October 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 Supports AB2560

•  GWRS Loan Saves Ratepayers Nearly $42 Million

•  OCWD Receives Three Gold One Planet Awards

•  The District Serves as OC Vote Center Oct. 30-Nov. 3

•  Monitoring Waivers Save OCWD and Local Water Suppliers Money 

•  Wild Secrets – Skinny Bamboo Jungle

•  OCWD Water Webinar Series

•  Producers' Corner

•  PFAS Update

•  Nuts & Bolts

•  Out in the Community

•  OCWD in the News

•  Research & Development Grant

•  OCWD Employees — Employee of the 3rd Quarter

•  Upcoming Events

•  Tours


President’s Message — OCWD Supports AB 2560

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2560 into law, a bill that establishes a transparent process for setting health-based advisory levels for drinking water contaminants before enforceable standards are established. Authored by Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) was a bill co-sponsor.

The new law requires the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) to comply with specified public notice and comment procedures when establishing or revising notification levels and response levels, except when the Water Board finds the potential for imminent harm to public health and safety. Previously, there was no public process for setting these health-based advisory levels and the decisions were made without input from the Water Board. ​Read More…

Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.



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GWRS Loan Saves Ratepayers Nearly $42 Million 

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) received a low-interest loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund that will save ratepayers an estimated $1.4 million dollars annually over the life of the 30-year loan. The up to $181 million loan was granted for use toward financing the construction of the District’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) Final Expansion project. Ratepayers will realize a total savings of nearly $42 million over the life of the loan. 

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund program is a federal-state partnership that provides communities low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. Read More...

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OCWD Receives Three Gold One Planet Awards

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) has been named a gold winner in the prestigious One Planet® Awards competition in three categories that relate to COVID-19 information: Communication or PR Campaign, Heightening Awareness & Publicity Campaign, and Marketing Campaign of the Year for its submission “Affirms the Safety and Reliability of the Local Water Supply.” The coveted One Planet Awards is a premier program honoring best in business and professional excellence in every industry globally.

“It’s an honor to be recognized with these awards by our peers from around the world,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “We’re committed to ensuring the safety of our employees and the public, while also performing the essential service of providing a high-quality, reliable water supply to the 2.5 million people in our service area. Communicating to our stakeholders about the safety and reliability of the local water supply is a critical part of what we do, especially as we endure this pandemic,” he added. Read More…

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The District Serves as OC Vote Center Oct. 30-Nov. 3

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) will serve as a five-day Vote Center for the 2020 presidential election from Friday, Oct. 30 through Tuesday, Nov. 3. OCWD is one of approximately 170 Vote Centers throughout the county.

“The District is honored to be called upon to provide this essential service to the Orange County community,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “Every vote matters and we look forward to registered voters casting their ballots at this central location and hope it lends to support an increase in turnout during this important election.”

OCWD Vote Center hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. OCWD is located at 18700 Ward Street, Fountain Valley.  Read More…

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Monitoring Waivers Save OCWD and Local Water Suppliers Money

Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) water quality department received word that months of effort and dedication to working with California Division of Drinking Water staff have resulted in the monitoring waivers for five semi-volatile organic compounds approved by the California Division of Drinking Water District Engineer.

These five approvals will eliminate additional water quality monitoring and analysis workload for both the water quality department and the Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory.  The adjusted waivers will save approximately $200,000-$300,000 for OCWD and its member local water suppliers over the next three years of drinking water compliance.  

The effort required developing multiple water quality data packages and research into the environmental persistence and transport of the chemical in water, soil, and air for each of the five semi-volatile organic compounds. The extensive water quality data package, showing no detections of these compounds throughout the basin, and the comprehensive research performed by water quality staff provided sufficient evidence for DDW to adjust the requirement for monitoring of these semi-volatile organic compounds.

