February 2017

OCWD Board Members


Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.

First Vice President

 Philip L. Anthony

Second Vice President

Shawn Dewane 

Cathy Green
Dina L. Nguyen, ESQ.
Vicente Sarmiento
Stephen R. Sheldon
James Vanderbilt
Bruce Whitaker
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.

General Manager

Michael R. Markus
P.E., D.WRE.

In This Issue:

President’s Message— Is the Drought Over?

The drought is not officially over. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently extended its existing water conservation regulations, which prohibit wasteful practices and set a conservation mandate for water suppliers without enough water reserves to withstand three more dry years. The SWRCB cited variable weather, significantly impacted groundwater basins, and areas, such as the Central Valley, which still depend on water tanks and bottled water. The SWRCB felt it more prudent to reevaluate the situation at the close of the rainy season.

It will take about 3.5 very wet years for the Orange County Groundwater Basin to refill, but we can still live comfortably, without pumping restrictions, in the meantime.

One reason is added stormwater capture. Except for required flood control releases, OCWD has been able to capture 100 percent of Prado Dam release flows since it began raining in November 2016 and has put the water back into the Orange County Groundwater Basin. This additional stormwater capture is due to temporary modifications in the operation of Prado Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps; UACE) to allow water conservation (formerly 498 feet) up to elevation 505 feet above mean sea level (amsl). Read More…

Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.

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Introducing Newest OCWD Board Members

The Orange County Water District Board of Directors is comprised of 10 members who govern the District and implement policies that foster sound management of the Orange County Groundwater Basin, as well as support the advancement of OCWD’s mission to provide reliable, high-quality water at the lowest reasonable cost in an environmentally responsible manner.

Seven board members are elected and three are city council members appointed by the cities of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Fullerton. These three cities recently appointed new directors to the OCWD board.

Vicente Sarmiento was reappointed to the Orange County Water District Board of Directors in December 2016 to represent the city of Santa Ana in Division 8.  He previously served on the OCWD board from January 2013 to February 2015 and served as First Vice President. He is currently a member of several committees including Communication and Legislative Liaison, Desalination Funding ad hoc, Groundwater Basin Contamination ad hoc,  Property Management, and Water Issues. Read more…




James Vanderbilt was appointed to the Orange County Water District Board of Directors to represent Anaheim in Division 9. He currently serves as the Mayor Pro Tempore of Anaheim. Director Vanderbilt is currently a member of Groundwater Basin Contamination ad hoc, Property Management, and Water Issues committees. Read more…


Bruce Whitaker is another familiar face to the Orange County Water District. He currently serves as mayor and represents the city of Fullerton in OCWD’s Division 10. He previously served on the District’s Board of Directors from August 2012 to January 2014. Director Whitaker currently is a member of OCWD’s Administration and Finance Issues, Groundwater Basin Contamination ad hoc, Property ad hoc, and Water Issues committees. Read more…


The District welcomes these new board members  and wishes them great success in their endeavors this coming year.

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OCWD on Target to Be First Reused-Water Bottler

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) have partnered for over 20 years to plan, design, build and operate one of the world’s most celebrated advanced water reuse facilities, the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).

Similar water reuse projects are now seen around the world, but there is still hesitation to build them in some communities here in the United States and abroad. AB 2022 (Gordon, D-Menlo Park), which went into effect in January, allows GWRS water to be bottled to support educational outreach efforts and both districts are gearing up to get the word out.

OCWD and OCSD are in the process of bottling GWRS water—on target to be the first bottlers of reused water in the Western Hemisphere. Read More...

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OC Integrated Regional Water Management Planning

The County of Orange is updating the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Plan for the northern and central areas in the county (approximately the area overlying the Orange County Groundwater Basin).  The northern area includes the portion of the Santa Ana River Watershed downstream of Prado Dam and the central area includes the Newport Bay Watershed (land area draining to Newport Bay).  Existing plans need updating in order to incorporate new state requirements and to enable agencies and organizations to be eligible for some grant programs.

The kick-off meeting to initiate this process was held on Feb. 21, 2017. Stakeholders concerned with and interested in a wide-range of water resource management issues are invited to participate in the plan development.  The next stakeholder meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. at Conference Room 1A/DOC, Glassell Campus Watershed, 2301 N. Glassell Street, Orange, CA 92865.  To be put on the email list for future meeting notifications please contact Iris Corpus.

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GWRS Prevents OCSD Use of Emergency Outfall

The Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), the world’s largest advanced water purification facility of its kind, has been online since January 2008.  The project is a joint partnership between the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) and the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD). 

