November 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 — Districts Break Ground on GWRS Final Expansion

•   OCWD Receives Leading Utility of the World Status

•   Mr. Patel Goes Back to India

•   Be an Angel and Give to Operation Santa Claus

•   Wild Secrets — OCWD's Seabird Colony

•   Update on North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup

•   OCWD Maintains 'AAA' Fitch Rating for 12th Consecutive Year

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   OCWD Employees

•   Upcoming Events

•   October Tours


President’s Message — Districts Break Ground on GWRS Final Expansion

My fellow Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) board members and I celebrated the groundbreaking of the Final Expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) on Nov. 8, 2019.

The ceremony was attended by 280 guests that included elected officials, project stakeholders and industry professionals. We were honored to have among our guest speakers Assemblymember Steven Choi; Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee; Chief Deputy Director Jonathan Bishop from the State Water Resources Control Board; Deputy Director of the Water Division of the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Kristin Gullatt; and OCSD Chairman and Chair of the GWRS Steering Committee David Shawver.

The Final Expansion of the GWRS is the third and final phase of the project and affirms our commitment to the 2.5 million citizens of north and central Orange County that we serve. 

The great Albert Einstein once said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” The thought of turning wastewater into drinking water seemed very absurd way back in the 1960s and 1970s, but OCWD and OCSD, with great vision and conviction, knew that the impossible was possible. Read More…

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





OCWD Receives Leading Utility of the World Status

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) has received the status of Leading Utility of the World (LUOW), according to the Global Water Leaders Group, a non-profit organization aiming to create a better story for water worldwide. The inauguration took place at the American Water Summit on Nov. 13 in Houston, Texas. OCWD also received the iconic Golden Tap trophy to commemorate its membership in LUOW.

“We thank the Global Water Leaders Group for accepting us into its prestigious membership as one of the Leading Utilities of the World,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “The Orange County Water District is dedicated to sharing ideas and inspiring others to their best performance in building sustainable and smart projects that deliver reliable and high-quality water. We look forward to collaborating with this distinguished group as we all work to advance the water industry in the 21st century.” Read More…

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Mr. Patel Goes Back to India

By Executive Director of Operations/GWRS Mehul Patel

I was recently invited by the U.S. Department of State to participate in a “Water Matters” collaborative project of the U.S. Consulate General of Chennai; Care Earth Trust; Smithsonian Institute, U.S.; and the Science Gallery, Bengaluru. It was a speaker engagement series in the Indian cities of Chennai and Bengalaru from Oct. 14-18 and I was joined by Sudhir Murthy, CEO, NEWhub, an expert in water reclamation.

The purpose of the trip was to help educate, advocate and support south India in addressing water challenges. OCWD’s groundwater management and history of water reuse were seen as ideal models for addressing south Indian water scarcity issues. 

Our visit was the beginning of this land’s journey towards a sustainable water supply through wastewater reuse. I emphasized the importance of public perception and overcoming the “yuck” factor. I shared that public outreach to build public trust and disseminate scientific information about the safety of water reuse is essential and a number one priority, even before treatment facilities are built. Read More…

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Be an Angel and Give to Operation Santa Claus

The holiday season is in full swing and Operation Santa Claus is counting on us for another year of generous support and contributions.

This program is a County of Orange Board of Supervisors-approved program and the only official county holiday toy drive. It helps the neediest children, teens and disabled adults/seniors in Orange County. The Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) holiday tree will be up and ready for your donations starting Dec.3.

OCWD Operation Santa Coordinator Donna Pike is asking staff and those reading this newsletter to please stop by the front lobby of the Orange County Water District (18700 Ward Street, Fountain Valley) to pick up an Angel tag(s). Each tag has all age groups on it. You will find a list of gift suggestions on the back of each tag.

Gifts must be unwrapped with the angel tag attached to the gift. You can also make a cash donation or purchase a gift certificate, especially for teens and seniors. Please give cash, checks or gift certificates directly to Donna Pike in Accounting. Place other gifts under the tree. All gifts will be picked up on Wednesday, Dec.  18.

I would like to thank all in advance for helping to make this program a success for over 25 years at the District. Please call me at (714)378-3308 if you have any questions or comments regarding Operation Santa Claus—Donna Pike, OCWD Operation Santa Coordinator.

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Wild Secrets — OCWD’s Seabird Colony

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.

Burris Basin is located between Ball and Lincoln Roads in the city of Anaheim, encompasses approximately 125 acres, and is about 14.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is the terminal basin in the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) recharge system and important for transferring water back and forth between the river system and Santiago basins. It also accommodates nesting seabirds.

