Stephen K. Hall, former ACWA chief, dies at 58

Steven K. Hall, a major figure in California water policy who served nearly 15 years as the executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, died Jan. 19 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 58.

Hall, who was born in Greenland, served four governors in an array of appointed and advisory roles. He started his career 33 years ago at the Tulare Lake Drainage District, where he served as manager. In 1985, he was selected to serve as executive director of the Land Preservation Association, “where he became well versed in the issues of agricultural drainage and the search for solutions on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” his colleagues said.

In 1989, he became executive director of the newly formed California Farm Water Coalition and quickly made a name for himself as an impassioned public speaker. He sometimes was paired on the speaking circuit with Cadillac Desert author Marc Reisner. Hall, his colleagues said, provided audiences with “an effective counterpoint to the late writer’s assertions about agricultural water use.”

Hall earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and economics from California State University, Fresno in 1973. He graduated from the California Agricultural Leadership Program in 1982.

In recent years at ACWA, which he headed from 1993 to 2007, Hall led a year-long effort to develop ACWA’s recent water policy document, “No Time to Waste: A Blueprint for California Water.” Developed with input from local water leaders throughout the state, the document recommended a comprehensive suite of actions and investments to ensure California has the water supply system it will need in the coming decades. It also served as the basis of the “California’s Water” series for public television produced by Huell Howser and underwritten by ACWA members.

ACWA, formed in 1910, represents some 450 water agencies across California. The agencies supply about 90 percent of the water to California farms, businesses and urban water users.

Even after his retirement in 2007 as the effects of his illness — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease —  made it difficult to work, Hall continued to advocate for legislation on ALS at the state Capitol. His motto became, “As much as I can for as long as I can.”

Hall is survived by his wife, Pamela; two grown children, Jennifer and Adam; and three grandchildren. He is also survived by his parents, Wayne and Lois Hall; his brother, Mark; and his sister, Anita.

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