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.
Newest contamination threats, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have been found in air, earth, food and water across the nation and locally. They were once commonly used in many consumer products to repel water, grease and oil and are part of a larger group referred to as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). OCWD is at the forefront of this issue that includes testing, monitoring and discovering the most viable ways to deal with it locally.
OCWD’s Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory was the first public agency laboratory in California to achieve state certification to analyze for PFAS in drinking water. The District also recently launched the nation’s largest pilot program to test treatment techniques to remove PFAS in groundwater. A planning study will help water agencies determine how new treatment facilities could be rapidly implemented.
OCWD and local water retailers are actively engaged with federal and state regulators and elected and appointed officials on this emerging situation. As part of its commitment to transparency, the District has a dedicated PFAS website and provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders.
These contaminations encumber the groundwater basin and threaten the amount our member water agencies may be able to pump. In addition to finding their resolutions, the District is readying to augment its water supply portfolio.
We have started the final expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System that will bring an additional 30 MGD of drinking water for a total of 130 MGD—enough to meet the water needs of 1 million people—by 2023.
The system takes highly treated wastewater that would have previously been discharged into the Pacific Ocean and purifies it using a three-step advanced treatment process consisting of microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide.
The project not only produces high-quality water to replenish the groundwater basin, it protects Orange County’s groundwater basin from seawater intrusion, serves as a blueprint for water agencies throughout the world to help solve their local water supply issues, and protects the environment by reusing a precious resource.
As OCWD and infrastructure construction are essential, construction of the final expansion has continued and remains on track to be complete in 2023.
Thanks to the District’s successful groundwater management and commitment to fulfilling our mission, we have been able to sustain the basin and more than triple its yield. All of these new efforts are and continue to yield a bright water future for north and central Orange County homes and businesses.
Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.