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March 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: 

  • WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate and Mayor of the City of Arvin, Olivia Trujillo passed away on March 3, 2024; see below for the remembrance video.
  • The WELL 12th Annual Conference was hosted in San Jose; 100 leaders from throughout the state attended to learn about the water solutions they can implement locally to ensure water-resilient communities.
  • The WELL UnTapped Fellowship Cohort hosted three sessions! These meetings focused on educating Fellows on contaminants, groundwater contaminants, and a portfolio of water management strategies.  
  • Applications are due soon for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Summer 2024 Program.
  • WELLos Spotlight: As our WELLos continue their leadership roles and enact positive change, we continue to 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 January through March.
  • 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.

March Newsletter Commentary 

Dear Friends of WELL,

In the past three months, we have experienced the wettest days on record for our state, right on the heels of years of extreme drought. These extreme weather events, however, will not be the long-term solution for California’s water management challenges. Leadership is what is needed to lead our state toward equitable solutions that will benefit all of our communities and the one million Californians who do not have access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.

In March, 100 local leaders from throughout the state took the first step in learning how to drive equitable change by attending our 12th annual conference in San Jose. You can read a complete overview of this event below and view the presentations and photos. Ready to plan ahead to attend next year’s conference? RSVP by Clicking here. 

At the annual conference, we also welcomed 16 new WELLos into the WELL UnTapped Network. These WELLos have spent the past couple of months learning about water challenges throughout our state; you can view a recap of their last three sessions below. Applications for our next UnTapped Fellowship cohort are now open; see below for more information about how you can take a role in addressing your community’s water challenges. 

¡Sí Se Puede!


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


WELL’s 12th Annual Conference 

WELL’s 12th Annual statewide conference took place Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16, 2024. Thank you to all those who joined us!

Friday began with a tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, where attendees learned about the largest advanced water purification facility in Northern California, which is producing a locally developed new supply of water. The tour was followed by an Evening Reception hosted in the San Jose City Hall Rotunda. The evening included a moment of remembrance honoring the late Olivia Trujillo, Mayor, City of Arvin, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2020. Three WELL Advisory Board members were also pinned and welcomed by current WELL Board members into their new roles: Anecita Agustinez, Executive Manager of the Office of Tribal Affairs, California Department of Water Resources; Ryanna Fossum, Community Water Planner, Stantec; and Sally Flowers, Former Council member, City of Artesia, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2018,. The reception concluded with an screening of the inspiring movie Water for Life, which follows indigenous activists in Latin America as they face death threats and murder in their efforts to save their water resources from mining and hydroelectric projects. 

On Saturday, the conference was hosted at the Hilton in San Jose by emcee Celeste Rodriguez, Mayor, City of San Fernando, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024. The morning started with inspirational opening remarks by the keynote speaker, Anecita Agustinez, Executive Manager of the Office of Tribal Affairs, California Department of Water Resources, and WELL Advisory Board member. Ms. Agustinez shared with attendees the importance of equitable policy changes that take into account the historical discrimination against indigenous tribes.

After hearing from two panels that focused on equity in water infrastructure and the impact of California’s changing climate on our water resources, attendees witnessed the pinning ceremony for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024 and the WELL AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023. This ceremony welcomes Fellows to the WELL UnTapped Network, bringing the current number of graduates to 84. Afterward, the Lunchtime Inspirational Water Conversation featured two esteemed panelists, WELL Board member Tony Estremera, Director, Santa Clara Valley Water District; and Adan Ortega, Chair, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The lunch session focused on strategies that both small and large water districts can implement to prioritize equitable water management strategies in a changing climate. 

After these remarks, attendees took part in a small-group discussion moderated by Trustee Anamarie Avila Farias, Contra Costa County Board of Education. For this discussion, attendees broke into small groups to discuss the water strategies their communities were implementing to be more water resilient and how they communicated these approaches to their residents. This discussion fostered collaboration and community engagement. The final panel of the day featured a discussion on the policy changes and water management strategies needed to ensure sustainable water usage.

The conference ended with our traditional moment of unity, singing De Colores.


WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024 Hosts Second Session in San Diego

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program Update: On Friday, February 9 and Saturday, February 10 the UnTapped Fellowship winter class of 2024 gathered in the San Diego region for an immersive experience on cross-border collaboration and environmental challenges. 

The session began with a tour of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, where Fellows learned about international efforts to remediate contaminants along the Tijuana River.  Morgan Rogers, Area Operations Manager, guided the tour and answered questions. Afterward, the group interviewed Dr. Gabriela Muñoz Melendez to learn about Tijuana’s efforts and the community’s experience in addressing contaminants. The day concluded with a dinner at which Assemblymember David Alvarez welcomed the cohort to the region.

