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WELL UnTapped 2024

The 2024 UnTapped Cohort consists of 16 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.

January 1921, 2024: Coachella, CA

This past weekend was the first UnTapped Fellowship Session for the class of 2024 in the Coachella Valley. This cohort is composed of 16 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 make an impact on 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 Coachella Valley region and interviewed guests and local residents to learn about community water challenges and the history of water in the area.

Guest Interviewees included Cástulo Estrada, Boardmember, WELL and Vice President, Coachella Valley Water District; Patrick O’Dowd, Executive Director, Salton Sea Authority; Monica Telles, State Community Planner, USDA Rural Development; Elizabeth Marquez, TLMA Regional Office Manager, County of Riverside; and Peter Nelson, Director, Coachella Valley Water District, and Member, Colorado River Board of California. Fellows interviewed these guests to learn about the Salton Sea, the history of the conveyance systems in the region, and the water quality issues the residents in this region face.

These interviews also included on-site visits to the Salton Sea, the Coachella Branch of the American Canal, and the Polanco Parks (mobile home parks). Fellows also received a lesson on California water history and hydrology from Dr. Pablo Ortiz.

As tradition, the session with a moment of unity where the Fellows sang the song De Colores.

A special thank you to Cástulo Estrada, Boardmember, WELL and Vice President, Coachella Valley Water District; and City of Coachella, for hosting a dinner for the Fellows on the first night.


February 9 – 10, 2024: San Diego, CA

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program Update: From Friday, February 9 – Saturday, February 10, 2024, 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 the 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 community experience 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, Boardmember, 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 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 President and Founder Victor Griego. 

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

February 29, 2024: Virtual

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

The fellows interviewed Jennifer Clary, State Director, Clean Water Action. 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.

March 28, 2024: Virtual

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

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 will help educate the fellows about how to build more water-resilient communities.  

April 12 – 13, 2024: Tehachapi, CA

From Friday, April 12 – Saturday, April 13, 2024, the UnTapped Fellowship winter class of 2024 gathered in the Tehachapi region and the San Joaquin Valley for an interdisciplinary forum where Fellows learned the intricate dynamics of water resource management, water conveyance, and mitigation efforts for contaminants. 

On day one, Fellows received a tour of the Cesar Chavez National Monument by Marc Grossman, a spokesperson for the Cesar Chavez Foundation who worked alongside Cesar Chavez and was responsible for the union’s press relations, helping Chavez with speeches, correspondence, public statements, and commentary. This was followed by an interview on Water Conveyance Systems with Raul Barraza Jr., General Manager, Arvin Community Services District. The day ended with a moment of unity by singing De Colores.

On day two, Fellows learned about Self Help Enterprises, an organization that works to provide technical assistance and community support when addressing water challenges from Melissa Bergen, Community Development Specialist, Self‑Help Enterprises. This was then followed by an interview on the topic of Whose water is it: People, Environment, and Agriculture? with Nataly Escobedo Garcia, Policy Coordinator – Water, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability. The day ended with a tour of the Panorama Vista Preserve alongside Bring Back the Kern to learn more about wildlife and river restoration efforts. 

April 25, 2024: Virtual

On April 25, 2024, WELL hosted the sixth UnTapped Fellowship session virtually for the class of 2024.

The fellows interviewed Clifford Chan, General Manager, East Bay Municipal Utility District. This session focused on teaching Fellows about water finance. This topic will help educate the fellows about how to fund equitable water solutions.

May 9, 2024: Virtual

The class of 2024 met virtually, for their final session before embarking on next week’s trip to Sacramento. Joined by graduates of the UnTapped Fellowship Program (WELLo’s) they received mentorship on forming planning committees and fostering collaboration to have a successful water workshop as part of the UnTapped Fellowship capstone project!

May 22 – 23, 2024: Sacramento, CA

WELL UnTapped Fellowship Update: WELL hosted the eighth, and final UnTapped Fellowship Session for the Class of 2024 in Sacramento, CA.

The cohort gathered in Sacramento to meet with their legislators’ offices to take the first steps in planning their legislative water workshops. WELL hosted a graduation dinner. In attendance, to celebrate the WELLos graduation were Anecita Agustinez, Executive Manager, the Office of Tribal Affairs, The California Department of Water Resources; Cindy Tuck, Deputy Executive Director, Association of California Water Agencies; Darryl Lucien, Executive Director, California African American Water Education Foundation; Marc Grossman, Spokesperson, Cesar Chavez Foundation; and Victor Griego, President & Founder, WELL.

On Day 2, the WELLos took a tour of the Delta with the first stop at the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory to learn about conservation efforts for the Delta Smelt. The WELLos then visited the Big Break Regional Shoreline to learn more about the region and how water moves. The group then went to the Locke Historic District to hear the history of Chinese Immigrants’ roles in shaping the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The final stop was at the town of Hood to discuss the Delta Conveyance Project with a resident.

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 host a legislative water workshop in their community with their planning committee over the next few months. The sixteen graduates are now part of the WELL UnTapped Network (WUN), bringing the total number of Fellowship graduates to 84-an array of CA local elected officials, including mayors, city council members, and school and water board members.