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
As we close out the year, I want to take a moment to reflect upon the remarkable year we’ve had. A huge appreciation goes to our professional staff who have worked day in and day out, maintaining our commitment to provide a reliable, high quality water supply in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.
We’ve accomplished a lot this past year. As part of our robust response to remove the contaminant per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that has been detected in a portion of our groundwater basin, we made history by bringing Orange County’s first treatment plant online, were honored with multiple awards in recognition of our PFAS pilot study and treatment program and advocated for legislative solutions that protect our ratepayers.
Our engagement with our cities and retail water providers, community stakeholders, project partners, local schools and organizations and the broader water industry continued through several dozen programs and events such as the Children’s Water Education Festival, OC Water Summit, PFAS legislative briefing, GWRS tours, water webinars, and much more.
We’re doing our part to sustainably manage the Orange County Groundwater Basin and increase water supply through projects such as the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), which has produced 360 billion gallons of recycled water since its inception in 2008, Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations to maximize stormwater capture at Prado Dam, and the Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program, a regional groundwater banking program that will provide a collaborative, watershed-scale approach toward groundwater basin management, replenishment, and water transfers.
All options are on the table as we look to advance our water future. In 2022, I’m especially excited to continue making progress on the GWRS final expansion project, which is about 70% complete. Once operational in 2023, the facility will produce 130 million gallons of pure drinking water daily – that’s enough water to meet the annual needs of 1 million residents. I’m also looking forward to bringing more PFAS treatment plants online, exploring ocean water desalination, and supporting water initiatives that help us create more locally-controlled, drought-proof water supplies. With more local water supplies, we can shield our customers from the negative impacts of less water being available from northern California and the Colorado River.
As we often say, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach in water. We must evaluate all options and continue collaborating with our local, state, and federal stakeholders to enhance water supply reliability for the region and the state.
I invite you to learn more about our mission and accomplishments in this 2021 year-in-review video.
Congratulations to OCWD Director Cathy Green who was elected Vice President of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the nation’s largest statewide coalition of public water agencies.
“I am honored and thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside our newly elected President, Pamela Tobin, and all of our esteemed colleagues,” said Director Green. “As Vice President, I will work to ensure ACWA is a voice for all water agencies while advancing the organization’s mission of providing leadership, advocacy and resources.”
As an active member of ACWA, Director Green has served on various ACWA Boards and Committees. She has been a member of ACWA’s Board of Directors since 2012 and its Executive Committee since 2020. She is currently serving her second term as Vice Chair of the ACWA Region 10 Board of Directors. Director Green also serves on ACWA’s Water Quality and Energy Committees. Previously, she served two terms as Region 10 Chair (2014-15 and 2018-19) as well as two terms on ACWA’s State Legislative Committee (2012-2015).
Green and Tobin will take office in January 2022 and serve two-year terms.
OCWD and the Yorba Linda Water District (YLWD) began operating the nation’s largest ion exchange (IX) treatment plant to remove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from local well water.
YLWD, one of 19 water providers that pump water from the groundwater basin, had all 10 of its groundwater wells impacted by perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), prompting it to temporarily shut down wells and transition to purchasing 100% imported water sourced from the Colorado River and northern California. These wells were among dozens of wells throughout Orange County that were removed from service in 2020 after the state of California lowered the Response Level advisories of PFOA and PFOS; two legacy PFAS compounds no longer produced in the United States.
Located at the existing YLWD headquarters in Placentia, the PFAS Treatment Plant uses an IX treatment system made of highly porous resin that acts like powerful magnets that adsorb and hold onto contaminants. It consists of 11 IX systems (22 IX Vessels), a 25 MGD booster pump station and an upgraded onsite chlorine generation system. During treatment, contaminants such as PFAS are removed from the water before it goes into the distribution system. Construction began in March 2021 and the facility will be capable of treating up to 25 million gallons per day.
Learn more about the YLWD PFAS Treatment Plant in our joint press release.
OCWD continues to provide 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 the latest information or to sign up for our email updates, please visit OCWD’s PFAS Resources page.
City of Westminster Recognizes Art Contest Winners
OCWD was proud to partner with the City of Westminster for its 2021 art contest, illustrating the importance of our precious natural resource – water. President Steve Sheldon and Second Vice President Tri Ta attended the gallery opening at Golden West College and recognized the winners. Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest.
Mesa Water Invites Students to Enter Water Video Contest
Calling all high school and college students in the Mesa Water District service area! Mesa Water is encouraging students to submit a fun and informative video promoting water awareness through its video contest. Video entries will be accepted from January 1 to February 28, 2022. Learn more about the video contest on the Mesa Water website.
Thank you to everyone who attended our December webinar, “Seawater Intrusion Control in Orange County – Do We Need Another Barrier?” This webinar highlighted how OCWD has combated seawater intrusion in the Orange County Groundwater Basin and took a deep dive into how it was discovered in the Sunset Gap area, what our investigation has shown, and potential barrier concepts based on groundwater modeling.
If you missed the webinar or would like to watch it again, a recording is now available.
We look forward to continuing to offer the convenience of free educational webinars in 2022. Hear from OCWD experts and District partners as they discuss important OCWD programs and projects that impact your water supply. Whether you are an elected official, water industry professional, researcher, consultant, student, or community member, there is something for everyone.
Please be on the lookout for information and dates announced on the OCWD water webinars webpage.
