OCWD Programs & Projects Overview


Groundwater Replenishment System
The most recent improvement to the District’s recharge system is the completion of the Groundwater Replenishment (GWR) System.  The new system sends purified sewer water from OCWD’s purification facility in Fountain Valley through a 13-mile long pipeline that releases water to two of the District’s recharge basins in Anaheim.

This project, which began producing water for recharge in January 2008, provides a new source of high-quality water for year-round recharge. This new source is increasingly important in today’s water climate where sources of imported water that have historically been relied upon for recharge (such as the Colorado River and the State Water Project) are becoming increasingly scarce. 

Groundwater Recharge
Orange County Water District is responsible for managing the vast groundwater basin that provides approximately 70 percent of northern and central Orange County’s drinking water. As part of our groundwater management, OCWD maintains one of the world’s most advanced managed aquifer recharge systems to replace the water that is pumped from about 400 wells belonging to local water agencies, cities and other groundwater users.

  • Rubber Dams
    Along with purchasing land, OCWD has invested heavily in infrastructure to maximize the recharge capacity of its facilities. Key improvements include two inflatable rubber dams on the Santa Ana River.  The dams guide flows from the Santa Ana River into the District’s recharge basins. When the first rubber dam was purchased in 1992, it paid for itself within just a few months by saving water that otherwise would have been lost to the ocean. Other improvements include multiple pumping stations, miles of pipelines, numerous valves, flow meters, water level sensors, and a sophisticated computerized control system that allows the system to be controlled remotely via a laptop computer.

  • Basin Cleaning Vehicles
    Recharge basins require constant maintenance and cleaning to effectively percolate water. OCWD recently invented a basin cleaning vehicle (BCV). The BCV attempts to clean the basins while water remains in them versus the traditional method of draining, drying and cleaning basins with heavy equipment. The BCVs stir up clogging layers at the bottom of lakes, pump clay and silt ashore and redeposit sand to lake bottoms. The patented BCV technology has global significance as percolation lakes are used around the world to replenish groundwater basins.

Green Acres Project
OCWD's Green Acres Project (GAP) is a water recycling effort that provides reclaimed water for landscape irrigation at parks, schools and golf courses as well as for industrial uses, such as carpet dying. The GAP has the capacity to purify 7.5 million gallons per day of reclaimed water from the Orange County Sanitation District. The use of reclaimed water allows an equivalent amount of groundwater to be saved for household uses.

Hydrogeology is the study of the occurrence, distribution and movement of water below the surface of the earth. Groundwater occupies the voids within geologic formations. OCWD’s hydrogeologists work to utilize groundwater resources while maintaining future supplies and protecting groundwater quality.  

  • Link to Groundwater Contour Maps

  • Groundwater Data Records Requests:
    For groundwater data requests other than water quality, please download the following form: Groundwater Data Request.8.2010

  • OCWD provides groundwater information for the following cities within its service area: Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Midway City, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster and Yorba Linda. To determine if a city or address is within our service area boundaries, the above list or Board of Directors map may be utilized.

    Please note that due to heightened security guideline, production well location maps and information are not available.

    The turnaround time is two to three weeks, and there is a minimum processing fee of $10. Please make checks payable to the Orange County Water District, and mail along with your request to:

    Water Quality Department
    Orange County Water District
    P.O. Box 8300
    Fountain Valley, CA 92728-8300

    For additional information, call (714) 378-3209.

  • North Basin Groundwater Protection Project (NBGPP)
    In the northern section of OCWD’s groundwater basin (under Fullerton and Anaheim), portions of the shallow aquifer are contaminated with volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. From the late 1950s through early 1980s, VOCs were used for industrial degreasing in metals and electronics manufacturing. VOCs were released into the environment and impacted the shallow aquifer, which is generally less than 200 feet deep. Although the shallow aquifer is not directly being used for drinking water supplies, groundwater in this aquifer eventually flows into the deeper principal aquifer, which is used for potable water supplies. To date, two City of Fullerton production wells have been removed from service and destroyed due to VOC contamination in that area. Those wells pumped some water from the shallow aquifer. Currently, there are no production wells that extract water from the shallow aquifer.

