Associate Director, Water Program

The Nature Conservancy

Sacramento, California

Job Type Permanent
Salary Details Competitive
Deadline Apr 21, 2024


Sacramento, California, USA

The location for this position is negotiable within California, although we have a strong preference for the vicinity of Sacramento.


The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Grounded in science, we develop innovative solutions to the world’s toughest environmental challenges so that people and nature can thrive. Our work is guided by our values, which include a commitment to diversity; respect for people, communities, and cultures; and a collaborative, nonpartisan approach. Thanks to more than 1 million members, over 400 scientists, and the dedicated efforts of our staff and partners, we impact conservation around the world. 

The California Chapter is TNC’s largest state program and one of the largest, most dynamic conservation organizations in the country. With approximately 275 employees, from financial analysts and fundraisers to ecologists and economists, we are currently invested in 14 strategies to address the biggest challenges facing California and the world, including numerous community-based projects designed to increase the pace, scale, and effectiveness of conservation. Over the past six decades, we have protected 1.4 million acres, 5,000 miles of streams, and 3.8 million acres of ocean habitat in California and off the coast. 

The California Chapter believes that we are most effective when we are embedded in our state’s communities, politics, media, and environmental issues. For this reason, and to reduce our carbon footprint when meeting in person, all staff live in California, including those in a home office.

Finally, we are passionate about the middle ground in American politics and life. The hallmark of The Nature Conservancy is its “big tent” approach, engaging people across the political and ideological spectrum to find solutions that last. We ask all employees to embrace this critical strategic position of our organization.

California Water Program

Freshwater vertebrates are declining globally at twice the rate of those found in the terrestrial and marine realms – and California is no exception. California has lost 95% of its wetlands and riparian habitats, and 50% of its native freshwater plants and animal species are vulnerable to extinction. The Nature Conservancy’s California Water Program is working to reverse those declines – and ensure that freshwater ecosystems and species have the water and the habitat conditions they need to be resilient in a rapidly changing world. We pursue this through two major bodies of work: our Healthy Rivers Strategy, which advances voluntary and regulatory solutions to protect the instream flows needed to sustain freshwater biodiversity; and our Thriving Wetlands Strategy, which advances incentive-based programs and policies to protect or create permanent and seasonal wetlands, including those needed to support migratory waterbirds along the Pacific Flyway.

The Associate Director of the Water Program leads and manages all aspects of the Thriving Wetlands Strategy, including the development and implementation of its theory of change. This position provides strategic direction to a portfolio of projects, including BirdReturns, an innovative program that uses a reverse auction to source migratory bird habitat on farm fields, as well as policy engagements and projects to secure long-term water to sustain wildlife refuges and seasonal wetlands. The Strategy’s multi-disciplinary team employs a variety of approaches to provide freshwater ecosystems with the water and habitat they need, including by developing cutting-edge science, advancing policy reform, and collaboratively managing water resources with communities and agriculture. In this role, you will lead a matrixed team to drive projects on the ground, improve partner capacity, expand funding sources, and innovate approaches to secure water for wetlands as water uses across California shift and precipitation patterns become even more unpredictable. You will help explore innovative financing mechanisms, build the case for public investment, and foster the relationships needed to succeed at the local, regional, state and federal levels. As appropriate, you will advocate policies (such as refuge water deliveries) – and integrate other TNC tools (such as land and water acquisitions) to advance strategic goals. You will have a leading role in defining how best the Conservancy can increase the pace and scale of wetlands conservation across the state and beyond.

If you want to be part of the change that moves us from a freshwater biodiversity crisis to a more resilient, sustainable and biodiverse water future, there is no better place to work than The Nature Conservancy.


The Associate Director leads TNC-California’s Thriving Wetlands Strategy and team, which focuses on  ensuring seasonal and permanent wetlands have the water they need to provide habitat for priority native species, such as the migratory waterbirds of the Pacific Flyway. In this role, you will work with leadership within the Water Program and TNC-California, as well as with a cross-disciplinary matrixed team, to refine theories of change and develop multi-year strategic plans. You and the team will work to create and restore habitat in partnership with farmers, irrigation districts, state agencies, groundwater sustainability agencies and other NGOs. In addition to advancing on-the-ground projects, you will advance strategies at regional and statewide scales, helping to connect and synergize efforts across the Water Program’s portfolio. You will also collaborate with TNC scientists to develop a research agenda to inform and evaluate these strategies, and position TNC for influence and impact. Your responsibilities include strategic planning, annual work planning and management, staff supervision and development, budget management and fundraising. The Associate Director is an important ambassador for the Thriving Wetlands Strategy, the Water Program overall, and The Nature Conservancy, serving as a compelling spokesperson for the team’s work with donors, elected officials, agencies, communities, the media and our Board of Trustees.

