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WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program

Water is one of the most important public policy issues in California and local Latino leaders are now emerging as key contributors in the water policy arena. Ahead of this trend, a group of Latino water experts and community organizers across California came together in 2012 and founded Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL) with the goal of strengthening the voice of local Latino leaders, ensuring they have context for and participation in water policy decisions.

Latino and other people of color have been historically locked out of decision-making and leadership roles, particularly on the issue of water policy. Latinos represent nearly 40 percent of California’s population, but only account for 2 percent of elected water officials and water policy professionals. WELL believes that the next generation of leaders should reflect the diversity of California and that they should have the knowledge and expertise about water issues that will make them more effective in leading water policy.  

Since WELL’s inception, more than 500 California Latino city council members, mayors, county supervisors, water district directors, and school board members have participated in annual WELL conferences.

WELL UnTapped

Building on its success in water education, WELL launched WELL UnTapped, a selective, six-month program for local elected leaders aimed at helping participants make an impact on California water policy while addressing individual community challenges with water. The UnTapped program creates an opportunity for local leaders to engage with water issues through a comprehensive and active exploration of history, governance, public policy, geography, and economics and their relationship to human rights and climate change. 

The overarching goal of the WELL UnTapped fellowship program is to give local elected officials a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of water policy and governance than simply attending one of WELL’s one-off events. UnTapped sessions are held at different watersheds throughout California, and session content includes lectures given by water professionals and skill-based exercises that help participants ask better public policy questions and strengthen public speaking and relational skills. Upon completing the program, fellows will have gained the following skills:

Public Narrative: 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. Through the process of Public Narrative, WELLos share what motivated them to become a local elected official and what prompts them to continue. This motivation engages like-minded individuals to join them in not only improving their community’s water situation but improving the outcomes for all kinds of issues.

Method of Inquiry: The Method of Inquiry is modeled after established teaching models that develop analytic skills to deal with complex fact situations. It is assumed that UnTapped fellows already possess many of these skills acquired through experience and common sense problem-solving in their personal and professional lives. The Method of Inquiry will build on those skills. It is also assumed that while fellows may have experience to varying degrees in dealing with complex water issues, they do not have the time to become experts in the field of water policy and management in California, or even experts within their own communities. The objective of the Method of Inquiry is to give each fellow the skills needed to ask questions of water experts, organize the relevant facts, recognize what is unknown, find out where to get the information needed to make intelligent choices about complex water policy and management issues, and as necessary, how to lead communities in better planning and managing water supplies and water quality.

Once fellows graduate from UnTapped, they are inducted into the WELL UnTapped Network (WUN), where they can continue engaging in learning and training opportunities about California water policy.

Join WELL UnTapped’s statewide network of Latino elected leaders.  Learn from each other.  Leverage the Power of UnTapped.  Together we can make a difference in our communities and help address one of the most critical issues of our day.

“WELL UnTapped was the perfect venue for becoming educated on water and for networking with other Latino leaders with the same concerns.”

– Eduardo Martinez, UnTapped Graduate and Council Member, City of Richmond

“As elected leaders, we’re asked to make key decisions which affect the health and well-being of our constituents. WELL Untapped helped educate me on critical water issuesmaking me a better representative for my community.”


– Carmen Ramirez, UnTapped Graduate and County of Ventura Supervisor