December 2020

OCWD Board Members


Stephen R. Sheldon

First Vice President

Cathy Green

Second Vice President

Tri Ta

Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Jordan Brandman
Nelida Mendoza
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, C.E.G., C.H.
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
Ahmad Zahra

General Manager

Michael R. Markus

In This Issue:

•  Outgoing President’s Message — The Year in Review

•  OCWD Wins ACWA Region 10 Outreach Award

•  Save the Date — OC Water Summit

•  Registration is Open for Orange County Youth Environmental Summit 2021

•  The District is Honored with International iNova Award

•  OCWD Completes Surface Recharge System Operations Manual

•  Producers' Corner

•  SCWC Launches Recycled Water Video Series

•  Wild Secrets – Winter Wetlands

•  OCWD Water Webinar Series

•  PFAS Update

•  Nuts & Bolts

•  Out in the Community

•  OCWD in the News

•  OCWD Employees

•  Upcoming Events

•  Tours


Outgoing President’s Message — The Year in Review

My final message to you as Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) president begins with a sincere thank you to staff, my colleagues, and legislative and water industry professionals I’ve worked with throughout the years.

I will be taking on the role of mayor of the city of Santa Ana in January and Santa Ana Councilmember Nelida Mendoza will take my place at OCWD to serve on the city’s behalf as a District board director.

The District board of directors has recently chosen Stephen Sheldon to take my place as OCWD board president. Those newly voted to serve as first vice president and second vice president are Cathy Green and Tri Ta, respectively.

My gratitude and admiration go to Director Cathy Green, who served as first vice president, and Director Stephen Sheldon, who served as second vice president during this past year. I want to also congratulate Cathy and Tri on their successful  re-election efforts to retain their OCWD positions.

Now, let’s look at the year in review. Read More…

Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.



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OCWD Wins ACWA Region 10 Outreach Award

Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) was recognized by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) as the Region 10 winner of the 2020 Outreach Recognition Award for outstanding efforts in helping ACWA accomplish its legislative goals. The award was presented during the ACWA 2020 Fall Virtual Conference & Exhibition.

“OCWD’s mission to provide a reliable, high-quality water supply to the 2.5 million people in our service area is at the forefront of everything we do,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “We’re honored to be recognized for our legislative efforts that seek to advance local, state and federal policies that support a safe and sustainable water supply for our constituents.”

OCWD won this year’s prestigious award for its robust interactions with state and federal elected officials and agencies, engaging them in topics of interest to the District and water industry which align with ACWA’s policy principals, including sustaining groundwater resources, delivering safe drinking water and creating a resilient water supply. Read More…

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Save the Date—OC Water Summit

Mark your calendar for the annual OC Water Summit, this year titled “2021 Water Breaking News.” It will take place at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort on June 4, 2021. Celebrated weathercaster Fritz Coleman returns as master of ceremonies.

Join business professionals, elected officials, water industry experts, and scholars to take a closer look at the challenges, solutions and competing interests in shaping local, state, national, and international water supplies.

Registration for the OC Water Summit, which is presented by the Orange County Water District and the Municipal Water District of Orange County, will begin online in January at Should state guidelines preclude the event from taking place at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, other options are being explored such as an outdoor venue under a large, open tent or a virtual conference.

For sponsorship opportunities, contact Crystal Nettles (714) 378-3202, or Tiffany Baca (714) 593-5013,

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Registration is Open for Orange County Youth Environmental Summit 2021

The award-winning program you know and love - the Children's Water Education Festival - has a new look and a new name. The Orange County Youth Environmental Summit (YES) will be held, virtually, Monday, April 19 through Friday, April 23. This extended virtual format means more opportunities for learning and engagement.

Registration for YES is now open for interested teachers, presenters and sponsors. Visit the website to learn more and to submit an application. Space is limited and we expect the event to fill quickly, so it is advised you complete your application as soon as possible.

YES presents a unique opportunity to educate third, fourth and fifth grade Orange County students about the environment. Through a series of interactive and immersive presentations taught by well-known and respected experts and organizations, students learn about a variety of environmental subjects. Read More…

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The District is Honored with International iNova Award

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) has received an iNova Bronze Award for its COVID-19 website in the campaigns: non-profit campaign category.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and misinformation that was circulating, especially as to the safety of water, the District created a dedicated webpage that contains the District’s response to COVID-19 and a robust list of resources for both employees and the general public. A quick link appears on OCWD’s homepage for easy access to its COVID-19 webpage.

