April 2021

OCWD Board Members


Stephen R. Sheldon

First Vice President

Cathy Green

Second Vice President

Tri Ta

Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Jordan Brandman
Nelida Mendoza
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, C.E.G., C.H.
Bruce Whitaker
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.

General Manager

Michael R. Markus

In This Issue:

•  President’s Message: It's All on the Table... 

•  Thousands of Students Joined OC Youth Environmental Summit

•  City of Westminster and OCWD Announce Water Awareness Student Art Contest

•  OCWD Receives 'AAA' Rating from Fitch Ratings

•  OCWD Completes Second Edition to Surface Water Recharge Operations Manual 

•  Groundwater Basin Management Webinar Recording Available

•  Out in the Community

•  Tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System

•  Wild Secrets: A Holiday Prayer, an Earth Day Message

•  PFAS Update

•  OCWD In the News 

•  OCWD Employees

•  OC Groundwater Basin


President’s Message: It's All on the Table...

A reliable water supply is all about generating more water. And, the April 29, 2021 approval granted to Poseidon Water, by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, for an ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach puts Orange County another step closer to improving our water reliability.

As president of the Orange County Water District (OCWD) Board of Directors, I know it’s our job at OCWD to explore all projects that diversify our water portfolio and enhance reliability. That is why in May 2015, OCWD approved a Term Sheet with Poseidon for the proposed desalination project which provides the structure for a potential partnership to purchase up to 56,000 acre-feet of water per year. The Term Sheet further specifies that Poseidon develops and constructs the treatment plant while OCWD develops and constructs the water distribution system.

The next step for Poseidon is to secure a permit from the California Coastal Commission and once that is done a long-term water purchase agreement would be brought before the OCWD Board of Directors for its consideration.

Whether it is exploring ocean desalination, expanding water recycling at our Groundwater Replenishment System, increasing storage of storm flows behind Prado Dam, or sustainably managing our groundwater basin supply, it’s all on the table to ensure water supply reliability for the 19 cities and water agencies we serve.

Read More…

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Thousands of Students Joined OC Youth Environmental Summit

The nation’s largest event of its kind celebrated 24 years of educating students about water and the environment, in an expanded, week-long virtual format. The Youth Environmental Summit (YES), formerly known as Children’s Water Education Festival, featured live and on-demand programs for Orange County’s third, fourth and fifth grade students. More than 6,600 students from more than 90 Orange County schools registered to attend YES during Earth Week, April 19 through April 23, and approximately 4,500 students tuned in during the event’s live presentations.

The mission of YES is to educate students about water-related and environmental issues that support Next Generation Science Standards. Through interactive and engaging presentations, YES teaches youth that they can make a difference in protecting our resources today, tomorrow and for future generations.

“We are proud to have served so many Orange County students as we transformed this educational event into a virtual format,” said OCWD President Stephen R. Sheldon. “Staff did an incredible job adapting to the current learning platform and delivered an exciting program that was educational and fun for all students and teachers who participated.”

YES has educated nearly 140,000 students since its inception.  Twenty public and private sponsors helped make the 2021 event possible. 

VISIT EVENT WEBSITE: To learn more about YES and view a complete list of organizations that participated in this educational endeavor, please visit www.ocyouthsummit.com.

READ PRESS RELEASE: For more information about the event, read our press release

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City of Westminster and OCWD Announce Water Awareness Student Art Contest

The City of Westminster and OCWD are co-sponsoring a fall art contest for middle and high school students to promote and encourage water conservation. The contest will be held mid-September through mid-October and cash prizes, provided by OCWD and Westminster’s Water Division, will be awarded to six winners. Winning artwork will be featured on bus shelters, informational materials, and a water conservation calendar that will be made available to the public at no cost.

Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, who proposed the contest unanimously approved by the city council, said, “It’s important to encourage our youth to think about the benefits of water conservation and how they can save water for future generations.”

“We are happy to support Westminster’s student art contest which brings greater awareness to our most precious resource—water,” said OCWD President Steve Sheldon. “I look forward to Westminster students developing a greater interest in water as they create their submissions.”

Entries will be accepted through the City of Westminster and judged by members of Golden West College’s art department. Additional details about the contest and exact submission dates will be provided late summer through the city, OCWD, and participating schools.

READ PRESS RELEASE: For more information about this announcement, read our joint press release with the City of Westminster.

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OCWD Receives ‘AAA’ Rating from Fitch Ratings

Fitch Ratings announced that the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) was assigned a ‘AAA’ rating, a designation it has achieved annually since 2008. The District was recognized as having a strong financial profile in the context of very strong revenue defensibility, fiscal profile, and very low operating risks.

“OCWD’s excellent financial standing has allowed us to provide greater water reliability for the region by financing and securing funding for critical water infrastructure projects, including the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) Final Expansion,” stated OCWD President Steve Sheldon. “This expansion will bring the system’s total capacity to 130 million gallons of water per day, enough for 1 million people, at the lowest possible cost.”

Since going online 13 years ago, the GWRS has helped the region overcome cyclical drought and dry periods. Similar projects are expected to come online over the next several years throughout the state that will increase local water reliability and aid in mitigating reoccurring drought, a feature of California’s climate.

READ PRESS RELEASE: For more information, read our press release.

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OCWD Completes Second Edition to Surface Water Recharge Operations Manual

OCWD has completed and published the second edition of its Surface Water Recharge Operations Manual. This manual is a working document aimed at providing information to understand OCWD’s Surface Recharge System (SRS), and its basic operational procedures. The District’s SRS is dynamic with multitudes of operational scenarios to efficiently recharge base flow, storm flow, recycled water, and imported water. The intent of this manual is to present basic operational procedures commonly used by the SRS operators (SRSOs) as a guide toward responsible system operation and is a part of the District’s ongoing responsibility to operate safely and effectively.  

