On March 27, longtime Executive Director Rita Schmidt Sudman ceded the helm of the Water Education Foundation to award-winning journalist Jennifer Bowles. Sudman retired after 34 years of heading the highly regarded nonprofit whose mission is to create a better understanding of water resources and foster public understanding and resolution of water resource issues in the West and Southwest through facilitation, education and outreach.

Under Sudman’s direction, the Foundation become a leading, impartial organization for water education and known best for its bimonthly magazine Western Water, water tours, school programs, conferences on key water issues and Emmy-winning public television documentaries. Sudman will continue to serve as the Foundation’s senior advisor.

In a news release issued by the Foundation, President of the Board of Directors Bill Mills said, “Rita is leaving the Foundation in a solid financial position. Her dedication, energy and creativity have helped make the organization an internationally recognized force in water education, and the Board is confident that Jennifer’s background in marketing and journalism will help grow the Foundation and maintain its high level of integrity.”

Bowles previously served as a writer and communications strategist at Best & Krieger LLP, working with some of California’s leading water law attorneys. Prior to that, she worked as the environmental/water reporter at The Press-Enterprise based in Riverside, garnering awards for her coverage of water issues in California, and as a reporter and supervising editor at The Associated Press in Los Angeles.

Bowles commented in the news release, “I can’t think of a more interesting and challenging year to join the Foundation with the drought that has placed a spotlight on water issues in California and the need for conservation.”

In her farewell column in the March/April edition of Western Water, Sudman cautioned, “There is no doubt that the way we manage water in California and the West often is through a silo approach. Increasingly many stakeholders agree that local, state and federal systems need more integration and flexibility. And that includes managing groundwater and surface water together.”

“The California Water Association (CWA) appreciates Rita’s valuable and unbiased contributions to public education about complicated, and often controversial, water issues,” noted CWA Executive Director Jack Hawks. “Our member companies join together in wishing Rita the very best and thank her for her excellent work. And, we welcome Jennifer and look forward to working with her to increase understanding of water issues throughout California.”

(Photo: Jennifer Bowles and Rita Schmidt Sudman at Rita’s Retirement Party)

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