The Real-Life Success Stories of Two ACWA Scholarship Recipients

  • by Emily Allshouse
  • Apr 20, 2018
  • Newsletters

ACWA began its scholarship program in 1961 with the goal of investing in future water leaders and cultivating a rich workforce of water professionals dedicated to ensuring safe and reliable water for all Californians. Over the past 57 years, ACWA has awarded scholarships to numerous students, enabling them to pursue their water-resources related education and career goals. Ten years ago, those students included two now-notable names in California water: Daniel Holtz and Michael Kiparsky. 

Daniel Holtz

ACWA Scholarship

Daniel Holtz applied for an ACWA Scholarship in 2008 as a senior at Cal Poly majoring in bioresource and agricultural engineering. Citing first-hand experience with agricultural water challenges on his family’s avocado farm in northern San Diego County, Holtz expressed his commitment to California water and developing sustainable water solutions for the state’s agriculture industry. He was awarded one of two $3,000 ACWA scholarships that year.

At the time, he was working as an agricultural intern for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). These days you can still find him at NRCS, but he now serves as the Field Office Engineer for Escondido, providing financial and technical assistance to landowners throughout San Diego County to help improve irrigation efficiency and reduce soil erosion. Holtz credits his early experiences on his family’s farm for his love for agriculture and compassion for those who farm.

“Being able to work with farmers on a daily basis is what I enjoy the most,” said Holtz. “Our goal is to help farmers use scientific methods to irrigate more efficiently. My degree in agricultural engineering has made this possible, and ACWA’s help was huge.”

In February of this year, Holtz also was selected by Valley Center Municipal Water District to serve as the district’s Division 5 director. As a Valley Center native and fourth-generation farmer, Holtz says he is happy to have a chance to give back to his community through his new role. According to Valley Center MWD Board President Robert Polito, the feeling is mutual.

“The appointment of Daniel Holtz is a refreshing reminder there are still young people willing to serve in public positions. I had occasion to see Daniel in action working at the NRCS. A few years ago I applied for a resource grant and he was a pleasure to work with.  As a civil engineer with an agricultural background, he will add another dimension to our board. We are very happy to have him on board,” Polito said.

Michael Kiparsky

Stephen K. Hall Water Law & Policy Scholarship

As a Ph.D. candidate in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, Michael Kiparsky took home the very first award under ACWA’s Stephen K. Hall Water Law & Policy Scholarship in 2008. He was awarded $7,000 to work on a dissertation that examined risks to water supply from climate change, during which time he also researched science and policy in Delta governance.

Four years later, in 2012, Kiparsky became the founding director of the Wheeler Water Institute within the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law, where he continues to work at the intersection of law, policy and science. Under his leadership, the institute has grown into a widely recognized voice on a range of California water issues.

Through the institute, Kiparsky has been working on key Sustainable Water Management Act (SGMA) implementation topics, including examining governance issues, groundwater market programs, groundwater/surface water interactions and innovative groundwater recharge programs through a series of reports. His work uses a variety of research methods and includes outreach to various stakeholders, including ACWA members, to ensure that the institute’s reports reflect a wide range of viewpoints and support water management decision makers.

“Our goal is relevance in the real world,” said Kiparsky. “SGMA implementation is an area of central focus for us. It reflects one of the other themes in our work, which is supporting the implementation of law and policy. We are not afraid to ask the difficult ‘how’ questions.”

Kiparsky’s ongoing research also focuses on water rights issues and using data to support better water decision making throughout the state, among many other topics.

“I still think back to the Steve Hall Scholarship as a crucial vote of confidence for me from the water community. Like many students, I knew I wanted to work on water but hadn’t yet found my niche. The scholarship helped to solidify my resolve, and no doubt will do so for many others,” said Kiparsky.

2018-’19 Scholarships

This year, ACWA will continue its scholarship programs by awarding five undergraduate scholarships and one graduate scholarship to qualified students majoring in water resources-related fields. This year also marks the first of two $5,000 awards under ACWA’s newest scholarship – the Ted and Nancy Way Scholarship for the Next Generation of Water Leaders.

For the 2018-’19 scholarship cycle, ACWA received a total of 56 applications from 22 students for the association’s four scholarship programs. This represents an increase in student applications over the last few years, a testament to the efforts of the ACWA Communications Committee Awards & Scholarship Subcommittee and ACWA’s new online application system.

The names of the students selected for this year’s ACWA Scholarship, Clair A. Hill Scholarship and Ted and Nancy Way Scholarship for the Next Generation of Water Leaders will be announced at ACWA’s Spring Conference & Exhibition, being held in Sacramento from May 8-11. The graduate student selected for the Stephen K. Hall Water Law and Policy Scholarship will be announced this fall.


Are you a past recipient of an ACWA Scholarship program? Share your success story with ACWA! Email us at

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