READ REPORT: The Surface Water Recharge Operations Manual is available to view online.

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Groundwater Basin Management Webinar Recording Available

Nearly 125 people attended our April 28 webinar, “A Tale of Two Basins: Managing Groundwater in Orange and Los Angeles Counties,” which featured speakers from OCWD and the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) and highlighted both agencies’ innovative approaches to managing their respective groundwater basins.

Our monthly webinar series on emerging and newsworthy topics are a great way to learn about all things water. Hear from OCWD experts and District partners as they discuss important programs and projects that impact your water supply and get your questions answered. Whether you are an elected official, water industry professional, researcher, consultant, student, or community member, there is something for everyone.

Webinars last approximately one hour, are free to attend, and are recorded for everyone to watch at their own convenience.

VIEW APRIL RECORDING: Missed it or want to watch it again? The groundwater basin management webinar is posted on the OCWD YouTube channel.

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Out in the Community 

As part of its commitment 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:

  • • General Manager Mike Markus spoke about the GWRS and the future of water reuse during the webinar “Resilience through Collaboration: First Year Highlights and Future Directions of the National Water Reuse Action Plan,” hosted by WateReuse.
  • • Executive Director of Operations Mehul Patel provided an OCWD presentation to students from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s Master of Public Administration about District operations and programs.
  • • Principal Engineer Ryan Bouley presented on the topic of the Prado Sediment Management Demonstration Project to Environmental & Water Resources Institute and American Society of Civil Engineers-Orange County.

  • • Senior Engineer Ben Smith provided a presentation on where our drinking water comes from to students from Vista Heritage Global Academy.

REQUEST A SPEAKER: Need a speaker for your upcoming virtual event? Visit our Speakers Bureau webpage for more information! 

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Tours­­­ of the Groundwater Replenishment System

OCWD continues to offer virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) in webinar format through our monthly public tour program, and also upon request.

Our virtual tours feature an in-depth look at the world-renowned GWRS through a video tour of the facility led by General Manager Mike Markus. The presentations are followed by live Q&A with OCWD experts.

Public tours are generally held the first Friday of every month, virtually, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Upcoming tours will be on May 7 and June 11.

Several tours were also offered this past month to students from the University of California, Berkeley; Marquez Charter School; Citrus College; Colorado School of Mines; and Servite High School.

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

ACCESS ON-DEMAND VIDEOS: For those unable to attend a virtual tour, on-demand tour videos, led by OCWD General Manager Mike Markus and staff, are available to view through the following links:  on-demand GWRS technical tour or on-demand GWRS general tour 

GROUP TOUR REQUESTS: Tours for schools and community organizations can be scheduled separately. Should you have any questions or wish to obtain more information about scheduling a tour, please contact Kira Erquiaga.

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Wild Secrets: A Holiday Prayer, an Earth Day Message

By Natalia Doshi, Environmental Specialist  

In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Environmental Specialist Natalia Doshi from OCWD’s Natural Resources Department shares a special story, perfectly timed for Earth Month, reminding us to always think about our local environment. Read her story below.

As biologists return to the field in preparation for the spring season (the busiest time of year for the Natural Resources world), Habitat Restoration Manager and Biologist Bonnie Johnson hiked her trails for monitoring endangered birds and came across a special note in the Prado forest. One through fate, chance, and wind...

For years Bonnie has picked up trash she finds in the forest and Prado Wetlands. The main pieces of trash encountered are numbers of the infamous Mylar balloons. A party and celebration token of our society, but sadly too often seen as trash in pristine wildlife habitats.

On St. Patrick’s Day morning, Bonnie was hiking her normal path to monitor for nesting birds and came across a bundle of festive Christmas Mylar balloons wrapped around branches of a coyote bush. Something was a little different this time compared to the numerous balloons she has picked up over the years. Attached to the balloons was a gift bag and neatly packaged inside was a sweet letter and a crisp $100 bill.

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. Despite playing no role in releasing PFAS into the environment, we must find ways to remove it.

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 and continues to participate in important dialogues and research initiatives with people across the country on developing long-term solutions.

ADDITIONAL PFAS INFORMATION: For more information or to sign up for our email updates, please visit OCWD’s PFOS/PFOA Resources page. 

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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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OCWD Employees

Employee of the First Quarter

Anthony (Tony) Carreria supervises and performs a variety of tasks associated with the operation, routine maintenance, and repair of the GWRS and Green Acres Project (GAP) treatment plants. As a shift supervisor, Tony is responsible for prioritizing and assigning work. He also plans, coordinates, oversees, and participates in daily operational activities while conducting training, inspecting facilities, effectively reporting issues, and operating the treatment plants in a safe and efficient manner.

Tony supervises a night shift in the operation and monitoring of the GWRS and GAP treatment plants. A more complicated task involving operations is performing RO unit cleanings (aka RO CIPs). A side effect from performing RO CIPs were common occurrences of brief Reverse Osmosis Permeate (ROP) and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) spikes that are required to be reported as compliance issues. During January 2021 Tony suggested and implemented additional steps for post-CIP RO flush procedures to eliminate these ROP TOC spikes. Since implementing this procedure no reportable ROP TOC spikes have occurred in relationship to RO CIPs. We commend his ability to take initiative.

Congratulations Tony!

New Hires

The District’s employees are its most valuable resources. OCWD is committed to recruiting the best and enriching their lives so that they may grow within the water industry and the District family. This month, we welcome six new staff members.

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OC Groundwater Basin

View the infographic below to see the groundwater basin’s storage, recharge, and pumping levels, through end of March 2021.

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