Stephen R. Sheldon
First Vice President
Second Vice President
Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, C.E.G., C.H.
Harry Sidhu, P.E.
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
Michael R. Markus
• Water Quality Webinar Highlights Testing, Reporting, and Instilling Consumer Confidence in California’s Drinking Water
As Orange County’s groundwater authority, the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) upholds its commitment to manage, replenish, and protect one of the region’s most valuable assets – the Orange County Groundwater Basin (Basin).
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of thousands of manmade chemicals that are used in common everyday consumer materials and products to make them non-stick and/or resistant to water, oil, and stains, has been detected in the Basin. Our staff is doing an incredible job addressing this issue and ensuring that our water continues to meet all state and federal drinking water standards. These efforts include testing treatment techniques, investing in new equipment to support lab analysis, constructing several dozen treatment facilities for impacted water agencies, and holding the responsible parties accountable for releasing these chemicals into our water supply.
We’re doing all that we can to proactively and swiftly address a very costly health threat issue that we did not cause. This is why we’re strongly urging Congress to preserve the polluter pays principal and vote no on bills like the PFAS Action Act of 2021 (H.R. 2467) that impose liability on water agencies unless amended to exclude public water and wastewater agencies from PFAS liability. We recognize certain PFAS chemicals and other constituents of emerging concern should be carefully monitored and treated, but we believe it is inappropriate to treat public agencies cleaning up the problem in the same manner as the polluters who caused the issue.
As passed by the House, H.R. 2467 would expose water agencies with across-the-board liability for PFAS-related cleanup that simply receive and treat water supplies. This would adversely impact the District’s ability to recover the costs of its ongoing PFAS remediation activities by possibly imposing liability on the District in connection with its groundwater replenishment programs and treatment and disposal activities. A water utility that complies with applicable and appropriate federal management and treatment standards should not be responsible for current and future costs associated with PFAS clean-up.
OCWD urges Congress to provide an explicit liability exemption for water and wastewater agencies should federal PFAS legislation designate these chemicals as hazardous under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act’s (CERCLA) much like the exemption afforded to airports.
We’re working hard to protect Orange County’s water supply and the Basin which supplies 77 percent of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. While we continue to stay committed to addressing PFAS in the Basin, we must do so in a way that is cost-effective and fair to our ratepayers.
OCWD Director Cathy Green is securing statewide support for her nomination as a candidate for Vice President of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)—the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the United States.
As a longtime leader in the water industry, Director Green has worked to enhance water management, water quality, and water supply diversity and reliability to sustain our communities and our economy. Additionally, she has helped to effectively advocate for federal and state funding for water infrastructure and treatment projects, including Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), groundwater cleanup, and water storage projects.
Her experience includes being an active member of ACWA for the past nine years, serving on various ACWA Boards and Committees since 2012. Currently, she is a member of ACWA’s Executive Committee (since 2019) and Board of Directors (since 2012) and is serving her second term as Vice Chair of the ACWA Region 10 Board of Directors. Director Green also serves on ACWA’s Water Quality Committee (since 2012), and its Energy Committee (since 2020). Previously, she served two terms (2014-15 and 2018-19) as Region 10 Chair, and two terms on ACWA’s State Legislative Committee (2012-2015).
“It is an honor to receive such overwhelming support from my colleagues throughout California,” said Director Green. “My vision for ACWA is to embrace its motto, Bringing Water Together, which for me is about unifying ACWA members and working collaboratively to advance statewide issues and policies that ensure a safe, affordable and reliable water supply for all Californians.”
The election for ACWA President and Vice President will take place at the ACWA 2021 Fall Conference. More information about Director Green’s experience and qualifications can be found in the press release and webpage.
Through a partnership with the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and California Department of Water Resources (DWR), OCWD is implementing Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) to increase water supply reliability for the region.
A new report evaluating a pilot program (FIRO) to use advanced weather and streamflow forecasts to enhance water storage capabilities at Prado Dam in Riverside County found that enough water could be conserved to supply an additional 60,000 people per year.
Prado Dam was constructed in 1941 by USACE for flood risk management, with a secondary benefit of stormwater capture for water supply. Many dams in the west, including Prado Dam, are regulated by USACE-issued water control manuals, which do not take advantage of modern precipitation and streamflow forecasting capabilities. FIRO is a research and operations partnership that uses data from watershed monitoring, and modern weather and hydrologic forecasting, specifically the study of atmospheric rivers, to help water managers selectively retain or release water from reservoirs in a manner that reflects current and forecasted conditions.