    In accordance with OCWD’s groundwater cleanup policy, the District implemented the North Basin Groundwater Protection Program (NBGPP) to protect drinking water supplies in the principal aquifer. OCWD is constructing five wells specifically to remove and contain contaminated groundwater in the shallow aquifer. OCWD also will construct pipelines to bring the contaminated groundwater to a centralized treatment plant where the contaminants will be removed. The purified water will then be re-injected back into the shallow aquifer. OCWD is suing the parties responsible for contamination to seek cost recovery so that the public does not have to pay for this project.

Prado Wetlands 
The Orange County Water District owns 2,150 acres behind Prado Dam in Riverside County, California. Within OCWD property and adjacent lands are nearly 465 acres of constructed wetlands, which have effectively demonstrated the ability to reduce nitrogen levels in Santa Ana River water. The Santa Ana River is the main source of recharge for the vast Orange County groundwater basin, and consists primarily of tertiary treated wastewater from upstream dischargers. The river also receives storm flows, natural run-off, and rising groundwater, especially during winter months. The wetland consists of a system of 50 shallow ponds that have been utilized to remove nitrogen in river water since July 1992. The wetland system removes approximately 20 tons of nitrates a month, and during summer months reduces nitrate concentration from 10 milligrams per liter to less than 1 milligram per liter.

Research & Development
The OCWD Research and Development (R&D) Department coordinates and conducts applied physical, chemical and biological research that supports and enhances the Orange County Water District’s core operational needs.

Recharge Enhancement Working Group (REWG)
The Recharge Enhancement Working Group (REWG) is diverse and inter-disciplinary, including staff from OCWD’s hydrogeology, engineering, recharge operations, planning and watershed management, research and development, and regulatory affairs departments that work to maximize the efficiency of the District’s existing recharge facilities and evaluate new concepts and projects to increase the District’s recharge capacity. REWG projects offer potential new ideas on recharging water or enhancing the efficiency of the District’s facilities. Examples of enhancing existing facilities include:
• Desilting Improvement Program
• Burris Basin Reconfiguration Project
• Recharge basin fouling model
• Shallow water Basin Cleaning Vehicle (BCV) optimization
• Subsurface recharge (includes recharge trenches, injection wells)
• Alternative basin cleaning methods
• Basin sediment optimization
• Deep water basin cleaning vehicles (BCV) for operation in basins with water depth greater than 25 feet
• Recharge in Santiago Creek below Hart Park
• Raymond/Placentia Basin Improvements
• Santa Ana River Armoring Study
• Off-Stream Storage/Recharge at Yorba Reservoir

Seawater Intrusion Barrier
In the l950s, seawater was drawn into the coastal portion of the groundwater basin because of over-use of the basin by the agricultural industry and others. The result was some coastal wells were contaminated with ocean water. In the mid-1970s, OCWD began operating Water Factory 21, which provided purified drinking water for a series of injection wells that became our seawater intrusion barrier. As groundwater use more than tripled, it became apparent that the size of the seawater barrier would need to be expanded. This was the genesis of the Groundwater Replenishment System, to obtain new high-quality water to expand the seawater intrusion barrier and to replenish the groundwater basin. With the GWR System going on-line in January 2008, the new expanded seawater barrier can take approximately 35 million gallons a day, more than doubling the capacity of the old barrier.

Water Quality &  Laboratory Operations
OCWD maintains a thorough groundwater protection policy that includes water quality monitoring, cleanup of contaminants, regulatory agency support, toxic residuals removal and hazardous waste management.  Additionally, the District provides water quality information to regulators and other water agencies. We test water from more than 1,400 locations throughout the groundwater basin and the Santa Ana River, taking more than 18,000 samples and conducting 335,000 analyses of these samples each year. We are required to test for 122 chemicals; yet we test for 335 to stay apprised of emerging contaminants. We also have a strong water quality protection policy to coordinate with regulatory agencies to monitor discharges to the river and to enforce groundwater cleanups by polluters. When necessary, OCWD has undertaken its own investigations and cleanups to protect the basin, including pursuing cost recovery actions against those responsible.

Regulatory Affairs
The District’s Regulatory Affairs group coordinates OCWD's permits with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Department of Health Services and the Orange County Health Care Agency. Regulatory Affairs obtains and manages permit compliance and provides consultation on water quality, health and regulatory issues. Additionally, the group coordinates with the National Water Research Institute and the independent advisory panel on GWR System water quality.