April 2020

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 — We Are All in This Together

•   OCWD and Water Retailers Continue to Provide Ample and High-Quality Drinking Water During the Pandemic

•   PFAS Update April 2020

•   Quiet, But Powerful Earth Day April 22, 2020

•   Mid-Basin Injection: Centennial Park Project in Operation

•   OCWD Staff Steps Up During COVID-19 Outbreak

•   OCWD's Mehul Patel is Part of Infinity Water XPRIZE Focus Group

•   GWRS Final Expansion Spring Update

•   Engage Kids About Groundwater

•   Wild Secrets — Night Raptors

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   Research and Development Publications

•   OCWD Employees — Employee of the 1st Quarter

•   Upcoming Events

•   March Tours


President’s Message — We Are All in This Together

We continue to endure a challenging time during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This has impacted all of our daily lives. Many of you have been working remotely, some of you remained working onsite to support critical operations and projects, while others have been sheltering in place to comply with federal and state guidance. Our community appreciates all of your efforts and I want to personally thank each and every one of you.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) supports the 19 retail water agencies it serves and the 2.5 million people who count on them for a safe and reliable water supply.

We understand that water providers must continue to deliver an essential service—your water—while also taking on the costs associated with not turning off water due to unpaid bills during the coronavirus crisis and restoring service to those who already had their water turned off. It’s not easy, but water providers are stepping up and doing what needs to be done.

OCWD is stepping up as well. The District’s 10-member board of directors voted unanimously to not raise our water rates as previously planned. While costs have also increased for OCWD due to factors beyond this pandemic, we understand that we all must do our part to get through this difficult time. Read More…

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





OCWD and Local Water Retailers Continue to Provide Ample and High-Quality Drinking Water During Pandemic

Things are changing rapidly in the world today due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of one thing, we can be sure within the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District), the virus will not impact your water—not the quality or supply.

Both the District and your water provider are essential agencies. Employees will continue to work from home and onsite to supply water each time you turn on the faucet.

Together, we will ensure that your water meets or exceeds state and federal drinking water standards.

California has some of the highest required levels of treatment in the United States, and Environmental Protection Agency regulations mandate tap water be treated specifically to kill pathogens. That includes VIRUSES.

OCWD continues to provide constant monitoring, sampling, testing and planning. Please visit your water provider’s website, where you can learn more about their continued efforts to bring you high-quality and abundant drinking water. 

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PFAS Update April 2020

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and were once commonly used in many consumer products. They are part of a larger group referred to as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Due to the prolonged use of PFOA and PFOS, the chemicals are now being detected in water sources throughout the United States. 

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) and local water retailers are actively engaged with federal and state regulators and elected and appointed officials on this issue. As part of its commitment to transparency, OCWD provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders.

We encourage you to read the most recent PFAS update that was issue on March 26, 2020. For additional information visit our PFOS/PFOA Resources page on the OCWD website.

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Quiet, But Powerful Earth Day April 22, 2020

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 2020, without the usual fanfare and events that would gather people together in efforts showing unity to protect the environment. It was a much quieter celebration, but one just as meaningful.

Our own Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Director Kelly Rowe remembers the first Earth Day in 1970, when he was a high school junior and provided a presentation about air pollution in Cleveland, his former hometown.

“Cleveland got shocking news in 1969, with our local Cuyahoga River catching on fire from industrial chemicals that drain to Lake Erie. Cleveland's air quality was also terrible and scary from all the big steel plants,” said Director Rowe. “I have always been concerned about the environment and was excited to make my first public presentation on Earth Day. We have made lots of reductions in our environmental pollution over the last 50 years and we will improve it further as we continue to work together. I am proud to be a part of OCWD, an agency that does so much to care for the environment and teach about its stewardship.”

For more than 85 years, the District has made protection of the environment a major part of its efforts. Read More…

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Mid-Basin Injection: Centennial Park Project in Operation

Operation of the Mid-Basin Injection (MBI): Centennial Park project commenced in March 2020. In addition to the demonstration well (MBI-1) that began operating in April 2015, the four new wells (MBI-2, 3, 4, and 5) are injecting water from the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS). 

