September 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 — Groundwater Storage Levels on the Rise

•   GWRS Final Expansion Construction Approved

•   Seth Siegel Book — Troubled Water — Features OCWD and GWRS

•   Groundwater Adventure Tour — Seats Going Fast

•   Be Prepared to Shake it Up in October

•   Seeking Children's Water Education Festival Sponsors

•   Ribbon Cutting for Pure Water Monterey Potable Reuse Project

•   Annual Santa Ana River Monitoring Updates Baseflow Conditions

•   Update on Orange County Groundwater Basin Cleanup Projects

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   OCWD Employees

•   Upcoming Events

•   August Tours


President’s Message — Groundwater Storage Levels on the Rise

Water storage levels in the Orange County Groundwater Basin rose for a third straight year due to the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) groundwater management programs and above average precipitation levels in two of those years. OCWD continues to work to refill the groundwater basin after water storage levels fell to an alarming 18% due to the severe drought of 2012 to 2016. The groundwater basin is now about 75% full.

This calls for a sigh of relief. How brief or long that relief is, is anyone’s guess.

Facing the challenge of increasing demands for water over its 86 years has fostered a history of innovation and creativity that has enabled OCWD to increase available groundwater supplies while protecting the long-term sustainability of the basin. Even during the worst days of the drought, the 19-member agencies of OCWD who pump groundwater for their communities were getting 77% of their water from the basin. This was a considerable savings as imported water, which is purchased to make up the remainder, is about twice as expensive, and not always reliable during droughts. Read More…

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





GWRS Final Expansion Construction Approved

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Board of Directors voted to award the contract to construct the 30 million gallon per day (MGD) Final Expansion of the world-renowned Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) to Shimmick Construction Company, Inc. The overall project cost is $310 million with the construction portion being approximately $200 million. The project will create an additional 31,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) of new water supplies to serve north and central Orange County. That will bring the total production of the GWRS to 134,000 AFY, enough water for one million people. Construction is estimated to be completed in 2023. Read More…

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Seth Siegel’s Book – Troubled Water – Features OCWD and GWRS

New York Times best-selling author Seth Siegel’s second book, Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink, is an intriguing, thought-provoking, and even-handed account of what’s lurking in our drinking water. It’s a great read for water industry professionals, but also for anyone interested in learning about drinking water problems and taking control of their health and destiny.

Troubled Water gives a comprehensive overview of the complexities of managing water, the frustrations that responsible and proactive utilities have with often slow regulatory processes, and the variety of solutions and investments already made by communities. And, it features an entire chapter about the Orange County Water District and the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).

“The book wouldn’t have been written if not for my interview with [former OCWD Assistant General Manager] Mike Wehner,” says Siegel. Read More…

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Groundwater Adventure Tour—Seats Going Fast

The Groundwater Adventure Tour, a day-long expedition of the District’s facilities from the Prado Wetlands and OCWD’s recharge basins in Anaheim to the GWRS and Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory in Fountain Valley, is nearing capacity but there are seats remaining. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about local water supplies and how they are managed in an environmentally, scientifically and financially sound manner. The tour takes place October 24 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sign up now at our website. Please note that priority will be given to individuals who have not previously attended.

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Be Prepared to Shake it Up in October

Oct. 17 is the next Great ShakeOut Day! Over 63 million people around the world and over 20 million in the U.S. participated in this earthquake drill last year. This year will be the 12th ShakeOut to help prepare families and organizations for the next earthquake.

Since earthquakes occur without warning, it’s important to take steps now to prepare. Participating in the Great Shakeout prepares you to survive and recover quickly from an earthquake. Because you don’t know where you will be when an earthquake occurs, prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit for your home, workplace, and car. Remember to have on hand at least one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days, for drinking and sanitation.

For additional information, visit Read More…

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Seeking Children’s Water Education Festival Sponsors

Approximately 7,000 third, fourth and fifth grade Orange County students will be registered to attend the Children’s Water Education Festival on March 25 and 26, 2020. The Festival is a popular and unique outdoor classroom experience to learn about local water issues and the environment through hands-on educational activities on the grounds of the University of California, Irvine. With your help, we might be able to accommodate even more!

To sponsor, contact Crystal Nettles at (714) 378-3202 or For additional information visit

It is more important than ever to teach children that they can be responsible by making “blue” and “green” choices to help protect precious water resources and the environment. Your investment in today’s youth is an investment in our future! Read More…

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Ribbon Cutting for Pure Water Monterey Potable Reuse Project

Monterey One Water will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for its potable reuse project Pure Water Monterey in Northern California.

The event takes place on Friday, Oct. 4 at Monterey One Water Regional Treatment Plant in Marina, Calif. Sign-ups to attend are necessary. Please visit

The Pure Water Monterey advanced water recycling project will provide a clean, safe and sustainable source of water for Monterey County. It emphasizes advanced water recycling technology, replenishment of the groundwater supply and protection of the environment.

