March 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 — OCWD Responds to COVID-19

•   OCWD Co-Sponsors AB 2560

•   Blue Talk Live Webinar About Water Reuse Features GWRS

•   OCWD Commends Collaboration of EPA's National Water Reuse Action Plan

•   Santa Ana Wins Award for High-Quality Tap Water

•   Board Director Kelly E. Rowe Appointed SAWPA Commissioner

•   Director of Research Megan Plumlee Spotlighted by Frontiers of Engineering

•   Wild Secrets — Cherish the Life Around You; Get Back to Nature

•   Out in the Community

•   OCWD in the News

•   OCWD Employees 

•   Upcoming Events

•   February Tours


President’s Message — OCWD Responds to COVID-19

I want to address a concern we are learning more about hourly—the fast-moving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

First and foremost, be assured that COVID-19 does not impact the quality or supply of your drinking water. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies and OCWD does not expect this health outbreak to disrupt service to local water providers. As always, you can trust and enjoy what comes out of your tap.

Second, in an abundance of caution and to safeguard the health and safety of its employees and the community, OCWD is responding to COVID-19 by implementing measures to reduce the risk of workplace transmission. OCWD’s response plan will remain in effect through April 30, 2020, and will be re-evaluated at that time. However, the plan is subject to change based on new information and guidance. I invite you to visit OCWD’s COVID-19 webpage for additional information.

This is a challenging time for us all and we thank you for the opportunity to serve you and continue our long-standing operations to provide some of the cleanest drinking water in the world.  

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





OCWD Co-Sponsors AB 2560

Last month, Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) President Vicente Sarmiento and General Manager Mike Markus met with California State Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D- Hayward), Chair, Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, to discuss his authoring a bill, which OCWD is co-sponsoring with the California Municipal Utilities Association relating to water quality Notification Levels (NLs) and Response Levels (RLs).

This bill, which has since been authored by Assemblymember Quirk, AB 2560, will provide greater transparency to and clarification of the NL and RL process. The goal is to provide both water agencies and the general public clear and consistent information as these drinking water advisory levels are developed. Read More…

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Blue Talk Live Webinar About Water Reuse Features GWRS

The Orange County Water District and DuPont Water Solutions are offering a live webinar: A Revolutionary Way of Thinking About Water on April 2 at 10 a.m. PDT / 1 p.m. EDT.

Join us in this inaugural Blue Talk LIVE WEBINAR that will highlight the success of the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) Groundwater Replenishment System in bringing safe drinking water to local residents. Hear from OCWD Executive Director of Operations Mehul Patel about how DuPont Water and the District partnered to reduce energy consumption while increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

The webinar will cover:

  • The importance of disruption and innovation in building a more sustainable planet
  • The urgency needed in addressing water reuse
  • How OCWD relieved local water stress by reclaiming municipal wastewater as a safe, reliable water source
  • What’s next for the Groundwater Replenishment System

If your travel is cancelled and you have the opportunity to sharpen your skills, here's a great way to do it. Register today!

The series of Blue Talk webinars is hosted by DuPont Water Solutions leadership and their guests from the water industry. This platform offers a live and engaging environment crafted to share knowledge, trends and innovation.

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OCWD Commends Collaboration of EPA's National Water Reuse Action Plan

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) applauds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for releasing the National Water Reuse Action Plan (WRAP) which was developed in collaboration with water sector organizations to accelerate adoption of water reuse.

The plan identifies priority actions and the leadership and collaboration that is needed between governmental and nongovernmental organizations to implement these actions. This is a significant step forward to diversify water portfolios and increase the supply of safe and reliable water.

“We commend EPA for making reuse a national priority,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “There’s tremendous potential to expand these types of projects. In Southern California alone, there are 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater discharged to the ocean every day. Here in Orange County, we see wastewater as a resource and I am proud to say that we are tapping into that resource as we expand what is already known as the world’s largest water reuse project of its kind, the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS). In 2023, the GWRS will produce 130 million gallons a day of water, which is enough for 1 million people.” Read More…

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Santa Ana Wins Award for High-Quality Tap Water

Santa Ana’s Water Resources Division recently won the coveted honor of producing among the world’s best-tasting and highest-quality tap water. Santa Ana placed 4th in the “Best Municipal Water” category at the 30th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the largest and longest-running competition dedicated to preserving and protecting drinking water.

Touted as the “Academy Awards of Water,” water officials and aficionados from the United States and abroad attended the water tasting festival last month where 12 judges spent hours tasting water from more than 118 different sources in 19 states, five Canadian provinces and 16 foreign countries.  Read More…

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Board Director Kelly E. Rowe Appointed SAWPA Commissioner

Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Director Kelly E. Rowe was appointed by the OCWD Board as a Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) commissioner. He joins four other commissioners and five alternate commissioners, including fellow OCWD Board Member Dina L. Nguyen.

