Similar wastewater reclamation projects were proposed in neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego counties in the 1990s, but never came to fruition because the issue got politicized and wrongly labeled "toilet to tap." The Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District studied these projects carefully before embarking on the ambitious and visionary GWRS project.
Through extensive research, which included numerous surveys, both agencies developed and executed an aggressive outreach plan to educate the general public within Orange County and beyond about the real facts of wastewater purification. Outreach included more than 2,000 presentations throughout the community. Transparency and having over 25 years of proven water quality data from OCWD's Water Factory 21 (1976-2004), which purified wastewater for injection into OCWD's seawater barrier, were critical to solidifying support and earning the public's trust of the GWRS. As a result, the GWRS has received broad support from the health, scientific, environmental and water quality communities, as well as from chambers of commerce, service organizations, educational institutions and local, state and federal leaders, and policy makers.
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Below is what some people are saying about the international award-winning project.
Health and Science professionals
John F. Skinner, Environmental Community Activist
"My support for the Groundwater Replenishment System is based on a water treatment process that wold protect the health of water consumers by including microfiltration followed by 100 percent reverse osmosis in the treatment train. I am pleased to learn that the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District provide this high level of treatment."
Dr. Henry J. Vaux, Jr., University of California, Professor of Resources Economics
"It [the Groundwater Replenishment System] will produce the safest, highest quality water available using about 50% less energy than it takes to import water into Orange County from Northern California..."
Dr. Harvey Collins, Former Chief of the Drinking Water Section of the California Department of Health Services
"This is indeed state-of-the-art and will make another resource available for a water short area." (The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2002)
Michael D. Stephens, Former President and CEO of Hoag Hospital, commended the water agencies involved with the Groundwater Replenishment System
"Hoag Hospital fully supports your continued work on this important project."
Ron Linksy, Former Executive Director National Water Research Institute (NWRI)
"NWRI strongly supports the GWR System project because it is clearly in line with our mission, to create new sources of water through research and technology and protect the marine and freshwater environments."
James E. Parkhurst, President and CEO of Newport Bay Hospital
"We understand the project will produce the safest and highest quality water available from any source... You can count on our organization as a positive supporter of this project."
Dr. Anuradha Prakash, Ph. D., Chairman of the Department of Physical Sciences Chapman University
"On examining all the science issues, we understand the project will produce very safe high quality water through the process of reverse osmosis, microfiltration and ultraviolet disinfection. This project will provide enormous benefits to us in Orange County..."
Dr. Rafael Mujeriego, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Engineering, School of Civil Engineering of Barcelona
"The Groundwater Replenishment System is an outstanding example of the vision and commitment of Orange County to provide a new indirect source of high quality water supply to its growing population and economic base. The project... will certainly emerge as a competitive practical solution among the numerous water management options that are being proposed to solve the escalating water demands of Southern California."
Edmund G. Brown Jr., Former Governor, State of California
"As California’s drought persists, Californians must use water thoughtfully and local water agencies must protect precious water supplies. The expanded Groundwater Replenishment System, constructed by the Orange County Water District, represents an excellent example of local leadership, innovation, sound planning and investment that have given north and central Orange County an advantage during our current drought crisis. This project will provide enough drinking water for 850,000 people by reusing water more than once. On behalf of the state of California, I would like to congratulate the Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District on the expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System. I invite all Californians to practice more sustainable water practices demonstrated by the Orange County Water District." (June 2015)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former Governor, State of California
"California’s economic and environmental future is enhanced by our ability to maximize precious resources. The GWR System is an environmentally responsible approach for securing alternative sources of water. It increases Orange County’s water independence by creating a drought-proof supply of safe, clean water. I commend you for your ingenuity in promoting water efficiency and conservation. Your efforts save energy, minimize wastewater released to the Pacific Ocean and help sustain healthy water resources for future generations." (Oct., 2004)
Loretta Sanchez, Former U.S. Representative, (CA-47th District)
"Orange County is susceptible to severe water shortages due to recurring droughts and dramatic population growth. Reusing recycled wastewater is a smart strategy that has helped protect our community, and our environment, from periodic water shortages. I am proud to introduce H.R. 5039, which will help ensure Orange County’s water supply is clean, safe, and secure for years to come. Currently, about half of Orange County’s water supplies come from outside the county. Expanding the GWRS will allow Orange County to produce its own water without the political, environmental, and legal issues that come with importing water from Northern California and the Colorado River. For the first time, our community has a chance to be truly independent – the manufacturer and consumer of its own water supplies." (April 2010)
Barbara Boxer, Former U.S. Senator, California
"I am delighted to have worked on behalf of the Orange County Water District to obtain funding for the Groundwater Replenishment System. It is imperative that we locate new sources of urban water that don't damage the environment. The Groundwater Replenishment System is an outstanding example of a creative and environmentally friendly solution that I am pleased to support." (U.S. Water News Online, April 1999)
John Garamendi, Former California Lt. Governor & Current U.S. Congressman, (CA-10th District)
"Orange County’s water recycling program demonstrates one of the critical, most useful solutions to California’s looming water crisis. We cannot afford to pump water 300 miles over the mountains and dump it in the ocean. This program is good for the environment and it saves energy too. This is water that is pure. This is water that is safe to drink." (Daily Pilot, Feb. 2009)
Gary Miller, Former U.S. Representative (CA -42nd District)
"We all know that with increased demand, decreased availability of imported water, and higher quality requirements. Future water supplies will become even more limited and expensive. If we want to sustain Southern California’s economic growth and provide for a rapidly increasing population, we must ensure efficient and reliable access to water resources and pursue a modernized sanitation infrastructure. The Orange County Water District recognized that we needed a reliable source of quality water and pursued multi-pronged strategies for capturing and recycling water that would otherwise flow downstream to the ocean." (June 2008)
Joel K. Bourne, Jr., National Geographic Contributing Writer and Former Senior Editor for the Environment
"Back in Orange County... I take a gulp (GWRS water). It's bold, bright, and refreshing. It tastes like California's future."
