February 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: Water Supply Update

•  Experience Water Education Through our Virtual Youth Environmental Summit

•  Monthly Webinar Series: February Recording Available and See What's Coming Up

•  OCWD Hosts Vote Center March 6-9

•  Out in the Community

•  Tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System

•  Wild Secrets: Critter Rescues

•  PFAS Update

•  OCWD Employees

•  OC Groundwater Basin


President’s Message: Water Supply Update

In case you missed the latest update from the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the most recent snowpack measure conducted showed below average conditions, indicating this summer, Southern California may have less water available from Northern California. As of February 3, the state’s snowpack is approximately 69% of normal for Northern Sierra, 74% for Central Sierra and 57% for Southern Sierra. While we welcomed some rainstorms last month, it wasn’t enough to overcome the dry conditions of this past fall.

What does this all mean for water in Orange County? Orange County’s groundwater basin will continue to be vital to Orange County residents and businesses. We rely on a few different sources of water for our everyday use. Some water comes from Northern California through the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, some from the Colorado River, some from Orange County’s local and regional sources of water, including far below the ground, and even some from water that is recycled.

This is where Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) comes in. Regardless of weather conditions, we understand it’s critical to maintain a reliable and high-quality supply of water. With this commitment in mind, OCWD responsibly manages three of Southern California’s greatest water supplies: the Santa Ana River, the Orange County Groundwater Basin and the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).

Read More…

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Experience Water Education Through Our Virtual Youth Environmental Summit


The award-winning program you know and love - the Children's Water Education Festival - has a new look and a new name. The Orange County Youth Environmental Summit (YES) will be held virtually this year, Monday, April 19 through Friday, April 23, 2021. This extended virtual format means enhanced opportunities for learning and engagement.

YES presents a unique opportunity to educate third, fourth and fifth grade Orange County students about water and the environment. Through a series of interactive and immersive presentations taught by well-known and respected experts and organizations, students will learn about a variety of topics during the week.

REGISTRATION: Registration for YES is still open! Interested teachers and presenters can learn more and submit an application by visiting www.ocyouthsummit.com.

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Monthly Webinar Series: February Recording Available and See What's Coming Up

Orange County Water District’s monthly webinar series focuses on newsworthy District programs and projects that impact your water supply.

Our February webinar provided a bird’s eye view of some of the amazing creatures that call our facilities home. Staff from OCWD’s Natural Resources department and guest speaker Dr. Peter Bloom with Bloom Biological discussed how the wildlife population including the Least Bell’s Vireo, Baby Barn Owls, Tree Swallows, and more, thrive on OCWD lands.

In case you missed it, or would like to view the recording, please click here.

We encourage you to join OCWD for our monthly webinar series and 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! Webinars last approximately one hour and are free to attend.

SAVE THE DATE: On March 30 at 10 a.m., our next webinar will discuss salinity management activities locally and regionally.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit our webinars webpage to view additional information on OCWD's webinar series, including recordings of past webinars.

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OCWD Hosts Vote Center March 6-9

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) will serve as a four-day Vote Center for the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ Second Supervisorial District Vacancy Election from Saturday, March 6 through Tuesday, March 9. OCWD is one of 14 Vote Centers throughout the county. OCWD Vote Center hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The District welcomes the opportunity to host a Vote Center for this important election in our county,” said OCWD President Stephen R. Sheldon. “Local elections are critical to the democratic process and are the foundation for making decisions that impact our daily lives. We look forward to playing an important role in the election process by allowing voters to cast their ballots at OCWD.” 

The upcoming special election is to fill the vacant Orange County District 2 supervisor seat, held previously by former supervisor Michelle Steel, who was elected to represent California’s 48th District in Congress this past November. This is the third time that the District has hosted a Vote Center at its office. Last year, OCWD proudly hosted a Vote Center for the 2020 primary election and 2020 presidential election.

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

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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:

  • • Executive Director, Water Quality and Technical Resources Jason Dadakis gave a presentation to the National Water Resources Association (NWRA) Municipal Caucus on the District’s response to PFAS.
  • • Jason also spoke about PFAS during Southern California Water Coalition’s webinar titled “Water Quality Matters: Understanding and Addressing PFAS in our Water.”