To continue educating the public, and offering the convenience of a virtual format, OCWD hosts virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) through an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the world-renowned facility. Check out our tour options below.
Public Tours: 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 public tours will be on January 7 and February 4. Advance registration is required and can be made by visiting the Book a Tour webpage.
Customized Group Tours: To request a customized tour for groups who need flexibility on dates and times, please contact Kira Erquiaga.
On-Demand Videos: These videos are a great tool to watch in the comfort of your home or to show during a meeting, event, or class lecture. View our on-demand GWRS general tour (approximately 10 minutes) and on-demand GWRS technical tour (approximately 30 minutes).
As part of its commitment to maintain long-term, positive, and proactive relationships with members of the local community and greater water industry, OCWD board members and staff speak regularly before groups and at events. We recently participated in the following:
- •GWRS Program Manager Sandy Scott-Roberts presented on water recycling at the virtual UCI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Affiliates Symposium.
- •Executive Director of Engineering and Water Resources John Kennedy participated on a panel discussing alternative water supplies at the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy Conference.
- •Postdoctoral Research Associate Julio Polanco and Research Director Megan Plumlee presented R&D’s recent work on pathogen log removal value (LRV) as part of an online webinar organized by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, who co-funded the study. The presentation was entitled “Demonstrating Virus Log Removal in Potable Reuse to Increase Regulatory Confidence."
- •Senior Scientist Meeta Pannu presented an update on OCWD’s ongoing PFAS pilot treatment program during a PFAS Solutions Workshop.
Visit the OCWD Speakers Bureau webpage for more information or to request a speaker for your next meeting or event.
OCWD is proud of the work we do every day to provide a sustainable and high-quality supply of water to our communities. Reflecting our commitment of innovation and leadership, we share our research and expertise locally, nationally, and globally. Recently, our staff published multiple articles and case studies showcasing a wide range of District initiatives.
- •The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a book entitled “Managing aquifer recharge: a showcase for resilience and sustainability.” A number of case studies from all over the world are presented, including one by Recharge Planning Manager Adam Hutchinson and Executive Director of Planning and Natural Resources Greg Woodside. OCWD’s case study is entitled, “Orange County Groundwater Basin Managed Aquifer Recharge Program using Santa Ana River Flow” and can be viewed on the UNESCO digital library.
- •Principal Scientist Ken Ishida was the lead author for work in collaboration with San Diego State University for an article published in ACS ES&T Water, entitled “Nontargeted Analysis of Trace Organic Constituents in Reverse Osmosis and UV-AOP Product Waters of a Potable Reuse Facility.”
- •Scientist Han Gu co-authored an article in collaboration with multiple universities including Olin College of Engineering and Purdue University, published in the journal Water Research X, entitled “Modeling the energy consumption of potable water reuse schemes.”
- •Senior Scientist Meeta Pannu and Research Director Megan Plumlee published an article with collaborators at University of Notre Dame in the journal ACS ES&T Water, entitled “Screening for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Water with Particle Induced Gamma-Ray Emission Spectroscopy” based on an ongoing Water Research Foundation-funded project.
By Dick Zembal, Natural Resources Director
Gathering family and friends around the evergreens, decorations, ornaments, and lights in celebration of Christmas is a nostalgic tradition in many households. In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Natural Resources Director Dick Zembal highlights that the greenery we incorporate into our holiday gatherings this time of year is another seasonal link between us and the wild.
Decorated evergreen trees and foliage have been part of winter celebrations for centuries. People once lived in intimate association with the land, adapting by season, the most trying of which was winter. With adequate provisions, folks endured the cold prevailing darkness and were reminded by the enduring green life that the bountiful renewal of spring was imminent. The Christmas tree, mistletoe, and evergreen wreath are all associated with winter celebrations that are renewed annually, tweaked variously by different cultures over time.
The first Christmas trees were adorned in the U.S. by German settlers around 1830 and the practice was popularized by the early 20th century. Today, about 3/4 of Americans celebrate Christmas with an ornament and light-adorned tree, 80% of which are artificial. The live trees that are harvested for Christmas are mostly grown for that purpose in Oregon, North Carolina, and Michigan. Popular trees include Douglas and noble firs, Scotch and Virginia Pines, and blue spruce, among many others. Some tree farms in southern California specialize in Monterey pines, natives of coastal northern California that sport long, soft needles, a deep green color, and rich pine fragrance.
Native conifers all but disappeared from the southern California coast centuries ago. Coniferous forests are abundant in the mountains of California where species vary by range, elevation, latitude, soil type, etc. Three species that grow in inland Orange County’s Santa Ana Mountains are knobcone pine, Coulter pine, and big-cone spruce. The single remaining south costal pine, the Torrey pine survives tenuously in San Diego County. This is in stark contrast to the historic abundance of conifers in coastal Orange County during the Pleistocene when the cooler, wetter conditions then supported forests much like the current woodlands of the Monterey coast.
Torrey pines are also cultivated in some California landscapes such as Conrock Basin where we recently planted them as part of OCWD’s habitat restoration efforts. These are southern California natives that no longer regenerate on their own this far north, as it is too hot and dry. These conifers produce ample sap, allowing them to fight off invasive beetles that are killing off many of our other riparian trees. The beetle, the polyphagous shothole borer, was an accidental import from Asia but that is a whole other story. We will see how these transplanted Torrey pines do with the extra water available in Conrock – hopefully well.
View the infographic below to see the groundwater basin’s storage, recharge, and pumping levels, through end of November 2021.