Highlights from April 2023
President's Message:
Completion of the Groundwater Replenishment System
It was my distinct honor to represent the Orange County Water District and serve as the master of ceremonies for the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) dedication ceremony. An effort that began in the mid-1990s is now complete, making the world’s largest water recycling facility even bigger.

Through decades of planning and proactive outreach, OCWD and the Orange County Sanitation District (OC San) came together to implement a project that solved significant issues faced by each agency. OC San was facing the prospect of having to develop another ocean outfall to deal with increasing wastewater flows and OCWD was looking for a new source of water to expand our seawater barrier that protects our groundwater basin – a basin that provides 85% of the water to our region.

The GWRS is a premier example of vision, innovation, and collaboration – all which are key components of the project’s successes over the years, further cementing our pioneering role in water reuse. It provides many benefits to our communities and to our state including reduced reliance on imported water from northern California and the Colorado River, affordable water, enhanced water quality, and reusing local wastewater that would otherwise be discharged to the ocean and is a critical tool in creating a resilient water supply.

Thank you and congratulations to all our partners, supporters, and the community at large – we did it!
Officials Gather to Dedicate the GWRS
More than 350 people joined us on April 14 to dedicate the completion of the GWRS, marking an incredible journey and celebrating the state-of-the-art water recycling facility. We were honored to have many state and federal officials provide remarks during the program and toast to this project that was years in the making.

GWRS, the world’s largest water recycling facility, was made even bigger as it expanded to its full capacity to produce 130 million gallons of water a day (MGD), enough water to serve nearly one million people. To top it off, it now recycles 100% of OC San's reclaimable wastewater flows. The treated wastewater gets sent to the GWRS to be purified into high-quality water, creating a new, local water supply. Operational since January 2008, the GWRS began producing 70 MGD and increased production to 100 MGD after an initial expansion was completed in May 2015. To date, it has produced more than 400 billion gallons of water and counting.

The event photo album is available on Facebook.
GWRS Making Waves
The GWRS has garnered global attention for its innovative approach and use of technology and continues to serve as a blueprint for other agencies around the world. We're proud that this facility is a global model for water reuse. Check out some of these recently published stories!
Executive Director of Operations Mehul Patel, P.E., was featured on the popular TV series NOVA. Shown on PBS on April 12, the episode, "Weathering the Future," explores ways Americans are tackling weather events like the drought. Mehul discusses OCWD's efforts to increase local water supplies with projects like the GWRS and doing what was once unthinkable—purifying wastewater into high-quality drinking water.
Sandy Scott-Roberts, P.E., GWRS Program Manager, talks with the Wall Street Journal as part of its "WSJ's The Future of Everything" podcast. In an episode titled, "How Recycling Wastewater Could Help Quench the West’s Thirst," Sandy takes us on a walking tour of the plant and discusses the importance of OCWD's early and proactive outreach efforts, which led to the successful implementation of this world-renowned project.
OCWD Employees Recognized
Lifetime Achievement Award
General Manager Mike Markus received the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to the water and engineering fields. With more than 40 years of experience, Mike, a USC alumnus with a Master of Science degree in civil engineering, is well known for his expertise in large project implementation and water resource management.

Over the years, Mike has been responsible for managing the implementation of the GWRS program, from inception in 2008 to its final completion in 2023. At OCWD, he oversees a staff of nearly 230 people, and he is frequently called upon to share his expertise and knowledge with organizations around the world. Congratulations on this achievement, Mike!
Employee of the First Quarter
Congratulations to Thuy Lam, Senior Programmer/Analyst, who was named the 2023 Employee of the First Quarter! Thuy operated as the lead programmer to help rebuild the 20+ year old Aspen Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) where she utilized her expert technical abilities to completely rebuild the LIMS on an updated platform while allowing continued operations.

More importantly, Thuy welcomed feedback from lab staff to not only ensure core functionality was maintained in the newly-titled Citrus LIMS, but also incorporated many improvements to both the underlying structure of the software and enhancing various aspects to increase the lab’s efficiency. Thuy is a committed District employee who is willing to go above and beyond to support the District.
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. 

Water districts throughout the state have shown their support to elect Cathy Green as the next ACWA President including Contra Costa, Eastern Municipal, Mesa Water, Moulton Niguel, San Juan, Serrano, Yorba Linda, and many more. For agencies interested in passing a resolution of support, a template is available. Voting will be done from July 17 - September 15 electronically (and not at the ACWA Fall Conference where it traditionally has taken place). For more information, please visit the ACWA website.

Cathy, current ACWA Vice President, has worked on behalf of all members and will continue to build upon the momentum she has built on key initiatives. Learn more about Cathy’s experience, qualifications, and more by visiting the Cathy Green for ACWA President webpage.
In Case You Missed It
The GWRS was recognized by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) with the Grand Prize for Design of “A Headworks Divided - The Key to Unlocking Expanded Water Reuse in Orange County, CA.” The award was presented virtually during the AAEES Conference on April 13.

OCWD and the Yorba Linda Water District (YLWD) received the 2022 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Region 9 Outstanding Project Award for the YLWD Ion Exchange (IX) PFAS Water Treatment Plant, the nation’s largest IX plant. Region 9 is ASCE’s California chapter representing more than 18,000 members throughout the state. The YLWD PFAS Treatment Plant previously won top honors with the ASCE Orange County and ASCE Los Angeles chapters.
Interested in more information about how we are managing and protecting our groundwater basin? Take a look at these recently published reports.

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 March 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.
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 85% 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.