Supporting Our Communities

We proudly contribute to our local charitable organizations, build trusted relationships with our stakeholders, and develop strategic partnerships in the communities we serve. We also proactively seek to enhance our business resilience and prepare for emergency situations that may impact those communities.

Community Support

Our charitable contributions, programs, and community events align with our commitment to enhancing the quality of life in our communities by fostering economic growth, education, and well-being.

We Believe in the Power of Community

Built by our Government & Community Affairs team in collaboration with local management, our community giving plan supports organizations that share our commitment to helping others. Our community partners also provide input on program information and community benefits so we can regularly evaluate and improve upon our performance.

We engage in multiple, long-standing initiatives designed to support the communities that we serve. Examples of our ongoing initiatives include:

  • The annual Firefighter Grant Program provides funding to fire departments for personal protective gear, life-saving equipment, training, and other necessities. In the last four years, we have assisted 23 fire departments with grants totaling almost $670,000.
  • We provide college scholarships to students in our service areas who are pursuing higher education and vocational training. Awards are based on community service, academic achievement, and financial need.
  • We support undergraduate research at the Engineering School at California State University, Bakersfield, which educates many low-income and first-generation college students.
  • Each year, we help sponsor the H2O Hackathon. This coding and multimedia competition challenges middle school, high school, and college students to be part of the solution for California’s water future.
  • Our annual Cal Water H2O Challenge, currently in its ninth year and recently expanded, engages students in developing and implementing solutions for local water issues. Past H2O Challenge winners are shown celebrating in the photo above. More information is available on our Challenge web site.
  • Through our employee contribution matching program, Group matches employee donations to eligible non-profit organizations, up to $250 per year per employee.



2022 Highlights

We donated a total of approximately $1.58 million to local organizations through our philanthropic activities. Top giving categories included assistance for at-risk, under-served and disadvantaged communities; community improvement, economic and workforce development; and education.

Donut chart showing the breakdown of $1.58 million donated to local organizations in 2022. 27% was allocated to assistance for at-risk, underserved, and disadvantaged communities; 21% for community improvement, economic, and workforce development; 17% for education; 14% for support for firefighters, police officers, and first responders; 8% for youth support; 5% for healthcare; 2% for environmental sustainability; 2% for veteran assistance; 2% for animal care and service; and 2% for emergency preparedness and disaster response.

Other highlights of our community support efforts in 2022 include the following:

  • Our fourth annual Firefighter Grant Program increased funding to provide a total of $185,763, more than tripling donations since program inception. More information is available on our November 17, 2022 press release on our web site.
  • In the 9th year of Group’s annual College Scholarship Program, we awarded $80,000 in college scholarships to 12 students living in our service areas for the 2022-2023 academic year. See our July 19, 2022 press release on our web site for more information about the 2022 recipients.
  • In King City, Calif., we sponsored the second annual Operation Santa Claus program and partnered with local stakeholders to deliver a special holiday experience for communities in need. Flown in by helicopter, Santa provided toys and meal kits to more than 2,000 residents from South Monterey County.
  • We expanded the Cal Water H2O Challenge to provide additional opportunities for students, classrooms, and school-based clubs in Cal Water service areas to support water conservation projects. While the Classroom Challenge continued to invite students in grades four through six to develop and implement solutions for local water issues, our inaugural 2022 Individual Challenge consisted of a media competition in which K-12 students submitted original art focused on caring for water. The winning project for the 2022 Classroom Challenge focused on tracking and diverting waste to avoid polluted water, and we were blown away by the heartfelt and powerful art submissions from entrants to our Individual Challenge. Read more about the awardees on our Challenge web site.
  • To help struggling families during Thanksgiving, we collaborated with local legislators and charitable organizations to support Operation Gobble in the Salinas Valley area. Through the program, we donated $13,500 and an additional $8,500 in turkey gift certifications to those in need. View details on our Salinas and King City Thanksgiving Donations page on our web site.
  • We supported the annual adopt-a-goat program initiated by Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, which preserves undeveloped land as open space for historical, educational, ecological, recreational, and scenic purposes. The Conservancy brought goats to remove invasive plants and dry vegetation, allowing native species to flourish.
  • When Hurricane Ian struck the southeastern U.S. and caused extensive damage to communities, we contributed $25,000 to the American Red Cross to support disaster response efforts.
  • We pride ourselves on supporting our global community. In the wake of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, we donated $50,000 to Ukrainian relief efforts and matched applicable employee contributions.

Stakeholder Engagement and Public Participation

By striving to maintain open, transparent, and consistent communication with our stakeholders, we gain a better understanding of our actual and potential impacts. Positive community relationships allow us to gather input, address concerns, and incorporate feedback to enhance our practices and better serve our communities.

