Local Water Management Unified Through ACWA

  • by Steven LaMar & Pamela Tobin
  • Feb 12, 2021
  • Voices on Water

At the heart of ACWA’s success is the fundamental commitment to working together as a vast and diverse membership of local water agencies to find creative solutions to the challenges of the day.  It is a dominant theme of the association’s value statement (“collaboration,” “mutual respect,” and “solution-oriented”) and is part of our organizational DNA.  

While the New Year already poses formidable challenges for California’s water community, ACWA’s commitment to roll-up our sleeves together to build from the combined experience and expertise of our membership will serve us well yet again. ACWA is not just hundreds of local agencies working in water; we are a unified voice for the successful delivery of essential public services for the good of this state and our nation.   

This hard-earned unity is a vital but sometimes overlooked advantage we share. In a state defined by its regional and cultural differences, ACWA’s system of regional boards, committees, working groups and the Board itself effectively operates to bring diverse interests (e.g., ag/urban, north/south, coastal/inland) together to build much bigger, more consequential solutions to pressing challenges through the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences.  Just look at our own agencies: Irvine Ranch Water District in Orange County and San Juan Water District in Sacramento. While physically separated by more than 450 miles, our districts are unified through our membership in ACWA, where we regularly work together through committees, workgroups, and the Board of Directors to advance positions that benefit our local communities through the powerful voice of a united water community.  It is a tried-and-true template for success that will guide our work on every priority issue this year. 

The groundwork for defining many of these priorities and allocating organizational resources to achieving successful outcomes started long before this year.  With the Board’s development of a Five-Year Strategic Plan in 2019 and its operationalization through action plans each year since, we know much of the focus for 2021 and are already working with members to achieve our goals.  There will certainly be other challenges that arise along the way in Washington D.C. and Sacramento that will also require our full attention.  We will likewise take them head-on together. 

Much of what brings us together is a shared commitment to the higher calling of public service.  It too is a core value of ACWA.  As officers of the association, we are proud to represent you, the leaders of local water management in California, who make the tough decisions necessary to fulfill the solemn missions of your organizations.  Providing for the most essential needs of your communities resonates with us both personally and professionally and inspires the work of ACWA each and every day.  There is no short-cut to providing sustainable, resilient water supplies for drinking water or food production.  It takes hard work and dedication and the willingness to sacrifice for others.  This commitment to public service flows through each member of ACWA and is the bond that unifies our work together.

If ACWA stands for anything, it stands for collaboration. This quality drives our success at coalition building, which will again prove essential in 2021. Case in point is the financial impact on water agencies from the state’s suspending late fees and shutoff fees for water service. As understandable a move as that was, given the severity of the COVID-19 shutdown, it includes an estimated shortfall of between $600 and $700 million in unpaid water bills in California alone. 

Resolving this potential crisis will require significant relief funding, particularly at the federal level. This is why ACWA, since the middle of last year, is advocating for that relief within a historically broad coalition that has ACWA and environmental justice organizations working on the same side.

We are confident that 2021 will again represent an outstanding year for ACWA and its membership in terms of resiliency and outcomes that benefit our customers, as well as all Californians. The qualities that will make this possible are already in place through our ability to work as a unified community within ACWA.

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