James Irvine Leadership Award

The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards were awarded to Susana De Anda and Laurel Firestone by the foundation's President and CEO Don Howard at a reception on Feb. 28 in Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO — Helping communities get clean and affordable water is their mission.

The James Irvine Foundation recognized Susana De Anda and Laurel Firestone Feb. 28 for their work with the Community Water Center. 

De Anda and Firestone received the Irvine Leadership Award which came with $200,000 to go toward the work the CWC does.

De Anda and Firestone founded the CWC in 2006, and its home base is in Visalia. The CWC works with communities in Fresno, Tulare, Kern and Kings counties.

“We are honored to receive the James Irvine Leadership Award, and we know we have so much more work to empower more Californians to be at the forefront of change to secure safe water in all our communities,” De Anda said. “We're hard at work on a campaign to finally invest in solutions to the drinking water crisis in California by establishing a statewide safe and affordable drinking water fund, and we're honored to receive the James Irvine Leadership Award in recognition of the importance of the movement for safe water.”

De Anda said CWC has worked with over 5,000 residents in 69 communities in the San Joaquin Valley to help community-driven drinking water solutions.

CWC does indirect service through helping communities organize, educating and engaging community members and advocating for communities in the state government. The CWC serves as a resource for many community leaders trying to solve their water issues, Jenny Rempel, a spokesperson for the CWC, said.

Recently, the CWC helped the Armona Community Services District to get safe drinking water. Rempel said they are still working on the affordability aspect of the Armona Community Services District's water.

The CWC has also helped at the state level.

“Together, we passed the nation's first Human Right to Water law in 2012 and directed more than $700 million in state funding to emergency and long-term drinking water solutions of low-income communities,” De Anda said.

The CWC’s current large programs include Sustainable Groundwater, Resilient Drinking Water Institutions, Funding Access and Community Power and Engaged Leadership.

The Sustainable Groundwater Program works toward protecting the quality and quantity of groundwater. The CWC is also working to form transparent Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure groundwater is used responsibly and equitably.

The CWC works to ensure communities have tools to operate and maintain water institutions that can adapt to water shortages.

The Funding Access Program’s goal is to secure a fund for statewide safe and affordable drinking water and to ensure existing water funds reach impacted residents of California.

The CWC is constantly trying to empower community members to become leaders and advocate for their own communities.

The best way for communities to reach the Community Water Center is their main phone number (559) 733-0219.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or chelsea.shannon@lee.net.

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