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July 2021 Newsletter

Message from WELL

Over the last month, California has seen another rise in COVID-19 cases. Currently, about 60% of state residents live in a county that either recommends or requires masking for all people. The change from June 15, when the state lifted the Stay Home Order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, is a minor setback. Despite the difficulties of the past 16 months, we have heard stories of how local communities, organizations, and local elected officials rose to the challenge and went well beyond the call of duty.

This pandemic revealed that there is still more to do to address racial disparities in California and beyond. People of color account for a disproportionately large number of positive COVID cases relative to their population in the state. For example, Latinos account for 55.7% of confirmed cases and 46.4% of deaths though they comprise 38.6% of California’s population. Although Latinos are not alone in this struggle, several factors increase the risk of infection and severe illness, such as income level and access to health care.

COVID-19 intersects with all aspects of our lives, and water policy is no exception. The economic fallout from the pandemic sparked utilities relief for California households, but that didn’t necessarily make water more plentiful for the families that live here. California’s drought continues to place intense pressure on all Californians, especially the most vulnerable. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (CLAO) released a report noting that rural and vulnerable communities were particularly affected during the last severe drought that occurred in 2012 – 2016. The CLAO stated that “communities that lost—or remain vulnerable to losing—access to safe drinking water contain high proportions of both lower-income and Latino residents.”

 Earlier this month, Governor Newsom signed an executive order encouraging all Californians to reduce water use by 15%, as 50 of the state’s 58 counties are now in a drought-related state of emergency. This order is purely voluntary and asks individuals for shorter showers and to water lawns less frequently. This comes at a time when there is an influx of state and federal money for water infrastructure and sustainability projects with the goal of increasing water supply and resiliency. It is our hope that these infrastructure dollars will not only support Latinos’ access to safe and clean drinking water, but also create career pathways in the water sector for Latinos, women, and other people of color leading to high-paying jobs with good benefits.  

 Later this fall, WELL will host one of its signature webinars with a focus on water sector jobs. Panelists will share information about career paths for women, people of color, and all Californians that will assist them in entering careers in the water industry. These job opportunities include positions for electricians and wastewater collections and treatment operators as well as jobs in water distribution and water treatment. You can learn more about the webinar and register by clicking the links in the following section of this newsletter.

 As the drought continues to expand its footprint in California, now is the time to stay updated on California water policies. Otherwise, decisions will be made on behalf of your constituents without your input. So stay alert, get engaged, and make sure you are part of the water policy conversation.

Sí Se Puede!


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

The Future of Water Jobs: Training the Next Generation of Water Sector Practitioners

While the world remains focused on the ongoing pandemic and the challenges of reopening, WELL will highlight how water plays a pivotal role in California’s economic recovery. We believe investments in water infrastructure will help local governments get people back to work at pre-COVID levels and create a pathway for underrepresented individuals to enter the water industry. Additionally, according to the Brookings Institute, thousands of water workers across the country are of retirement age, leading to an imminent employment gap that water utilities must fill. In the upcoming WELL Webinar, a panel of subject-matter experts will highlight workforce development initiatives, job training and apprenticeship programs, and discuss related funding to help assist women, people of color, and other underrepresented individuals seeking employment in good, high-paying jobs in the water sector. Ultimately, skills training in this field supports local economies and the sustainability of utilities in California and beyond. Join us on Thursday, September 16 from 12:00-1:00pm by  registering here!

WELL is Hiring a New Program Manager!

WELL is currently searching for a new Program Manager. The Program Manager position provides a remarkable and challenging opportunity for a highly motivated candidate to support a growing organization dedicated to its vision and the positive impact of its mission on California communities. Reporting to the Executive Director, the Program Manager will oversee WELL’s events, programs, and outreach efforts from start to finish. This individual will also develop deep knowledge of California water issues, nonprofit management, and community organizing practices.

In this full-time position, the Program Manager will develop projects and design processes to support and implement WELL’s strategic priorities. In addition, the Program Manager will interface with key stakeholders and community partners, including local elected officials, program sponsors, and water sector leaders in California. Click here to see the full job description; alternatively, you can apply here

Please send information about this employment opportunity to qualified people who are interested in making a difference working on one of California’s most important public policy issues.

WELLo Spotlight

Salvador Melendez, Council Member for the City of Montebello and WELL UnTapped Graduate of 2020 is taking his policy experience to new heights as the new Senior Policy Analyst for AltaMed. AltaMed is one of the nation’s largest community health networks serving neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Councilmember Melendez completed the WELL UnTapped Program while in law school at the University of La Verne College of Law, and we’re incredibly proud of him for completing his degree and taking the next steps in his career and community service. Congratulations, Councilmember Melendez!

Lamar Thorpe, Mayor for the City of Antioch and WELL UnTapped Graduate of 2019, was recently profiled in the Los Angeles Times along with Antioch for being the first city in the US to formally apologize for the dehumanization and injustices faced by early Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After the rise in Asian hate over the last couple of years, the City of Antioch took action to address its own role in perpetuating Asian hate throughout the city’s history.  Click here to read more about Mayor Thorpe’s work on this issue and how the city has taken action.

Carmen Montano, Council Member for the City of Milpitas and WELL UnTapped Graduate of 2019, channels her passion for public service and curbing climate change through poetry. Councilmember Montano recently wrote a new piece in response to the extreme weather and wildfires sweeping the state. Read her poem below. Thanks for sharing your wonderful literary prowess, Councilmember Montano!

If Trees Could Talk
By Carmen Montano

If trees could talk they would reveal time itself.
A time that bore rings on her very soul.
The ages of time
The ages of mankind

Click here for entire poem.

WELL Partner Highlights

WELL wishes to congratulate Adel Hagekhalil’s appointment as the new General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). Nearly 19 million people across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties depend on MWD for at least some of their water supply.  We wish you continued success, and WELL looks forward to continuing our partnership with MWD.

Victor Griego, WELL’s founder and Board President, has been invited to join a panel at the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) Annual Conference in San Diego next month. The panelists will share their insights on connecting with diverse constituents and building programs to communicate the clean water community’s message. WELL encourages you to visit CASA’s event page for more information.

Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) recently received federal funding for two infrastructure projects from the House Appropriations Committee’s FY2022 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies legislation. The district’s Quail Valley Septic to Sewer Program is slated to receive $2.5 million, while the Mead Valley Booster Station received $1 million. To learn more about this funding and the projects to which it is being allocated, click here.

Orange County Water District (OCWD) recently began operation on its first ever plant to treat and remove PFAS contamination. This carcinogen has led to the closure of 61 wells in the county, so OCWD quickly got to work to build treatment facilities. This first plan just began operation in Fullerton, with another two dozen projects in the works. These facilities will allow the region to cut back on imported water and increase its local groundwater supply. Click here to learn more about these plans. Keep up the good work, OCWD!

California Water News – July

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 July:

  1. The Mercury News: The end of California’s groundwater free-for-all
  2. CalMatters: Unpaid utility bills? California will pay off $2 billion to avoid shutoffs
  3. Inside Climate News: A Delta in Distress
  4. ABC 10 – San Diego: What to know: Types of droughts and how they impact you
  5. US Energy Information Administration: California’s hydroelectric generation affected by historic drought

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

Earlier this year, WELL established an Associate Member Program. This program enables organizations to gain access to Latino leaders who share similar interests, allowing members to strategize about the best ways to solve California’s water challenges. Our Associate Members’ participation is a key component to our mutual continued success. We thank our Associate Members, listed below, for their support. If you’d like to learn more about the Associate Member Program, please visit: latinosforwater.org/associatemembers.