February 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 — OC Water Agencies Initiate Steps to Protect Public Health

•   OCWD and Jacobs Collaborate on Largest U.S. Test Pilot Program for PFAS Treatment

•   10 Interesting Facts to Share During National Groundwater Awareness Week

•   Atmospheric River Researchers Tap OCWD Staff

•   Director Cathy Green elected Region 10 Chair of ACWA Board

•   Let's Talk Water Series in Fullerton

•   Greg Woodside Receives 2020 Champion of Change Award

•   Update of North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup

•   Last Call for Children's Water Education Festival Volunteers, Presenters & Sponsors

•   OC Water Summit Features Fritz Coleman as Emcee

•   Wild Secrets — Critter Phobia; Antlions, Tiger Moths, and Wolly Bears, Oh My!

•   Boy Scouts Earn Merit Badge at OCWD

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   OCWD Employees — Employee of the Year

•   Upcoming Events

•   January Tours


President’s Message — OC Water Agencies Initiate Steps to Protect Public

Local water agencies in Orange County have announced they are voluntarily removing dozens of groundwater wells from service following a state decision to lower the drinking water Response Levels (RLs) for two legacy chemicals recently found in very low concentrations in water supplies throughout California.

In early February, the California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) issued new RLs for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Also known collectively as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), these are manmade, heat-resistant chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and were once commonly used in many consumer products to repel water, grease and oil. PFAS have been used for decades in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, apparels, upholstery, food paper wrappings, fire-fighting foams and metal plating.

Since 2016, water agencies in Orange County and across the country have followed an EPA Lifetime Health Advisory regarding the maximum recommended concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at no greater than 70 parts per trillion (ppt). While not a mandate, the state’s lower Response Levels of 10 ppt for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS are prompting additional steps from water agencies throughout Orange County. Read More…

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





OCWD and Jacobs Collaborate on Largest U.S. Test Pilot Program for PFAS Treatment

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) is collaborating with Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (Jacobs) on the largest pilot program in the United States to identify a treatment remedy for removing harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the Orange County Groundwater Basin.

The District selected Jacobs to provide treatment testing support services for PFAS, a family of oil and water-resistant chemicals found in numerous everyday consumer products and airport firefighting foams that have infiltrated groundwater supplies over several decades.

While the levels of harmful PFAS in Orange County groundwater wells are relatively low, OCWD and its retail water agencies are exploring long-term solutions to ensure that water supplies continue to meet all state and federal water quality standards.

Jacobs has multidisciplinary capabilities in environmental, water, wastewater, solid waste, aviation and infrastructure. The company integrates both proven and leading-edge detection and treatment technologies to address PFAS chemicals transported in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, wastewater, leachate and soil.

The goal of the pilot program is to help retail water agencies in Orange County determine the best available PFAS treatment methods. Jacobs and OCWD will be testing different types of granular activated carbon (GAC) and ion exchange (IX) products, as well as novel adsorbents just emerging in the market, to determine which applications are best suited for Orange County’s diverse aquifer water quality and geochemistry.

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10 Interesting Facts to Share During National Groundwater Awareness Week

Did you know that 99% of the useable freshwater on Earth is groundwater? Did you also know that in north and central Orange County we are sitting on a vast groundwater basin that supplies 77% of our drinking water? National Groundwater Awareness Week in the U.S. is March 8-14. This is a great time to call attention to the importance of this natural resource.

First, let’s go over five national and five state facts about groundwater, according to the National Ground Water Association: Read More…

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Atmospheric River Researchers Tap OCWD Staff

Orange County Water District (the District; OCWD) staff will go to just about any lengths, or in this case heights, to bring abundant water to north and central Orange County. This was evidenced recently as Recharge Planning Manager Adam Hutchinson joined a mission to fly into an atmospheric river (AR) storm event to gather vital data to improve atmospheric river forecasts. 

Led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, and the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters,”  the weather scouting flight was one of up to 12 storm missions scheduled between Jan. 23 and March 18.

Atmospheric rivers are storms that bring large amounts of precipitation. They can deliver up to half of California’s total annual precipitation and cause 90% of flooding in the state, according to Scripps Oceanography. Read More…

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Director Cathy Green Elected Region 10 Vice Chair of ACWA Board

Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Director Cathy Green was elected Region 10 Chair of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Board of Directors for the 2020-21 term. Her two-year term started Jan. 1, 2020. 

