WELL educates local Latino elected officials about California water policy to promote timely and equitable actions that serve to develop a robust economy, healthy communities, and a resilient environment for all Californians.
In 2012, founder Victor Griego approached several California water professionals to discuss the need to educate Latino leaders about California’s water crisis. After that conversation, they recruited eight others to help achieve that goal. These individuals made up the first Advisory Board of Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL).
Today, the WELL Board of Directors is comprised of water experts and elected officials. These are a diverse set of leaders representing various constituencies and the diverse perspectives that come from their experiences as leaders at national, state, and local water agencies. Their expertise includes water policy and water management, environmental justice, conservation initiatives, and community, political, and labor organizing.
Current members of the WELL Board of Directors include Cástulo Estrada, Tony Estremera, Joone K. Lopez, Irais Lopez-Ortega, Miguel A. Luna, Diana Mahmud, Carmen Ramirez, Gary Serrato, and Victor Griego.
What Has WELL Accomplished?
Here are just some of the initiatives we have achieved:
- Ten statewide conferences with local elected officials attending from throughout California.
- Eight regional legislative water workshops representing more than 10 counties.
- Four UnTapped Fellowship Cohorts, with a total of 45 elected officials that have graduated.
- Two legislative briefings in Sacramento were led by California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
- Two water conversations were led by California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo in Southern California.
- More than 300 of California’s 400 Latino city council members, mayors, and county supervisors, i.e., 350 elected officials in total, have become more educated about California water policy.
- Presentation at the March 2016 White House Water Summit, “Working Together to Build a Sustainable Water Future,”
- Leadership in the design, planning, and presentation of the Water Pavilion, an event affiliated with the California Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018,
- Past participants and speakers at WELL events include California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, California Senator Bob Archuleta, Congresswoman Nannette Barragan, California State Assembly Members Eduardo Garcia and Mike Gibson, California Senate Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon, California State Senators Ben Hueso and Robert M. Hertzberg, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, California State Controller Betty T. Yee, President of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Pamela “Pam” Tobin, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board E. Joaquin Esquivel, former Assembly Members Luis Alejo and Mike Eng, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, former State Senator Bill Monning, retired California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, California Public Utilities Commission members Catherine Sandoval and Martha Guzman, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
WELL’s strategic partners include the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO); the California League of Cities; the Latino, Asian Pacific Island, and African American Caucuses of the California League of Cities; the California State Latino Legislative Caucus; and the California Contract Cities Association.
WELL has received funding from more than 80 entities, including labor unions, national environmental nonprofit organizations, private foundations, private corporations, local governments, water agencies, private companies and associations, and California energy utility companies. Major donors include AARP California, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Santa Clara Valley Water, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, PG&E, and The Water Foundation.
WELL’s Constituency: Filling a Gap
To prepare the next generation of California’s water policy leaders, WELL involves the people who represent 40 percent of California’s population but less than 2 percent of elected water officials—the Latino community.
Latinos are woefully underrepresented in California’s water policy-making circles. WELL’s goal is to be inclusive and create a “bench” of Latino elected officials who are ready to take the helm and lead California toward sustainable water policies, leading toward a brighter, more equitable future for all Californians. As such, WELL’s programs do not require that participants be Latino. If you represent a Latino community, you can be a Latino leader.
Additionally, WELL’s programs are targeted to local elected officials because they already have responsibility over water issues and because 41 percent of the state legislature is comprised of former local officials, meaning that many of the leaders we train today will be legislators tomorrow.
There are significant challenges for California on the horizon. These include ensuring the Human Right to Water and managing limited water resources that have been impacted by climate change. WELL believes that Californians can rise to the occasion through education, engagement, and action. WELL is committed to developing local elected leaders who are or will be stewards of the state’s water policies. It is important to prepare them now.