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.
We’re here for you. We’re in this together.
In addition, the Orange County Water District, continues to fulfill its mission to provide cities in north and central Orange County with high-quality, tested groundwater that meets or exceeds state and federal requirements. Groundwater makes up 77% of the drinking water in this area. Each city receives the remaining 23% from tested imported water (from Northern California and the Colorado River). What comes out of your faucet is much more stringently tested, monitored and controlled than bottled water, so you can drink your tap water with confidence.
OCWD takes the COVID-19 issue very seriously and the District will continue to act quickly and implement policies and procedures that keep its employees and the community safe. Staff is doing all it can and I would like to share some recent facts regarding OCWD’s response to COVID-19:
- In response to Governor Newsom’s March 19th “Stay at Home” order to help slow the spread, 60% of OCWD’s total workforce has been working remotely while working a staggered schedule in the office when necessary. The goal continues to be to minimize the number of staff onsite.
- Thirty four percent of the District’s total workforce in essential operations positions has continued to work and follow guidance to ensure a safe and healthy work environment, including following the County of Orange guidelines, such as wearing face coverings to conduct essential activities.
- OCWD’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team has been meeting twice weekly to discuss immediate and potential impacts to its operations and to plan for future needs.
- Members of OCWD’s EOC team have been participating in county EOC briefings to obtain critical information.
- The General Manager has been meeting with the Board Executive Committee to keep them informed and discuss policy decisions.
- OCWD created a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 that not only contains the District’s response to COVID-19, but also includes information and resources to assure the public that water remains safe and reliable amid this pandemic.
- While District facilities are temporarily closed to the public in response to COVID-19. Members of the public may participate in public meetings via Zoom. Information on how to participate is listed at the top of each agenda, which is made available 72 hours prior to each meeting.
OCWD continues to evaluate its COVID-19 response plan, which is subject to change based on new information and guidance.
I’d like to provide you with some additional resources that you might find beneficial during this fast-changing and challenging moment in time:
- California’s COVID-19 Response
- California Department of Public Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Orange County Health Care Agency
The District will continue to monitor and address issues as they arise and will make every effort to protect the well-being of you and your families by providing high-quality and abundant groundwater. We want to assure you that we are all in this together. We will keep you apprised of our actions through this column and our website.
Thank you very much and please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.
Please contact your city directly should you have questions about water treatment, or visit its website to obtain a copy of its most recent water quality report.
Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.