My Experience as a Water Board Director

  • Posted on 22 February 2021
  • By Conner Everts
The late matriarch of Los Angeles environmental groups, Dorothy Green, wrote a book that focuses on Southern California water and water agencies: Managing Water: Avoiding Crisis in California. 
If you live in the city of Los Angeles, you have 5 commissioners to the LADWP Commission and 5 representatives appointed to the master wholesaler, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), all appointed by the Mayor. Some other cities have their own water departments and are members of MWD, as are many water agencies. Each city/agency has appointees to MWD, however you can run for seats on the local water district/agency that you get your water from.

Here’s my story:

I came to the little town of Ojai in Ventura county with a history of running municipal water conservation programs, most recently working with Pasadena Water and Power as a drought coordinator. We were at the end of a 6 year drought and I started working for Patagonia, a clothing company with a social and environmental ethic in Ventura, who hired me to review either ocean desalination or connecting to the state water project as water supply options. I recommended neither.
My recommendation focused on maximizing local water resources: recycled water, increasing water conservation both urban and agricultural and better groundwater management.When the local water agency, the regional wholesaler Casitas Municipal Water District cut its funding to the county’s water conservation budget, I decided to run for a seat on the water board. Turns out, a long time citrus farmer in Ojai had held the seat since he was appointed when his father died in office. I had been working for a reluctant candidate for Congress and was filled with energy to campaign. With a lot of foot leather, some campaign literature, a few signs and support from the community, I won!.
Then the fun began. I served with long time board members who  included a shoe repair owner, a used car salesman, a wholesaler grocer and a county fire captain. It took almost two years to convince  a majority on the board to vote for conservation, based on my fiscal conservatism and knowledge of water issues. I was then appointed to the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency, where I became the president of the board by default. This occurred  as we were implementing metering and monitoring of farmers wells, an unknown  in California at the time. Needless to say, this was met with quite a bit of resistance which included the windows in my car smashed and house being broken into. Things eventually cooled , after a friend and water board  member of a county water agency to the north came down to facilitate.  We were able to finally map the groundwater aquifer for a small valley whose Chumash name means the nest.
I spent 4 years on the two water boards, attending numerous water meetings across the state. It is amazing how many meetings there are.  I learned not only about water policy and politics but finance and governance. You are paid a stipend for 10 meetings and mileage for travel. It is a great opportunity. 
I am telling my story as just one example to show if I could run and win then anyone can. I encourage others to run for water boards in their communities;  represent the diversity of your community, get a seat at the table, don’t allow private interests to make all the decisions, the younger generation and more women are needed. 
The best way to prepare is to attend your water district/agency meetings.Pay attention to water campaigns from the Angeles Chapter and attend our water committee meetings. These water agencies don’t just have the ability  to set water rates but also assign property taxes to cover their costs. These are important decisions that affect everyone’s pocket, flora, fauna, the ocean, marine life, the environment and people. Get involved with water!
The Water Committee meets on the 4th Thursday of every month.

[Header photo: Fresh Water. by Josfor Getty Images Pro via Canva Pro]

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