Highlights from March 2023
President's Message:
Celebrating our Precious Local Resource, Groundwater
National Ground Water Association (NGWA)’s Groundwater Awareness Week took place March 5-11, 2023 to highlight the responsible development, management, and use of groundwater.

Orange County Water District is responsible for managing our local groundwater basin to ensure it continues to serve as a reliable water source for our communities. Although the basin is vast, the average annual withdrawals must be balanced by recharge from a variety of sources. OCWD relies on multiple sources of water to fill the basin including the Santa Ana River, stormwater, imported water, and recycled water from our Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).

To maintain sustainable water levels in the basin, OCWD is one of the few groundwater management agencies able to track how much water goes into the groundwater basin and how much is pumped out on a monthly basis, allowing the District to make more informed management decisions about future water supplies and pumping. 

Groundwater is constantly monitored and tested to ensure it meets all state and federal drinking water standards and we remain committed to addressing potential threats. We protect and monitor to prevent seawater intrusion; we investigate and clean up contamination caused by industrial chemicals; and we address new or emerging contaminants like PFAS. To learn more about OCWD’s proactive and swift actions regarding PFAS, please visit our PFAS education center

We’re proud to manage a healthy groundwater basin that provides up to 85% of the drinking water supply for 2.5 million people. Thank you to the dedicated OCWD staff who work hard every day to provide a reliable, high-quality water supply to Orange County. 
Children’s Water Education Festival
Thank you to all who made the 26th annual Children's Water Education Festival, held on March 29-30 at UCI, a success! We had an engaging and fun educational experience for our Orange County students.

Approximately 4,500 students, 50+ presentations including eight from your very own groundwater management agency (OCWD!), nearly 30 sponsors and hundreds of volunteers participated in this year's Festival. We are proud of the continued success of this event, which cannot be done without the help of our amazing presenters, generous sponsors, and dedicated volunteers.

Stay tuned as we reflect back on the event (and give us some time to take a quick breather - three event days including set-up can be quite tiring!) and compile even more amazing statistics and photos to share.
Legislative Outreach at ACWA DC
OCWD representatives recently participated in the ACWA 2023 DC Conference. In addition to attending robust sessions regarding the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and initiatives to boost water supply reliability, OCWD met with legislators to discuss important water issues affecting Orange County.

From sustainable basin management and addressing PFAS to water reuse and stormwater capture, OCWD is committed to protecting and increasing the region’s water supplies.

Pictured from left to right: Cathy Green, OCWD President and ACWA Vice President; Mike Markus, OCWD General Manager; Pam Tobin, ACWA President.
Regional Collaboration Yields Increased Water Storage
This year’s rainfall is well above average and OCWD always works diligently to capture and recharge stormwater to increase Orange County’s drinking water supply. Big storm events present challenges and opportunities for water agencies.

This season, OCWD and its partners, the County of Orange, Serrano Water District, and Irvine Ranch Water District, came up with an innovative solution to implement in the Santiago Creek Watershed to maximize stormwater capture and minimize water lost to the ocean.
Here’s the story:
Santiago Peak sits at the high point of the Santiago Creek watershed with its runoff combining with other tributary areas in the Santa Ana Mountain range to flow into Irvine Lake. Operated by Serrano Water District and Irvine Ranch Water District, the lake has a maximum storage volume of 25,000 acre-feet. 
While an improvement project for the outlet works of the Santiago Creek Dam that creates Irvine Lake is being formulated, the elevation of water held in the lake is limited. Due to the wonderful amounts of precipitation occurring this year, the lake’s elevation reached this restriction and thus flows had to be discharged. 
The next stop on the Santiago Creek journey is the Villa Park Dam, operated by the County of Orange, which can store up to 16,000 acre-feet of water. The dam’s purpose is to prevent or limit flooding to the downstream cities of Villa Park, Orange, Tustin, Santa Ana, and the Santa Ana River. 
Continuing downstream even further is OCWD’s Santiago basins, a collection of past quarry sites currently used for water capture and groundwater recharge. Unlike the storage of Irvine Lake or Villa Park Dam, the Santiago basins achieve their capacity of 14,000 acre-feet without a dam, instead utilizing the excavated volume from the past quarry operation. OCWD has been hard at work this year capturing and percolating storm flows, leading to the filling of the Santiago basins early in the season and matching their percolation rates with pumped stormwater from the Santa Ana River. With the Santiago basins full, discharges from Villa Park Dam would pass over the groundwater recharge facility eventually making their way to the ocean as a lost opportunity. If pumping from the river were stopped, then the water conservation efforts of the Santa Ana River’s Prado Dam would be undermined.
Here’s the innovative solution:
The flows making their way to the Villa Park Dam from Irvine Lake were stored and released at a reduced rate. While Villa Park Dam’s purpose is flood control, staff recognized the value of water conservation and utilized part of the dam’s storage for this unofficial secondary goal during times that the risk of flood was minimal. The delay of flows out of Villa Park Dam enabled OCWD to continue pumping from the Santa Ana River.

