Watershed Planning in Action – An Integrated Approach for Sustainable Water Management

Host: Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water)
Openings: 1
Project Focus: Climate Adaptation (e.g., sea level rise planning, environmental justice, climate migration planning), Climate Mitigation, Disaster Response and Preparedness / Emergency Management (e.g., flood prevention, wildfire prevention, coastal protection), Ecosystem / Habitat Conservation / Biodiversity Protection, Urban Planning, Water Management
Skills Needed: Project Management, Research, Data Analysis, Technical Writing,

Remote or On-Site Placement


Service Needs & Plans

This fellow will assist with developing Valley Water’s Watershed Master Plans, comprehensive strategies developed by Valley Water, a water district in California’s Santa Clara County. Valley Water is an agency with the mission of water supply, flood protection, and environmental stewardship for Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley). The plan addresses community resiliency by aiming to manage water resources sustainably and integratively by diversifying water sources, promoting conservation and efficiency, investing in resilient infrastructure, prioritizing environmental stewardship, addressing climate change, and engaging the community. This holistic approach addresses the interconnected nature of water resources and seeks to ensure long-term resilience and reliability. Overall, these are strategic plans for Valley Water, which represents a forward-thinking approach to water management that seeks to balance competing needs and ensure the continued availability of water resources for current and future generations.

Specifically, the fellow will assist with developing long-range master plans for water resources management in Santa Clara County’s Lower Peninsula and West Valley watersheds, complete with identified priority actions. These watersheds are highly urbanized, offering a unique set of planning challenges and opportunities. For each watershed, the fellow will develop and help implement an equitable stakeholder engagement strategy to identify challenges, opportunities, and potential watershed management actions.

Project Description

The goal of the fellow’s work will be to help develop Watershed Master Plans focused on how to strategically manage water resources in Santa Clara County comprehensively and sustainably. The plans set out to integrate various aspects of water management, including supply, demand, infrastructure, conservation, and environmental stewardship. The fellow will play a key role in developing these plans by data collection, data analysis, graphic design, and writing. The fellow will also be involved with collaboration and stakeholder involvement towards plan development, including both internal and external stakeholders. The fellow will play a key role in developing stakeholder engagement strategy, collecting stakeholder feedback, and synthesizing this information. There will also be opportunities to help compile priority actions to pursue for the watersheds, including short-term and long-term actions. The work will focus on two watersheds, Lower Peninsula and West Valley Watersheds. Ultimately, the fellow’s work on this plan will help ensure long-term resilience and reliability of water resources in Santa Clara County while balancing the needs of current and future generations in the face of challenges like droughts, floods, and climate change.

As a returning partner, a new CivicSpark fellow would provide new capacity to two new key projects at Valley Water, the development of Watershed Master Plans for two watersheds. The previous fellow assisted with the completion of the Guadalupe and Upper Pajaro River Watershed Plans, and a new fellow would support the development of plans for West Valley and Lower Peninsula Watersheds, distinctly different areas with new challenges and opportunities. The Lower Peninsula and West Valley watersheds are supported by a different set of stakeholders, including cities, non-profits and community groups. As these watersheds are highly urbanized, they pose a unique set of issues to resolve. The previous fellow assisted with initial data gathering and mapping of the Lower Peninsula and West Valley Watershed, but much work remains to be done for the new CivicSpark fellow in terms of stakeholder outreach, data gathering, data analysis, writing, and report preparation.

Desired Skills

We are seeking a fellow with excellent skills in writing, data analysis, graphical representation, and stakeholder coordination. This includes clear technical writing, precise data analysis and quantitative skills, creating visually appealing graphs and graphics, and communicating effectively with stakeholders. Attention to detail, organization, and proficiency in relevant software are also important. The fellow should have the ability to conduct research on water and natural resources, assess options, and create thorough technical reports. Additionally, they should be able to propose and utilize strategies for engaging stakeholders and communicating effectively while effectively managing projects and meeting deadlines.

Organization & Workplace Highlights

The Santa Clara Valley Water District, known as Valley Water, is a governmental agency responsible for managing water resources in Santa Clara County, California. It serves nearly 2 million residents across 1,300 square miles. Valley Water’s key responsibilities include managing water supply systems, including flood protection infrastructure, environmental stewardship, water conservation, and groundwater management. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability, resilience, and environmental health of the region’s water resources.

Valley Water has a demonstrated commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The workplace culture and environment for Valley Water as a whole and specifically for the Watershed Planning process is one of teamwork, multi-disciplinary collaborative brainstorming, inclusivity, and diversity. In addition, Valley Water has an Office of Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI), which is dedicated to promoting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the organization and the communities it serves. It develops policies, provides training, engages with the community, collects data, and collaborates with partners to foster an inclusive organizational culture and ensure equitable access to Valley Water’s services.

A fellowship at Valley Water provides hands-on experience, networking opportunities, and professional development that help interns develop technical and soft skills relevant to natural resource management. Due to the myriad of tasks we undertake at Valley Water, we are suited to various careers such as engineering, planning, biology, accounting, resource management, and project management. A fellowship would be the perfect opportunity to explore these options. It offers exposure to industry practices, project management experience, and enhances resumes, preparing fellows for future career opportunities in water resources management or related fields.

Community Highlights

Silicon Valley, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, is renowned for its innovation and entrepreneurship. It offers abundant job opportunities, fosters a culture of creativity, and attracts diverse talent from around the world. With a high quality of life, excellent amenities, and networking opportunities, it’s a dynamic and appealing place to live and work. San Jose, where the position is located, is one of the largest cities in California, and we have significant open space, trails, and natural resources surrounding us. It’s only about 30 minutes from the coast, two hours from the snow, and one hour from all that San Francisco has to offer with events, sports, and tourist spots.
The fellow will play a key role in watershed planning. Santa Clara County’s watersheds are intriguing due to their diverse landscapes, vital role in water supply, recreational opportunities, environmental importance, and ongoing conservation challenges. The watersheds stand out for their diverse landscapes, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the flat Santa Clara Valley, creating unique ecosystems for a wide array of species. Aside from their ecological significance, the county’s watersheds play a crucial role in supplying water to its residents, businesses, and agriculture. They capture and store rainfall, which replenishes groundwater and reservoirs essential for drinking water and irrigation. Santa Clara County’s watersheds face challenges such as flood control, water pollution, habitat loss, and the spread of invasive species. Effective watershed planning is crucial for ensuring the watersheds’ long-term sustainability.

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