We’re All In This Together

We seek to build trusting, positive connections with our key stakeholders in order to provide transparency, discuss and understand the needs of our communities, and identify ESG focus areas. Conversations with community stakeholders usually occur on a weekly—if not daily—basis. Additionally, our Government & Community Affairs team and local management teams collaborate annually to prepare a Community Engagement Conspectus, which outlines a consistent engagement approach across service areas and offers opportunities for our managers to enhance community involvement and philanthropic giving. We promote local community engagement through management participation in citizen advisory committees, service clubs, and community boards.

In collaboration with our partners, we also continue to advocate for reliable access to safe, clean, and affordable water for our customers and communities. We do this by supporting policies that fund critical water infrastructure, enhance assistance for low-income customers, and contribute to water availability. For information about legislation we support, see the Public Policy and Political Involvement section.

For all main replacement and other capital projects that may cause a temporary inconvenience, we send letters to nearby customers to provide advance notice of the project, including details on project location, duration, process, and potential water service disruptions. Depending on the size and impact of the project, we may conduct additional outreach to other stakeholders through direct engagement; press releases; digital and social media communications; community meetings; and other communication channels.

We engage stakeholder groups in the following manners and topics:

Stakeholder Group Primary Engagement Methods Key ESG Topics and Focus Areas
Customers, Communities, and “Grasstop” Stakeholders (i.e., city council members, county supervisors, chambers of commerce board members)
  • Public meetings
  • One-on-one discussions and meetings
  • Speaking engagements and presentations
  • Focus groups
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Community advisory panels
  • Social/digital media
  • Emails and direct mail
  • Phone and text messages during emergencies
  • Bill inserts
  • Community-giving initiatives
  • Infrastructure projects
  • Water affordability, equity, and rate changes
  • Water conservation, drought, and supply reliability
  • Climate change and sustainability
  • Water quality
  • Safety, emergency preparedness, and Public Safety Power Shutoffs
  • Focus groups
  • Meetings
  • Surveys
  • Training
  • Cybersecurity
  • Diversity, equality, and inclusion
  • Employee engagement and labor relations
  • Safety
  • Water supply management, reliability, and resilience
  • Ethics
Industry Associations
  • Conferences
  • Participation in committees
  • Memberships
  • Regulatory relations
  • Government relations
  • Public policy issues
  • Water affordability and equity
  • Climate change and sustainability
  • Water quality
  • Water system efficiency
  • Water supply management, reliability, and resilience
  • Conferences
  • Earnings calls
  • Meetings
  • Securities and Exchange Commission filings
  • Climate change
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Emissions and energy consumption
  • Water supply management, reliability, and resilience
  • Ethics
Non-Governmental Organizations and Activists
  • One-on-one discussions and meetings
  • Speaking engagements and presentations
  • Focus groups
  • Safety, emergency preparedness, and Public Safety Power Shutoffs
  • Water conservation and drought
  • Water affordability and equity
  • Water quality
  • Climate change and sustainability
Regulators and Legislators
  • Filings and reports
  • Policy research
  • Lobbying
  • Meetings
  • Trade associations
  • Political involvement
  • Public policy issues
  • Water affordability and equity
  • Water supply management, reliability, and resilience
  • Supplier audits and evaluation
  • Contract negotiations
  • Supplier business review
  • Subcontractor diversity spend reporting
  • Climate change
  • Labor relations
  • Local economic impact
  • Supplier diversity


We maintain memberships in a variety of associations:

  • Alliance for Water Efficiency
  • American Water Works Association (AWWA)
  • Bay Area Council
  • California Chamber of Commerce
  • California Community Action Partnership Association
  • California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy
  • California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce
  • California Water Association (CWA)
  • California Water Efficiency Partnership
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • National Association of Water Companies (NAWC)
  • National Utilities Diversity Council
  • Public Policy Institute of California
  • Silicon Valley Leadership Group
  • Sustainable Silicon Valley
  • Water Education for Latino Leaders

Tracking Engagement and Collecting Feedback

Through our Quorum engagement platform, our local management and Government & Community Affairs teams can efficiently monitor and track our stakeholder engagement activities. The platform serves as a repository for political, regulatory, and community outreach efforts and streamlines processes to evaluate interactions. Using this tool, we track engagement channels, tone, location, issues, support from team members, and participating stakeholders. We require local management in California to report stakeholder interactions through this platform, which continues to offer insights about our engagement.

