Excellence in Innovation Award

ACWA’s Excellence in Innovation Award recognizes successful innovations by member agencies that continue to support and drive California toward long-term water resilience. The award recognizes groundbreaking and unique programs, projects, practices and/or technologies implemented by ACWA member agencies. The award is sponsored by CDM Smith.

Apply for this Award

Please review the Excellence in Innovation Award Guidelines thoroughly before completing the award application. Applicants who do not meet the minimum eligibility requirements will not be considered. Applications for the 2024 cycle are now open! Apply now using the button below. Entries must include the below form in addition to the typed narrative. Entries can be submitted to awards@acwa.com.


  • The applicant(s) must be a public agency member of ACWA.
  • Submissions that include multiple agencies or entities must identify at least one ACWA member agency in the lead role.
  • Projects are not eligible if they have been completed for more than two years.
  • Multi-year, multi-phase projects do not have to be completed at the time of entry, but must have quantifiable results to be considered.
  • An agency may submit no more than one entry for this award per year and a winning submission is not eligible to win multiple ACWA awards.
  • A member agency is not eligible to submit for this award for three years after winning.
  • Entries must be submitted electronically by March 1 of each year.

Requirements for Entries

Entries must be accompanied by a typewritten narrative that briefly explains the innovation and how it meets the below criteria for selection. Narratives must be 1,000 words or less to be considered.

  • Objective: What were your agency’s goals and objectives or desired outcome of the innovation?
  • Innovation: How is the entry innovative — e.g. how is it better than the common practice? Is it unique and groundbreaking? How does it creatively address a water industry issue or priority?
  • Resources/Budget: What resources did your agency use to meet the goals and objectives — e.g. funding, materials, partnerships, staff? Explain how your agency used these resources efficiently.
  • Results: How did the innovation meet the goal and objectives? Show clear quantifiable evidence of successful adoption.
  • Replicable: Can other water agencies replicate what has been done?
  • Finalists will be asked to provide at least 5 photos, graphics, video clips or other visuals (high resolution electronic formats preferred) that represent their entry for purposes of the awards presentation.
  • Finalists will be given the opportunity to share their innovation at the ACWA Spring

Examples of Entries

A wide variety of projects, practices, programs and technologies are eligible, including but not limited to the following:

  • Drought Resilience
  • Water Use Efficiency
  • Operational Efficiency
  • Capital Improvements
  • IT Improvements
  • Customer Service Initiatives
  • Water Quality Improvement
  • Water Reliability/Sustainability
  • Water Affordability
  • Governance / Administration
  • Watershed / Ecosystem Protection
  • Environmental Initiatives (Pollution Reduction/Prevention)
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Renewable Energy
  • Partnerships/Collaborations
  • Leadership and Professional Development
  • HR Innovations (e.g. Recruitment, Retention, Succession Planning)

* Public information/outreach/education programs and efforts are NOT eligible.


Questions can be directed to awards@acwa.com.

Past Winners

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