President’s Message—Advocating for Water Reliability Projects

The Orange County Water District (District; OCWD) works to influence legislative fiscal policy and funding in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. to ensure Orange County’s groundwater basin is protected and supports a reliable, affordable and safe water supply for the 2.4 million people it serves.

Maintaining an active presence in the government arena is a vital part of what the District does to forge and maintain long-term, positive and proactive relationships with legislative offices and create opportunities for policy makers to obtain a greater, in-depth knowledge about the complex world of water.

The Orange County Water District actively engages on legislation in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. by communicating its policies and positions to state and federal legislators and government officials, and by working closely with these decision makers to advance the District’s objectives. OCWD also participates in legislative work groups and coalitions and hosts workshops at its headquarters, such as State Board state-wide workshops to provide input on the Prop 1 funding guidelines for water reuse and groundwater cleanup grants.

Significant funding and public support are needed to secure and maintain water supplies from the State Water Project and Colorado River, to expand water reuse, enable the development of new water supplies, expand the use of new technologies, and to promote water conservation, among other needs. There is money available through the Proposition 1 Water Bond and OCWD needs to position the region to access as much as possible to fund local water projects.

Some of the priority projects OCWD is actively engaged in pursuing through Proposition 1 are the Groundwater Replenishment System Final Expansion and Mid-Basin Injection Project, which together will bring an additional 30 million gallons per day of new drinking water supply. The Ocean Desalination Water Conveyance Project, which has yet to be approved by OCWD’s board, would add 50 million gallons per day of new drinking water supply.

To clean up contamination and protect the existing drinking water supply, we are also seeking funds for the North Basin and South Basin groundwater cleanup projects. In addition to meeting with Senate Budget committee and State Board staff, we spent time meeting with our Orange County delegation both in Sacramento and in District offices to gain their support of our priority Prop 1 projects.

OCWD has also been pursuing funding and authorizations at the federal level. OCWD has been working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase stormwater storage behind Prado Dam for release at drier times of the year. OCWD has proposed that the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill of 2016 allow for temporary increases to water storage at Prado Dam. It has also proposed language in the WRDA that would clarify OCWD’s responsibility to pay only for the costs related to evaluating, implementing, operating, and maintaining the dams for water conservation. Getting this authorization provides a huge cost-savings for retail agencies in Orange County. We could capture approximately an additional 7,000 AFY (2.28 billion gallons) of water that has a value of about $7 million.

To make up the difference between grant funds and the total cost to build a project, OCWD relies on Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CW-SRF), which are low-interest loans passed from Congress to states. OCWD has been advocating to ensure California receives a robust appropriation of CW-SRF funds, and communicates the importance these loans have to bricks and mortar water reuse projects in California.

With groundwater costing less than half that of imported supplies, it is critical that we are at the table when important funding and policy decisions are made that could impact your water supplies and the bottom line. The District is committed to cultivating relationships with legislators and policy makers to ensure a healthy water supply for our District.

OCWD’s Communications and Legislative Affairs Committee meets monthly at the district and members of the public are encouraged to attend. For information about meeting dates and times visit the District website.

Cathy Green