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Annual Santa Ana River Monitoring Updates Baseflow Conditions

Each year during August, the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Water Quality Department performs comprehensive water quality monitoring of the Santa Ana River and its tributaries.

Water Quality staff travel upstream to more than 20 different locations in San Bernardino, Riverside, Chino, Corona, and many other cities in the upper watershed to collect water quality samples representing the baseflow conditions for the Santa Ana River.

The information and data generated during this extensive monitoring event helps OCWD assess water quality of the baseflow, or normal flow of the Santa Ana River and is often used by other agencies such as U.S. Geological Survey, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority.

OCWD Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory (Lab) staff was invited to join on “ride-alongs” to gain a better understanding of some of the various sample sites and complexities involved in collection of the many water quality samples submitted to the OCWD Lab.

Results of the most recent assessment will become available in October and will be sent to participating agencies.

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Update on Orange County Groundwater Basin Cleanup Projects

The following is an update regarding the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) groundwater cleanup efforts in both the North and South Basin areas. Orange County enjoys clean and plentiful water from a large underground aquifer system that extends from the Santa Ana Canyon where the river cuts through the gap between the Santa Ana Mountains and the Chino Hills all the way to the ocean at Seal Beach. These aquifers provide 77% of the water for the 2.5 million residents of the Orange County Water District.

While it is true that the underground water is clean and plentiful, we cannot say that it is without issues.  In different parts of the basin, there are three water quality concerns that have called the OCWD to action. The most notable is the threat of seawater intrusion along the coast. The District has been actively managing that issue since the early 1970s and has protected the inland aquifers from seawater intrusion by use of an active freshwater barrier recharged through hundreds of injection wells. The other two areas of activity are the subject of this update.

The North and South Basin plumes are areas where industrial solvents have been spilled onto the ground and seeped into the underlying water. The resulting plumes of contamination from those sites have impacted some drinking water wells, and, if left unabated, will certainly affect others. 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: 

  • •  OCWD staff hosted a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) congressional briefing that featured Congressman Harley ­Rouda. Representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and U.S. Representatives Gil Cisneros, Jose Luis Correa and Alan Lowenthal were also in attendance.

  • • OCWD staff also provided a PFAS briefing to California State Senator Tom Umberg. Directors Sarmiento and Brandman, General Manager Mike Markus, Executive Director of Water Quality & Technical Resources Jason Dadakis, and Legislative Affairs Liaison Alicia Dunkin participated in the briefing.
  • • Director Cathy Green attended and spoke at the ACWA Region 10 event: “The Human Right to Water and Water Agency Collaborations to Achieve the Goal.”

  • • Mike Markus participated in the Riverside County Water Task Force and spoke about PFOA and PFOS, two of the PFAS chemical family that are constituents of emerging concern.

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


Congratulations to our retiree Scott Hollender. We salute you for your tireless 12 years of service to the people of Orange County and wish you well in the years ahead.

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Upcoming Events

Oct. 2 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

Oct. 3 : 8:00 a.m. Communications/Legislative Liaison Committee Meeting (C-2)

Oct. 4 : 7:30 a.m. Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO) Meeting (Boardroom)

Oct. 9 : 8:00 a.m. Water Issues Committee Meeting (Boardroom)

Oct. 10 : 8:00 a.m. Administration/Finance Committee Meeting (C-2)

Oct. 14 : 5:00 p.m. GWRS Steering Committee (Boardroom)

Oct. 16 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

Oct. 23 : 8:30 a.m. Joint Planning Committee Meeting (MWDOC 101)

Oct. 25 : noon  Property Management Committee Meeting (C-2)

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August Tours 

Thank you to the more than 250 guests who toured OCWD’s facilities during August.

GWRS tours were provided to the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles, Zaib Shaikh, and his staff and to members of Congressman Harley Rouda’s staff; Mayor Pro Tempore Will O’Neill of Newport Beach; members of the Industrial Environmental Council of Orange County, the Korean American Orange County Seniors, Civil Engineering Pathways, the Orange County Grand Jury, State Water Resources Control Board, Tomorrow Water, Global Leadership Team of Dupont Water Solutions; administrators from the city of Roseville, members of ASCE OC Young Members Forum, Gulf Coast Water Authority, Shibaura Institute of Technology, and San Antonio Water System; nursing students from West Coast University and students from Orange Coast College Environmental Sciences; and members of the general public. Additionally, staff from Greentech participated in tours of OCWD’s Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory and OCWD staff led a field trip of the Prado Wetlands for 15 middle school students from Outward Bound Adventures who were experiencing hiking and camping for the first time.

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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