May 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's Mission Remains Constant

•   OCWD Offers Virtual Tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System

•   District Launches Water Webinar Series

•   SAR Watermaster 2018-19 Annual Report is Available

•   PFAS Monthly Update

•   OCWD Donates Festival T-Shirts

•   North and South Basin Remediation Update

•   2018-19 Engineer's Report is Now Online

•   Cleaning Recharge Basins and River Maximizes Precolation

•   OCWD Recognized for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 12th Straight Year

•  Wild Secrets — Coastal Adventure After April Rains

•  Producer's Corner — Mesa Water District Receives Award for Outstanding Financial Performance

•   Nuts & Bolts

•   Out in the Community

•   Upcoming Events


President’s Message — OCWD’s Mission Remains Constant

The heart of the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) 87-year mission is to provide cities and other member agency water managers with reliable, high-quality water supplies for the 2.5 million people they serve.

We do this by continuing to protect groundwater supplies and increase reliability, despite the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the north and south basin areas of the Orange County Groundwater Basin, we are dealing with groundwater contamination and remediation from industrial dumping in the 1950s and 1960s. OCWD is proactively seeking ways to clean up the pollution in a united effort with local and national regulatory agencies. The initial cleanup efforts are focused on cutting off and preventing the spread of contamination before it travels further into the main aquifer. Read More…

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Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.





OCWD Offers Virtual Tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) is committed to public education. 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, it is offering virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System.

The virtual tours will be 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 OCWD staff. 

The webinar virtual tours are open to the public and will be held twice a month between June and August on Fridays and Wednesdays at the times and dates that follow: Read More…

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District Launches Water Webinar Series

Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) has created a monthly webinar series on emerging and newsworthy topics. During each webinar, attendees will hear from an OCWD expert and District partner as they discuss important OCWD programs and projects that impact the local water supply. Whether an elected official, water industry professional, researcher, consultant, student or community member, there is something for everyone. Webinars last approximately one hour and are free to attend. Space is limited to 500 people per webinar. 

The District's first webinar, titled "What’s in A Drop of Water: Debunking the Myths Surrounding Tap & Bottled Water," was held Thursday, May 28.  Attendees learned about the regulations and requirements surrounding tap and bottled water and the differences between them. OCWD Director of Water Quality Pat Versluis was joined by Division of Drinking Water District Engineer Oliver Pacifico and Rick Zimmer, senior account manager of Eurofins Eaton Analytical testing laboratories, as they discussed this often-misunderstood topic.

For additional information on OCWD's webinar series, visit Webinar recordings will be posted on this page as soon as they are available.

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SAR Watermaster 2018-19 Annual Report is Available

Santa Ana River Watermaster report annually compiles the basic hydrologic and water quality data that include records of stream discharge (flow) and quality for the Santa Ana River (River) at Prado Dam and at Riverside Narrows. It also informs about discharges for key tributaries and upstream wastewater treatment plants, flow-weighted total dissolved solids concentrations of the River flows, rainfall records in the Santa Ana River Watershed, and other data that may be used to support the determinations of the Watermaster. 

Additionally, the Watermaster exercises surveillance over the many active and proposed projects within the watershed for their potential effect on base flow.

The formation of the Watermaster was a component of a court-approved settlement of two major lawsuits that were filed in 1963 regarding surface water and groundwater pumping rights across the Santa Ana River Watershed that included more than 4,000 litigants. The settlement is known as the 1969 Judgment or Orange County Judgment, the provisions of which are still in place today.

The Orange County Judgment provides downstream water users to receive minimum base flows in the River, measured at Prado Dam and Riverside Narrows. San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, Western Municipal Water District, and Inland Empire Utilities Agency are required to maintain minimum base flow requirements.

The Watermaster annual report is available to be viewed/downloaded from OCWD's website.

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PFAS Monthly Update

The most recent Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) PFAS Update was issued on April 27, 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 Donates Festival T-Shirts

When the Children’s Water Education Festival was canceled in the latter part of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orange County Water District  found itself with 8,500 unused Festival t-shirts.

Those shirts would normally be given to attending students and volunteers. Instead, this year, the District worked with the Power of One Foundation (POOF) to donate all of the t-shirts to a worthy cause.

Poof has been distributing the t-shirts to Orange County families and individuals in need. The organization provides community food assistance, homeless support, international aid and a yearly Christmas toy drive. Read More...

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North and South Basin Remediation Update

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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2018-19 Engineer’s Report is Now Online

The 2018-19 Engineer’s Report on the groundwater conditions, water supply and basin utilization in the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) is now online on the Orange County Water District website.

