December 2019

OCWD Board Members


Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.

First Vice President

Cathy Green

Second Vice President

Stephen R. Sheldon

Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Jordan Brandman
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, C.E.G., C.H.
Tri Ta
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
Ahmad Zahra

General Manager

Michael R. Markus

In This Issue:

•   President’s Message — 2019 in Review

•   OCWD Launches Nation's Largest PFAS Pilot Program to ID Local Removal Remedy

•   The Children's Water Education Festival Seeks Volunteers

•   Save the Date for the OC Water Summit

•   Wild Secrets — Parking Lot Calling Card

•   R&D Intern Monica Tejeda Receives First Helen Cuesta Scholarship

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   R&D Publications

•   OCWD Employees

•   Upcoming Events

•   November Tours


President’s Message — 2019 in Review

What a year it has been for the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District)! Much of it has been spent actively engaged with federal and state regulators and elected and appointed officials on the issues of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), harmful “forever” chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and were once commonly used in many consumer products. They are part of the family of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), of which there are thousands. PFOA and PFOS have made their way to water sources all across America and OCWD is working with others to be sure that sound science is the basis of determining notification and response levels. We are also working with the experts to determine how best to eradicate the contaminants, or lessen their impact, in our own groundwater.

Our staff has been at the forefront of the PFAS challenges, hosting a congressional briefing on PFAS in Orange County and providing local data to the Environmental Protection Agency. Staff is also called upon to be key speakers on the topic and have had several engagements in the U.S.

On a much lighter note, this year, we commemorated 50 years of cooperation and collaboration among five water agencies in the Santa Ana River Watershed… Read More…

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





OCWD Launches Nation’s Largest PFAS Pilot Program to ID Local Removal Remedy

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) recently announced the launch of its pilot program that will test various treatment options for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a family of manmade heat and water resistant chemicals found in numerous everyday consumer products that have infiltrated groundwater supplies over several decades.  While the levels of PFAS in Orange County groundwater wells are relatively low, OCWD and its retail water agencies are exploring long-term solutions to ensure that water supplies continue to meet all state and federal water quality standards. 

The goal of the pilot program is to help retail water agencies in Orange County determine the best treatment methods available to them.  Through the program, OCWD will be testing different types of granular activated carbon (GAC) and ion exchange (IX) products, as well as novel adsorbents just emerging in the market, to determine which applications are best suited for Orange County’s diverse aquifer water quality and geochemistry. All of the treatment methods are expected to remove PFAS from groundwater to below detectable levels.

“The pilot testing will help us design and implement the best project for Orange County to safeguard the basin and meet the needs of OCWD and its retail agencies and ratepayers,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. Read More…

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The Children’s Water Education Festival Seeks Volunteers

Looking for a way to put smiles on the faces of more than 7,000 children in Orange County? The Children’s Water Education Festival is looking for hundreds of volunteers. The event takes place March 25 and 26 and there are bountiful opportunities to also help during set-up on March 24.  The award-winning Festival, now in its 24th year, presents a unique opportunity to educate third, fourth and fifth grade students about local water issues and the environment and helps them understand how they can protect water supplies and their environment.

To learn more and register as a volunteer, please visit the Festival website.

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Save the Date for the OC Water Summit

Mark your calendar for the 13th annual OC Water Summit, which will take place at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort on May 29, 2020.

Join nearly 400 business professionals, elected officials, water industry experts, and scholars to take a closer look at the challenges, solutions and competing interests in shaping local, state, national, and international water supplies.

Registration for the OC Water Summit, which is presented by the Orange County Water District and the Municipal Water District of Orange County, will begin online in January at

For sponsorship opportunities, contact Crystal Nettles (714) 378-3202, or Tiffany Baca (714) 593-5013,

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Wild Secrets — Parking Lot Calling Card

by Richard Zembal, natural resources director for the Orange County Water District

OCWD manages and protects the Santa Ana River Watershed through removal of nonnative invasive species, habitat restoration and wildlife management. OCWD has dedicated more than 1,100 acres of land for environmental preservation and has invested millions of dollars for conservation. The following Wild Secrets article highlights some of the many creatures that call the watershed home.

Traversing the Orange County Water District (OWD; the District) administration parking lot to the office yesterday morning, I came upon a mammalian marker in a warm, fresh heap just shy of the sidewalk. Bio-detective at work: who left it; when; and why there?