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Wild Secrets – Skinny Bamboo Jungle

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

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) is well known for world-class excellence in water management and innovation; less known are the District's pioneering efforts to rid the Santa Ana River of a water-guzzling scourge—a non-native, woody grass called Arundo donax, or giant reed.

While a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I teamed up with a state warden who staffed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s newish Streambed Alteration Agreement Program in the early 1980s. We worked dozens of permits together and zealously restored many acres of habitat for development projects along the Santa Ana River. Astoundingly, just a decade later, every acre of that new habitat was gone, choked with Arundo donax. We learned an expensive lesson: traditional mitigation wouldn’t work with this invasive grass that already covered half the river floodplain and was creeping into the rest.

Arundo donax resembles skinny bamboo. It became so prevalent, so quickly on the Santa Ana River that it angered people and roused some to action. Very unusual partnerships were made; there’s something for everyone to hate about Arundo donax. Read More…

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OCWD Water Webinar Series

Seawater Intrusion Barrier is Focus of Latest OCWD Webinar

Did you miss the Orange County Water District's (OCWD; the District) latest Water Webinar? "You Never See Our Best Work: OCWD's Seawater Intrusion Barrier" is now available on-demand. Hear from Director of Recharge and Wetland Operations John Bonsangue, Distribution and Injection Well Supervisor Justin McKeever, and City of Newport Beach Utilities Director Mark Vukojevic, as they discuss and showcase this valuable asset that has been protecting the Orange County Groundwater Basin for more than 50 years.

Upcoming Webinar Explores Careers in Water

And don't forget to register for OCWD's next Water Webinar "Exploring Careers in the Water and Wastewater Industry." It’s perfect for students and those entering the field. Attendees will hear from experts in the public and private sectors and have the opportunity for their career questions to be answered. The webinar takes place from 12 to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29.

OCWD's Water Webinars are a monthly series on emerging and newsworthy topics featuring OCWD experts and District partners who discuss important OCWD programs and projects that impact local water supplies. Webinars last approximately one hour and are free to attend. Visit the District's Water Webinar webpage for additional information and to view past webinars.

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Producers’ Corner

This column contains water-related news from local water suppliers served by the Orange County Water District who provide drinking water to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County, Calif.

City of Santa Ana Launches 6th Annual Youth Water Poster Contest

The city of Santa Ana launched its 6th Annual Youth Water Poster Contest where students residing in the city will compete for a chance to win prizes ranging from gift certificates to Nintendo Switch and iPads. One Grand Prize winner and two finalists will be selected in each age category: 9-12, 13-14 and 15-19.

This year’s contest theme — Trust the Tap! — is designed to raise student awareness about the safety of their drinking water through creative expression. It educates students on how Santa Ana’s tap water is protected from viruses, including the coronavirus, and is safeguarded by the city’s Water Resources Division during the pandemic. It also reinforces good hygiene habits, such as the importance of washing hands regularly with soap and water, as an effective way to prevent spread of COVID-19 through surfaces. Read More…

Mesa Water District Launches Video Contest

In celebration of its 60th Anniversary, Mesa Water District (Mesa Water®) is looking to promote water awareness and nurture creativity as it launches the 2020 Mesa Water Matters Video Contest for students who attend high schools and colleges in its service area. This year’s video contest theme is “Mesa Water Matters.” The contest is open through Oct. 31, 2020. Three winners will receive the following prizes: 1st place: $500, 2nd place: $300, and 3rd place: $200. Read More…

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PFAS 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. 

PFAS have been detected in the Orange County Groundwater Basin. OCWD provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders to inform them of the proactive measures that the District and retail water agencies are taking to address PFAS in the Basin. 

For more information and the news, view the October Update

For additional information, please visit OCWD’s PFOS/PFOA Resources page. 

