President’s Message – California Water Professionals Appreciation Week Oct. 3-11, 2020

Water is the lifeblood of Orange County and without high-quality and reliable water, no community and no sector of the economy – from high tech to manufacturing to agriculture – can thrive or expand.

Dedicated teams of planners, engineers, water quality specialists, technicians, and other water professionals have built and maintained the systems to guarantee that when your tap is turned on, good, clean water flows freely and abundantly.

California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, Oct. 3-11, 2020, is an exciting occasion to showcase the ‘people behind the pipes’ throughout the state and an opportunity to highlight rewarding careers in the water industry and cultivate the next generation of water leaders.

I would like to thank all of the 225 employees at the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) who deserve recognition not only during this week, but every day.

Now, more than ever, the water industry is proud of the important role its essential workers play in making sure communities have dependable drinking water. Thanks to technological advances by highly skilled and trained water professionals and the dedication of thousands of industry professionals in the state, California drinking water and treated wastewater meets some of the most stringent water quality standards in the nation.

Locally, we rely on the expertise of our District water professionals to provide invaluable technical data that instills the confidence in our ability to provide high-quality water that meets and exceeds all federal and state drinking water standards, to the 2.5 million rate payers in our service area. 

In north and central Orange County, 77% of the drinking water comes from the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which is managed by OCWD. In addition to buying groundwater, local cities and water suppliers buy imported water to make up the remaining 23%.

The Orange County Water District’s Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory tests water throughout the basin for more than 500 compounds, while only 109 of those compounds are required to be regulated by state and federal law. It analyzes more than 20,000 samples each year and reports more than 400,000 results. OCWD also provides regional testing of more than 200 drinking water wells for local drinking water suppliers, like your city, to help them meet monitoring and reporting requirements mandated by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Your drinking water is filtered, cleaned, tested and distributed in a process carefully managed by trained water professionals.

California is steadily expanding the reuse of treated wastewater and pioneering the use of advanced purified recycled water to refill aquifers, prevent seawater contamination and improve local water supply reliability. Thanks to OCWD’s chemists, engineers, hydrogeologists and other water professionals, the District enjoys international recognition for our innovative approach to water reuse as exemplified by the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).

The GWRS, a joint project of the Orange County Water District and Orange County Sanitation District, has produced more than 328 billion gallons of drinking water that has replenished the Orange County Groundwater Basin since 2008. The GWRS is the world’s largest state-of-the art water purification project and is now being replicated in other parts of the globe. It is currently being expanded to provide 130 million gallons each day of high-quality water—enough to meet the needs of nearly 1 million residents in north and central Orange County—by 2023.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, public water and wastewater agencies invest more than $25 billion a year on local water-related programs and projects that protect public health and the environment, improve local water supply reliability, replenish and clean up groundwater basins, provide water for fire protection and protect against floods. It takes thousands of essential water, wastewater and recycled water industry professionals to accomplish this.

After having worked with water professionals for a majority of my career, I emphatically confirm their dedication to their communities, their devoted work ethic, and the indispensable jobs they perform! A career in the water industry can provide the opportunity to earn a good living and make a difference in your community.

Vicente Sarmiento, Esq.