President’s Message— Thankful for our Aquifers

The natural disasters occurring over the past few months are sobering.  To see the devastation in Houston, South Florida, and the U.S. territories in the Caribbean, and the earthquake damage in Mexico calls each of us to reach out in any small way that we can to support those victims. Here, locally, we should also take this opportunity to be thankful for the natural blessing that is our underground water supply.

Fires, floods, wind, and earthquakes deliver a physical blow, producing injuries and deaths that are only the initial shock to the community.  Those substantial assaults also take their toll on the civic infrastructure that we all depend on for normal life, such as the electric grid, the sewer systems and, most importantly, the water supply. One can survive for a while without power, or fully functioning roads, but sanitation and contaminated water are much more urgent considerations.  These secondary impacts of the natural disasters oftentimes end up taking more lives than the initial assault.  

Water infrastructure is vulnerable in several ways. The above-ground reservoirs can be ruptured by high winds or seismic shaking. The treatment plants (usually located near the low-lying rivers) are oftentimes inundated with contaminated flood waters. Protection of the water infrastructure in a community is, therefore, a top priority for civic leaders.   

For our community, the situation is different. Most people don’t realize it but those of us living within the Orange County Water District’s coastal plain are standing on top of one of the most resilient and plentiful water supplies that could ever be conceived.  The underground aquifers are vast, the water they hold is plentiful, and the natural geology that overlies them is protective against any natural or manmade disaster that can be imagined. The aquifers are safe from earthquake tremors, during wildfires and other natural disasters. In most cases, after the initial shock of a disaster, all the water community needs to do is repair any damaged pumps, turn the wells back on and out comes pure, safe and plentiful water.  The vastness of the aquifers is also very significant in that it will allow for extended pumping at more than normal rates, giving time for the imported water systems (which supply about 25 percent of our water) from Northern California and the Colorado River to be repaired and perhaps even for neighboring communities to recover from their supply interruptions.

This year, when we sit down with our family at the Thanksgiving dinner table, perhaps we should hold up a glass of water and be just as thankful for it and the underground aquifers that it came from as we are for our many other blessings.