On January 22-23, 2017, OCSD saw influent flows that had not been seen since 1995. OCSD experienced peak flows of up to 586 million gallons per day (mgd) coming into both of their wastewater treatment plants.  As events started to unfold, OCSD staff worked tirelessly to ensure that its facilities could handle the unprecedented flows and OCWD staff worked hard to ensure that the GWRS would continue to run at its normal 100 mgd flow rate. This alleviated any concerns that flows would exceed their discharge capacity of the five mile outfall line and force OCSD to use its one mile outfall, which would have resulted in beach closures. Read More…

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Boy Scouts Earn Merit Badges at OCWD

Boy Scouts not only learn about sports, camping and crafts, they experience a broad range of interests that could lead to future careers in business, science and the trades when they fulfill requirements to receive merit badges.  There are more than 135 merit badges from which to choose. On February 11, 2017, 57 local scouts earned their Soil and Water Conservation merit badge during a clinic hosted by the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) and Municipal Water District of Orange County.

OCWD Director Cathy Green and Chief Hydrogeologist Roy Herndon welcomed the Scouts and Orange County Council, Boy Scouts of America Chair of Exploring, Patrick Brenden, who is also a city of Huntington Beach council member. The half day event was held at OCWD headquarters in Fountain Valley, Calif. Read More…

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Anaheim Coves Recreation Area Grows

The Orange County Water District Board of Directors has approved a lease agreement with the city of Anaheim to provide approximately six additional acres of OCWD land for public park and recreational uses. The District, Southern California Edison and the Orange County Flood Control District have all approved parcels of their land to be dedicated to a nine-acre project, the Anaheim Coves Northern Extension, which would extend the existing Anaheim Coves trail north to Frontera Street.  Read More…

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OCWD Recognized for its Public Affairs Outreach

The Orange County Water District was recently honored for two Public Affairs endeavors.

AVA Digital 2017 Gold Award

The Orange County Water District has been honored with the AVA Digital 2017 Gold Award for its PowerPoint titled “Water Manufacturing Process.”

AVA Digital Awards is an international competition that recognizes outstanding work by creative professionals involved in the concept, direction, design and production of media that is part of the evolution of digital communication. AVA Digital Awards is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

The “Water Manufacturing Process” is a highly-animated and thought-provoking presentation about how Orange County gets its water, how it monitors and ensures high-quality water and the importance of the many sources of water that go into the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which supplies 75 percent of the total water to 2.4 million people in north and central Orange County. It includes the challenges faced to protect our water, the improvements to capture and “make” water, and, finally, the important role the citizens of Orange County play in keeping their water clean and safe. 

It is the foundational presentation used prior to Groundwater Replenishment System tours and a key component of OCWD’s on-site tours and Speaker’s Bureau program for the community. Every year, the District hosts about 4,000 people at its on-site tours and provides more than 25 presentations to the local community as part of its Speakers Bureau program.

AWWA 2016 Honorable Mention

The Orange County Water District received an Honorable Mention for 2016 Public Communications Achievement from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) for fostering and supporting the development of public outreach programs and integrating public affairs as a core element of utility planning and management.

OCWD presented a broad overview of its outreach and education programs to draw individuals’ and families’ attention to state and local water needs and crises, to teach them useful and simple ways to reduce water consumption and respect this natural resource, and have them make life-long commitments to conserving water. The submission provided new and enhanced avenues of learning, such as the H2O Learning Center and GWRS tour program, which were entrusted to the Public Affairs Department, as well as their publicizing.

The AWWA award is intended to encourage utilities to incorporate public outreach into their operating plans, as well as to provide examples of successful public outreach programs and best practices.

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GWRS Technical Brochure Translations Available

The Orange County Water District now provides translations of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) Technical Brochure in Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The brochure is provided to the more than 4,000 who tour the GWRS each year from a number of different countries.

“Staff provides tours in foreign languages as well as English,” says OCWD Director of Public Affairs Eleanor Torres.  “To be able to take away a tool for further understanding and sharing back in one’s country especially helps to ensure success of those wishing to do similar reuse projects.” 

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10th Annual OC Water Summit Schedules Additional Speakers

The 10th Annual OC Water Summit, a gathering of national and state policy makers, elected officials, scientists, financial experts and business leaders, will come together to explore this year’s theme “Finding Water.” The day-long event takes place June 16 at the beautiful Grand Californian Hotel at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

KNBC weathercaster Fritz Coleman will emcee the OC Summit, which will examine the local water portfolio and what it will need to sustain population growth, trade and commerce through cyclical droughts. Renowned speakers include David Sedlak, co-director of Berkeley Water Center and director of Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering; Helene Schneider, mayor of Santa Barbara; David Stoldt, general manager, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District; Marcie Edwards, former General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; and Colonel Kirk E. Gibbs, Commander, Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

They and other speakers will discuss the many options in a water portfolio such as desalination, potable reuse and captured stormwater.

The event is hosted by the Orange County Water District, the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Disneyland Resort. Look for additional information and speakers in upcoming issues of Hydrospectives or visit OCWaterSummit.com.

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There’s Still Time to Be a Festival Sponsor, Presenter or Volunteer

The 21st Annual Children's Water Education Festival will be held at the University of California, Irvine on March 29-30. 

The Orange County Water District is accepting requests to be sponsors, presenters and volunteers through the end of February.

Since its inception, the Festival has inspired and engaged more than 115,000 Orange County elementary students towards careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM.)  This is your opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of the 7,500 children who will enjoy the Festival this year.