The executed solution enabled the capture and recharge of an additional 1,626 acre-feet of water, valued at more than $1.4 million. Kudos to these public agencies who were proactive and collaborated to produce strategies to conserve water and minimize losses to the ocean. This bold and voluntary action increased water reliability for more than 2.5 million in Orange County.
Cathy Green for ACWA President
OCWD is proud to support Cathy Green for President of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the largest state association of public water agencies in the nation. Cathy’s vision for ACWA is to embrace its motto, "Bringing Water Together," by unifying ACWA members and working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders to find smart solutions to California’s water challenges. 
In December 2021, Cathy was elected as Vice President of ACWA for a two-year term. She has served as an active member of ACWA since 2012, including serving on ACWA’s Executive Committee since 2020, the ACWA Board since 2016, and the Region 10 Board from 2012-2021. She held the position of ACWA Region 10 Chair from 2018-2019 and served as Vice Chair from 2016-2017 and 2020-2021. Cathy has also served on several ACWA Committees including the Water Quality Committee since 2012, the Energy Committee since 2019, and the State Legislative Committee from 2012-2015. 
Learn more about her experience, qualifications, and more by visiting the Cathy Green for ACWA President webpage.
Cool Photos Alert!
Miraloma Basin

Equipment operators cleaned several of our recharge basins in preparation to store more water. Shown here is the cleaning of Miraloma Basin, which stores ultra-pure GWRS water. Miraloma Basin is one of two dozen recharge basins that store water as it naturally percolates into the Orange County Groundwater Basin.

Santa Ana River

Can you spot this iconic location? Lots of rain turns into a beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains near Angel Stadium and the Santa Ana River. Since the start of the winter season through March, the rain gauge at our field headquarters in Anaheim has recorded 24.7 inches of rainfall!

Tustin PFAS Treatment Plant

Demolition takes place to make room for the city of Tustin PFAS treatment plant. This photo shows the demolition of the existing treatment plant with the existing pump station building in the background.The Tustin PFAS treatment plant is one of 36 PFAS treatment plants that will be online throughout Orange County by 2024.
Sustainably Managing the OC Groundwater Basin
OCWD is one of the few groundwater management agencies able to track the groundwater basin’s “water budget” on a monthly basis. This information allows the District to make more informed management decisions about future water supplies and pumping. View the infographic below to see the groundwater basin’s storage, recharge, and pumping levels, through the end of February 2023.
Thirsty for More Information?
Explore the PFAS Education Center and take action to help us uphold the polluter pays principle and protect ratepayers.
Learn about the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), the world's largest water purification system for indirect potable reuse.
See how OCWD is increasing water supplies and securing long-term water reliability for the 2.5 million people it serves.

Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO) Meeting - Friday, April 7 at 7:30 a.m. (available via Zoom or in-person at the OCWD/MWDOC Board Room)

The Orange County Water District is committed to enhancing Orange County’s groundwater quality and reliability in an environmentally friendly and economical manner. The following cities rely on the groundwater basin, managed by OCWD, to provide 77% of their water demands: Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, and Yorba Linda.
President Cathy Green
First Vice President Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Second Vice President Van Tran, Esq.
Valerie Amezcua
Natalie Meeks
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, CFM, P.G., C.E.G., C.H.
Stephen R. Sheldon
Bruce Whitaker
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.