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Southern California Water Coalition Recognizes Exceptional Leaders at 2023 Annual Dinner

Photos of award winners Marty Adams, Mike Markus and Steve Elie
November 2, 2023

On November 2, the Southern California Water Coalition gathered in Newport Beach to host its 2023 Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation. The event united more than 400 prominent figures from various sectors, including business, water management, non-profit organizations, agriculture, and more, all coming together to celebrate and recognize outstanding colleagues.

The evening featured a rousing keynote address from Speaker Emeritus Anthony Rendon, representing the 62nd Assembly District in Southeast Los Angeles. Two prestigious awards were presented to acknowledge the remarkable contributions of three distinguished leaders in the water industry.

Martin Adams, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, received the Harriett M. Wieder Water Leadership Award for his commitment to providing affordable, reliable and sustainable water for all Angelenos today and into the future.

Mike Markus, general manager of Orange County Water District, joined Mr. Adams in being honored with the Harriett Wieder Award for his contributions to providing high-quality drinking water for the millions that live in Orange County.

Steve Elie, Board Vice President of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, was honored with the Kathy Cole Award for his significant dedication, unwavering perseverance, and exceptional collaborative spirit within IEUA and SCWC, where he currently serves as second Vice Chair and led the Legislative Task Force.

Harriett Wieder Water Leadership Award Goes to Marty Adams and Mike Markus

“Marty Adams and Mike Markus, the Harriett M. Wieder Water Leadership Award recipients in 2023, exemplify unwavering dedication to advancing California’s critical water supply issues,” said Charley Wilson, the executive director of the Southern California Water Coalition.

Wilson explained that the award, symbolized by a block of wood, resonates with the spirit of former Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder, who famously stated that sometimes, to drive change, one must use a 2×4 to capture attention. Wieder was the founder of the Southern California Water Coalition.

“In the case of both Marty and Mike, their extraordinary leadership has indeed captured our attention and spurred remarkable change,” said Wilson.

About Marty Adams

Marty Adams, the Harriett M. Wieder Water Leadership Award recipient, boasts a remarkable career spanning four decades, mainly dedicated to the LADWP. Starting as an entry-level engineer in 1983 after earning his degree from Loyola Marymount University, Marty ascended the ranks, overseeing pivotal projects in water storage, conveyance, and treatment. As the General Manager and Chief Engineer of LADWP, he’s shown unwavering leadership on regional and statewide water issues, earning a stellar reputation for collaboration with elected officials and neighborhood councils.

Marty’s accomplishments include driving LADWP’s local water supply development efforts to reduce reliance on imported water while meeting L.A.’s environmental commitments in the Owens Valley and maintaining the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which continues to be the most cost-effective water source for the second largest city in the US. His work also encompasses crucial water initiatives like stormwater capture and groundwater system construction in the San Fernando Valley. Known for his innovative deployment of shade balls to protect water quality in the Los Angeles Reservoir, Marty is also leading LADWP’s transition to clean energy.

“Beyond his professional accomplishments, Marty has prioritized building trust in public water and power utilities. As he enters retirement, his continued contributions will undoubtedly shape a brighter and more sustainable future for our community,” Wilson said.

About Mike Markus

Mike Markus, a prominent figure in water management, has been the general manager of the Orange County Water District since 2007, leaving a legacy of excellence and innovation.

His illustrious career is closely associated with OCWD’s emergence as a global leader in advanced water treatment and groundwater management. The groundbreaking Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) project stands as a testament to Mike’s visionary leadership, replenishing groundwater supplies with purified wastewater and earning numerous industry awards.

Mike’s journey began at OCWD in 1988, where he rapidly rose through the ranks, subsequently managing GWRS and earning accolades like the 2008 Stockholm Industry Water Award.

“Mike’s remarkable leadership at OCWD, notably spearheading the groundbreaking GWRS project, has set the global standard for advanced water treatment and groundwater management,” noted Wilson. “His vision and tenacity in the face of daunting challenges, from technological hurdles to public acceptance, have not only earned him well-deserved accolades but have also paved the way for monumental projects like Metropolitan’s Pure Water Southern California.”

Steve Elie Honored with Kathy Cole Award

“SCWC is proud to recognize our second vice chair and longtime board member Steve Elie as the recipient of the 2023 Kathy Cole Award. This prestigious accolade, established in 2020 by SCWC, celebrates individuals who exemplify the dedication, perseverance, and collaborative spirit embodied by former Metropolitan Water District Executive Legislative Representative, Kathy Cole,” Wilson said.

The award is more than a mere accolade; it includes a whiskey decanter and two glasses etched with Mark Twain’s famous words, “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”

Steve Elie, a true champion in the water policy field, is a deserving recipient of this honor. Serving as a board member of IEUA, SCWC, and other organizations, Steve’s contributions have been nothing short of exceptional.

Steve’s journey on the IEUA board began in 2010, and his three re-elections underscore the trust and respect he commands from the community. He currently serves as the Board Vice President.

As an accomplished environmental and water law attorney, Steve champions the causes of public entities and regulated public utility entities, particularly focusing on soil and groundwater contamination.

Steve’s commitment extends to leadership roles in various organizations, including Chair of the National Water Research Institute and representing the Chino Basin Watermaster, Chino Basin Desalter Authority, Association of San Bernardino County Special Districts, and the Chino Basin Water Bank.

“As a coalition builder, educator, and advocate for water, Steve’s enduring contributions and his ability to bring insight as well as levity and camaraderie to complex water policy discussions have been truly remarkable,” Wilson said.

The area’s largest networking event for water, business, agriculture, local public policymakers, labor groups, and environmental leaders commenced with a VIP reception followed by a dinner and program. 

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