Behind every environmental win in California are the people who work to make collaboration and progress possible. We couldn’t do what we do every day without folks who are willing to think differently, see possibilities, and make change together. We sat down with Adán Ortega, long-time Board member and supporter, to learn about why he does this work.
Adán has a history of handling complex strategic planning and communications challenges and he excels in the water and natural resources arena. He has 30 years of deep experience and understanding of resource and environmental issues through senior leadership roles in government, business, and environmental organizations throughout Southern California, California, and the United States. Before Adán created Ortega Strategies Group, he was Managing Director of Rose & Kindel; Vice President of External Affairs at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Chief California Deputy Secretary of State; and Assistant General Manager of West and Central Basin Municipal Water Districts.
An Adaptable Enterprise
Adán has always connected sustainability and caring for the environment with a sustainable economy. His involvement with environmental work kicked off with Heal the Bay in Southern California, after he got seriously sick during an open-water swim at Seal Beach. He’d already been involved with agriculture, citing it as an “adaptable enterprise,” and first met Sustainable Conservation Chief Executive Officer Ashley Boren through their shared service on the California State Board of Food & Agriculture.
“I’ve always perceived agriculture to be a very adaptable enterprise […] and that adaptability and willingness to change could be useful in other parts of California to build a sustainable economy.”
Validating Sustainable Practices
Adán believes Sustainable Conservation validates sustainable practices, and our name is indicative of what we do and a label that we can own. Sustainable Conservation’s also a well-kept secret for a specific reason: the work we do behind the scenes to ground truth innovative practices by building coalitions, and testing and scaling solutions.
“I think most people don’t know much about Sustainable Conservation because we are in many respects an environmental group’s environmental group […] We’re out there doing the hard work to prove concepts. We validate things that in many instances nobody thought could be possible.”
Adán’s experience in the agricultural sector means he knows that it’s ground zero for innovation and climate mitigation. Farmers always adapt and find new ways to continue growing food, and in times of crisis they rebound quickly. Adán sees great value and potential in our Groundwater Recharge Assessment Tool (GRAT) as a key piece of technology that can bring equity to the “fair distribution of a limited resource,” and our new water quality guidance for farmers looking to practice recharge. As the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) rolls out, water managers need tools like this to make informed decisions for the good of communities and farms alike.
Finally, Adán has a great piece of advice for all Californians who want to get involved: “Expand your horizons in defining equity, and hold everyone accountable.” This includes people who work in the environmental movement.
“We’re in a sweet spot right now where social action groups and business groups can converge in a helpful way with the environmental community by highlighting the distribution of resources that go toward preserving and helping the environment. This moment allows these issues to be spoken about in a way that ought to be less defensive, and more in appreciation of the stage we are in in history.”
We’re inspired by Adán, and regularly humbled by his keen perspective and commitment to change. Finding environmental solutions that last is our bread and butter, and we couldn’t do what we do every day without Adán’s guidance.
Adán also increased his support this year, and you can join him to empower scaled, science-based solutions to our most critical water challenges. Give today!