June 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 — A Nation Healing

•   OCWD Receives $3.6 Million for GWRS Final Expansion

•   Wild Secrets — Least Bell's Vireo Success Story

•   Producers' Corner

•   PFAS Monthly Update

•   OCWD Webinar Series

•   Nuts & Bolts

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   Upcoming Events

•   Tours


President’s Message — A Nation Healing

On behalf of the District, I would like to acknowledge the tragedy, and subsequent activity in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and offer our sincere condolences. We are all saddened and deeply affected by what is going on throughout our country. This is a transformational time for the nation, and the sense of hopelessness and grieving throughout our communities illustrates the need to re-evaluate conditions for many people of color in America, and work toward a more just society.

Today, I would like to reaffirm OCWD’s commitment to actively promote the principles of equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination. Our employees are the heart and soul of this organization and I’m proud of the District’s policies that promote an inclusive workplace. Each of our employees is valued and embraced. OCWD strives to do better in every arena and we will re-examine our policies and practices to assess how we can continue to improve. We have recently asked our employees to please let us know if there is anything that we can do to support them during this time.

I’m extremely proud to be a part of the OCWD family, which comprises a diverse and talented workforce that upholds the District’s mission, and I thank the members of that family for all their contributions. They are recognized and appreciated.

I am confident that this moment will help us reflect as a nation, and we will come out stronger and more unified as result.

Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.



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OCWD Receives $3.6 Million for GWRS Final Expansion

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) was awarded a $3.6 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) grant program for use toward the construction of its Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) Final Expansion project.

Operational since 2008, the GWRS is undergoing its second and final expansion. This expansion will increase treatment capacity from 100 million gallons per day (MGD) to 130 MGD; enough water to meet the daily needs of 1 million people. Construction began in 2019 and will be complete in 2023.

“In addition to being a highly-reliable source of clean water, the GWRS produces some of the lowest cost water in the region,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “The receipt of these grant funds further lowers the cost of producing GWRS water, a savings ultimately passed on to consumers.” Read More…

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Wild Secrets – Least Bell's Vireo Success Story

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

The least Bell’s vireo (vireo; LBV) was presumed to be gone from the Santa Ana Watershed, until I found a small breeding cluster of 12 territories on Temescal Creek circa 1983. At the time, I was working with the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District), documenting environmental baseline conditions for the Santa Ana River Mainstem Flood Control Project on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This remnant endangered population was inside the Prado Basin, near Corona Airport where water flowed in Temescal Creek during many months of the year. Treatment ponds were still active then, helping to keep the creek alive and the vireo nests I found that year were, in fact, associated closely with a flowing braid of the creek.

Finding these little riparian dwellers was easier than becoming a vireo biologist. Read More…

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Producers' Corner

Mesa Water District Director Jim Fisler Re-Appointed to OC LAFCO

Mesa Water District Director James R. (Jim) Fisler was re-appointed to the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission (OC LAFCO) as a Special District regular member. In this vital role, he will continue to represent the mutual interests of Orange County’s special districts that provide water, wastewater, sanitary, cemetery, library, vector control, recreation and parks, and other services to their communities. Director Fisler was the only candidate nominated for the voting seat, making an election unnecessary. As such, he will serve another four-year term from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2024.

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PFAS Monthly Update

The most recent Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) PFAS Update was issued on May 29, 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. 

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

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OCWD Webinar Series

In December 2019, the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) began the nation’s largest pilot program to test various treatment options to remove PFAS from groundwater. On June 23, OCWD Director of Research Megan Plumlee, Ph.D., P.E., and Jacobs Global Technology Leader Scott Grieco, Ph.D., P.E., shared preliminary test results and next steps in the program's process during a webinar titled "PFAS: Encouraging Results from OCWD Treatment Study."

Nearly 230 people attended this webinar, the second in a series of monthly OCWD-hosted webinars focusing on emerging and newsworthy water topics. Each webinar lasts one hour and features an OCWD expert and District partner as they discuss important programs and projects that impact water supplies. To view past webinars or to sign up to attend a future webinar, visit www.ocwd.com/news-events/events/water-webinars.

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Nuts & Bolts

The Nuts & Bolts column will feature OCWD construction updates each month.

Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) Final Expansion. The GWRS, the world’s largest potable water purification system—a joint project of the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) and the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD)—has started its final expansion (GWRSFE). The expansion project will increase treatment capacity from 100 to 130 million gallons per day; enough water for 1 million people! Construction began in January and is expected to be complete in early 2023.

At OCWD in Fountain Valley, construction crews continue making progress on the micro-filtration (MF) facility. With so much of the facility being located approximately 30-feet below ground, the work involves extensive excavation and shoring. Shown here is a drill rig being lowered into the excavated pit. Once complete the new MF building will have 12 new concrete cells holding 684 filtration membranes. 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 Cathy Green provided an Association of California Water Agencies report during the May 1 Water Advisory Committee of Orange County virtual meeting.

  • • Research Director Megan Plumlee, Ph.D, P.E., gave a presentation on the District’s PFAS pilot treatment efforts as part of the Groundwater Resource Association’s California-Focus PFAS Week Virtual Conference.

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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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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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Open computer showing tourIn 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 walking tour with General Manager Mike Markus followed by a live question and answer session with Mike. 

The webinar virtual tours are open to the public and will be held at the times and dates that follow:

  • Wednesday, July 8 – 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Friday, July 10 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 7 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

You may register for the morning and evening tours by clicking the links below:

Morning Virtual Tours

Evening Virtual Tours

Should you have any questions or wish to obtain more information, please contact Kira Erquiaga at kerquiaga@ocwd.com

Reservations for live tours of all of our facilities after August 31, 2020 is currently available through the OCWD book-a-tour website. This date is tentative and may change based on new COVID-19 information and guidance.  

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                                                                           18700 Ward Street
                                                                      Fountain Valley, CA 92708
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