Highlights include precipitation for the water year July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 within the District’s boundaries, which averaged 21.46 inches. This was 160% of the long-term average rainfall. The average discharge of Santa Ana River flow past Prado Dam for the water year was measured to 247,177 acre-feet, which represented 180% of the 30-year average flow.

Total water demands within the District for the 2018-2019 water year were 393,222 acre-feet (excluding water used for groundwater replenishment and barrier maintenance).

The report also includes annual and accumulated overdraft, recommended basin production percentage, water production costs, and much more.

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­­Cleaning Recharge Basins and River Maximizes Percolation

Scrapers, motor graders and bulldozers will be part of the landscape in Anaheim and Orange for the next few months as the heavy grading equipment removes the thin clogging layer of silt at the bottom of each of the region’s more than two dozen recharge basins, owned, operated and managed by the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District). Recharge basin maintenance is one of the most important factors in percolating water into the Orange County Groundwater Basin from which north and central Orange County pump 77% of their drinking water.

Recharge basins, in all, cover more than 1,000 acres and look like small lakes when filled. They allow surface water diverted from the Santa Ana River and piped advanced purified water from the Groundwater Replenishment System to be stored and infiltrated through the ground. This process provides a natural filtering of the surface water before it reaches the aquifer. Read More...

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OCWD Recognized for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 12th Straight Year

Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) awarded a Certificate of Achievement in Excellence in Financial Reporting to the Orange County Water District (OCWD; District) for the 12th year in a row. The certificate was awarded for the District’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019 and is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting.

“This award represents a significant accomplishment by the District and its staff,” stated OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “Winning this award for the past 12 years demonstrates OCWD’s commitment to exceptional financial management and reporting practices. The finance and accounting department staff deserve special recognition. Without their efforts and diligence this achievement would not be possible.” Read More…

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Wild Secrets – Coastal Adventure After April Rains

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

Practicing field biology means time in the field. What one gets by reading, conversing, and study is important but it is only a small piece of the practice. It has always been a struggle, balancing the field and the office, but an understandable dilemma. Specialized trades must be practiced to develop and maintain one’s working knowledge but one must also author, review, sign, meet, collaborate, etc.

An outing is planned with purpose, accompanied by anticipation, expectation, and sleep-interrupting anxiety; it is executed adaptively with observation, interpretation, and documentation. The findings add to a growing database, prove or dispel theories, and lead to theory modification, additional scrutiny, and sometimes a new paradigm.

In the struggle to maintain or expand expertise, I spent a recent day off in a coastal wetland in San Diego, assisting with surveys of the wetland birds. The expertise developed during such exercises is "practice" for what we do with those same wetland birds as field biologists at the Orange County Water District.  Read More…

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Producer’s Corner – Mesa Water District Receives Award for Outstanding Financial Performance

OCWD is proud to announce that its member agency, Mesa Water District (Mesa Water), renewed its AAA credit rating -- the highest achievable by an organization -- from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch rating agencies. The coveted rating is based on Mesa Water’s operational effectiveness and efficiencies, including excellent financial management practices, as evidenced by the use of long-term financial and capital planning, an economical water rates structure, and the implementation of a strong financial policy framework. AAA ratings are the platinum standard in finance and allow Mesa Water to save ratepayer money by borrowing funds at the lowest possible interest rate for infrastructure improvements.

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Nuts & Bolts ­­

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

Monitoring Well M57. Construction of new monitoring well M57 on Galbar Circle in Huntington Beach has been completed. Monitoring wells measure groundwater levels and allow for the collection of water samples, which provide valuable data used to maintain a high-quality water supply for the 2.5 million people served. OCWD has more than 400 monitoring wells throughout its service area in north and central Orange County. Shown here is the drill rig used to bore the hole for the new monitoring well.

Thank you to all the nearby neighbors who were patient during the construction that took place in March and April. 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 a presentation about OCWD to the Fountain Valley Kiwanis Club via Zoom. She also provided an Association of California Water Agencies report during the May 1 WACO meeting about COVID-19 impacts to water agencies.

  • • Dr. Megan Plumlee, OCWD research director, 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.

  • • Supervising Environmental Specialist Ben Lockhart gave an online presentation for students at the University of California, Irvine, for the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Program to discuss Environmental Careers.                                                                                        

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Upcoming Events 

Out of an abundance of precaution, OCWD has canceled all onsite meetings to the public until further notice. Please visit the OCWD Meeting Agenda site to learn about updates and virtual meetings.

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