We use various other mechanisms to collect, report, and address feedback, which informs future stakeholder engagement activities. In support of continued improvement, we leverage customer satisfaction surveys, and after-call surveys to provide vital input on service delivery. See the Customer Service section for details.

We also hold public participation hearings (PPHs) that allow community members to voice opinions on specific projects. Open communication informs our approach to minimizing impacts and improving service for customers. In addition to our regular engagements, we may hold community meetings and participate in panel discussions about the drought to answer questions and review our drought management.



We are proud to work with Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL), an organization that creates educational opportunities, fosters inclusive cultures, increases the effectiveness of local leaders, and contributes to healthy communities. Multiple employees represented Group at the WELL 2022 Central Valley conference, and our Chief Water Resource Sustainability Officer was a speaker for a panel on “The Economic Impacts of Drought and Potential Solutions for Communities.”

Additionally, one of our District Managers was a member of the 2022 program, which included 14 elected officials within California. Through this fellowship program, the group travelled to different areas in California to learn about regional water challenges, best practices for watershed management, water conveyance systems, water contaminants, and other critical issues. The participants developed the interpersonal and leadership skills to positively contribute to California water policy.


2022 Highlights

We established and expanded multiple initiatives in 2022:

  • We hosted two roundtable discussions with a number of environmental, social justice, and environmental justice organizations to learn about each organization’s water-related short- and long-term objectives, gather insights on how we can collaborate on these objectives, and socialize ideas for related legislation that we would like to pursue in 2023. Key themes discussed in these conversations included water quality, reliability, and access. Outcomes are expected to inform our ongoing strategies and community stakeholder collaborations.
  • As part of our efforts to educate customers on the connections between climate change and water issues, we held a month-long campaign to connect with customers in conjunction with global climate movements, including Climate Week and Imagine a Day Without Water. Through social channels, emails, earned and paid media, and a water treatment plant tour, we emphasized the impacts of climate change, explained how water conservation reduces energy consumption and our carbon footprint, shared conservation tips, and encouraged customers to take action.
  • To promote compliance with our Water Shortage Contingency Plans, we enhanced communications with customers through digital channels, launched a drought-focused web site focused on drought, and performed targeted outreach to connect with specific audiences about conservation.
  • In 2022, New Mexico Water Service acquired the Morningstar water system. To integrate new customers, we hosted a customer open house, customer service booths, and open forums that encouraged public engagement and provided information about the Company. We intend to continue to enhance community relationships and promote discussions with our customers about water quality, reliability, and affordability.

In 2022, Cal Water team members attended nearly 100 meetings of local governing bodies, such as city councils. We also had more than 1,670 interactions with community stakeholders in California, from local mayors to members of Congress. The top five topics discussed during our interactions were:

  • Community Giving Initiatives
  • Conservation and Sustainability
  • Rates, Affordability, and Cost of Service
  • Cal Water Infrastructure Projects
  • Water Supply and Drought

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Natural disasters, fire events, spills, Public Safety Power Shutoffs, water contamination, and other emergency events require rapid response to help mitigate harm to our communities and maintain service during crises. Our goal is to always be prepared.


At Group, we strive for agility and reduce the potential impact of emergencies through diligent maintenance, education, and communication. Our policy includes conducting regular inspections of fire safety equipment and maintaining clear paths to exits. We seek to align all employee training and procedures with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30 and OSHA 10 certification. As part of our wildfire hardening strategy, we conduct annual vegetation management intended to reduce the chance of wildfires spreading to our facilities.

We also monitor external threats to our infrastructure by tracking communications from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Infragard, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the private sector to protect critical infrastructure. In addition, employees are encouraged to report any suspicious activity through multiple convenient channels that are monitored around the clock.


We coordinate training and tabletop exercises across our service areas intended to prepare for emergencies, and we provide a comprehensive Emergency Action Guidebook to all employees. In addition to this guidance, which includes hazard-specific checklists for various emergency scenarios, we develop unique, location-specific Emergency Response Plans. To help meet our goal of 100% employee participation in emergency response training, we hold annual training to all employees and provide additional training for field employees. Internal training and simulations test our evacuation practices and the functionality of emergency equipment. We believe that our ongoing commitment to training, exercise drills, and continuous improvement contributes to a robust risk mitigation program.

Effective preparation for and response during emergencies requires collaboration with our communities. Across our regions, our Operations and Community Emergency Response Team hosts annual Emergency Operations Center (EOC) training events in coordination with local first responders, police departments, contractors, city employees, elected officials, electric utilities, and other key stakeholders. EOC training exercises promote community preparedness, resilience, and outreach. Managers and employees also receive internal EOC training to learn how to more efficiently respond within the command framework and support EOCs when emergencies occur in other districts. Our procedures are designed to align with guidance from the Standardized Emergency Management System and National Incident Management System.