The 2.5-year $29.5 million MBI project is located in the city of Santa Ana, primarily at Centennial Park. It is a solution that addresses a local groundwater depression in the central part of the Orange County Groundwater Basin (Basin), which currently provides about 77% of the water supply to more than 2.5 million residents.

The MBI project will inject up to 10 million gallons of GWRS water a day (MGD), enough water for 85,000 people. Filling this depression will reduce pumping costs paid by water agencies served by OCWD as groundwater levels in local wells will be higher. Additional project benefits include decreasing the threat of seawater contamination, reducing the potential for upwelling of amber-tinted water from deeper aquifers, and freeing up recharge capacity in the Anaheim forebay to recharge other sources of water, such as Santa Ana River and imported water, when available. Read More…

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OCWD Staff Steps Up During COVID-19 Outbreak

The Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) robust response plan to the COVID-19 crisis remains in effect and as new guidance is issued, the District is implementing additional measures to mitigate staff risk while also maintaining operational capability. Meetings are taking place, outreach is being conducted, water quality monitoring and lab testing is ongoing, construction continues on the GWRS Final Expansion, recharge operations are being managed, the GWRS continues to operate, deliveries and shipments are received, accounting and finance keeps OCWD going, and the list goes on. Despite the challenging times, OCWD does not stop.

The following contains a few department updates, and some images of creative work routines that staff are implementing while safely working from home or following safe distancing while onsite.

The entire Research and Development (R&D) department is telecommuting. Microfiltration and reverse osmosis pilots were secured for the time being, while staff focuses on manuscript writing, grant proposals and experimental planning. Onsite operations staff is assisting to replenish water in the pilots periodically to preserve the membranes. The PFAS treatment pilot at Field Headquarters is running well with R&D staff onsite twice a week for periodic inspections and routine data recording. Read More…

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OCWD’s Mehul Patel is Part of Infinity Water XPRIZE Focus Group

Executive Director of Operations/GWRS Mehul Patel was recently invited to be part of an expert focus group by XPRIZE, a non-profit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit humanity.

XPRIZE is developing a prize contest for turning wastewater into drinking water called the Infinity Water XPRIZE: A Sustainable Perpetual Solution to the Global Freshwater Crisis. They’ve asked Patel and other experts to help develop criteria for their design team.

In response to the growing global water crisis, XPRIZE is seeking to incentivize the creation and commercialization of automated, decentralized, location agnostic, community-scale, sustainable, cost-effective, black to potable wastewater reuse and resource recovery systems.

Purses for winning teams of the Ansari XPRIZE (space flight) and Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE are $10 million and $7 million, respectively. The amount has yet to be set for the Infinity Water XPRIZE.

To learn more, visit the XPRIZE website. 

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GWRS Final Expansion Spring Update

The Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) is the world’s largest potable water purification system, taking highly treated wastewater that would have previously been discharged into the Pacific Ocean and purifying it using a three-step advanced treatment process consisting of microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide. The GWRS Final Expansion (GWRSFE) project will increase treatment capacity from 100 to 130 million gallons per day (MGD), which is enough water for 1 million people.

In order to produce 130 MGD, additional treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) is required. This additional water will come from OCSD’s Treatment Plant 2, located in the city of Huntington Beach approximately 3.5 miles south of the GWRS. Current construction activities include the following: Read More…

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Engage Kids About Groundwater

Although many schools closed for several weeks and are now instituting online instruction, kids are home and have time on their hands. During that free time, groundwater education can begin and the Groundwater Foundation offers fun and creative resources to help:

  • •   The Groundwater Foundation’s online Activities Library offers worksheets, activities, scavenger hunts, and more that can be done at home.
  • •   The Hydrogeology Challenge walks students through calculations that scientists use every day to determine groundwater flow direction and velocity.
  • •   The free 30by30 app (available for iOS and Android devices) asks users to track their water use and find ways to use less. Just don’t skimp on washing your hands!
  • •   The free Water1der app (also available for iOS and Android devices) tests users’ water knowledge in a variety of different categories. Try the groups feature and challenge friends!

Learn about groundwater at home with the unique educational opportunities provided by the Groundwater Foundation, which is a non-profit operated by the National Groundwater Association.