Many larger native mammals are territorial, particularly the carnivores. There’s only so much local food and the more abundant and intimidating the sign left by clan members, the less likely an intruder will linger to consume resources claimed by the local pack.

Bits of bone and fur in the droppings told of a rabbit that had lost its final race, likely corralled against the building or a fence. Size and the presence of pomegranate seeds meant the marker was left by a coyote, not a cat; like people, native dogs are omnivorous. The pile was left on the pavement less than an hour before found, possibly in response to human disturbance. Read More…

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R&D Intern Monica Tejeda Receives First Helen Cuesta Scholarship

Monica Tejeda, an intern for OCWD’s research and development department, received the first award from the Helen Cuesta Scholarship Fund. The scholarship recognizes Hispanic women in STEM who face financial pressures and adversity in life. Monica is a master of civil engineering candidate from Cal State Long Beach. She also tutors K-12 students as part of the MESA (Mathematics Engineering & Science Achievement) program at the College of Engineering at Cal State Long Beach, a program from which she benefited in middle school and high school. In addition to her busy school and tutoring schedule, she has been her aging mother’s sole caretaker while being a single mother and working hard to pay for school and medical bills. On top of all that, her GPA is 3.8! Monica’s is a true inspirational story. For those who wish to learn more about or to donate to the Helen Cuesta Scholarship Fund, visit

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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 recently participated in the following: 

  • •  Laboratory Director Lee Yoo and Supervising Chemist Prem Parmar presented at the American Water Works Association Water Quality Technology Conference in Texas. The presentation topic was “Analytical Advantages and Validation of Triple Quadrupole MS for the Determination of N- Nitrosamines in Water Reuse Process.”

  • • Chief Hydrogeologist Roy Herndon presented a talk on OCWD’s seawater intrusion control program and the ongoing investigation in the Sunset Gap area to the San Diego Branch of the Groundwater Resources Association of California
  • • Principal Communications Specialist Gina Ayala attended a CASA of Los Angeles event where she hosted an informational table about the District and distributed GWRS bottled water to more than 700 people.

  • • The District hosted the “Completing a Successful Clean Water State Revolving Fund Application Workshop” which was held in the Phillip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory. Staff made arrangements with the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Financial Assistance for this workshop.

  • • R&D staff, together with the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), hosted a NWRI-led Independent Expert Panel meeting in support of an ongoing project where OCWD, NWRI, Carollo, University of Arizona, and University of Tokyo and other Japanese partners are collaborating to evaluate Yokogawa’s new, fast laboratory method for measuring viruses in water samples. The team, including world-renowned virologists at the University of Arizona, believe the technology could have very useful applications for potable water reuse facilities. The project is funded by a grant from the government of Japan, including funding to OCWD.

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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:

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R&D Publications

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OCWD Employees

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

 New Hires

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Upcoming Events

Jan. 8 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

Jan. 9 : 8:00 a.m. Communications and Legislative Liaison Committee Meeting (C-2)

Jan. 10 : 7:30 a.m. Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO) Meeting (Boardroom)

Jan. 13 : 5:00 p.m. GWRS Steering Committee Meeting (Boardroom)

Jan. 15 : 8:00 a.m. Water Issues Committee Meeting (Boardroom)

Jan. 16 : 8:00 a.m. Administration/Finance Committee Meeting (C-2)

Jan. 22 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

Jan. 22 : 8:30 a.m. Joint Planning Committee Meeting (MWDOC 101)

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

Jan. 28 : 8:00 a.m. Retirement Committee (C-2)-TBD

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November Tours 

Thank you to the more than 300 guests who toured OCWD’s facilities during November.

Tours were provided to representatives from Liveable Water Solutions, Australia; staff from the Costa Mesa Sanitation District; students from Basset Adult Education, Cal State Long Beach, Citrus College, Los Alamitos High School, and Cal State Long Beach nursing program; environmental studies students from the University of California, Irvine, and Irvine Valley College; and members of the general public.

Approximately 60 students from Taft Elementary School, in the city of Orange, participated in OCWD’s Next Generation Water Leaders’ program, a two-hour program that entails a hands-on water testing activity, a presentation, a GWRS tour, and a scavenger hunt for water facts through OCWD's H20 Learning Center exhibit.

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

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