WELL educates and trains 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, Gary Serrato, and Victor Griego.
What Has WELL Accomplished?
Here are just some of the initiatives we have achieved:
- Twelve statewide conferences with an average of 100 to 150 attendees at each event.
- Graduated 61 elected officials through the WELL UnTapped Fellowship, a selective, six-month program begun in 2017 to help local elected leaders make significant impacts on California water policy while addressing their individual communities’ water challenges.
- Ten regional legislative water workshops with representation from multiple counties uniting local leaders and state lawmakers within the framework of the UnTapped Fellowship capstone project.
- Two legislative briefings in Sacramento led by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
- A 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 September 2018 California Global Climate Action Summit.
- Seven webinars that allowed local elected officials to advance their water education goals during the pandemic.
- A contract to assist in developing the Water Solution Network, a program that brings together a broad spectrum of California water professionals to enhance leadership skills.
- Received a $4 million state workforce development grant as a four-member statewide grant team to pilot a program training and placing 70 women, people of color, and Latinos in the water and utility sectors and providing training for 100 incumbent workers to move from entry to middle management as well as middle management to C-suite positions.
- At the request of leaders of the California Legislative Latino Caucus, WELL hosted two half-day water-topic conversations with Southern California Latino legislators.
- Cal Matters published a commentary piece from WELL emphasizing the need to educate local leaders, particularly those in Latino communities, about water solutions to protect vulnerable residents and also exposing the failure of policy leaders to take decisive action. You can read the full article here.
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.