“We are excited to partner with Scripps and the USACE on this project, which increases water supply and reliability for the region,” said OCWD President Steve Sheldon. “Local stormwater capture is important because it lessens demand on imported water supplies, which are more costly than groundwater.”
More information about the FIRO pilot program, its partners and the report can be found in the press release or by watching the short video below.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $131 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan, supporting OCWD’s efforts to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water found in local groundwater. By helping finance this project, EPA’s WFIA loan will protect public health from PFAS while reducing dependence on costly imported water for 2.5 million residents in Orange County.
OCWD’s PFAS Facilities Treatment Project is ensuring a safe and reliable drinking water source by building water treatment plants within the county. In 2020, dozens of wells that pump water from the Orange County Groundwater Basin were removed from service after the state of California lowered the Response Level advisories of two PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Consequently, local water suppliers had to rely on more costly imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River in order to meet the needs of their customers.
“OCWD is committed to proactively and swiftly addressing PFAS that have been detected in local groundwater supplies,” said OCWD President Steve Sheldon. “Our staff have done an outstanding job responding to this critical water quality issue by expediting the design and construction of the PFAS treatment facilities.”
OCWD provides regular PFAS updates to community stakeholders to inform them of the proactive measures that the District and its 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.
We are less than two months away from the 2021 OC Water Summit! This year’s event, "Water Breaking News," will be held on Friday, October 15 at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa and will include networking, discussions and presentations featuring the latest and most critical water issues facing the region.
If you've missed networking, you're in luck. The OC Water Summit's extended breakfast and lunch buffets offer the opportunity to catch up with your colleagues and form new connections. Individual tickets are $130 and include breakfast, lunch, self-parking, and summit materials, but this price increases to $150 on Friday, September 3.
A variety of sponsorship opportunities are still available and include benefits ranging from complimentary tickets, exhibit space, and various promotional and advertising activities. Please complete your sponsorship commitment no later than Monday, September 20 to guarantee inclusion in all the sponsorship benefits.
Please visit our website for more information on this year’s program, learn about the sponsorship opportunities available to you, and to secure your spot today!
Water Quality Webinar Highlights Testing, Reporting, and Instilling Consumer Confidence in California’s Drinking Water
To commemorate National Water Quality Month, OCWD’s August webinar, “Putting California’s Drinking Water to the Test” highlighted the important work water agencies across the state do to safeguard our water supply and provide high-quality, reliable water to our communities.
From testing thousands of water samples to sharing results with the public, the water that comes out of your tap is being carefully monitored and tested and continues to meet all federal and state drinking water standards.
Speakers included Ashley Dummer, Senior Water Resource Control Engineer, State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water; Patrick Versluis, Director of Water Quality, OCWD; and Hye Jin Lee, Director of Public Works, City of Fountain Valley.
Learn more about OCWD’s monthly water webinars by visiting our website and view the August water quality webinar below.
OCWD proudly collaborates with its 19 cities and water districts to provide safe, reliable, and high-quality water via the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which then gets distributed to 2.5 million people throughout north and central Orange County. In addition to providing a primary source of drinking water for the region, the District appreciates the opportunity to partner with its member agencies on programs, projects, and public outreach initiatives.
To continue educating the public, and offering the convenience of a virtual format, OCWD is continuing to host virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) through an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the world-renowned facility. All virtual tours showcase a video tour of the facility led by General Manager Mike Markus, followed by live Q&A with OCWD experts. Public tours are generally held the first Friday of every month at 10:00 a.m. and last approximately one hour.
Upcoming tours will be on August 6 and September 10. Advance registration is required and can be made by visiting the book-a-tour webpage.
Customized tours are also available and perfect for school and community groups who need flexibility on dates and times. To request a custom group tour, please contact Kira Erquiaga.
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:
- •OCWD Board Members and staff met with Congresswoman Michelle Steel, Congresswoman Young Kim, Congresswoman Katie Porter, and Congressman Alan Lowenthal to provide an overview of OCWD activities and discuss legislative priorities.
- •Executive Director of Engineering and Water Resources John Kennedy participated in a webinar hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association titled “Managed Aquifer Recharge: Where Will We Get the Water?” Adam Hutchinson, OCWD’s recharge planning manager, moderated the webinar.
- •Chief of Hydrogeology Roy Herndon and Legislative Affairs Liaison Alicia Dunkin provided an OCWD and legislative update to the Association of California Cities Orange County.
