July 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 — Virtually Stronger!

•   House Passes Moving Forward Act with Water Quality Amendment

•   Wild Secrets — A Fisherman's Tale

•   Register Early for WateReuse Virtual Symposium

•   OCWD Webinar Series

•   Producers' Corner

•   North & South Basin Quarterly Update

•   PFAS Monthly Update

•   Nuts & Bolts

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   Research & Development Proposal

•   OCWD Employees — Employee of 2nd Quarter

•   Upcoming Events

•   Tours


President’s Message — Virtually Stronger!

Whoever thought the COVID-19 pandemic would bring our country to a standstill didn’t count on the resourcefulness of American businesses and agencies like the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District). District employees, and many more like us, have figured it out and have learned to enhance our duties and connection with our communities.

Each year pre-pandemic, OCWD would host about 4,000 visitors onsite and make about 60 presentations in the community and at industry-related events. We haven’t slowed down. To connect with the community during these unprecedented times, we created virtual learning opportunities such as a video tour of the Groundwater Replenishment System led by General Manager Mike Markus. In the short period of two months, it has been viewed more than 1,200 times. The video is also shown during new monthly virtual tour webinars and features a live Q&A. Attendees from our nation and across the globe have joined the tours, which began in June.

Board members and staff remain sought after as speakers at events such as the WateReuse California Virtual Conference. And, OCWD launched a monthly Water Webinar series on a number of industry-related topics. Moving forward, we will continue this outreach and implement even more virtual tours and educational offerings.

District programs and projects continue at a robust pace. Read More…

Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.



Back to Top


House Passes Moving Forward Act with Water Quality Amendment

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, which is designed to transform America’s infrastructure while creating millions of good-paying jobs, combatting the climate crisis, and addressing disparities throughout America. The Moving Forward Act, also known as the Invest in America Act, included Congressman Harley Rouda’s (CA-48) amendment to create a grant program to modernize the nation's water quality infrastructure.

"With a historic number of Americans unemployed, the Moving Forward Act is more than a plan to fix American bridges, roads, and schools," said Rouda. "This bill is an opportunity to empower businesses and create jobs for working families — all while addressing the climate crisis. The Moving Forward Act, with the help of my amendments, will deliver common-sense solutions that invest in our local communities, reduce airplane emissions and noise, and update our water quality infrastructure while saving taxpayer dollars.”  

“This amendment will help agencies like the Orange County Water District improve our ability to purify wastewater to meet drinking water standards through our Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS). This action, which supports smart technologies, will enhance California’s development of innovative water supply projects, and OCWD looks forward to working with Representative Rouda to guarantee that funding for infrastructure meets the needs of all our communities today and into the future,” said Vicente Sarmiento, board president of the Orange County Water District. Read More…

Back to Top


Wild Secrets – A Fisherman’s Tale

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

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) is in the native fish business, because water management puts us in their river habitat almost daily. But, this article is personal for me so I open with mention of early outdoor experiences that led me to a future in resource management with the District. I share these notes in the hope that some of you may be in a position to influence another similarly. Most hunters become connected to the natural world that nurtures their quarry as did I. Enjoy my story.

My Dad was a navigator in a B-29, shot down over enemy territory, and had to “camp” and trek for days, with remaining crew, to safety thanks only to sympathetic locals. Following that nightmare, he had absolutely no interest in camping or anything remotely related, so my outdoor life began late, in high school.

I was lucky enough to get a crash course from my older sister’s boyfriend. Thirty-six weekends in a row, we hunted, fished, panned for gold, climbed peaks, and lived partly off-the-land on extended trips into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I wish such epic adventures on every young person alive today but, sadly, few get anything close and many grow up disassociated from such things. Read More…

Back to Top


Register Early for WateReuse Virtual Symposium

The 2020 WateReuse Symposium will launch online Sept. 14-16 using virtual event software to offer attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and presenters an experience very close to the experience of a live event. On demand will be available Sept. 14 – Oct. 23, 2020.

Participate in the Symposium from any location and at your convenience—view presentations and chat with co-attendees, including sponsors and exhibitors. Fulfill professional development requirements and introduce new staff to the education and networking available at the WateReuse Symposium with no travel required.

Program highlights include:

  • •   A keynote from Peter Kageyama whose book, For the Love of Cities, addresses the importance of community infrastructure to help us develop deeper connection to our cities, towns, villages, schools and neighborhoods
  • •   Plenary discussions on timely technical and management topics that water recycling managers face daily
  • •   100 technical sessions featuring treatment technologies, science, best practices and policy trends shaping water reuse
  • •   Opportunities to view the latest technologies and chat with experts about how your community or business can incorporate them to more efficiently manage your recycled water resources.

The Annual WateReuse Symposium is the premier conference on water recycling—attracting water professional from around the world for education, networking and professional development. The 2020 Symposium is presented in collaboration with The Water Research Foundation.

Back to Top


OCWD Webinar Series

OCWD's water webinar series continues to make a splash, most recently on July 21 with "The Wild Side of the Santa Ana River." The webinar featured staff from OCWD's natural resources department: Natural Resources Director Richard Zembal and Environmental Specialist Natalia Doshi, as well as Melody Aimar, biological programs manager for the Santa Ana Watershed Association (SAWA). 

Attendees learned how OCWD's environmental programs benefit both nature and water supplies, and how the District works collaboratively with SAWA. Those who missed the webinar are invited to watch a recording.

OCWD's next water webinar takes an in-depth look at the Groundwater Replenishment System Final Expansion Project. Set for Aug. 26, it will feature GWRS Program Manager Sandy Scott-Roberts as speaker. To sign up for this webinar, or to view past webinars, visit the District’s Water Webinars online site.   