Green recently held the position of Vice Chair for the 2018-19 term. She joins other Region 10 members that include ACWA President Steven LaMar, Irvine Ranch Water District; ACWA Finance Committee Chair Cheryl Clary, Irvine Ranch Water District; ACWA Business Development Committee Chair Larry McKenney, Municipal Water District of Orange County; ACWA Membership Committee Chair George Murdoch, East Orange County Water District; ACWA Chair DeAna Verbeke, Helix Water District; and ACWA Energy Committee Chair Charley Wilson, Santa Margarita Water District.

The Association of California Water Agencies is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. Its 430 public agency members collectively are responsible for 90 percent of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California.

ACWA’s mission is to assist its members in promoting the development, management and reasonable beneficial use of good quality water at the lowest practical cost in an environmentally balanced manner. ACWA regions provide the grassroots support to advance ACWA's legislative and regulatory agenda. To learn more about ACWA, visit  www.acwa.com.

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Let’s Talk Water Series in Fullerton

Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Director Ahmad Zahra, who represents the city of Fullerton, has begun a special community forum titled “Let’s Talk Water.” The second of a series of free public meetings on the subject of drinking water was held Feb. 8 in the Fullerton Community Center.

The topic of the meeting was PFAS: Chemicals of Emerging Concern. Guest speakers included OCWD General Manager Mike Markus, city of Fullerton Public Works Director Meg McWade, and Metropolitan Water District Board Member Adan Ortega.

For information about future events follow: facebook.com/ahmadzahracouncil.

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Greg Woodside Receives 2020 Champion of Change Award

Greg Woodside, Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) executive director of planning & natural resources, received a 2020 Champion of Change Award for promoting inclusion and diversity outdoors by Outward Bound Adventures (OBA).  

The presentation was made at OBA’s Pasadena headquarters on Feb. 2, 2020.  The award recognizes the District’s work to host field trips to the Prado Wetlands for youth who are often not given opportunities to experience the outdoors. 

Middle school students from the greater Los Angeles area visited the Prado Wetlands on Aug. 30, 2019, to learn about wetlands ecology and watershed management.  OCWD staff is discussing two additional field trips by OBA youth in 2020.

Outward Bound Adventures is the oldest non-profit in the nation created and dedicated to providing outdoor education, conservation and environmental learning expeditions for primarily low income, urban and rural youth and their families who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience time spent in wild places and open spaces.

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Update of North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) manages and protects the Orange County Groundwater Basin that underlies north and central Orange County, from which 19 cities and water agencies draw their water supply. OCWD implements a proactive groundwater and surface water monitoring program to protect the quality of the Orange County Groundwater Basin and ensure the water it provides meets or exceeds state and federal drinking water standards.

Industrial chemicals have impacted areas in the northern and southern parts of the groundwater basin; North Basin (near Fullerton, Anaheim and Placentia) and South Basin (near Santa Ana, Tustin and Irvine). OCWD is proactively seeking ways to clean up the pollution in a united effort with local and national regulatory agencies. 

Below is an update on activities in and around the North and South Basin sites. OCWD will continue to update stakeholders as the need arises. Read More…

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Last Call for Children’s Water Education Festival Presenters, Sponsors & Volunteers

March is right around the corner, but there’s still time to make a difference in the dynamic event that teaches about our environment and its preservation to elementary school students in grades 3, 4 and 5 in Orange County.

The Children’s Water Education Festival is the largest event of its kind in the nation and it is accepting presenters, sponsors and volunteers for March 25 and 26.

This day-long educational field trip is accommodating 7,500 students, with many more on the waiting list. Your participation may make the difference in their participation.

To learn more, contact Crystal Nettles at (714) 378-3202 or cnettles@ocwd.com. To sponsor or present an activity, please visit the Festival website. Thank you for supporting our commitment to educating youth about the environment!

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NBC4 Weathercaster Fritz Coleman Set to Emcee OC Water Summit

NBC4 Weathercaster Fritz Coleman will return as master of ceremonies on Friday, May 29, for the 13th Annual OC Water Summit, which will take place at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

“2020 Water, Breaking News” is this year’s theme for the day-long event that will examine the region’s top water stories making media headlines.

The OC Water Summit is a gathering of national and state policy makers, elected officials, scientists, and world-renowned water experts, financial experts, prominent authors, and business leaders who come together to deliver presentations and discuss current drinking water concerns and solutions.

Registration is now open. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of early bird ticket prices of $130, which will increase to $150 beginning May 1.

To learn more or to become a sponsor, contact Crystal Nettles (714) 378-3202, cnettles@ocwd.com  or Tiffany Baca (714) 593-5013, tbaca@mwdoc.com.

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Wild Secrets — Critter Phobia; Antlions, Tiger Moths, and Woolly Bears, Oh My!

