Texas Water Foundation
Texas Water Foundation
With TAGD alumnae Sarah Schlessinger and Beth Hood both at Texas Water Foundation, we wanted to share a bit more on what the Texas Water Foundation is up to and how its initiatives are relevant to the groundwater conservation district community. Leadership, education, and policy are the program focus areas of the Texas Water Foundation. As Sarah says, “each of our programs is really an investment in people, as decision makers.” Through its various initiatives, Texas Water Foundation aims to invest in the next generation of water leaders, equip informed decision makers, and inspire water advocates across Texas. As a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Texas Water Foundation is uniquely positioned to bring people together and lead Texas into a sustainable water future. The foundation hosts events such as the Texas Rainmaker Award Dinner, Texas Water Day at the Capitol, and the Water, Texas Film Festival. On the policy front, Texas Water Foundation serves as a nonpartisan resource, ensuring that the issues and their range of solutions are understood by policymakers and the public. Below we feature two of the Foundation’s programs that may be of particular interest to those working in groundwater.
Texas Water Leaders
With many leaders in Texas water management nearing retirement, the Texas Water Foundation created the Texas Water Leaders program to strengthen the promising leadership potential of mid-career professionals and to support succession planning. The program began in early 2020 with a diverse cohort of 20 emerging water leaders from varying water sectors and organizations throughout the state. After meeting once in-person, the inaugural class adjusted to virtual programming for the remainder of the course and graduated in October. The class included some familiar faces, including TAGD’s own president Zach Holland of Bluebonnet GCD, Vanessa Escobar and Michael Redman of Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, Katherine Drury of High Plains Water District, Kirk Welch of North Plains GCD, and associate members Vanessa Puig-Williams of Environmental Defense Fund and Tine Petersen of Harris-Galveston Subsidence District.
The Texas Water Leaders class of 2020 included several TAGD members: Zach Holland, Michael Redman, Tina Petersen, Katherine Drury, Vanessa Escobar, Kirk Welch, Vanessa Puig-Williams
The curriculum for Texas Water Leaders is based on three modules that focus on traditional executive management skills, a multidisciplinary overview of water in Texas, and leadership skill development. In their training, participants became familiar with personality and team dynamics, financial literacy, effective communication skills, conflict resolution. They also explore topics such as work/life harmony, and develop lasting relationships with their fellow classmates through a cohort experience. Katherine Drury, Education and Outreach Coordinator of High Plains Water District, shared her experience: “Texas Water Leaders has helped prepare me to be a more well-rounded leader in this industry. The learning modules covered everything from Texas water history to financial basics and even the importance of developing a rest ethic. The connections I made with other emerging water leaders across Texas were invaluable, especially during a year like 2020.”
The program also included a Texas Water Lecture Series from distinguished water experts, training in strategic networking, and a mentorship experience. The mentorship experience of the program is a cornerstone of Texas Water Leaders – current Texas Water Foundation board members and other senior water leaders are asked to pair up with participants and reflect on their own professional decisions. “I have really enjoyed getting to know my mentor, Velma Danielson. She has been very generous with her time, and I have learned a lot from working with her,” said Tina Petersen, Deputy General Manager of Harris-Galveston Subsidence District.
Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District General Manager Vanessa Escobar was very impressed with the program content and said the program “presents a unique opportunity for water professionals who are in a position of leadership, to come together with others in the TX water network and learn about leadership principles by exchanging shared experiences and exploring techniques from leadership experts.”
As the 2020 participants can attest to, this program is of immense value and is a great way for GCD staff to develop important leadership skills while broadening their knowledge base and building lasting professional relationships. Applications are being accepted now for the 2021 cohort of Texas Water Leaders – click here for more information.
Texas Runs on Water
Another major initiative of the Texas Water Foundation is “Texas Runs on Water,” an education campaign to inspire all Texans to value water. Several pieces of landmark water legislation have called for a public awareness campaign about water conservation, and Texas Water Foundation has taken the lead in that effort. Texas Runs on Water is intended to be the “Don’t Mess with Texas” of water – a memorable, comprehensive, statewide campaign. However, unlike Don’t Mess with Texas, solutions for water issues are more nuanced and location-specific. To allow for that nuance, Texas Runs on Water is designed to be an umbrella campaign that can be localized to a specific community, region or topic. “We believe that everything you love about Texas is rooted in water. Our hope is that a campaign that inspires that realization will motivate the behavioral change we need to see in water conservation” says the Foundation’s CEO, Sarah Schlessinger.
While the campaign is still being introduced in test markets, one iteration has become an annual event – the Texas Runs on Water team for the Austin Marathon. Brooke Paup, Director of the Texas Water Development Board, led the effort in 2020 and will continue to do so this year. Anyone can get involved in this year’s run as the event goes virtual – click here to sign up to run or walk an in-person or virtual half marathon or 5K race on the Texas Runs on Water team.
In addition to these programs, Texas Water Foundation hosts a resource hub on its website. At www.texaswater.org you can find a list of all water-related degrees in Texas, jobs in Texas water, as well as a water resource library. This library contains water-related research, best management practices guides, and educational tools. Resources are divided by topic and viewers can search for specific keywords. As part of their investment in cultivating diverse leadership in Texas, Texas Water Foundation hopes to launch a scholarship fund this year for students of color wanting to get a degree in Texas water.
By investing in water leaders, educating the public, and supporting policy discussions, the programs of Texas Water Foundation can help advance sound groundwater management and help GCDs – and all of those who work in Texas water – be successful. To get involved with Texas Water Foundation, keep an eye on www.texaswater.org, as well as the Foundation’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.