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. 

“Through sound planning and appropriate investment, the District upholds its mission to provide a reliable, high quality water supply for the 2.5 million people we serve,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “We are thankful to the EPA and the State Water Resources Control Board for making this funding available which helps us to implement a vital regional water project.” 

The total cost of the GWRS Final Expansion is $310 million. In addition to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan, the District actively pursued other funding opportunities. The project’s remaining costs will be paid through a $3.6 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management grant program, a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation Title XVI Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation program, $3.8 million in grant funding from Proposition 13, $1.2 million in grant funding from Proposition 1’s Water Recycling Program, and a $135 million loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program. 

“We are beyond proud of this world-renowned project that offers significant benefits to the region, and to the state. A big thank you to our leadership, staff, and state and federal partners who have helped us to successfully obtain the various sources of funding. Because of this, we’re able to produce some of the highest quality water at the lowest cost per drop in the region,” Sarmiento added.  

A joint project of OCWD and the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSan), the GWRS purifies wastewater from OCSan that would otherwise have been discharged to the ocean, and puts it through a three-step advanced purification process consisting of microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide. The result is high quality water that’s injected into a seawater barrier and pumped to recharge basins where it naturally percolates into the Orange County Groundwater Basin managed by OCWD. GWRS water accounts for one-third of the water that is annually put into the basin – an asset that provides up to 77% of the water for the region. 

The GWRS first came online in 2008, producing 70 million gallons of water per day (MGD) and underwent an expansion in 2015, increasing production to 100 MGD. OCWD broke ground on the Final Expansion in 2019, a 30-MGD project scheduled for completion in 2023. The 130-MGD GWRS will produce enough water to meet the daily needs of 1 million people. 

For more information about this fiscally sound water supply project, visit www.ocwd.com/gwrs and go to https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf to learn more about the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program.