March 2023 Newsletter
Message from WELL
California is experiencing both ends of extreme weather conditions, and at the forefront of the severe aftereffects are our most vulnerable residents. Yet “historic levels” and “record-breaking rainfall” are not signs that our calls for additional water are being answered; instead, these are warning signs that we need to prepare for the extremes of a constantly changing climate in our state.
What has happened in the community of Pajaro is an example that relief and recovery efforts are not equitably delivered at the same pace in our low-income, predominately minority and Latino communities. Residents from this community are having to recover from the recent extreme rainfalls and flooding without the same safety net enjoyed by many other communities. This is why as local elected Latino officials it is your leadership efforts that are needed in order to ensure that all our communities, many like Pajaro, are taken into consideration. We must be inclusive when we plan how we will adapt to the effects of this water crisis we are still experiencing. Yes, even after 13 “atmospheric river” weather events, there is still a water crisis. Periods of extremely dry weather and record-breaking rainfall are expected to become more frequent. Our water resources continue to be managed inequitably, leaving Latino communities with a constant fear of scarcity.
This past weekend, WELL hosted our 11th Annual Statewide Conference. We convened more than 190 attendees from across the state to learn about, discuss, and plan how to tackle California’s water crisis. You can read more about the conference below. Attending this important event is just one way for you as local elected Latino officials can learn about California water policy. To provide you the opportunity to discover even more, the application deadline for the WELL AAPI UnTapped Fellowship has been extended. We urge you to take advantage of this learning opportunity; it will build a foundation of knowledge that will help to ensure that your community is prepared for the effects climate change is having on our water resources.
¡Sí Se Puede!
Victor Griego Paul C. Hernandez
Founder and Board President Executive Director
WELL hosted 11th Annual Water Conference March 31 – April 1!
Thank you to all those who joined us at WELL’s 11th Annual Conference. With 190 attendees, it was the highest level of attendance at our annual conference to date!
Friday night’s evening reception featured a tribal welcome by Rudy Ortega, Jr., Tribal President of Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and a celebration of the life of Cesar Chavez by Supervisor Eddie Valero, County of Tulare, a WELL UnTapped Graduate, Class of 2022. Guest speakers on Friday included Anecita Agustinez, Tribal Policy Advisor, Department of Water Resources and Grace F. Napolitano, Congresswoman, CA D-31. The speakers aimed to motivate attendees to tackle California’s water challenges in order to increase water equity in their communities.
Saturday started with inspirational opening remarks from our keynote speaker Dolores Huerta, President and Founder, Dolores Huerta Foundation. Ms. Huerta shared about the importance of representation in all levels of government, but primarily in the water sector due to the one million people in California without access to clean and safe drinking water who reside primarily in Latino communities.
After hearing from panelists who focused on California’s changing climate and the resulting impacts on infrastructure, attendees witnessed the pinning ceremony for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023 led by Councilmember Anthony Rocha, City of Salinas and WELL UnTapped Fellow, Class of 2023. This ceremony welcomed current fellows to the WELL UnTapped Network after their graduation.
The lunchtime speaker was Barbara Romero, Director and General Manager, LA City Sanitation & Environment, who shared the strategies and investments the city of Los Angeles is using to combat the impacts of climate change on water resources. She also provided information about new policies and practices participants could take back to their jurisdictions.
After these remarks, attendees took part in a small-group discussion on the topic, “How do you communicate to your residents that there is a water crisis?” moderated by Boardmember Antonio Hernandez, Antioch Unified School District, and WELL UnTapped Fellow, Class of 2023. Attendees were put into groups, which discussed the water challenges their communities are facing as well as strategies for communicating these issues to their community members. The final panel of the day focused on strategies that can be implemented to lessen the impacts of climate change on our economies, communities, and environment.
The conference ended with our traditional moment of unity, singing De Colores. Additional post-conference information will be available soon.
WELL UnTapped Fellowship Session 3: March 2
WELL hosted the third UnTapped Fellowship session for the class of 2023, virtually, on March 2. Fellows interviewed Bart Garcia from The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. This session focused on teaching participants about California water conveyance systems with the aim of educating WELL fellows about California’s water grid and the challenges and opportunities of adapting to California’s changing climate.
WELL UnTapped Fellowship Session 4: March 17–18
On October 18, the Council for Water Shed Health celebrated 25 years of meaningful work in breaking down silos in order to effect sound watershed planning and management. Miguel Luna, Boardmember, WELL, and CEO, Urban Semillas, was honored for his work cultivating relationships between community-based organizations, businesses, elected officials, environmental organizations, academia, governmental agencies, and individuals at the grass-roots level. Felicia Marcus, Visiting Fellow, Water in the West Program, Stanford University, was also honored for her career in making the Southern California region equitable and water-resilient. Ms. Marcus has been a strong supporter of WELL over the years and has been a speaker at our previous events.
The UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023 gathered in the city of Imperial Beach for an immersive experience on cross-border collaboration and environmental challenges in its Session 4 meeting March 17–18. This session included relationship and team-building training and tours of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Tijuana Estuary. The prime objective was to educate fellows about contaminants and the joint efforts of the United States and Mexico to address contamination issues along the border.
On the first day, Jake Waxman led the cohort in a relationship and team-building training. Following this, the fellows were divided into groups to practice these skills in support of their capstone projects/legislative workshops. The day concluded with a dinner at which Assemblymember David Alvarez welcomed the cohort to the region.
