President’s Message—Embracing the Year of Change Ahead

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) has its hand on the pulse of the water industry and has maneuvered change enthusiastically and strategically for more than 85 years. It has never been an agency to sit back and let things happen.

OCWD researches and monitors the groundwater basin and its facilities, planning decades into the future. The District was the first in the state to create a groundwater basin management plan back in the 1980s and developed updates. It shared this knowledge with the state to help create California’s first groundwater sustainability plan—the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA). SGMA provides a framework and requires local groundwater agencies to maintain balanced levels of pumping and recharge.

OCWD is ready and able to act as needs arise. It embraced advanced purified water more than 10 years ago, resulting in a district of 2.5 million people who now enjoy high-quality water in a reliable manner, even during cyclical droughts.

California recently held elections and change is in the air once again. We have no less than eight new state legislators and Congress members, and a new governor. A first reaction might be to resist the unknown. However, we at the district view this as an opportunity, and look forward to much success in the coming year.

We are on our way to completing the Mid Basin Centennial Park Injection Well Project in Santa Ana this summer. It’s an additional opportunity to inject purified water into the principal aquifer and OCWD is providing a large number of park improvements as part of a mutual agreement. We are actively moving forward in building the final expansion of the GWRS, due for completion in 2023—bringing an additional 30,000 acre-feet of water. When completed, the total GWRS output will be enough to supply the daily water needs for one million people. We are poised to capture more stormwater, with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by conserving a larger pool of water behind Prado Dam in Riverside County. We will continue to evaluate the prospect of adding desalinated water to our portfolio of water sources. And, we are earnestly and actively working to protect the people and water in the north and south sections of the basin by resolving contamination issues brought on by industry waste in the 1950s and 1960s.

We know these and additional projects outlined in the construction article found in this newsletter issue will enhance the living experience in our area and we are taking the opportunity to inform the newly elected officials about all probabilities and to clarify complexities.

The Orange County Water District had a respectful and congenial working relationship with Governor Jerry Brown and his staff, standing side-by-side to overcome adversities of the worst drought in the state’s history and preparing for a better tomorrow.

We have already seen promise of a positive association with Governor Gavin Newsom as he praised the Groundwater Replenishment System during his campaign. He appears to realize that the GWRS and projects like it are viable and needed sources of water, especially in desert-like Southern California.

As mentioned in last month’s issue of Hydrospectives, there have been recent changes on the OCWD Board of Directors, too, welcoming back directors Kelly Rowe and Jordan Brandman, and seeing new faces in roles as president, first vice president and second vice president. I am a part of that change.

The challenges ahead in 2019 are exciting and full of promise. I am eager to begin my mission as OCWD Board President and thank my colleagues for their trust in my leadership of this great organization. Together, with our dedicated staff, we will continue our promise to the District’s community of retailers and the people they serve to provide high-quality, reliable water through cost-effective endeavors and in a forward-thinking manner.

Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.