Kirby Brill, P.E. (Southern California)Former General Manager, Mojave Water Agency
Building Bridges to a New World in Water Resource Management
The world of water resource management is undergoing radical changes that will increasingly require new tools, skillsets and approaches due to challenges of population growth, climate change, and new regulations such as with SGMA -- these factors create more uncertainty but with uncertainty are opportunities to raise our game. This new world that we are facing in water resource management requires us to rethink past strategies and to invent new ones. Three fundamental areas necessary when developing a portfolio of water management actions are: (1) “science-based” evaluations; (2) “market-driven” policies; and (3) robust outreach with the local community. These fundamental cornerstones pave the way towards economic and water resources sustainability. Examples of approaches and methods for employing these three key cornerstones for success include: manage stakeholder expectations by providing clearly defined “rules” for credible water transactions and regulatory compliance; early outreach to allow glide paths towards “cultural” transition of resource management and ultimately sustainability; develop and maintain a strong underlying science platform to enable public trust and realistic valuations of the water as a resource and an asset; and the marketability of the groundwater production right so that groundwater users can maintain a certain nimbleness to meet their needs without depleting the resource, and in turn reducing risk of disputes. In this new world, today’s leaders will need to look ahead to the horizon for developing new leadership with fresh ideas to carry the ball forward for the next several decades. These new leaders must have a solid science-based platform with the ability to analyze complex systems and must be excellent communicators that will allow them to convert information into knowledge to share with the public and other decision-makers. In doing so, our new leaders must have inherent values enabling them to earn the trust of the communities they are operating in so that they can create partners in the collective pursuit of the resource management objectives. With these ambitious cornerstones and methods comes heavy investment of time and resources, with the return on investment being water sustainability through development of well-equipped future leaders with multi-disciplinary training and perspectives who can build bridges with technical, social, economic and political skills to find solutions embedded within the complex systems that are now part of our operating environment.
As Mojave Water Agency’s (MWA) former General Manager, Mr. Brill worked for over 16 years to develop and execute a diverse portfolio of strategies that now provides the foundation to meet the current and projected water supply needs of a rapidly growing population in San Bernardino County, California. Throughout his tenure at MWA, there was a complex array of challenges driven by ever changing local, regional, state and federally driven forces that drove the need for innovative and creative solutions. Mr. Brill began his career in private consulting and migrated to the public sector at Orange County Water District (OCWD) where he led efforts to maximize the District’s ability to capture available water for artificial recharge along the lower Santa Ana River, in Orange County California. Mr. Brill also led the development of a basin-wide groundwater monitoring program consisting of more than 50 deep multi-level monitoring wells and a data collection system with computerized reporting tools that now serve as the backbone for OCWD’s current groundwater basin management activities. Mr. Brill left OCWD to take on the challenge of cleaning up groundwater contamination in the San Gabriel Basin, the geographically largest Superfund site in the nation. While at the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, Mr. Brill served as Assistant Executive Director and later as Executive Director and led efforts to bring local, state and federal stakeholders together to develop and support practical solutions which could be financed, constructed and operated using the collective capabilities and assets of the group. Mr. Brill holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering, a minor in Geology and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Mr. Brill is a registered Civil Engineer in California.