California Water Service’s Whitley Recognized with NAWC Award

The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) recently announced Chris Whitley of California Water Service (Cal Water) as the winner of its 2016 NAWC Living Water Award.Print

The announcement was made as part of the 2016 NAWC Water Summit, held Oct. 2-4, in San Diego, Calif. The NAWC Living Water Awards program was established in 2012 to celebrate the exemplary private water industry professionals who are “living water” through their commitment to quality service and the environment. Whitley is the fourth recipient of this prestigious honor, earned for extraordinary leadership displayed in the midst of a devastating wildfire that impacted the communities he serves.

Whitley is local manager of Cal Water’s Kern River Valley and Antelope Valley Districts. In June 2016, a wildfire spread throughout Kern County, California, ultimately burning nearly 50,000 acres and destroying 309 homes. As the community where he lives and works literally went up in flames, Whitley’s remarkable actions, and calm, collected demeanor throughout the disaster ensured the health and safety of thousands of residents. For example, as water lines to homes ruptured as a result of the fire, Whitley drove into the heart of the fire territory and manually shut off the meters from the burned homes so that water could be preserved to fight the fire.

“Chris’ performance in the face of an unfolding natural disaster is both remarkable and inspiring,” said Michael Deane, NAWC executive director. “He put the health and safety of his community before himself, and did so humbly and compassionately. Without question, what he has done is deserving of the Living Water Award, and I congratulate both Chris and Cal Water for the tremendous work they do in the communities they serve.”

Whitley and his team also demonstrated several acts of kindness for members of the community who were impacted by the fire. For more than a week, they brought cases of water to customers that could not pick them up, distributed toiletries from the Red Cross to all community residents, and worked with the Salvation Army to help the fire victims get back on their feet. Chris and his staff attended community meetings to disseminate updated information and find out how they could best assist customers. He distributed $23,000 in Visa gift cards to customers through Cal Water’s philanthropic giving program and helped fundraise more than $40,000 for the Erskine Fire relief fund.

Martin Kropelnicki, CEO and president for Cal Water, and incoming president of the NAWC board of directors, added, “It’s never easy to effectively manage a crisis situation, but Chris rose to the occasion and exceeded all expectations, even when his own community was in flames. Chris managed Cal Water’s team on the ground with precision and efficiency, and interacted with impacted customers with grace and empathy. His actions demonstrate Cal Water’s highest priority – the health and safety of our customers. I’m proud of Chris, and congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition.”


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