President’s Message—Imagine a Day Without Water
Earlier this month, Imagine a Day Without Water (Oct. 10) raised awareness about the value of water as a life source and how important it is to invest in water infrastructure to assure that every time we turn on the faucet, we receive reliable, quality water. Our forefathers went to great efforts to bring water to this area and the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) continues efforts to provide water to our growing population. For the next few minutes while reading this, I’d like you to imagine a day without water and to know the extensive efforts made to ensure it never happens.
What if your local water department sent you a letter indicating that it needed to do a valve repair in the street and you would be without water for most of a day? Knowing of the impending shutdown you can run the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry and fill a few pots for cooking and a few buckets for toilet flushing to be ready. Taking a shower early in the morning before the jackhammer started pounding out front would also be important knowing that being all soaped up right at the time the water was cut off would be a disaster.
A day without water would be ok if you were given notice. A surprise shutdown without notice would be uncomfortable, but survivable. Having the water out for a week or a month after a natural disaster would be a different story.
There are millions of people living in Orange County, many more than the natural water supply could support without advanced water infrastructure. Certainly, too many to support with the comfortable lifestyle we have become accustomed to. That clean, safe and green lifestyle did not come without foresight from past and current water leaders in our area.
The aqueduct systems extending from Northern California and the Colorado River were incredibly ambitious for their age, any age in fact. But even those projects completed a generation ago were not enough. The baby boomer generation followed the importation projects with an equally important water reuse strategy. What these managers came up with was the widespread use of so called “purple pipe” recycled wastewater for irrigation of golf courses, parks and highway greenbelts.
That approach has been widely used and the conservation of limited water resources has been a wonderful benefit for our region. OCWD was also an early developer of that approach, but later took it a giant leap further when it pioneered the use of new water purification technologies.
Recycled drinkable water from wastewater is put back into the large Orange County Groundwater Basin. Other water sources include Santa Ana River water, stormflows—when we get rain, imported water, and incidental water that seeps down into the basin, such as when you water your lawn.
Your city then pumps it and sends it and imported water through its own pipeline system to your home. There are a few more steps, but you get the picture. All of these sources and infrastructure ensure water quality and reliability so, hopefully, you don’t have to worry about a day without water.
As early as kindergarten, we are taught to appreciate and admire police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and many others dedicated to the welfare of their neighbors—and rightfully so. What about water workers? They are every bit as critical to a comfortable and safe life. Cheers, and raise a glass of water for the behind-the-scenes operators in the water supply world.
Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.