Want to learn more about where your family’s drinking water comes from? What’s in it? Why it costs so much? And what the future holds?
A Water Leadership Institute for residents of the southern San Joaquin Valley will start later this summer and classes are free.
The institute, which is taking applications now, is being put on by nonprofits Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) in Tulare and Kern counties.
“I do think there’s a need to more actively engage communities in the different water governance and water decisions,” said Mariana Rivera-Torres, senior water analyst at EDF. “This program is more focused on targeting those communities that haven’t had an opportunity to participate so that they know what’s going on and they can have the information they need to participate in meetings and kind of have an influence in the different decisions that are made that will affect their lives.”
The institute will take place from August 6 – October 22. There will be 10 free sessions, two of which will be in person on weekends, the rest will be online. All courses will be taught in English and Spanish.
“We want to help empower local residents to be a part of the decision making process,” said Laura Dubin, rural development specialist at RCAC.
The curriculum is focused on building leadership skills as well as teaching participants about water management with a focus on topics such as sustainable groundwater management, water quality and local water history.
The courses will be taught by members of both organizations and include guest speakers. There will probably be speakers from local irrigation districts and groundwater sustainability agencies as well, said Dubin.
RCAC has been holding these institutes throughout the state over the years. EDF is funding this year’s institute.
The institute comes to the southern valley this year thanks to a participant from last year’s.
“I found it rewarding actually because I’ve never been much involved with community activism and capacity building,” said Joseph Gallegos, president of Umida Ag, an irrigation technology company. “But this gave me that pathway into it.”
Gallegos wanted to bring the institute to his own backyard because he felt there was too much disinformation about water in his community and a need to build “homegrown leaders,” he said.
“It’s just very important right now for communities to know what’s going on, to be able to express their experiences, and to be more familiar with the different processes so that they can have the information and the tools to be part of the decisions and to be more engaged in the processes,” said EDF’s Rivera-Torres.
Interested persons may apply here.