- •Research Director Dr. Megan Plumlee participated in Sustain SoCal’s Water Solutions 6: Technology Pilots, Trials and Projects in a session titled, “Water Quality – Tackling PFAS.”
- •Hydrogeologist Brendan Neel provided an update about the South Basin Groundwater Protection Program during a City of Santa Ana open house event.
Visit the OCWD Speakers Bureau webpage for more information or to request a speaker for your next meeting or event.
By Dick Zembal, Natural Resources Director
In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Natural Resources Director Dick Zembal shares his stories about some of the most common large mammals, night prowlers, of the Prado Basin.
The wildlife that OCWD’s Natural Resources Department staffs expend the most effort monitoring and managing are birds and fishes, so you have not heard much in these newsletter stories about large animals, although the Bald Eagle is certainly no small fry. Birds occupy the available niches, environmental cubbies, such that their abundance and diversity is an excellent indicator of environmental health. For example, we track the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo and its habitat as an indicator of riparian health to reveal the strengths and weaknesses in our stewardship, so we can adapt management strategies as needed. The megafauna of the Districts’ wildlands are out there, but how well those populations are doing is positively inferred from the overall health of the Prado ecosystem and incidental observations rather than by detailed study. Many of these species are most active in low light, crepuscular, or darkness, nocturnal.
The Mule Deer is the largest native herbivore in the Prado Basin. Bucks average about 200 pounds, exceptionally to over 400 pounds; does are smaller, weighing in at 95 – 198 pounds. Our deer are browsers of shrubs, trees, and forbs as opposed to grazing mostly on grasses as do cattle, bison, and rabbits. Deer herds are generally multigenerational groups of related females. Males typically are solitary or seen in small groups except during the rutting season in the fall. The males carry antlers (bony in contrast to horns which are keratinaceous) that are dropped annually in winter and regrown, starting immediately after shedding. Females usually birth two spotted fawns in spring following 190 – 200 days gestation. The young are independent after 60 – 75 days. California Mule Deer follow traditional migration routes to take advantage of browse that is seasonally available, usually at higher elevations. That has got to be a bit different in Prado, given the seasonal pool with its log jams, size, and persistence in some years. Also, local habitat adjacent to Prado Basin is confined to narrow corridors along the creeks and river, and up into the Chino hills. A study of the Prado herd’s movements and lineages was proposed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) but never unfolded.
Deer sightings are sporadic in Prado Basin but became noticeably more abundant in recent years. I have been delighted to come upon them, close enough to see their characteristic predator-escape locomotion, springing away, stiff-legged up and down with all four legs touching the ground at once, then rebounding like on pogo sticks, called stotting or pronging. The trails and roads we rely upon for surveying wildlife and to access project features like the recent Sediment Demonstration Project comprise important travel lanes for large mammals as evidenced by the abundance of sign. Tracks and scat are telltale, but you need to know how to decipher deer from pig. Both are cleft-hooved (two-toed imprint) but the deer toes are more pointed and the dew claw is smaller, round and centered below the toe like the dot in an exclamation mark. Alas, the dew claws often don’t show. Based upon the sign, pigs are generally more abundant than deer.
OCWD continues to be recognized for its leadership in the water industry. Below are the District’s recent media highlights and industry publications that feature OCWD and the GWRS:
- •ACWA: OCWD Director Cathy Green Garners Statewide Support for ACWA Vice President
- •California Water News Daily: FIRO Study at Prado Dam Shows Potential for Increased Water Supply
- •CalMatters: California Enacted a Groundwater Law 7 years Ago. But Wells Are Still Drying Up — And the Threat is Spreading
- •Ensia: In an Arid U.S. West, Water Agencies Look to Deliver Purified Wastewater Directly to Customers’ Faucets, Despite “Yuck Factor”
- •Fullerton Observer: PFAS Extraction Plant Makes History
- •Governing: California Invests in Recycled Water as Droughts Take a Toll
- •The Press Enterprise: Proposed Change at Prado Dam Could Yield Water for 60,000 More People
- •Reuters: Desalination Advances in California Despite Opponents Pushing for Alternatives
- •ScienceDirect: Operational Optimization of Closed-Circuit Reverse Osmosis (CCRO) Pilot to Recover Concentrate at An Advanced Water Purification Facility for Potable Reuse
- •WaterWorld: Orange County Receives $131M WIFIA Loan for PFAS Project
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 two new staff members.
View the infographic below to see the groundwater basin’s storage, recharge, and pumping levels, through end of July 2021.