Water Supply and Management for Climate Resilience

August 8, 2022

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FUSE Corps

The City of San José is transitioning from purchasing water from wholesalers to directly sourcing its own water. In this process, city officials must plan for the increased stresses of population growth, climate change, and drought, they need to build a diversity of water sourcing strategies while centering equity throughout the water management system. The FUSE Executive Fellow will develop the city’s first comprehensive water strategy to advance the future of equitable water management in Silicon Valley.

Fellowship Dates: October 24, 2022 – October 23, 2023

ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP

FUSE Corps is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.

When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and able to effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.

Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. Throughout their fellowships, they receive training, coaching, and professional support from FUSE to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.

PROJECT CONTEXT

The City of San José’s Department of Environmental Services oversees San José Municipal Water (Muni Water), the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, South Bay Water Recycling, and the regional stormwater and sewer system. Muni Water provides potable drinking water to 12% of the city’s population (approximately 125,000 people), while the rest of the population is supplied by the privately-owned San José Water Company and Great Oaks Water Company. The wastewater facility is the largest of its kind in the western United States, and cleans water for eight cities in the region. The water recycling system delivers 11 million gallons of non-potable water per day for use in parks, schools, golf courses, and other non-drinking uses. And the stormwater system prevents flooding and keeps naturally occurring water sources (e.g., rivers and streams) running to the south part of the San Francisco Bay without being polluted during floods, thus protecting a key natural resource in the region.

In spite of managing critical water infrastructure not only for its own residents but also for surrounding communities in Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara Valley, San José historically has not sourced its own water. Instead, it went through wholesalers to secure water – leaving the city vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly more frequent, severe, and pervasive drought. To build resilience in its water system, the city plans to transition to direct sourcing – this will require a comprehensive water strategy to guide the City’s path forward.

The City of San José will partner with FUSE Corps to set an equitable, comprehensive water strategy that is resilient to drought and climate change. The FUSE Executive Fellow will develop the water strategy and advance at least one water sourcing project during their fellowship year. This will include resource planning for additional financial and human resources (e.g., nearby wholesalers the Santa Clara Valley Water District and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have 10-15 staff members each solely devoted to water sourcing projects). This work will ensure that the City of San José is equipped to manage the many needs and stresses on its water system to ensure that the best public use of water is equitably prioritized and sustainably served long term.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.

Starting in October 2022, the FUSE Executive Fellow will quickly build deep relationships with a range of stakeholders, including key government partners (both in San José and with surrounding city and county governments), water service providers (both public and private), major public use water customers (e.g., schools and parks), and members of the public (with an emphasis on East San José) to understand the needs, constraints, opportunities, and aspirations these partners have for the public water system. At the same time, the Executive Fellow will conduct extensive research to identify innovative approaches and best practices for equitable water management in cities similar to San José both in the United States and abroad (ex. Israel).

Next, the Executive Fellow will develop a comprehensive water strategy for the City. This strategy will advance the City’s central water goal: ensuring the best public use of water. The strategy should include insights and action items for building governance, securing financing, and developing partnerships to advance the best public use of water, and should integrate equity and environmental justice throughout all components of the plan. In addition, specific thought should be given to community education so that members of the public understand the safe use and equitable distribution of all water, regardless of how it was sourced. The plan should also guide the city’s approach to the public impact of private sector customers (e.g., home builders or data centers) on the water system, including how metering could be tailored to advance equity goals. Finally, the plan should center climate change and environmental management, including increased drought stress and critical release of treated wastewater effluent into the southern San Francisco Bay, preserving the area’s ecosystem.

At the same time, the Executive Fellow will identify and advance one of the initial water sourcing projects on behalf of the City. This will likely include working to double of the output and distribution of recycled water for non-potable uses. The Executive Fellow will analyze the water recycling project, identify sources of funding for it, and ensure that the best public use of the recycled water is achieved (including identifying water infrastructure necessary to promote equitable distribution). By October 2023, the Executive Fellow will have achieved the following:

  • Conduct a Stakeholder Listening Tour – Develop relationships with stakeholders in San José and other partner governments, water providers, community water users, and members of the public. The listening tour should also include a literature review of approaches that have been effective for resilient water management as well as water recycling practices
  • Develop a Comprehensive Water Strategy – Create a water strategy to advance San José’s sourcing and delivery of potable and non-potable water for the best public use to build climate resilience; key pillars of the strategy will include governance, partnerships, and financing, and equity and environmental justice should be integrated throughout as a cornerstone of the approach
  • Complete a Water Sourcing Project – Conduct one of San José’s inaugural water sourcing projects, including any necessary project management, partnership facilitation, and funding identification necessary to double the generation and distribution of non-potable, recycled water

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager; City Manager’s Office
  • Executive Sponsor – Kerrie Romanow, Chief Sustainability Officer; Environmental Services Department
  • Project Supervisor – Jeff Provenzano, Deputy Director, Water Resources Division; Environmental Services Department

QUALIFICATIONS

In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in large-scale water management, strategic planning, and project management is strongly preferred for this project.

  • Synthesizes complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
  • Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
  • Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to difficult challenges.
  • Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies and other processes.
  • Communicates effectively both verbally and in writing, and excels in both active listening and conversing.
  • Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies in order to support more effective decision making.
  • Establishes and maintains strong relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders, both inside and outside of government, and particularly including community-based relationships.
  • Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
  • Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy, while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.