Dean’s Speaker Series: The Future of Water in CA – Speakers


Ron Gastelum

Ron Gastelum
Chair of the Energy, Water, and Environment Council
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Ronald R. Gastelum’s professional career began in 1971 following his graduation from UCLA Law School. His legal career has focused on environmental, municipal, and corporate law, with a particular emphasis on water, waste management, and energy. His expertise can best be described as essential public services and public infrastructure, including a detailed understanding of the associated administrative and legislative processes, finance, strategic planning, and public policy development.

Mr. Gastelum served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. In that capacity, Mr. Gastelum was responsible for managing the operations of one of the largest wholesale water suppliers in the world with an annual budget of over $1 billion, serving the 18 million residents of urban Southern California. Metropolitan is a regional public agency. It has 26 member public agencies with diverse local water supply capabilities and strategic interests. Mr. Gastelum was notably successful in leading the agency to further diversify the region’s water supply sources with the development of new large water transfer, groundwater banking. reclaimed water, and conservation programs, This was during a period of extended drought conditions, a statewide energy crisis, and a major reduction in Southern California’s Colorado River water rights, set in motion by an adverse court decision in the 1960s (Arizona v. California), During his tenure as CEO, the agency accomplished a major restructuring of its management, adopted a new Strategic Plan with unprecedented public participation, updated its long term resources plan, completed a $2 billion dollar new reservoir, advanced a stalled major pipeline project under the San Bernardino Mountains, adopted a long term capital improvement and finance plan, and completed a major overhaul of its rate structure.

Since retiring from Metropolitan in December 2004, Mr. Gastelum has helped form a new Southern California renewable energy supply company and is serving as the Chairman of its Board of Directors. He is also a Principal in Water Conservation Partners, an alternative conservation based water supply company. He served in an interim capacity as the Executive Vice President of the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and as the Interim Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee.


Felipe Fuentes

Felipe Fuentes
Councilmember of the Seventh District
City of Los Angeles

Felipe Fuentes has spent two decades working to improve the quality of life for all residents of Los Angeles, especially the diverse communities of the Northeast San Fernando Valley. As Councilmember of the district he and his family have called home for more than 50 years, Felipe will continue these efforts, ensuring that the communities of the Seventh Council District get the services they need and the resources they deserve. He currently serves as Chair of the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee and Vice Chair of the Housing Committee.

Felipe was elected to the State Assembly in 2007 to represent the 39th District, which includes the majority of the Northeast San Fernando Valley. During his tenure, Felipe passed legislation that spurred economic development, created jobs, improved the quality of schools and increased accessibility to affordable healthcare and housing.

He quickly rose to leadership ranks, chairing the Assembly Appropriations Committee, Utilities and Commerce Committee, Revenue and Taxation Committee, and the Select Committee on Revitalization of the Los Angeles River and Pacoima Wash. He also served on the Banking and Finance Committee.

Felipe’s bills directly impacted Los Angeles, including two signature bills that provided a $300 million extension to the State’s landmark film and television tax credit program. Felipe also addressed the state’s hunger crisis, passing historic laws that helped to bring over $850 million in federal food aid to nearly 7 million low-income Californians. As a parent, Felipe understands the direct correlation between the quality of a child’s education and the quality of their teacher, and he championed efforts to include student test scores in teacher evaluations.

John Kightlinger

Jeffrey Kightlinger
General Manager
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Jeffrey Kightlinger is general manager for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. As general manager, he is responsible for implementing the policy directives of the Board, including working with elected officials and member agencies to carry out the Metropolitan’s mission. The General Manager reports directly to the Board of Directors and provides leadership and management of the water district’s public policies and strategic initiatives, assets and resources, and all administrative, operational, and financial activities for Metropolitan.

Kightlinger was appointed general manager in February 2006. Prior to his appointment as general manager, he was general counsel for Metropolitan. He was responsible for directing Metropolitan’s legal staff and consulting attorneys; leading the district’s legal strategies in pending and potential litigation; and protecting Metropolitan’s interests in all legal matters.

Before becoming general counsel, Kightlinger represented Metropolitan in environmental issues and water right matters. At Metropolitan he worked primarily on Colorado River matters, water rights issues and a number of the district’s water transfer and storage programs. Before joining Metropolitan in 1995, he worked in private practice representing numerous public agencies including municipalities, redevelopment agencies and special districts.

Kightlinger earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981 and a law degree from the Santa Clara University Law School in 1985.

Rich Atwater

Rich Atwater
Executive Director
Southern California Water Committee

Richard Atwater was appointed as the Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee in August of 2010. He previously was the CEO/GM of Inland Empire Utilities Agency (1999-2010), President of Bookman-Edmonston Engineering (1996-1999), GM of West Basin and Central Basin MWDs (1990-1996).

Mr. Atwater has over thirty-five years experience in water resources management and development in the western U.S. He has pioneered many award-winning water projects and implemented numerous innovative water resource management programs that meet today’s high standards for quality, reliability and cost-effectiveness. Mr. Atwater has testified extensively before the U.S. Congress and the California Legislature on water policy issues. In 1994 Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt awarded Mr. Atwater the Conservation Service Award, the highest citizen award for resources management. He has also received, from three separate Governors, the Economic and Environmental Balance Award (Wilson, Davis and Schwarzenegger). Mr. Atwater was a member of the California Water Commission, the 2001 Drought Task Force, 2003 Water Recycling Task Force and the 2006 Desalination Task Force.

Mr. Atwater has participated in policy formulation workshops and expert panels for the National Academy of Sciences, Western Governors Association, Western Water States Council, and the National Water Research Institute. In addition, Mr. Atwater has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of California Water Agencies, Urban Water Institute, WateReuse Association (President 2007-2009), Southern California Alliance of Publically Owned Treatment Works (SCAP, President 2007-2010) and the Western Urban Water Coalition.