(Excerpt from National Geographic "California's Pipe Dream," April 2010)
Ed Royce, U.S. Representative, (CA-40th District)
"It is my pleasure to express my support for the work that the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District are involved in to develop supplemental local sources of water to reduce Orange County’s need for imported water. I commend your agencies on this creative and unique project and look forward to working with you to assure its success." (May 2002)
Lou Correa, U.S. Representative, (CA-47th District)
"The Groundwater Replenishment System project embodies the innovative technologies and interagency cooperation that will be required to assure a reliable water supply for Orange County businesses and families. I'm proud to join my Orange County colleagues, both state and federal, in strongly supporting this project and its critical role in our future." (Businesswire, July 2002)
Jose Solorio, Former California Assemblyman (CA-69th District), Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Regional Approaches to Addressing the State's Water Crisis
"Right now, our state is in crisis regarding water. That’s why it is necessary for an assembly committee to go through the state to find best practices for water conservation and resources. What better place to start than Orange County? Orange County has been leading the way in the development of new water supply options. The Groundwater Replenishment System is a great start. But our county and counties across the state need additional resources to continue to better capture and recycle water." (Select Committee Hearing, Dec. 2009)
Tom Harmon, Former California Senator (35th District)
"I would like to lend my support to the Groundwater Replenishment System. I believe that this project will produce safe and high-quality water and will greatly benefit my constituents. Programs such as this will help Orange County meet the increasing demands for safe, high-quality water in the future." (March 2002)
Dick Ackerman, Former California Senate Minority Leader
"The Groundwater Replenishment System is an important part of Orange County’s and California’s future. This project provides an environmentally friendly method to augment local supplies in arid regions. In addition, this revolutionary system most likely will serve as a technological example to be replicated throughout the world." (Oct. 2002)
Van Tran, Former California Assemblyman (68th District)
"The GWRS can be replicated in many arid coastal regions throughout the world and is a model for water efficiency for the entire nation to follow. I appreciate Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District’s leadership in advancing the GWR System. This project will help California meet its future water needs and lessens the demand on the Colorado River and impact on the Bay-Delta system in Northern California." (Oct. 2005)
Bob Huff, Former California State Senator (29th District)
"I am writing to express my enthusiastic support for the Groundwater Replenishment System, a visionary water reuse project jointly sponsored by the Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District. The GWR System is an innovative project with global, state and regional benefits that will improve local water quality, increase supply reliability, and provide local control over part of the region’s water future." (June 2006)
John Moorlach, California State Senator (37th District)
"The Groundwater Replenishment System will provide several benefits to residents of the north-central Orange County area. Not only will this project produce the safest and highest quality water available, but it will also use less energy than it takes to import water to Orange County. It will protect us from future seawater intrusion as more water is pumped into the county and it will reduce the mineral levels in our groundwater. I support this project to provide Orange County with water reliability and water independence. I am in favor of doing everything possible to help with our water supply in Southern California.” (Feb. 2007)
Stan Oftelie, Former President, CEO and Secretary, Orange County Business Council
"It is our understanding that the Groundwater Replenishment System will reduce Orange County's demand for imported water, recapturing valuable water supplies now lost to the ocean. Orange County Business Council is therefore pleased to endorse the Groundwater Replenishment System... OCBC commends your agencies for your collaboration on this important project and offers our assistance as you move forward."
Michael D. Neben, Former President/CEO, Greater Anaheim Chamber of Commerce
"The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce hereby supports the joint project of the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District and their efforts to successfully increase the available water supply through the Groundwater Replenishment System."
Orange County Board of Supervisors Resolution 98-309 - August, 1998
Extracts from Orange County Supervisors Resolution: "the future need for adequate, reliable and high quality water supplies for Southern California can only be met by using every available source for water... THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Orange County Board of Supervisors... hereby reiterates its support for water reclamation and recycling projects and directs its departments and staff to coordinate work effort on the Groundwater Replenishment System Project..."
Reed L. Royalty, Former President, Orange County Taxpayers Association
"Orange County Taxpayers Association (OCTax) strongly supports water projects because we recognize the absolute importance of a reliable supply of clean water to maintain and grow Orange County's economy and tax base. We note that [the Groundwater Replenishment System] would reduce waste, produce 100,000 acre-feet of water locally at one-half the energy cost of imported water, improve the quality of water in the Orange County aquifer, and reduce our dependence on water imported from the Colorado River and Northern California. And all at a little cost to Orange County taxpayers. Please add OCTax to your list of public-benefit associations that support the development of the Groundwater Replenishment System."
Raymond C. Miller, Former Executive Director, Southern California Alliance of Publicly Owned Treatment Works
"I'm happy to report that the Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse the Groundwater Replenishment System Project... I might add that to my knowledge this is the first time that any reuse project has received the endorsement from the Section."