To sponsor, volunteer or present an activity, contact Crystal Nettles at (714) 378-3202 or via email. To register, go to www.childrenwaterfestival.com.

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Out in the Community

As part of its standard to forge and maintain long-term, positive and proactive relationships with members of the local community and greater water industry and to be transparent about its operations and programs, OCWD board members and staff speak regularly before groups and at events.  We participated in the following during January:

  • •   General Manager Mike Markus participated in two panels at the VerdeXchange 2017 event titled “Moving LA Toward Supply Self-Reliance” and “Tactics: Wastewater Reuse Yesterday and Today.”

  • •   Mike Markus also spoke at the Association of California Cities – Orange County’s New Council Member Orientation to provide an overview of the District.

  • •   Assistant General Manager Mike Wehner participated in the final phone conference of the Transition Committee guiding the consolidation of research programs by the Water Environment Research Foundation and the WateReuse Research Foundation into the new Water Environment & Reuse Foundation.

  • •   Recharge Planning Manger Adam Hutchinson spoke at the Newport Bay Conservancy about groundwater depletion and recharge as well as saltwater intrusion and intrusion barriers.

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OCWD in the News

OCWD continues to be recognized for its leadership in the water industry.  Below are a few of the District’s recent media highlights that feature OCWD and the GWRS:

•   Orange County Breeze: Final report moves California closer to nation’s first statewide direct potable reuse regulations

•   Water Online: California Regulators Release Official Report On DPR  By Sara Jerome

•   Orange County Register: Storms making a dent in drought by David Downey

•   Orange County Register: County receives 12-month water supply in 4 days, altering drought landscape by David Whiting

•   WaterWorld: Orange County, CA., Water Department Hopes to Use Recent Rains to Refill Groundwater Basin 

•   News Deeply: How California Can Make the Most of its Rainfalls by Michael Levitin

•   Orange County Register: City wants to expand Anaheim Coves with more trails and recreation spaces by Joseph Pimentel

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OCWD Employees

OCWD’s employees are its most valuable resources. It is committed to recruiting the best and enriching their lives to grow within the water industry and the District family.

Executive Promotion

Patrick Versluis has been selected as Water Quality Director, replacing Nira Yamachika who recently retired.

Pat has more than 14 years of direct, hands-on experience in the Water Quality Department and is very knowledgeable with regard to the department’s responsibilities, objectives and expectations to (1) contribute valuable information to District managers to manage the groundwater basin, (2) ensure compliance with permit monitoring requirements delegated to the department for implementation, (3) schedule and have oversight of regulatory/non-regulatory monitoring programs and research projects to increase knowledge of the basin or treatment processes, and (4) ensure stringent and high quality field protocols are practiced by staff to produce accurate results representative of ambient conditions of water sampled.

Pat’s tenure with the department has provided him with a strong foundation and understanding of real-time experiences, issues, problems, troubleshooting, brainstorming, implementing solutions, and opportunities to learn and grow professionally to successfully manage the Water Quality Department with continued high quality service and meeting District and department goals.

New Hires 






Thank you, Nira, for nearly 30 years of dedicated service.

Your knowledge and experience in water quality are legendary in California and we are fortunate to have had you as part of our OCWD team.

Congratulations on your retirement.   





Employee Papers and Publications

Recharge Planning Manager Adam Hutchinson and Executive Director of Planning and Natural Resources Greg Woodside co-authored, with Grisel Rodriquez and Mike Milczarek, an article that appeared in Water:  Maximizing Infiltration Rates by Removing Suspended Solids: Results of Demonstration Testing of Riberbed Filtration in Orange county, California.  The PDF version can be found at http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/9/2/119/pdf

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Upcoming Events

February 24: 12:00 p.m. Property Management Committee Meeting (C-2)

February 28: 8:00 a.m. Retirement Committee Meeting (C-2)

March 1 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

March 2: 8:00 a.m. Communications/Legislation Meeting (C-2)

March 8: 8:00 a.m. Water Issues Committee Meeting (C-2)

March 9: 8:00 a.m. Admin/Finance Committee Meeting (C-2)

March 22: 8:30 a.m. Municipal Water District of OC/OCWD Joint Planning Meeting (MWDOC 101)

March 24: noon Property Management Committee Meeting (C-2)

March 15 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

March 28: 8:00 a.m. Retirement Committee Meeting (C-2)

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January Tours

Thank you to the more than 350 guests who toured OCWD’s facilities in January:

Trevi Systems; California Energy Commission; Brea Olinda, Dana Hills and Estancia high school students; members of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Orange County Health Care Agency, Association of California Cities- Orange County, Newport Bay Conservancy (shown in photo), and  a Korean Delegation;  Kyungpook National University,  Cal Poly Pomona, and  University of Southern California students; nursing program students from West Coast University; and members of the general public.

Public tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System are offered at 10 a.m. on the first Friday of every month; reservations are required. Tours may be scheduled for other days of the week, depending on staff availability. To schedule a tour, request more information or schedule a speaker, please visit www.ocwd.com.

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