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WELL-AAPI UnTapped 2023

The WELL-AAPI UnTapped Cohort consists of 7 elected officials from throughout the state of California. The fellows are traveling to different areas in California to learn about regional water challenges and best practices and to develop the leadership and interpersonal skills necessary to make a lasting impact on California’s water policy.

July 21 – 23, 2023: Los Angeles

From July 21 – 23, 2023 the first session for the WELL-AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. This cohort is composed of 9 Fellows that come statewide, representing various areas of California, including the L.A., Northern CA, and the Central Valley regions.

These Fellows embarked on their journey to learn how to impact California’s water policy while addressing their community water challenges. The first session focused on teaching Fellows how to use the WELL Method of Inquiry to extract the information needed to make complex choices about water policy and management, they also visited various locations in the LA region and interviewed guests to learn about community water challenges and the history of water and contaminants in the area.

Guest Interviewees included Mike Eng, Director, San Gabriel Valley Water District, and Former Assemblymember; James Cortes-Rivera, DayOne; Reyna Mendez, Community Activist in the City of Maywood; Tara Robinson, Water Resources Specialist, Valley County Water District; and Joone Kim Lopez, General Manager, Moulton Niguel Water District, and Boardmember, WELL.

Fellows interviewed these guests to learn about the Human Right to Water Act, contaminants in the region, and the water quality issues the residents in this region face.

These interviews also included on-site visits to the Lante Treatment Plant of Valley County Water District and the Los Angeles River. Fellows also received a lesson on California water history from Professor Samuel Sandoval Solis, Policy and Curriculum Advisor, WELL, to understand the complexity of water in our state. Peter Chan, WELL UnTapped Graduate Class of 2018 also gave a lecture on the impact of Chinese Americans on agriculture in California. Finally, Dr. Pablo Ortiz, Science and Curriculum Advisor, WELL, taught the fellows a lesson on Hydrology and the impacts of climate change on our water resources.

August 4 – 5, 2023: Owen’s Valley

WELL-AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023 in Owen’s Valley, CA. This weekend provided Fellows with a look into the conveyance systems in our state and water governance. The session also included training on Public Narrative that brought the Fellows discovery and connection!

The first stop of the session was a tour of the Manzanar National Historic Site to learn about the experience of Japanese Americans during WWII and the water history of the Valley. Afterward, the cohort was engaged in discussions with Adam Perez, Manager, Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Lori Dermody, Environmental Affairs Officer from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). This discussion included a tour of the aqueduct and the Alabama Hills Gate and allowed fellows the opportunity to learn about LADWP’s history and mitigation projects.

Later in the day, the cohort interviewed Noah Williams, Water Program Coordinator, Big Pine Paiute Tribe. Noah provided the cohort with the tribe’s perspective on water preservation and its cultural significance.

Night one ended with a movie screening of ‘Manzanar Diverted’ at the Museum of Western Film History. Screening the movie allowed the cohort to have a visual connection to the curriculum learned throughout the day.

On day 2 the Fellows received an all-day training on Public Narrative by Jake Waxman. This powerful leadership skill allows Fellows the ability to hone their personal story and learn to share their values in order to inspire collective action. Fellows practiced their stories of self, us, and now to prepare them for their WELL Legislative Workshop. The workshop allows the Fellow to share their water knowledge and invite other local elected officials to learn about CA water issues in their regions.

The session ended with a moment of unity, singing De Colores. Fellows left with a renewed sense of purpose in tackling California’s water challenges.

August 24, 2023: Virtual

On August 24, 2023, WELL hosted the third UnTapped Fellowship session virtually for the class of 2023. 

The fellows interviewed Vicky Espinoza, Project Manager-Strategic Restoration, California Water Program, The Nature Conservancy. This session focused on teaching the fellows about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and groundwater. These topics will help educate the fellows about competing interests when managing water resources.

September 15 – 16, 2023: San Diego

The fourth UnTapped session for the WELL AAPI UnTapped Fellowship  Class of 2023 in San Diego, CA, was hosted from September 15 – 16, 2023. This weekend provided Fellows with a deep understanding of the issues of contaminants alongside the border, a look into the solutions that have been proposed to solve these issues, and an exploration of the work that still needs to be done. The session also included training on Relationship Building and harnessing collective power based on a connection of values!

The session began with a visit to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center, where fellows received a tour to learn about the projects and outreach work their team does to protect this important and fragile ecosystem. Fellows then interviewed Amy Chen, Director of the Metropolitan Water District Program, San Diego County Water Authority to learn about the water authorities’ unique governance system and diverse portfolio of water management strategies.

The night ended with an engaging conversation on the experiences of Filipino Farmworkers in California with Heriberto Delute. This conversation helped deepen the Fellows’ understanding of the important contributions of Asian Americans to California.

On day 2 Fellows visited the International Wastewater Treatment Plant, where they explored the intricacies of wastewater management alongside the border. Fellows then interviewed Dr. Gabriela Munoz Melendez, Research Professor, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte to learn about the source of contaminants on the Tijuana border and its impact on community members. 

Jake Waxman returned for a transformative training session on Relationship Building in order to forge stronger connections and amplify our collective impact. 

As tradition, the session ended with a moment of unity by singing De Colores.

October 26, 2023: Virtual

On October 26, 2023, WELL hosted the sixth UnTapped Fellowship session virtually. 

This session focused on preparing the fellows for the Legislative Water Workshop and building a team to help organize the workshop. The fellows also met with two graduates of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program, Cheryl Sudduth, President, West County Wastewater District, Class of 2022, and Rafael Trujillo, Councilmember, City of Rialto, Class of 2023, to learn about their experience organizing their water workshops. 

The fellows also received a continuing training on relationship building with Jake Waxman to practice building a team and asking for their commitment. 

November 9, 2023: Virtual

On November 9, 2023, WELL hosted the seventh UnTapped Fellowship session for the class of 2023 virtually. 

The fellows interviewed Robert Grantham, General Manager, Rancho California Water District. This session focused on teaching the fellows about the topic of water finance. These topics will help educate the fellows about the cost of delivering water to residents and the need for capital improvement projects.

December 5-6, 2023: Sacramento, CA
WELL hosted the eighth, and final UnTapped Fellowship Session for the AAPI UnTapped Fellowship Class of 2023 in Sacramento, CA.

WELL hosted a graduation dinner. In attendance, to celebrate the WELLos graduation were Virginia Madueno, Chairmember, Delta Stewardship Council; Marc Grossman, Spokesperson, Cesar Chavez Foundation; Dave Eggerton, Executive Director, ACWA, and Victor Griego, President & Founder, WELL.

On Day 2, the WELLo’s traveled to the town of Hood to discuss the Delta Conveyance Tunnel with a local resident. The group then went to the Locke Historic District to hear the history of Chinese Immigrants’ roles in shaping the Sacramento River Delta. WELLos then visited the Big Break Regional Shoreline to learn more about the region before heading to the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory to learn about conservation efforts for the Delta Smelt. The last stop of the day featured a visit to Statin Island, a farm and wildlife conservation project along the Delta. The day ended with next-step discussions on how to implement what they’ve learned into their legislative workshop.

This session signifies the Fellowship’s end and the start of their work to help bring clean and affordable drinking water to their communities. The cohort will now begin working to put together their planning committees to host a water workshop in their community. The seven graduates are now part of the WELL UnTapped Network (WUN), bringing the total number of Fellowship graduates to 68- an array of CA local elected officials, including mayors, city council members, and others.