The big draw for coastal birds is the abundance of fish, like threadfin shad. We found birds nesting on a 1.6-acre sandbar during reconnaissance for the 2008 Reconfiguration Project. There were many other smaller sandbars, too, so OCWD built them a 2.4-acre island as part of the project.

To accommodate nesting birds while the project was built in 2009, we deployed a 3,500 square-foot dock, which was anchored below an old pump station and covered in beach sand. The target species for the floating island was the endangered California Least Tern (CLT), but they were ousted by the larger nesting shorebirds, mostly Forester’s Terns (FOTE) and Black Skimmers (BLSK). The CLT continued nesting on the rim of the basin during project construction. So, we fenced off the little spots they chose and watched giant earthmovers rattle right past unperturbed incubating terns! Read More…

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Update on North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup

For more than a decade, the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) has been hard at work on two industrial areas of shallow groundwater contamination. They are referred to as the North and South Basin sites and have been the subject of many earlier update publications and presentations. 

Both of the areas have active cleanups in process and are being studied in detail following a rigorous National Contingency Plan (NCP) protocol. The goal of this work is to build and operate permanent and durable systems that capture and control the shallow contaminated water and prevent it from spreading into the deeper zones where our drinking water resides. Read More…

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OCWD Maintains ‘AAA’ Fitch Rating for 12th Consecutive Year

The Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) commitment to sound financial management was reaffirmed Nov. 19 when Fitch Ratings assigned the District a ‘AAA’ rating, a designation it has maintained since 2008.  A key driver of this rating was the District’s strong financial performance, which Fitch Ratings cited as exemplary. OCWD also holds a ‘AAA’ rating from Standard & Poor’s, which it was awarded on Nov. 20.

“OCWD’s Board and staff strive to manage the District in a sound financial manner to help make the region resilient to economic downturns, droughts, variations in water demands, and catastrophic events,” stated OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “This strong credit rating allows OCWD to borrow money at lower interest rates resulting in a cost savings for the 19 water retail agencies served by the District and their 2.5 million customers in north and central Orange County.” Read More…

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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: 

  • •  President Vicente Sarmiento and Executive Director of Planning & Natural Resources Greg Woodside met with Baja California’s director of the water department and members of his staff to talk about the GWRS.

  • • OCWD Directors Denis Bilodeau, Cathy Green, Kelly Rowe, Tri Ta and General Manager Mike Markus met with the Honorable Lisa Neville MP, Minister of Water for Victoria, Australia, and her staff to talk about water reuse, supply, security, and community engagement.
  • • Directors Cathy Green, Kelly Rowe, Steve Sheldon, and Executive Director of Engineering and Water Resources John Kennedy met with Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris along with representatives from other OC water/wastewater agencies to discuss critical issues facing the industry.

  • OCWD Directors Jordan Brandman and Roger Yoh and Mike Markus met with Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee and staff to discuss critical issues facing Orange County water and wastewater industries.

  • • OCWD Directors Jordan Brandman, Cathy Green and Kelly Rowe; and Greg Woodside; Senior Watershed Planner Marsha Westropp; and Senior Communications Specialist Crystal Nettles attended an event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Conservation Corps. 

Read More…

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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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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

Dec. 11 : 8:00 a.m. Water Issues Committee Meeting (Boardroom)

Dec. 12 : 8:00 a.m. Administration/Finance Committee Meeting (C-2)

Dec. 13 : 7:30 a.m. Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO) Meeting (Boardroom)

Dec. 18 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

Dec. 27 : noon  Property Management Committee Meeting (C-2)

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October Tours 

Thank you to the nearly 500 guests who toured OCWD’s facilities during October.

Tours were provided to Lisa Neville, MP, minister for water for the Australian state of Victoria  and her staff members; a Saudi Arabian delegation accompanied by Hydranautics staff; members of the Busan Metropolitan Water Authority of South Korea; a delegation of water professionals from the Shaanxi Water Affair Group, China; a delegation of Vietnamese government officials; Baja California’s director of the water department and members of his staff,  State Water Resources Control Board Member Sean Maguire; Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee and his staff; members of the OC Credit Union; Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon; members of the Irvine Ranch Water District Water Leadership group; staff from Wells Fargo; nursing students from Cal State Fullerton and Vanguard University; students from Santa Ana College, the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning, Edison High School, Early College High School, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach, UC Riverside Extension, Orange Coast College Environmental Engineering, Loara High School, and Basset Adult Education; 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

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