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

Most of us carry some degree of totally unfounded fear involving a fellow creature, part real, part mythological. There is logic in fearing, better yet in knowing and avoiding larger, toothier animals. Yet, the nightmares and dramatic reactions from my acquaintances are often conjured by the smaller creatures that scurry, slither, flutter, or make webs.

Antlion larvae, for example, look ferocious, but are harmless to humans. There are some 50 species of tiger moths in California; their caterpillars, called woolly bears are black and brown banded and covered in long hairs and, despite their fierce name, are also harmless.

I was taught to fear and dispatch spiders as a child but the beauty of a black and yellow garden spider, one of our more common orb weavers won me over, enticed my curiosity, investigation, and finally nonlethal contact. Read More…

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Boy Scouts Earn Merit Badge at OCWD

Forty-five Boy Scouts of America fulfilled requirements to earn their Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge after participating in a merit badge clinic hosted by the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) on Feb. 22.

OCWD Chief Hydrogeologist Roy Herndon provided a hands-on presentation, which taught how soil is formed, what is a watershed, and why aquifers are important to communities, among other related subjects. The scouts then embarked on a tour of the Groundwater Replenishment System and wrote an essay highlighting what they learned. The day culminated when each scout met with a merit badge counselor to showcase their newfound knowledge and skills.

Water education is a key tenet of the District. OCWD’s Children’s Water Education Festival teaches environmental principles to third, fourth and fifth grade students in Orange County; its Next Generation Water Leaders program inspires 6-12 grade students to become the next generation of water scientists, engineers and innovators; its speakers bureau program brings experts into the community to talk about a variety of topics; and its tour program welcomes more than 5,000 guests annually. Learn more about OCWD’s community engagement.

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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 Manager Mike Markus participated on a water panel titled “Managing Climate Adaptation & Enterprise Risk” at the VerdeXchange Conference.

  • •  Executive Director of Engineering & Water Resources John Kennedy participated in a city of Santa Ana citizen water rate workshop on January 8. The purpose of the workshop was for Santa Ana staff to explain city water bills and a recent increase. OCWD was invited to explain the groundwater portion of the city’s water supply.

  • •  Executive Director of Water Quality & Technical Resources Jason Dadakis presented on PFAS at the South Coast Geological Society and Groundwater Resources Association Joint Meeting that was hosted at OCWD.

  • • The District co-hosted a workshop with CDM Smith titled “Breaking Down PFAS.” The event was attended by approximately 90 water supply and water quality professionals. Mike Markus, Jason Dadakis, Research Director Megan Plumlee, and Director of Engineering Chris Olsen spoke at the event. Presentations given during the workshop can be found at the following link: https://www.ocwd.com/media/8469/ocwd-pfas-workshop_jan-22-2020.pdf

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.

2019 Employee of the Year — Natasha Issak, Human Resources Assistant

Natasha Issak goes above and beyond, not only for her Human Resources group but anyone around her. Natasha is always willing to lend a hand no matter what and will do it with a smile. There have been many instances in which Natasha saw a pile of paperwork and she proceeded to volunteer to file all of it. She helps create a very positive environment here at the District daily.

Natasha has learned many job tasks very quickly. She has taken on tasks with very little direction and has exceeded the expectations of the job in a very small amount of time. Natasha has taken on more technical work without having to be asked and always does so with a positive attitude. She has learned the payroll/HR system with very little direction. She has tremendous initiative and she is always asking to assist others. Natasha is an asset to the Human Resources Department and the District. Congratulations Natasha!

New Hires


Congratulations to our two retirees who, collectively, provided more than 30 years of service. We bid you a fond farewell and happiness on your next journey in life!






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Upcoming Events

March 4 : 5:30 p.m. Board of Directors Meeting (Boardroom)

March 5 : 8:00 a.m. Communications and Legislative Liaison Committee Meeting (C-2)

March 6 : noon  Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO) Meeting (Boardroom)

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

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

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

March 27 : 12:00 p.m. Property Management Committee (C-2)

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January Tours 

Thank you to the more than 550 guests who toured OCWD’s facilities during January.

Tours were provided to a member of the new Bolivian presidential cabinet, staff from Safran Passenger Engineers, and students from Dana Hills High School, Goals Academy, Santa Ana Valley High School, the ERDT Chinese exchange program, and Estancia and Rancho Los Alamitos high schools through the OC CoastKeepers program.

Students from Buena Park Intermediate and DeMille Intermediate participated in OCWD’s Next Generation Water Leaders program, a two-hour program that entails a hands-on water testing activity, a presentation, a GWRS tour, and a scavenger hunt for water facts through OCWD's H20 Learning Center exhibit.

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 http://www.ocwd.com/contact-us/

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