Program Overview & Requirements
Led by Executive Director Jennifer Bowles, the Water Leaders class brings together 20 or so participants in their early to mid-career from across California and various stakeholder groups. The program deepens knowledge on water, enhances individual leadership skills and prepares class members to take an active, cooperative approach to decision-making about water resource issues. Each class member is paired up with a mentor from a leading stakeholder group or who works as a policymaker.
The program began in 1997 and now boasts more than 400 graduates. We are particularly proud that several of our Water Leaders graduates have gone on to achieve top positions at the state Legislature, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and leading private companies involved in water. Check out our profiles under Where are They Now?
The program is named for William R. “Bill” Gianelli, who served as Assistant Secretary for the Army in charge of the Corps of Engineers from 1981 to 1984 and director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) from 1967 to 1973 during major construction on the State Water Project. He began his career with DWR in 1946. He is past president of the Water Education Foundation. He passed away in 2020 in Monterey, California. Read his obituary here, written by the journalism team at the Water Education Foundation.
Designed as a program for working professionals in early- to mid-career, participation still involves a strong time commitment from both the class member and the employer.
During the year, class members:
- Attend a special one-day class orientation in January at the Foundation’s office in Sacramento;
- Attend two Foundation water tours (tours are two or three days);
- Attend the Foundation’s annual Water 101 Workshop, annual water conference and participate in the Water Leaders auction;
- Spend a day “shadowing” a mentor who is a major water leader (from government, urban, agriculture, environmental organization, private businesses, or public interest group);
- Interview the mentor about an issue selected for the class;
- Attend special work-group meetings at the Foundation’s office in Sacramento to develop a class presentation and written report about the assigned water topic;
- Attend the Foundation’s Winter Board of Directors’ meeting in Southern California to make a presentation.
If you have general questions about the program, please email Programs Coordinator Liz McAllister,