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Kelsey Ceccarelli (center), the Citizens Water Academy's 500th graduate, with Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis A. Cushman (left) and Board Chair Jim Madaffer (right). Photo: Water Authority

500th Community Leader Graduates from Citizens Water Academy

The San Diego County Water Authority’s pioneering Citizens Water Academy celebrated the graduation of its 500th community leader Friday at the conclusion of the fall class series.

During the popular and award-winning academy program, civic leaders learn about visionary local efforts to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for the San Diego region. Participants get an in-depth look at how the Water Authority helps protect the region’s economy and quality of life through strategic planning, innovative programs, and cost-effective investments.

After the third and final class of each academy, graduates are given diplomas to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” and congratulations from Water Authority executives – a tradition that took on special significance in light of today’s milestone.

“The Citizens Water Academy has profoundly improved the understanding of water issues across our region and demystified the critical work we do to sustain San Diego County’s $220 billion economy and quality of life for 3.3 million people,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Reaching 500 graduates is an impressive accomplishment – but we are not done.

“Anyone who aspires to civic or business leadership should invest the time to learn about this fundamental resource,” Madaffer said. “I guarantee that the Citizens Water Academy will change the way they think about this amazing place we call home.”

Citizens Water Academy graduates remain engaged in regional water issues

Kelsey Ceccarelli, the Citizens Water Academy's 500th graduate, displays her Certificate of Completion. Photo: Water Authority

Kelsey Ceccarelli, the Citizens Water Academy’s 500th graduate, displays her Certificate of Completion. Photo: Water Authority

The Citizens Water Academy launched in fall 2014 and produced a diverse inaugural class of 49 graduates. Over the years, 99 percent of participants said they would recommend the Water Academy to a colleague, and nearly 50 percent of graduates stay engaged through the Water Authority’s alumni program.

Participants said the class series helped them understand the physical movement of water into and around the region; the importance of the region’s water supply diversification strategy; how large-scale water projects are built and maintained; and how water managers are preparing for future water supply needs.

The Water Authority typically hosts three academies of about 50 participants each year. Classes have been held in Kearny Mesa, the South Bay and North County to promote regional participation. Class series include presentations by agency executives, role-play activities, and tours of world-class water facilities such as the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

In addition, the Water Authority maintains an active network of Water Academy graduates who participate in specialized tours, lectures and other events. They also stay connected through an alumni newsletter – part of the Water Authority’s commitment to supporting engaged and knowledgeable regional leaders.

The Water Authority received the Silver Bernays Mark of Excellence Award for the Citizens Water Academy from the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in 2015. The program also won the Communications Initiative Award from the San Diego Section of the American Planning Association in 2016.

The next Citizens Water Academy is scheduled for Spring 2019, though dates have not been set. The selection process is competitive, and acceptance is not guaranteed. For more information, go to The site includes a link to sign up for notifications when future class dates are announced.



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