The two main goals of the website were to affirm and assure the safety and reliability of the water supply and to highlight the measures the District was taking to reduce the spread and to protect the staff and the public, while continuing to provide essential services and transparency.

iNova is an international award that honors the world’s best corporate websites. It celebrates professionals who contribute to the process of building image and making a difference in the global marketplace.

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OCWD Completes Surface Recharge System Operations Manual

Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) staff recently shared its vast recharge knowledge and expertise by completing the District’s Surface Recharge System Operations Manual.

The document was prepared by a core team consisting of Recharge Operations Supervisor Don Houlihan, Operations Advisor Bill Dunivin, Senior Administrative Support Specialist Esmer Uribe, and Director of Recharge and Wetlands Operations John Bonsangue. Consultant (former OCWD staffer) John Vandenbergh also contributed to the document.

The Orange County Water District was formed by a special act of the California Legislature in 1933 for the purpose of managing and protecting the Orange County Groundwater Basin. Since its formation, the District has developed a sustainable recharge program. Aquifer recharge activities conducted by OCWD fall into two categories: 1) Surface Recharge and 2) Injection Recharge.

This manual is a working document aimed at providing the reader with a good understanding of OCWD’s Surface Recharge System (SRS), and its basic operational procedures. The District’s SRS is dynamic with multitudes of operational scenarios.

This document is intended to be updated by qualified staff as new pieces of equipment are added to the system and as better modes of operation are discovered.

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Producers’ Corner

OCWD Board Honors Lisa Ohlund for 38 years in the Water Industry

Lisa Ohlund, general manager of the East Orange County Water District (EOCWD) for the last 11 years, has recently retired. She is celebrated by the Orange County Water District (OCWD) Board of Directors for her 38 years in the water industry.

Ohlund began her water service as an administrative manager at the Encina Wastewater Authority. She went on to become the assistant general manager for the South East Regional Reclamation Authority and then started her own consulting company, Ohlund Management & Technical Services, before her tenure with EOCWD. Read More…

YLWD’s Marc Marcantonio is First Ever Permanent Heli-Hydrant

The Yorba Linda Water District’s (YLWD) Marc Marcantonio Heli-Hydrant is the first ever permanent heli-hydrant. It is an innovative 12-foot wide, 2,400-gallon water tank for firefighting helicopters.

The heli-hydrant allows first responders to save critical time and effectively fight fires by offering a strategically placed, quick-fill, pilot-operated water source that can fill in just six minutes. The remote operation of it also allows greater safety of ground firefighters and water sources in areas that ground firefighters cannot reach. This heli-hydrant offers Orange County a game-changing way to safeguard life, property, and the environment for the benefit of the community.

In late October, the award-winning Marc Marcantonio Heli-Hydrant supported aerial firefighters battling the Blue Ridge Fire. The Heli-Hydrant reduced response time for helicopters because YLWD strategically placed it in the wildland-urban interface zone affected by the Blue Ridge Fire. Read More…

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SCWC Launches Recycled Water Video Series

The Southern California Water Coalition’s Water Recycling Task Force has teamed up with a top video production agency to create a new informative video series that examines the use of recycled water in Southern California.

“Water: Too Precious to Use Just Once” is a short and informative three-part video series that tells the story of how recycled water will help Southern California build a resilient water supply for the future. The series explores what water recycling is, how safe it is, and how it is used and will be used in the future. As state and local leaders look for ways to help us cope with extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, depleted groundwater basins and more, using more recycled water just makes sense. Watch the videos here.

Each short video is a great primer on the basics of water recycling and its importance as part of a diverse set of solutions employed by water agencies and local government to stretch our limited water resources as far as possible. The bite-sized videos are meant to be shared through social media.

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Wild Secrets – Winter Wetlands

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

The word “wilderness,” such as in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, conjures thoughts of untamed, vast open spaces, mountain peaks and meadows, flowing streams and wild, lurking creatures.

