Hispanic Heritage Month: meet local leaders helping communities address key water issues

As Hispanic Heritage Month ends, we celebrate our Hispanic Water Leadership Institute alumni making a difference in their communities.

Nearly 20% of the United States identifies as Hispanic. The largest minority group in the country is also the largest group disproportionately impacted by contaminated groundwater. This is due to a lack of resources and widespread inequities in funding, policies, investment in water infrastructure and education.

EDF’s Water Leadership Institute annually hosts a cohort of leaders working tirelessly to address these inequities. These remarkable leaders are mobilizing their communities and advocating for change by securing funding, advocating for policy shifts, and engaging their community members on local water challenges.

Meet the leaders

Today, we celebrate three Hispanic women who are among the remarkable Institute alumni. Sandra, Diana and Maria Luisa reflect on what they learned from the institute and how the program supports their ongoing work as water warriors. The alumni participated in last year’s cohort co-hosted by The Rural Community Assistance Corporation and EDF  in Pixley, CA.

Sandra Garcia

Sandra has been actively engaged in water advocacy for decades and attended the Institute to better understand other perspectives and continue advancing the human right to water. In addition to other challenges, her community faces a lack of funding for water infrastructure and serious water contamination. Her experience at the Institute will help her better articulate problems facing her community and help secure water supply to farmworkers and smaller counties.


Diana Zegarra

Diana is deeply engaged with groundwater challenges in her community in Tulare County. As a water irrigation systems specialist, she joined the Water Leadership Institute to learn more about how to help her neighborhood address water challenges. “Information is almost priceless.” she says. Diana wants residents to understand where their water is coming from and be aware of water challenges. Now she can see how many people are impacted by drying or contaminated wells. Her vision is to help mitigate the impacts of dropping water tables and manage groundwater sustainably.


Maria Luisa Muñoz

Maria Luisa joined the Water Leadership Institute to help educate her community on water challenges. With her energy and enthusiasm, she hopes to inspire her community to become more involved in local water issues.


You too, can shape your community’s water future!

The Water Leadership Institute is a free bilingual water education program for rural areas. Local community leaders gain knowledge and skills needed to shape local water decisions and help develop equitable water strategies. The Institute supports capacity building for local leaders to actively participate in a cooperative approach to decision-making on local water issues. It is crucial that communities are involved in groundwater planning and management decisions. With the next cohort poised to start in early 2024, the Institute is continuing its work in California and expanding into rural communities in Arizona.

To stay informed on when applications open for 2024, please provide your contact information here. Follow us at Growing Returns or subscribe to the On the Water Front newsletter for more details.

In the meantime, learn more about other WLI community heroes:



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