“If water is coming from your tap and you are watering your outdoors two days a week during the worst drought in the State’s history, then thank a visionary, Dr. Tony Fellow!”
Kenneth "Ken" Manning, Executive Director, San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, Retired
Tony Fellow was instrumental in the construction of the Upper District’s first water recycling facility – the first such project in the whole of the San Gabriel Valley, despite fierce opposition to what special interests and critics dubbed a “toilet-to-tap” project. Now those same stakeholders recognize the positive impacts this project continues to make for local communities throughout the Valley. The success of this pioneering recycled water project effectively catalyzed what is now an evolving and expanding ecosystem of wastewater treatment and recycled water distribution infrastructure, including the Rose Hills Recycled Water Program, the Whittier Narrows Recycled Water Program and the City of Industry Recycled Water Program – all projects Dr. Fellow championed and played a key role in securing State and Federal funding.
These 4 local water recycling facilities, all built during Dr. Fellow’s tenure, provide a renewable, low-cost wholesale alternative for the local water agencies and companies served by the Upper District. Currently, much of the Valley’s non-drinking water demand, including irrigation for local school sports fields, golf courses and city parks, regional manufacturing and industry and freeway landscaping, are being met with clean, high quality recycled water - saving precious drinking water for home use.
In addition, recycled water keeps wholesale rates affordable by decreasing the demand for high-cost imported water and, most importantly, supplies the Upper District’s ongoing efforts to recharge our local groundwater basin, the Main San Gabriel Basin. The Upper District’s high-quality recycled water now replenishes what the natural water cycle has lost to increased pumping and decreased rainfall – effectively ensuring a sustainable and local source of fresh potable water for generations to come. As added benefits, subsidence of the Valley’s ground level is addressed, and our local watersheds are conserved as habitats for native vegetation and animals. The restoration and responsible management of the Main San Gabriel Basin has especially been a saving grace during our current water emergency by providing a locally controlled and low-cost water source.
WATERSHED RESTORATION AND REFORESTATION
As a staunch proponent of environmental conservation and restoration, Dr. Tony Fellow was first to recognize the value of protecting our local watershed and the Angeles National Forest. As Director, Fellow authored the Upper District’s first and longest running conservation program, the Watershed Restoration and Reforestation Program. Since Its inception, the Program has realized great success in maintaining a healthy watershed and reducing the negative man-made and natural impacts affecting our local groundwater.
Without proper forest and watershed management, snow melt and rain fall are more likely to runoff and carry away layers of debris and sediment, instead of being allowed to slowly percolate into the soil, make it down into our groundwater supply and accumulate in our aquifers. If the factors that cause erosion are left unaddressed, siltation increases in our local mountain reservoirs, streams and spreading grounds and their percolation and storage capacities are greatly diminished. This is where volunteers come in!
In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the federal government funded and built a sapling nursery for trees native to the Angeles National Forest. With this on-the-ground support and funding, the Upper District, and our enthusiastic community and student volunteers, has been able to plant more than 100,000 native trees in the San Gabriel River Watershed and keep our streams free flowing from debris. Since 80% of our water supply comes from the watershed - we are not Colorado River or California Aqueduct dependent, finding ways to protect the sustainability of our local landscape is of the utmost importance to Upper District.
We welcome and encourage volunteers and students to participate in our Watershed Restoration events – it is a great and interactive way for local students to earn their community service hours. Events are typically held four times a year - twice in the Fall and twice in the Spring.
Always the educator, Dr. Tony Fellow continues to author some of Upper District’s most innovative community outreach programs aimed at water conservation and awareness, and has successfully secured grants to expand their scope and reach. Engaging resource materials and water focused competitions continue to help educate students about water use efficiency, water quality and the integrated environmental and managerial approaches that sustain our water supplies. Developing programs that increase a student’s water knowledge through creative hands-on activities and a science-based curriculum remain a priority for the Upper District.
Fellow also established the Upper District’s first Water Conservation Program. This comprehensive mix of community programming, education and the distribution of water saving kits and items to residents, such as low flow faucets and rain barrels, has resulted in a 24% reduction in water usage.
As Director, Fellow inaugurated the Upper District’s signature community event, Waterfest. Attended by some two to three thousand people, Waterfest is an annual community event that builds community and brings the public together to celebrate and educate on water.
In addition, Dr. Fellow set the precedent of having Board Directors provide regular updates at city council meetings, chambers of commerce and community groups in the Upper District’s service area.
WORLD WATER FORUMS
In his role as a Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Director, Tony Fellow contributed to the inauguration of MWD’s World Water Forums. These annual forums bring together university students, and their professors, from colleges and universities throughout the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and beyond, to address water scarcity, water access and water quality issues throughout the world. The World Water Forums became such a collaborative incubator for novel approaches to these issues that the MWD now offers five $10,000 prizes-a-year to fund and implement the very programs and studies created as a part of these forums.
As a result of his involvement in establishing this pioneering program, Dr. Anthony Fellow became the only water director from the San Gabriel Valley to ever speak about international water issues at the United Nations.
PURE WATER SOCAL
As one of the San Gabriel Valley’s representatives to the Metropolitan Water District, the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, Tony Fellow is currently championing the District’s Regional Recycled Water Program, also known as “Pure Water Southern California.” When fully constructed in Carson, CA, this state-of-the-art facility will be the most advanced and largest water recycling plant in the nation - producing 150 million gallons of high quality, clean recycled water per day. This is enough to serve more than 500,000 homes throughout Southern California.
Although the Upper District is not Colorado River and California Aqueduct dependent, importing only 20% of Its water from these sources, this transformative water resource will allow the Upper District to further reduce Its dependence on high-cost imported water and provide a reliable source of replenishment water for the Main San Gabriel Basin. When fully operational, this project will essentially “drought-poof” the San Gabriel Valley.
COLORADO RIVER WATER
To meet the current water emergency, and to shore up resources until Pure Water Southern California is complete, Tony Fellow will advocate for the use of Colorado River Aqueduct Water, when available, as a secondary source for replenishment of the Main San Gabriel Basin. Tony will advocate for stakeholder and regulatory approval of mitigation plans that will overcome delivery obstacles and be a strong voice for water equity in obtaining this secondary source of supply.
Tony Fellow was an early proponent of cleaning contaminated wells throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Tony served as president of the San Gabriel Valley Water Quality Authority, the agency tasked with obtaining federal and state funds to clean up the groundwater. Today, he remains focused on eliminating emerging contaminants, such as PFAS and other long lasting chemicals, that continue to threaten our water supplies. Tony has advocated for strong science-rooted regulations and will continue to secure state and federal resources to treat and purify our water. Providing safe and clean water is Tony’s highest priority.
As the former President of the San Gabriel Valley Discovery Center, Tony envisions a Water Discovery Center near the entrance of Azusa Canyon to tell the story of our water, our forests and our amazing water systems. It would be an interactive, engaging and welcoming place for teachers to bring students and to host community events. There are few greater stories to tell than where our local water supply comes from and how it ends up at our tap.
Aging water infrastructure is a problem for some San Gabriel Valley cities. A community's water infrastructure includes all the man-made, and even natural features, that move and treat water, including stream beds, pump stations, treatment plants and purple pipe. As your Director, Tony will ensure that the Upper District maintains Its status as an industry-leading agency that employs the latest technologies and best practices to continue securing, producing, supplying and distributing high-quality wholesale water to your local water company or district. Tony Fellow believes that the future of water production and delivery resides at the nexus between green, renewable energy and water management – utilizing low-cost, low-pollution and renewable energy sources to cover the energy needs of pumping and filtration.