Wildfires and electricity interruptions present significant risks to our business and require us to be prepared. To help mitigate these risks, we have leveraged findings from our Wildfire Risk Assessment for Wildfire Hardening study to prioritize key initiatives, including main replacement projects, improvements to system interconnections, and the formation of our Wildfire Taskforce, which guides our emergency preparedness efforts by confirming completion of relevant training, upkeep of vegetation management, and the placement of critical equipment in strategic locations. The taskforce also helps maintain open lines of communication with fire agencies and other first responders. Additionally, our annual wildfire training reviews standard operating procedures for fire hydrant inspections, hydro pack operations and maintenance, fire prevention, dry weather monitoring, and responses to changing air quality.

Response and Recovery

During emergencies, we strive to keep our employees and communities safe while delivering a reliable supply of water to customers and first responders. Supplemented by mobile offices as needed, our EOCs act as central command centers that enable communication with relevant external stakeholders to organize emergency response and recovery, including the distribution of essential equipment, resources, and support. As a participant of mutual aid programs in multiple states, we share resources across communities, support systematic processing of mutual aid requests, and contribute to collective approaches for community protection. We continue to work with organizations to implement similar programs across all subsidiaries.

Our investments in backup-power generators, portable power sources, and other equipment allow us to restore and maintain service during emergencies, which may increasingly include events caused by climate-related risks. To help our customers through emergencies during after-hours operations, we provide additional customer service lines to answer concerns and provide updates.

Emergency events may leave long-lasting impacts on the community and our employees, so we typically extend our response and recovery efforts beyond the end of a crisis, providing water, food, and information to the affected community. In accordance with our disaster relief plan, we offer bill discounts and assistance to those who have lost their homes. Employees can also receive support for emotional wellness and recovery through a peer-to-peer support program and the professional CareBridge Employee Assistance Program. For more information on our employee health and wellbeing services, see the Compensation, Benefits, and Employee Wellbeing section.

By tracking our progress, executing tactical projects, and regularly evolving our strategy, we are better able to support the long-term resiliency of our operations to emergency events. We evaluate our emergency response by using after-action reports, tracking alignment with regulatory requirements, and leveraging post-incident evaluations to identify opportunities for future improvements. During our annual review of significant emergency events, we facilitate discussions that are designed to inform the next year’s training and planning activities.



2022 Highlights

  • Continuing a multi-year effort to better prepare us for power interruptions and wildfire events, we completed 18 additional projects in California to harden infrastructure exposed to wildfire risks, strengthen water availability for firefighting, and provide backup power.
  • We successfully launched regional Operations Rapid Response Teams (ORRT) with highly skilled employees to expand our flexibility and capabilities to respond during crises. Training for these teams focused on spill control, fall protection, trailer use, advanced first aid, generator operation, portable booster operation, and wildfire safety.
  • We activated 8 EOCs to directly respond to emergency events, and we hosted 20 EOC training engagements across our states and districts to discuss our collective approach and review our plans. In addition to Company employees, attendees of the various training events included a diverse group of community members, such as councilmembers, public works employees, fire marshals, law enforcement officials, city officials, emergency manager associations, other utility representatives, and community emergency response team representatives.
  • In times of emergency—especially earthquakes—districts need the ability to bypass damaged sections of the distribution system to supply emergency water and fire protection. In California, we purchased five miles of emergency hose to use as temporary water mains that can be rapidly deployed during natural disasters or other crises. Customers benefit by having an emergency pipeline bypass system.
  • All districts successfully completed annual vegetation management maintenance designed to enhance protection of assets during wildfires, and 100% of operations employees attended refresher training for wildfire preparation.
  • In 2021 and 2022, we made significant enhancements to our physical security program. We added five new formal physical security standards to align our fencing, lighting, CCTV/access control/intrusion detection systems, vegetation management, and incident response procedures to leading industry practice, and we implemented a number of projects to directly enhance the physical security of various locations across the state of California. We also integrated information-sharing with law enforcement directly into our physical security incident response procedure and established ongoing relationships with law enforcement teams across our service areas.


In 2022, we hosted a bioterrorism-focused training drill with representatives from multiple agencies, including the FBI, Butte County Inter-Agency Bomb Squad, Cal Fire, Chico Police Department, Cal OES, and City of Chico. All agencies used the joint exercise to practice emergency responses to potential scenarios, such as water supply tampering and discovery of suspicious devices, to strengthen our preparation and coordination in advance of any future events.