On day two, Jake Waman and Miya Cain trained the Fellows on the art of Public Narrative and “the story of self, us, and now.” Richard Barrera, Board member, San Diego Unified School District, assisted WELL in reserving the space to host the training and opened up the workshop by welcoming Fellows to the region. Public Narrative is an evidence-based method to engage others in organizing work. The method, developed by Marshall Ganz, an organizer and lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, comes out of his theory of strategic capacity. Through practicing what Ganz coined as the Story of Self, Story of Us, and Story of Now,  Fellows hone critical public speaking skills and learn how to recruit important allies to build a team of concerned and willing leaders based on shared values. Trainers included WELL President and Founder Victor Griego. 

At the end of the session, Fellows celebrated with a moment of unity by singing De Colores. 

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024 Hosts Third Session Virtually

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Update: On February 29, 2024, WELL hosted the third UnTapped Fellowship session for the class of 2024, meeting virtually. 

The Fellows interviewed Jennifer Clary, State Director, Clean Water Action. This session focused on teaching the Fellows about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and about groundwater. These topics will help educate the Fellows about competing interests when managing water resources.

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2024 Hosts Fourth Session Virtually

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Update: On March 28, 2024, WELL hosted the fourth UnTapped Fellowship session for the class of 2024, meeting virtually. 

The Fellows interviewed Dr. Newsha Ajami, Chief Development Officer for Research, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This session focused on teaching the Fellows how to diversify their portfolio of water management strategies. These topics educated the Fellows about how to build more water-resilient communities.  

The next UnTapped session will be held in person in Tehachapi, California. 

WELL Board Member Tony Estremera Featured in What Matters Water TV + Podcast Episode

WELL Board member Tony Estremera was featured in the latest episode of the What Matters Water TV + Podcast.

In Episode 18, the panel explored the topic of Direct Potable Reuse (DPR), California’s pioneering solution to water scarcity. Alongside Board member Estremera, experts like Dave Pedersen and Dawn Taffler unraveled the complexities of advanced water purification by using cutting-edge technologies to ensure the safety of reclaimed water. 

Board member Estremera shared information on the groundbreaking Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, which is creating a new water source for Northern California through recycled water. 

WELL President & Founder Victor Griego Speaks at Event Honoring Cesar Chavez

On Saturday, March 23, WELL President and Founder Victor Griego spoke at the City of Duarte  event to honor the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez. This event has taken place for more than 20 years as a time for the community to come together for a day of service. Victor Griego worked alongside Cesar Chavez at a young age and shared personal stories and tips with attendees about how we can all make a difference. 

Applications Now Open for the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Summer 2024 Program

Who is responsible for ensuring that 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 their 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:

  • Los Angeles, Friday, July 19 – Sunday, July 21, 2024
  • San Diego, Friday, August 9 – Saturday, August 10, 2024
  • Tehachapi, Friday, September 13 – Saturday, September 14, 2024
  • Richmond, Friday, October 11 – Saturday, October 12, 2024
  • Sacramento, Tuesday, November 12 – Wednesday, November 13, 2024

WELLos Spotlight:
Celeste Rodriguez, Mayor, City of San Fernando, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Fellow, Class of 2024: San Fernando’s mayor donated her kidney to her brother. At the Rose Parade, she shared her story

Anthony Rocha, Councilmember, City of Salinas, and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2023: As the City of Salinas appointee to the Board of Directors for Monterey One Water, Council member Rocha was able to participate in a tour of the agency’s Regional Treatment Plant to learn about the initiatives Monterey One Water is pursuing to create long-term, sustainable water supply solutions for the region.

Dr. Sabrina Bow, President, Azusa Unified School District and WELL UnTapped Fellowship Graduate, Class of 2023: President Bow, alongside two other graduates of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program,  volunteered as judges at this year’s Los Angeles County Office of Education Academic Decathlon. Students traveled from throughout the county to match their intellects with students from other schools. Students are tested in ten categories: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, and speech.

 Partners Spotlight

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD): With the goal of expanding the region’s urban tree canopy, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California launched a new rebate that offers residents and businesses $100 for each eligible tree they plant in their yards as they replace their thirsty grass for more sustainable landscaping. Officials announced the launch of the new rebate in honor of Cindy Montañez, who most recently served as a San Fernando City Council member and the chief executive officer of TreePeople before her passing in October 2023.

California Water Service (CalWater): CalWater contributed $1.56 million in 2023 to charitable organizations and first responders in its communities, just one of the many ways it demonstrates its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for those it serves. Last year, CalWater allocated 22% of its community-giving efforts to support at-risk, underserved, and disadvantaged communities. An additional 22% went to community improvement efforts across the utility’s service areas, 14% to help firefighters, police officers, and first responders, and 13% for educational grants. The remainder of the donations went to organizations focused on youth, healthcare, veterans, and animal welfare.

 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—March

Worried you may have missed some important recent water news? WELL has you covered! Here is a sample of noteworthy water news from March.

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.