This position is one of two Associate Director positions in the California Water Program (the other leads TNC-California’s Healthy Rivers Strategy) and will report to the Water Program Director. 


  • BA/BS degree and 10 years’ experience in conservation practice or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Experience successfully designing, implementing, and directing complex or multiple projects of strategic importance while meeting deadlines.
  • Experience serving as an effective organizational ambassador to a range of audiences.
  • Experience leading multidisciplinary teams.
  • Supervisory experience, including motivating, leading, setting objectives and managing performance.
  • Experience in developing partnerships with non-profit partners, community groups, water users, and/or government agencies.  
  • Experience with financial management of a large program.

Desired Qualifications

  •  Knowledge of water issues and operations in California, especially the Central Valley and/or the Klamath basin.
  •  Familiarity with conservation issues related to migratory birds and/or species recovery.
  •  Experience working with the agricultural industry.  
  •  Experience developing and implementing incentive-based programs.
  •  Experience and comfort with developing conservation strategies at multiple geographic scales, from site-specific to regional or statewide scale.
  •  Demonstrated success in innovating new approaches.
  •  Experience navigating complicated political landscapes and relationships.
  •  Excellent writing and communication skills. 
  •  Demonstrated negotiation success. 
  •  Demonstrated success in fundraising from both public and private sources.


Each person who works at TNC contributes to our goal of protecting nature for future generations. Another one of TNC’s primary goals is to cultivate an inclusive work environment so that employees around the globe feel that their unique contributions are valued. To quote a popular saying at TNC, “You’ll join for the mission, and you’ll stay for the people.” To learn more, head to YouTube to hear stories from staff or visit Glassdoor.  

We’re proud to support the health and wellbeing of the people we employ. We offer a competitive, comprehensive benefits package that includes healthcare coverage, flexible spending accounts, 401(k) plan with an 8% employer match, parental leave, accrued paid time off, life insurance, disability coverage, employee assistance program, and other benefits that support work-life balance. 

If you’re interested in working with us, please apply—we’d love to hear from you.


This position requires a valid driver's license and compliance with TNC’s Auto Safety Program.

Employees may not drive Conservancy-owned/leased vehicles, rental cars, or personal vehicles on behalf of the Conservancy if considered "high risk drivers." To learn more about the Auto Safety Program, visit https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/careers/recruitment/ under the FAQ section.

Employment in this position will be contingent upon completion of a Vehicle Use Agreement, which may include a review of the prospective employee's motor vehicle record.


The starting pay range for a candidate selected for this position is generally within the range of $102,000 – $166,000 for annual base salary. Where a successful candidate’s actual pay will fall within this range will be based on a variety of factors, including, for example, the candidate's location, qualifications, specific skills, and experience. Your geographic location will be confirmed during the recruitment.


To apply for job ID 54930, submit your materials (resume and cover letter) online by using the Apply Now button at https://careers.nature.org/ by April 21, 2024 at 8:59 PM PST. Need help applying? Visit our recruitment page or contact applyhelp@tnc.org.

Do you have military experience? Visit our U.S. Military Skills Translator to match your military experience with our current job openings!

TNC is committed to offering accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans in our job application process. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, please send a note to applyhelp@tnc.org with Request for Accommodation in the subject line.

The Nature Conservancy is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Our commitment to diversity includes the recognition that our conservation mission is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. Recruiting and mentoring staff to create an inclusive organization that reflects our global character is a priority, and we encourage applicants from all cultures, races, colors, religions, sexes, national or regional origins, ages, disability status, sexual orientations, gender identities, military or veteran status or other status protected by law. 

The successful applicant must meet the requirements of The Nature Conservancy's background screening process.

When you apply, please indicate that you are responding to the posting on Conservation Job Board.

Category Admin & Leadership , General / Stewardship , Hydrology , Land Trust
Tags Wetland