Our nearby coastal hill and local mountain adventures pale in comparison and they are bounded and interlaced with houses and people. Yet, there are still some notable “wild” Prado Wetlands that the Orange County Water District oversees in Riverside County, and which are open to the public at certain times of the year by appointment. Let me paint you a picture of the season’s wetlands panorama. Read More…

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OCWD Water Webinar Series

Education and outreach are important components of Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) operations. OCWD has found new and exciting ways to engage audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the launch of its Water Webinar series. The free monthly webinars offer an opportunity to learn about the many exciting facets of District operations, all from the comfort of home. 

Each month features a different OCWD program or project presented by knowledgeable District staff, and one to two District partners. Past topics have included tap versus bottled water quality, OCWD's seawater intrusion barrier, natural resources, and the GWRS Final Expansion, among others.

OCWD's most recent webinar, "Ready for Winter: Stormwater Capture in SoCal," was held on Dec. 17 and featured speakers Adam Hutchinson, PG, CHG, recharge planning manager, OCWD; Kim Gilbert, P.E., chief, reservoir regulation section, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District; and Bob Tincher, chief water resources officer/deputy general manager, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

Interested in viewing this or a previous webinar? Visit the Water Webinars webpage.

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PFAS Update

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 the environment, including water sources throughout the United States. 

PFAS have been detected in the Orange County Groundwater Basin. OCWD provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders to inform them of the proactive measures that the District and retail water agencies are taking to address PFAS in the Basin. 

For more information and news, view the December Update

For additional information, please visit OCWD’s PFOS/PFOA Resources page. 

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Nuts & Bolts

The Nuts & Bolts column features OCWD construction updates each month.

Construction on all phases of the Groundwater Replenishment System Final Expansion continues as crews work on facilities in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach. This includes construction of the 3.5-mile pipeline along the Santa Ana River trail that will bring treated wastewater from Huntington Beach to Fountain Valley. In Fountain Valley, additional work includes continued construction of the micro-filtration facility, the reverse osmosis facility, and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide trains. At the Orange County Sanitation District’s Plant No. 2 in Huntington Beach, crews continue to work on the two secondary effluent holding tanks.

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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: 

  • •   General Manger Mike Markus was a panelist, speaking about the Groundwater Replenishment System, during the “Challenges and Opportunities for Water Conservation and Reuse in California” webinar hosted by the University of San Francisco Departments of Environmental Science, Engineering and Environmental Studies.

  • •   Mike also participated as a panelist for the virtual California Special District’s tour "Advancing Groundwater Sustainability,” and for the Sustainable Silicon Valley WaterPalooza.

  • •   Executive Director of Planning and Natural Resources Greg Woodside shared his expertise with a University of California, Irvine, Teacher Academy group about civic participation in the Santa Ana Watershed. 

  • •   Director of Recharge and Wetlands Operations John Bonsangue presented the webinar “Soarin’ Over the Surface Recharge System” for OCWD’s webinar series.

  • •   Dr. Megan Plumlee, director of research, gave a keynote presentation titled “Innovation and Research at Water Utilities” for the first (virtual) meeting of the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI).


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OCWD in the News

OCWD continues to be recognized for its leadership in the water industry.  Below are the District’s recent media highlights that feature OCWD and the GWRS:

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OCWD Employees

New Hires


Senior Chemist John Bruns retired from the District after 35 years of service. John began with the District on November 1, 1985 and had been a leading figure in many important compliance and research projects during his long career in the Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory.

Senior Communications Specialist Diane Pinnick wrote feature articles, presentations and award submissions, and was the editor of the District’s prize-winning Hydrospectives newsletter, among her contributions to OCWD’s many outreach efforts over the past six years.

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Upcoming Events

Please be advised that 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 found in the “Next meeting” box on the District's meeting agenda site.

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In an effort to continue its popular tour program during the novel coronavirus pandemic, while safeguarding the health and safety of its employees and the community, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) is offering virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) in webinar format.

The virtual tours feature an in-depth look at the world-renowned GWRS through a video tour of the facility led by General Manager Mike Markus. The presentations are followed by live Q&A.

More than 100 guests attended three virtual tours during the month of November including guests from the California Special Districts Association, two nursing classes from California State University, Fullerton, and members of the general public who attended the monthly public tour.

Generally, virtual tours are held the first Friday of every month and are open to the general public. The January tour will be held the second Friday of the month due to the holiday. Upcoming public tours include:

  • Jan. 8 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Feb. 5 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • March 5 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Read More…

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