Jean Auer (1937-2005) was the first woman to serve on the
California State Water Resources Control Board and a pioneer for
women aspiring to be leaders in the water world.
She is described as a “woman of great spirit who made large
contributions to improve the waters of California.” She was
appointed as the State Water Board’s public member by
then-Governor Ronald Reagan and served from 1972-1977 during a
time period that included the passage of the federal Clean Water
Act. She became part of the growing movement for water quality
regulations to stop water pollution.
Harvey O. Banks (1910-1996), a lifelong civil engineer, played an
integral role in the development of water projects in California.
He became the first director of the state Department of Water
Resources, appointed by Governor Goodwin J. Knight on July 5,
1956 — the date the department was officially established. He
continued as director under Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown.
During Banks’ tenure as director from 1956-1961, he was key in
the planning and the initial construction of the California State
Water Project (SWP).
Carl Boronkay (1929-2017) was
general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California (MWD) between 1984 and 1993. Boronkay is credited
with developing a long-term vision for the district’s sustainable
water supplies as well as large projects such as Diamond Valley
Lake, the large reservoir near the Riverside County town of
Hemet, and the Inland Feeder that connects the State Water Project to the
River Aqueduct and Diamond Valley Lake.
Ralph M. Brody (1912-1981) served as Gov. Pat Brown’s special
counsel on water issues and chief deputy director of the
Department of Water Resources.
He was instrumental in ensuring passage of the State Water Project in 1960.
He chaired the California Water Commission from 1960 -1966. From
1960 until his retirement in 1977, he was manager and chief
counsel for Westlands Water District.
Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (1905-1996) was California’s governor from
1959-1967, exemplified the best in public service and left a
wide-ranging legacy that featured first and foremost the State
Water Project (SWP) and California Aqueduct but also included the
Fair Housing Act, the Fair Employment Act, the Master Plan for
Higher Education and highway expansion.
In the Northern California community of Redding, he was a justice
of peace, a renowned water rights attorney in the law firm of
Carr and Kennedy and helped form the Anderson-Cottonwood
Irrigation District. He was often in the nation’s Capitol in
Washington, D.C., advocating for funds from Congress to get this
visionary project built for the benefit of all of California. In
his honor, the Judge Francis Carr Powerplant was named after him.
Gordon Cologne served for 10 years in the California Legislature
during the 1960s and early 1970s while the California State Water
Project was being built.
His interest in water issues began from his early life in the
Coachella Valley desert. An attorney, he worked in both the
public sector in Washington, D.C, and then in private practice in
California. He also served his local community as a member of the
city of Indio City Council, including as mayor, before his
decision to run for election to fill an open seat in the
Pauline Davis (1917-1995), who
represented all or portions of 12 rural Northern California
counties in the California Assembly, guided some of the state’s
most significant water development proposals through the
During her legislative career from 1952 to 1976, Davis
concentrated on water issues important to her constituents by
championing area-of-origin protections for water targeted for
export as part of the fledgling State Water Project.
Joan Didion (1934-2021) was a native California author and
playwright whose famous writings have featured California water
Born and reared in Sacramento, she wrote extensively and
personally about her feelings on the subject of water. In her
memoir, Where I Was From, she told not only the story about her
pioneering family’s roots in the Sacramento area but also of the
seasonal flooding, the water politics and controversies, and the
California State Water Project (SWP) and federal Central Valley
Arthur D. Edmonston directed the early planning
of the Central Valley Project, State Water Project and State
He served as California state engineer and chief of the Division
of Water Resources (predecessor to the Department of Water
Resources) from 1950-1955, a time of rapid population,
agricultural and industry growth California. Water shortages were
common, and groundwater supplies were being overdrafted.
David A. Gaines (1947-1988) is known for founding the Mono Lake
Committee in 1978 with the goal of preserving its ecosystem and
leading a grassroots effort to “Save Mono Lake.” The result would
be an environmental cause célèbre. As a synopsis of the Mono Lake
litigation, in 1979 a lawsuit was filed against the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power (DWP) to stop diversions to
Southern California — citing the public trust values at Mono
William R. “Bill” Gianelli
(1919-2020) was a civil engineer who served not only as
director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR)
from 1967-1973 during Gov. Ronald Reagan’s administration, but
worked as a civil servant under Govs. Earl Warren, Goodwin Knight
and Edmund G. “Pat”
Brown during all phases of the California State Water Project (SWP):
its design, planning and construction.
Thomas J. “Tom” Graff (1944-2009) opened up the California office
of the Environmental Defense Fund in 1971 and was its regional
director for more than 35 years.
Throughout his life, he was committed to the environment and the
mentorship of environmental leaders. He was revered as an
influential environmental lawyer on the state and federal water
circuits and public forums and used strategic acumen to build
partnerships to solve water problems with long-lasting solutions.
Robert “Bob” M. Hagan, Ph.D. (1917-2002), internationally
renowned for his expertise in the relationships between plants,
water, soil and water use efficiency — specifically in the area
of agricultural water use — was a professor of water science, an
irrigationist in the California Agricultural Experiment Station
and a statewide extension specialist in the California
Agricultural Extension Service during a 50-year career with the
University of California, Davis.
Stephen K. Hall (1951-2010) led the Association of California
Water Agencies (ACWA) as its executive director from 1993 until
retiring in 2007 from the effects of Amyotrophic Lateral
Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hall continued to stay
current on water issues and to advocate for legislation on ALS at
the state Capitol until he died.
His motto became “As much as I can for as long as I can.”
William Hammond Hall (1846-1934) is credited with the first
proposal of an integrated flood control system with levees, weirs
and bypass channels for the Sacramento Valley after his
appointment as the first California state engineer.
Alex Hildebrand (1913-2012) had an understanding and knowledge of
California’s South Delta and San Joaquin River bar none. After
retiring early from a career as an engineer for Standard Oil of
California, he moved his family to the San Joaquin Valley where
he farmed for nearly 50 years while active in water issues and as
an advocate for the area.
Clair A. Hill (1909-1998), a self-made engineer nicknamed
“California’s Mr. Water,” built from the ground up an engineering
firm that would merge to form the global consulting firm of CH2M
In 1938 in his hometown of Redding along the Upper Sacramento
River in Northern California, he founded Clair A. Hill &
Associates. Before merging with CH2M in 1971, the two firms had
collaborated on many projects together, including the Lake Tahoe
Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility — the first of its kind in