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­­­Wild Secrets – Night Raptors

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

Students were lying, face-up in the grass, quite unhappy with me; no phones, no talking. The sun had set much earlier and the turf was getting wetter and colder. Then finally, a creature appeared above us, silhouetted in the moonlight, against the stars. A flash of white underwing, a series of screech notes, clicking further removed and then the barn owl whose appearance we had anticipated was off again in further quest of its nightly fare.

Our brief encounter required a bit of patience but little luck since the barn owl is our most common nocturnal bird of prey in Orange County, it was nesting season, and our stakeout adjoined decent habitat. Barn owls are cavity-nesters; they nest in tree cavities, holes in cliff faces, even steep recesses in buildings that are dark and covered, as in the heights of a tall barn or attic with regular access. 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 Director Dina Nguyen appeared in a Vietnamese-language video addressing water quality and supply amid COVID-19 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvWF1btdDAk&feature=youtu.be

  • • General Manager Mike Markus participated in a virtual workshop hosted by the World Bank and presented on alternative water sources.

  • •  Executive Director of Water Quality and Technical Resources Jason Dadakis spoke at Orange County Sanitation District’s board meeting regarding the District’s efforts to address PFAS in the region.

  • • GWRS Program Manager Sandy Scott-Roberts presented to students at Cal Poly Pomona about the GWRS and modern water reclamation technologies and processes.

  • •  Associate Engineer Audrey Perry, Principal Scientist Jana Safarik, Senior Scientist Meeta Panna and Principal Hydrogeologist Dave Mark participated virtually as special award judges for the OC Science and Engineering Virtual Fair. They judged projects on how well they used and saved water.

  • • Senior Communications Specialist Crystal Nettles spoke to the Angels Booster Club about volunteer opportunities at the Children’s Water Education Festival. [The Festival was cancelled.]

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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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Research and Development Publications

The Water Research Foundation published Research and Development’s (R&D) report “Evaluating Post Treatment Challenges for Potable Reuse Applications,” co-authored by R&D, Trussell Technologies, and Stanford University. A number of OCWD staff contributed to this project including Research Director Megan Plumlee, Ph.D.; Scientist/Process Specialist Han Gu; Principal Scientist Ken Ishida; former Postdoctoral Research Associate Shannon Roback; Executive Director of Water Quality and Technical Resources Jason Dadakis, R&D interns, and staff from the Water Production and Laboratory Departments.

R&D staff published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, titled “Validation of a novel direct-injection chemiluminescence-based method for N-nitrosamine analysis in advanced-treated recycled water, drinking water, and wastewater” based on recent work funded by The Water Research Foundation. The authors are Megan Plumlee and Shannon Roback, with coauthors from Kagoshima University and Nagasaki University in Japan. The work validated a new method of NDMA analysis by comparing split samples with the Main Lab.

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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.

2020 - Employee of the 1st Quarter—Tim Pacific

Human Resources is very pleased to announce that Tim Pacific, Sr. Buyer – Material & Inventory Control Specialist is the 2020 Employee of the First Quarter!

Tim has been our unsung hero throughout the shelter in place order. Even before the order, he had begun to stockpile and prepare for the shortages that would follow in the upcoming weeks. He has worked very hard in finding OCWD supplies such as toilet paper and sanitizers, and he is constantly trying to find alternatives to keep OCWD’s working environment safe.

Tim has been a member of the District for two years. Like the day he started, he retains an abundance of enthusiasm and a will to keep the warehouse well stocked, clean and organized. He loves helping employees and has a good working relationship with everyone. Tim especially likes working with his co-workers and helping them to achieve their highest goals. He has a certain spirit about him to make one feel special and happy, a quality he probably developed while working at the Happiest Place on Earth! 

Congratulations Tim!

New Hires






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Upcoming Events 

Out of an abundance of precaution, OCWD will cancel all onsite meetings to the public until further notice. Please visit the OCWD Meeting Agenda site to learn about updates and virtual meetings.

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March Tours 

Thank you to the more than 150 guests who toured OCWD’s facilities during March.

Tours were provided to students from Vanguard University, Cal State Fullerton and University of San Francisco nursing programs; members of Congregation B’nai Tzedek and executives and board members of the Cambria Utilities District; and the general public.

OCWD’s COVID-19 response plan includes canceling all group tours through May 31, 2020. This date may change based on new information and guidance. OCWD is committed to public education and we look forward to restarting the tour program in the near future.

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