group, and elected officials.

“We recognize that consolidations are the most effective path to assuring safe drinking water for Eastern Coachella Valley residents,” said Cástulo Estrada, Board Vice President for the Coachella Valley Water District and member of the SAFER Advisory Group. “The scale, speed, and success of these projects across the state and here at home would not have been possible without the SAFER program’s technical and funding support. We will continue to prioritize support for small water systems and look forward to continued collaboration with our local, state, and federal partners to secure additional funding for future projects that advance California’s Human Right to Water.”


 Antonio Hernandez, President, Antioch Unified School District, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2023: Hernandez was unanimously elected to serve as president of the Antioch School Board.

Leticia Gonzalez, Supervisor Pro Tem, County of Madera, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2022: Gonzalez was selected by her board to serve as Supervisor Pro Tem for 2024. She is the first Latina in its history to serve on the Madera County Board. 

Chander Letulle, Director, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, and WELL – AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2023: Letulle celebrated his agency receiving a $2 million grant to help expand the area’s groundwater monitoring network through the installation of four nested monitoring wells. By providing critical insights into groundwater levels, quality, and flow patterns, this project will help the region meet California’s Human Right to Water initiative that recognizes every individual has a right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water.

WELL Partner Highlights

Moulton Niguel Water District (MNWD): MNWD was awarded $10.3 million in federal grants by the California Office of Emergency Services to replace approximately two miles of sewer force mains located in Laguna Niguel Regional Park. Click here to read more.

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD): WRD has launched a state-of-the-art virtual tour of its Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling and Environmental Learning (ARC). This virtual tour allows the public to explore the facility’s advanced water purification processes and the fully digital learning center from their homes or classrooms. Click here to take the self-guided virtual tour of ARC on the WRD ARC 360 Virtual Tour webpage.

Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water): Valley Water was awarded $680K in grants from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for two planning efforts aimed at expanding Santa Clara County’s use of recycled and purified water. The funding will be used to help prepare feasibility studies for projects designed to create and expand new water supply sources that are less vulnerable to drought and climate change. Click here to learn more.

California Water News—January

Worried you may have missed some important recent water news? WELL has you covered! Here is a sample of noteworthy water news during the month of January.

Follow WELL on Social Media!

Follow WELL on social media to get current California water news and updates about WELL programs and events:

 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.