His duties include being secretary-treasurer, and steering committee member for the One Water One Watershed program, which is facilitated by SAWPA and brings together watershed community and agency members to plan for and implement projects towards a more sustainable future. It promotes collaboration across political and agency boundaries and integrates efforts that benefit the entire watershed. Read More…

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Director of Research Megan Plumlee Spotlighted by Frontiers of Engineering

Orange County Water District Director of Research Megan Plumlee is a Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) Alumni Spotlight member and is currently featured on its website.

“I have found FOE to be an incredible way to learn about the enormous reach of engineering and to see a greater context for how my work in water fits into the world. FOE participation helps engineers to leverage ideas from other very different engineering fields,” says Dr. Plumlee.

The Frontiers of Engineering program brings together, through 2.5 day meetings, a select group of emerging engineering leaders from industry, academe, and government labs to discuss pioneering technical work and leading edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal of the meetings is to introduce these outstanding early career engineers to each other, and through this interaction facilitate collaboration in engineering, the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields, and establishment of contacts among the next generation of engineering leaders.

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Wild Secrets — Cherish the Life Around You; Get Back to Nature

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

“Spring has Sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the Flowers is? The bird is on the wing, now ain’t that absurd, I thought the wing was on the bird?” This anonymous Ode to Spring, comes to mind from childhood when the winter finally warms. Another that comes to mind is, “I hold my heart when the geese are flying, a wavering wedge on the high, bright blue; I tighten my lips to keep from crying, beautiful birds, let me go with you!” There is a yearning brought on by seasonal change in those of us who relish time in the outdoors.

The hunker-down weather of winter with its cold, windy, grey dreariness can give way overnight to spring with an early warm spell in California and the rejuvenation is profound. Renewed growth and reproductive activities are quite synchronized and even the secretive endangered birds I’ve studied for decades sing their amorous intentions in unison, rendering them much easier to survey than in years when winter yields slowly.

The early nesters, the raptors and hummingbirds, typically start before winter really gives way. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks diving, cavorting with talons outstretched screaming overhead while a male Anna’s Hummingbird dives through a long arc, audibly popping wind through its tail feathers at the very bottom of the arc, just over the perched female’s head. All of this while the White-crowned Sparrows are still singing in the Orange County lowlands because the mountains where they will later breed have little food to yet offer. This little nature theater was the scene from my own backyard, yesterday. When was the last time a wild scene caught your attention? 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: 

  • •  President Vicente Sarmiento, General Manager Mike Markus and Legislative Affairs Liaison Alicia Dunkin met with Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris to discuss support for notification and response level legislation and funding for constituents of emerging concern and forecast informed reservoir operations.

  • •  President Sarmiento also participated in the Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL) tour of OCWD and the GWRS to welcome guests and engage in a Q&A discussion following the tour.

  • •  General Manager Mike Markus spoke about the Groundwater Replenishment System at the Urban Water Institute Conference in Palm Springs and was on a panel titled “Making the Impossible, Possible: Rethinking Institutional and Regulatory Challenges to Drive Success.”

  • • CFO/Treasurer Randy Fick participated on a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) panel titled “Let’s Save Money! How Utilities Use WIFIA to Fund Projects” at the Utility Management Conference in Anaheim.

  • •  Executive Director of Engineering & Water Resources John Kennedy provided a presentation to members of SMPS-OC on the state of California infrastructure. SMPS-OC is a group made up of Orange County marketing and business development professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction industries.

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.

New Hires







Congratulations to our retiree Dan Cohen who provided nearly 21  years of service. We bid you a fond farewell and happiness on your next journey in life!











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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, which is made available 72 hours prior to each meeting. For additional information, please visit the District's Responding to COVID-19 web page.

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February Tours 

Thank you to the more than 800 guests who toured OCWD's facilities during February.

Tours were provided to members of Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL); Ventura Water; OC Discussion Group; Korea Environment Corporation; Palm Beach, Florida Water Utilities Department; the AWWA/WEF Young Professionals Summit; the general public; and students from UC Irvine Continuing Education Exchange Program, Cal State Fullerton Nursing Program, Cal State Fullerton, XPrize Foundation, Educational Resource Development Trust high school exchange program, Huntington Beach High School, and Godinez and Santiago high schools through OC Coastkeeper. In addition, a tour of the Prado Wetlands was provided to La Verne Birding Group.

Students from Talbert Middle School, Community Roots Academy, and Vista Heritage Global Academy 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.

Please be advised that OCWD will not provide group tours of any of its facilities through May 31, 2020.

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, please visit

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