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Nuts & Bolts ­­

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

Construction projects coming down the pipeline:

  • •   As part of the Groundwater Replenishment System Final Expansion, construction of the 3.5-mile pipeline that will bring treated wastewater from Huntington Beach to Fountain Valley began in October with excavation of pipeline installation pits. Construction will take place along the Santa Ana River trail and involves a process called slip-lining, which installs a new pipeline within an existing pipeline. This process has fewer construction impacts than constructing a new pipeline and allows for staying out of the public right of way.

  • •   Destruction of a nested monitoring well in Huntington Beach is scheduled to start in November. Construction will take place on the west sidewalk of Brookhurst Street approximately 300 feet south of the intersection of Yorktown and Brookhurst. Work will take approximately one week to complete.

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 appeared in a video about the Mid-basin Injection Well Project and its many benefits.

  • •  Director Tri Ta, OCWD staff and the city of Seal Beach hosted an online community meeting regarding the Sunset Gap Seawater Intrusion Investigation project. Another community meeting on the same topic will be hosted at a later date.

  • •   General Manager Mike Markus and Executive Director of Operations Mehul Patel participated as speakers during WateReuse Symposium 2020, which was held in a virtual format. Mike presented a GWRS case study during the panel "Water Reuse 101: A Bootcamp for Beginners" and Mehul participated in "The Great Debate," where he squared off with other water reuse operators to debate reverse osmosis versus carbon-based treatment for potable reuse.


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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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Research and Development Grant

The Water Research Foundation has awarded the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) a research grant in response to Research and Development’s  collaborative proposal with the University of Notre Dame on “Application of Novel Method to Estimate Total PFAS Content in Water.” The District’s R&D team submitted a pre-proposal to the Water Research Foundation earlier this year and was one of the top 10% out of 138 to be invited to submit a full proposal for funding under the Water Research Foundation's 2020 Unsolicited Research Program. OCWD Research and Development Director Megan Plumlee, P.E., Ph.D and Senior Scientist Manmeet (Meeta) Pannu, Ph.D; submitted the proposal in collaboration with Dr. Graham Peaslee at the University of Notre Dame.  

The grant will be used to demonstrate that particle-induced gamma ray emission spectrometry is a more rapid and practical complement to conventional, mass spectrometry-based analytical methods to screen for the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in surface water, recycled water and groundwater. Particle-induced gamma ray emission will measure the total fluorine in the samples. This will be the first use of total fluorine measurements to screen for PFAS contamination in various types of water sources relevant to drinking water.

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OCWD Employees — 2020 Employee of the 3rd Quarter

Principal Engineer Tim Sovich is the 2020 Employee of the Third Quarter!

Over the last year, Tim has been heavily involved as a technical advisor and reviewer for several numerical (computer) groundwater flow modeling projects. Three are being completed by OCWD staff or its consultants and of these, two are being done for outside organizations— the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and the U.S. Navy.

Groundwater modeling takes an understanding of the aquifer system and represents it as a 3-D matrix of interconnected grid cells with flow inputs/outputs and different properties like permeability – all very complicated.

Over his 30+ years at OCWD, Tim has developed the most detailed understanding of the Orange County Groundwater Basin of anyone at the District. Read More…

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

Five virtual tours were held during the month of September.

Groups participating included six nursing classes from California State University, Fullerton; the Mexican Association of Water Leaders; and University of California, Berkeley, chemistry students.  In addition, OCWD and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSan) hosted a joint virtual webinar tour for the general public. The webinar was led by Mike Markus and OCSan General Manager Jim Herberg and featured OCSan’s treatment facilities and an in-depth look at the world renowned GWRS. The presentations were followed by live Q&A.

Generally, tours are held the first Friday of every month and are open to the general public. Future tour dates are as follows:

  • •   Nov. 6 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • •   Dec. 4 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Registration is required for all public tours and is available through the OCWD book a tour site.

Tours for school groups and community organizations can be scheduled to accommodate group schedules. Should you have any questions or wish to obtain more information about scheduling a tour, please contact Kira Erquiaga at kerquiaga@ocwd.com.

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