The second day commenced with a tour of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, where fellows learned about the international efforts to remediate contaminants along the Tijuana River. Morgan Rogers, Area Operations Manager, and Sally Spener, Foreign Affairs Officer, guided the tour and answered questions. Afterward, the group interviewed Dr. Gabriela Muñoz Melendez, head of the Department of Urban and Environmental Studies, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, to learn about Tijuana’s efforts and community experience with addressing contaminants.
The group then went to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve to interview Sandy Kerl, General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority, who provided further information about the relationship between contaminants and water shortages. Afterward, Megan D. Spitzer, California Sea Grant Fellow at the Reserve conducted a tour. This visit showcased the effects of the contaminants on local fish and wildlife populations.
Thank you to our sponsors for the fourth UnTapped Fellowship Session: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and the San Diego County Water Authority.
Application Deadline Extended: WELL – AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Program
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. The application deadline for this vital program has been extended to April 28.
WELL Partners with the Sonora Institute to Host a Growing Water Smart Workshop
WELL is partnering with the Sonora Institute to bring the Growing Water Smart program to California. This partnership brings together the expertise and resources of two leading organizations in the water conservation and education fields to aid participating city leaders in creating a comprehensive water management program that will address water resource challenges in their cities.
The workshop builds and fosters interdisciplinary teams from counties, municipalities, and school and water districts that are committed to taking collaborative action around water resilience. The program provides insight into critical gaps in planning efforts, as participants assess community data, trends, and existing policies to identify strategies for becoming water resilient. This has led to the ongoing development of a common set of data and growth projections that local governments and service providers can use to inform planning efforts.
As a Latino Leader, consider joining the Growing Water Smart program—doing so will equip you with the tools and resources necessary to create a more sustainable future for your community.
Dr. José Pablo Ortiz is WELL’s New Science and Curriculum Advisor
We are pleased to announce Dr. José Pablo Ortiz is our new Science and Curriculum Advisor. Pablo Ortiz is a Senior Water and Climate Scientist for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). In his role, he takes the lead in identifying and developing analytic and research projects that further his team’s water-related priorities. Dr. Ortiz also works on developing strategies for vulnerable sectors and populations in California to help them cope and adapt to the current and projected impacts of climate change, particularly related to water impacts.
Before joining UCS, Dr. Ortiz served as a research assistant for the water management lab at the University of California, Davis, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, where he researched how to balance human and environmental water allocation without affecting current and future urban, agriculture, and recreational water uses—or flood risks. He has also worked as a junior consultant engineer for Servicios Ambientales Profesionales, an environmental consulting firm based in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he conducted environmental impact assessments at municipal, state, and regional levels.
As WELL’s new science and curriculum advisor, Dr. Ortiz will help us develop our programs to promote sustainability and equitable access to water resources. His expertise in working with vulnerable communities will also help us address environmental issues affecting Latino communities. We’re thrilled to have him join the WELL team and look forward to his valuable
Rodrigo Espinoza, Supervisor, County of Merced, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2019: Early in the month of March, atmospheric rivers brought flood conditions to the residents of the city of Planada. Supervisor Espinoza worked alongside various community leaders to support residents by handing out meals and filling sandbags that helped protect residents’ homes.
Cheryl Sudduth, President, West County Wastewater District, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2022: President Sudduth co-hosts a podcast on the obligations to transform the Muslim faith into action for a more just society through proactive civic engagement. In March, President Sudduth held a panel discussion on “The power of women telling her story,” disAbility Awareness, and how civility empowers all. Click here to listen.
Eddie Valero, Supervisor, County of Tulare, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2022: Due to severe weather conditions throughout Tulare County, Supervisor Valero rallied alongside his community to address flooding, power outages, and a lack of running water as a result of recent rains and snowmelt. Now, with other elected officials in the area, Supervisor Valero is advocating for the approval of federal aid for flood victims in the county.
WELL Partner Highlights
Orange County Water District (OCWD): The 26th annual Children’s Water Education Festival, the largest of its kind in the United States, was held March 29–30 at the University of California, Irvine. The award-winning festival presented an opportunity to educate third, fourth, and fifth-grade students about local water issues and the environment and helped them understand how they can protect the water supply and their environment.
Moulton Niguel Water District (MNWD): Along with the California Data Collaborative (CaDC), Moulton Niguel Water District received global recognition for its efforts to use data to improve local water reliability and enhance customer service. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data spotlighted the California Data Collaborative’s efforts to improve data sharing to support water sustainability initiatives in California. Click here to learn more.
Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD): CVWD and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) co-hosted an event to celebrate Reclamation’s 120th anniversary and more than a century of partnership in managing water in the West. In addition, Reclamation and CVWD acknowledged a $60 million loan for the Irrigation Lateral and Box Structure Replacements project. This project will replace the 70-year-old aging concrete pipelines that are experiencing numerous leaks. The box structures to be replaced serve to divert large volumes of water flow to various laterals pipes and connect multiple pipelines.
California Water News – March
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 March:
- The Los Angeles Times: Opinion: What happened in Pajaro isn’t just a ‘natural’ disaster
- Cal Matters: California storms create paradox: Too much water in reservoirs, too soon
- California Department of Water Resources: California’s Snowpack is Now One of the Largest Ever, Bringing Drought Relief, Flooding Concerns
- The New York Times: A Very Wet Winter Has Eased California’s Drought, but Water Woes Remain
- Cal Matters: California lifts target for 15% water conservation as yet another storm approaches
- The Los Angeles Times: Opinion: What happened in Pajaro isn’t just a ‘natural’ disaster
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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.