Drought in California
Recurring drought is a feature of California’s climate, and Orange County water agencies are well positioned to respond to recurring dry conditions.
What is the Orange County Water District Doing to Prepare?
The Orange County Water District is in a semi-arid region that receives approximately 13 inches of annual rainfall. This requires OCWD to use a portfolio approach that utilizes multiple sources of water. OCWD is committed to responsible and cost-effective planning and local water resource development to increase the security of the region’s water supplies and its diverse water portfolio supports this commitment.
The District manages and protects the Orange County Groundwater Basin (Basin), which provides 85% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. The Basin holds water from a variety of sources, including Santa Ana River flows, stormwater, imported water, and recycled water.
Since the previous drought from 2012-2016, OCWD has worked hard to substantially refill our groundwater basin. At this time, the Basin can provide water for two consecutive years at current pumping levels even if drought conditions persist.
The District has increased water recycling at the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), which produces 130 million gallons of water a day, enough to serve nearly one million people. In early 2023, a final expansion of the facility was completed, recycling 100% of local reclaimable wastewater flows, thereby maximizing water recycling efforts in the region.
OCWD is also prepared to maximize water supply for the region, during wet or dry times. When it does rain, the District captures as much water as possible as it eventually flows through its advanced aquifer recharge system, consisting of more than two dozen recharge basins, and naturally percolates into the Basin, increasing drinking water supplies for the region. OCWD is working with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego to develop predictive models for atmospheric rivers. This will lead to implementation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) using this information to develop Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) to operate its reservoirs to allow for more stormwater capture behind Prado Dam.
Read more about these projects below.
What Can Our Communities Do?
Thank you Orange County residents and businesses. Over the years, you have been working hard to implement water-use efficiency and have supported investments in local water reliability, like water recycling and conservation programs that sustain the region. Orange County water providers have a variety of resources, rebates, and water-use efficiency tips to help residents and businesses do even more. We must make lifelong commitments to practice water-use efficiency.
Please contact your local water provider for specific information about rebates and water-use efficiency programs as they may vary from city to city.
Statewide & Regional Water Updates
Review the timeline below for a list of regional and statewide drought announcements, beginning with the most recent.