Back to Top


Producers’ Corner

Yorba Linda Water District’s Brett R. Barbre Tapped as New General Manager

The Yorba Linda Water District (YLWD) Board of Directors has named Assistant General Manager Brett R. Barbre to the position of general manager following the retirement of Marc Marcantonio in May.

“With the promotion of Brett to General Manager, we look to his years of leadership in the water community and his commitment to serving the District. Brett’s work as assistant general manager at YLWD, as well as serving as a director of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board and as a director on the Municipal Water District of Orange County Board, brings a wealth of experience to lead our District for years to come.” (Read full press release.)

Read More Producer Articles…

Back to Top


North & South Basin Quarterly Update

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 up to 77% of 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…

Back to Top


PFAS Monthly 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. 

OCWD and local water retailers are actively engaged with federal and state regulators and elected and appointed officials on this issue.

For more background information and the newest monthly update visit June Update.

As part of its commitment to transparency, the District provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders. For additional information, please visit OCWD’s PFOS/PFOA Resources page. 

Back to Top


Nuts & Bolts ­­

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

The Groundwater Replenishment System final expansion (GWRSFE) newest improvements follow:

Construction projects coming down the pipeline:

  • •   As part of the GWRSFE project, OCWD is gearing up for construction of the pipeline that will carry secondary effluent from OCSD’s Plant No. 2 in Huntington Beach to the expanded GWRS facility in Fountain Valley.  Construction will involve slip lining an existing pipeline that runs along the Santa Ana River between the two facilities and is expected to start in late summer.

  • •   As part of OCWD’s proactive efforts to combat seawater intrusion into the Orange County Groundwater Basin, the District is preparing to construct 11 new monitoring wells in Huntington Beach and Seal Beach as part of its Sunset Gap Seawater Intrusion Project.  Monitoring wells allow OCWD to evaluate sources and locations of intrusion in order to develop appropriate injection and/or extraction containment remedies.  Construction is slated to start at the end of the year.  

    Back to Top

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: 

  • •   Directors Vicente Sarmiento, Cathy Green, Tri Ta, Kelly E. Rowe, and Stephen Sheldon, along with General Manager Mike Markus and Exec. Dir. of Water Quality & Technical Resources Jason Dadakis attended a cvirtual meeting with Congressman Harley Rouda. 

  • •   President Sarmiento, Mike Markus and Senior Engineer Lo Tan participated in the city of Santa Ana's Community Linkage Forum and provided attendees with information on the District and Santa Ana's water supply.

  • •   President Sarmiento spoke to students at Magnolia Science Academy and congratulated them on winning their school's Water Awareness Art Contest. The winning students also received certificates from OCWD and a bag filled with OCWD promotional items.

  • •   President Sarmiento and Exec. Dir. Of Engineering John Kennedy spoke via Zoom to Santa Ana Rotary Club members about their local water supply.


Back to Top 


­­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:

Back to Top


Research & Development Proposal

R&D’s pre-proposal titled “Application of Novel Method to Estimate Total PFAS Content in Water” was selected by Water Research Foundation (WRF) as one of the top 10% out of 138 pre-proposals and was invited to submit a full proposal for further consideration for funding under WRF’s 2020 Unsolicited Research Program. Research Director Megan Plumlee, P.E., Ph.D; Senior Scientist Meeta Pannu, Ph.D; and Postdoctorial Research Associate Ricardo Medina,Ph.D, submitted the pre-proposal in collaboration with Dr. Graham Peaslee at the University of Notre Dame. OCWD plans to submit a full proposal by July 30, 2020.

Back to Top


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. This month, we celebrate three staff members who have made outstanding contributions to OCWD. We wish all three a hearty congratulations for their endeavors and accomplishments.

2020 Employee of the 2nd Quarter—Brendan Neel, Hydrogeologist

During the past quarter, in addition to exceling in his field work duties, Hydrogeologist Brendan Neel made the time to work on office projects such as geologic cross-sections for a coastal per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) investigation as well as having a first-time significant role in preparation of the Groundwater Replenishment System Annual Report. Brendan worked overtime whenever necessary, including his Fridays off and occasional weekend hours, in order to complete all these projects on schedule.

This, in addition to Brendan's positive attitude and willingness to learn and take on new job duties, make him an invaluable asset to the District and the reason why he has received the honor as 2020 Employee of the 2nd Quarter.


Supervising Chemist Prem Parmar has been selected to succeed Lee Yoo as Director of the Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory. Prem recently served as a supervising chemist in the lab and began his career at OCWD as a lab intern many years ago. He possesses the necessary leadership and technical skills to be successful in this role and carry on the tradition of excellence established by Lee and his predecessors.


Lee Yoo has retired from his position as the Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory Director after 30+ years of distinguished service. The District family thanks him for his dedication and wishes Lee the best of luck in all his future endeavors.






Back to Top



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.

Back to Top



Open computer showing tour

In an effort to safeguard the health and safety of its employees and the community and continue its popular tour program during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Orange County Water District is offering virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System.

The virtual tours are offered as webinars through Zoom and include a guided video walking tour with General Manager Mike Markus followed by a live question and answer session with Mike. 

The webinar virtual tours are held the first Friday of every month at the time and date that follows:

  • •   Aug. 7 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • •   Sept. 11 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • •   Oct. 2 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • •   Nov. 6 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • •   Dec. 4 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Please make your reservation through the OCWD book a tour web page.

Back to Top


                                                                              CONTACT US

                                                                           18700 Ward Street
                                                                      Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Back to Top