Water policy and strategic communications consultant Adán Ortega today was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the primary water importer and wholesaler for nearly 19 million people in six counties. Photo: Met Executive Director Adel Hagekhalil and Ortega.
Ortega, who has served on Metropolitan’s 38-member board since 2019, is the first Latino chairman to be elected to the post and will serve a two-year term beginning Jan. 1. He began representing the city of San Fernando on the board in March 2021 after previously representing the city of Fullerton from February 2019 to February 2021.
““I pledge to my colleagues on the board, Metropolitan staff and our member agencies to work relentlessly to meet our water supply and environmental stewardship commitments to the cities and communities we serve throughout Southern California,” Chair-elect Ortega said.
“We share a common quest that is upon us, and it is confronting climate change. Our water supply and financial planning must transform and adapt to our new reality and the challenges that lie ahead,” he added.
He will lead the board as Metropolitan responds to water supply and climate change challenges on both of its imported water sources from Northern California and the Colorado River amid historic drought that has caused water shortages in parts of its service area. During his time on the board, Metropolitan has taken steps to strengthen its supply reliability by working collaboratively with partners across the Colorado River Basin and throughout California and developing new local water resources like the Pure Water recycled water project, which when complete would provide enough water for about 500,000 homes a year.
Ortega brings to the position three decades of experience in government relations and has helped lead efforts to bring assistance to small community water systems in disadvantaged communities across the state.
The principal of Ortega Strategies Group, a public affairs and government relations firm based in Fullerton, Ortega previously served as Metropolitan’s vice president of external affairs from 1999 to 2005. Before his role with Metropolitan, he was chief deputy for then-Secretary of State Bill Jones and assistant general manager of both West Basin and Central Basin municipal water districts.
In 2013, Ortega was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Water Commission. Prior to that, he was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, where Ortega chaired its water committee from 2005 to 2012.
With his election, Ortega becomes the 20th chairman in Metropolitan’s 94-year history. As head of Metropolitan’s board, Ortega will represent district policies and programs at the national, state and local levels. He also will preside over monthly meetings of the board and its executive committee. In addition, he will appoint all members of the district’s 15 standing committees, as well as the leaders of any special committees or task forces.
He currently serves as a member of the board’s Finance and Insurance Committee, Organization, Personnel and Technology Committee, Underserved Communities Committee, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.
A Fullerton resident, Ortega holds bachelor’s degrees in English and history from Whittier College. He and his wife, Susan, have a son.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that, along with its 26 cities and retail suppliers, provides water for 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs. Cover photo curtesy of Rosedale Rio Bravo Water Storage District.