  • • Megan Plumlee, research director, gave a presentation entitled “Conventional and Novel Adsorbents Remove PFAS from Orange County’s Drinking Water: Results from Bench and Pilot Scale Studies” at the AWWA Virtual Summit on Sustainable Water, PFAS, and Pathogens.

  • • Together with Kraig Kmiotek, Metrohm product specialist, Principal Scientist Jana Safarik provided a practical demonstration of how online process analyzers can be used to visualize and optimize process control and discussed how real-time water quality information is used for the overall GWRS treatment process.

  • • Mehul Patel, executive director of operations, gave a virtual presentation on the GWRS to a civil engineering class at Cal Poly Pomona.

  • • Director of Engineering Chris Olsen and Principal Hydrogeologist Dave Mark spoke on the topic of careers in the water industry during a virtual event hosted by the University of California, Riverside and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency.

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.

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.

Virtual tours are generally held the first Friday of every month and are open to the public. Upcoming public tours are on:

  • • March 5 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • • April 2 – 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

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 general tour or on-demand GWRS technical 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: Critter Rescues 

In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Natural Resources Director Richard Zembal and Habitat Restoration Manager Bonnie Johnson share their wild encounters with the wildlife they regularly come across on OCWD lands. Below are some highlights. Click the "Read More" link to read additional stories.

Some of the river bottom lands where OCWD manages water are true wildlands. Natural Resources staff are there daily, in part to monitor and study some of the creatures that inhabit our land.  Physical proximity between staff and wildlife are commonplace, and actual contact is rare but sometimes necessary. Discarded fishing line inadvertently becomes a snare; big birds occasionally slam into overhead lines; the rescued often don’t recognize that they are being rescued; the edge of a draining basin turns to quicksand; the depth and current of a weir box are too tough to navigate for the young; and a makeshift water well becomes a pitfall trap. Sometimes you just can’t not touch!

A Wood Duck Hen and its Chicks
During a Saturday tour of the Prado Wetlands one spring, we came upon a wood duck hen calling frantically and swimming about, not quickly flushing like usual. Investigation revealed several chicks stuck inside a weir box. The tour went on break, I raced back to the office for a pole net with which I pulled out a half-dozen little fuzz balls and returned them to their frantic mother. The hen’s continued squawking told me there were more, so I lowered myself down into the box where several chicks had been sucked into the adjoining pipe. I got them with the net and returned them to an anxious mama. The family intact, she led them over to a safe bank where they preened and rested after their big ordeal. 

A Surprise Visit from Alligator Lizards
An Arundo control crew working near the diversion channel in Prado discovered a large hole, maybe 3 feet across and 8 feet deep with 6 inches of water in the bottom. They reported seeing a lizard or snake near the bottom, trapped. Upon arrival, I saw that it was a large alligator lizard hanging on in the depths of the hole. While climbing down the ladder I brought to nab it, I found many more lizards that had fallen in and were stuck on small ledges or in tiny depressions. I rescued about a dozen alligator lizards and a couple western fence lizards from that one hole, surprisingly all still alive. Their lethargy meant that they had been in there without food for quite some time and a few were nearly done. Once cleared of critters, the hole was filled.

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. 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.

ADDITIONAL PFAS INFORMATION: For more information, please visit OCWD’s PFOS/PFOA Resources page. 

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OCWD Employees

2020 Employees of the Year

Coming off their recent recognition as the 2020 Employees of the 4th Quarter, OCWD warehouse technicians Tony Arocho and Miguel Chavez have been named the 2020 Employees of the Year!

The nomination was unique because it was deserving of two teammates who have been working hard for all their customers during these trying times. Tony and Miguel have really stepped up to ensure their order fulfillment and inventory duties are kept up to the highest standards while accommodating the special needs and schedules dictated by COVID-19.

Throughout their demanding day, outside of their normal areas of responsibility, priorities are executed in a timely manner as they respond to urgent demands. They communicate well together helping each other and sharing lessons learned about process efficiencies and the functionality of critical hardware. A partnering relationship with trade professionals, planners and engineers ensures that they develop their knowledge base of the inventory materials to better serve future demands and they always take it upon themselves to communicate the order status to the end user.

The best thing about Tony and Miguel is their consistent and positive “can-do” attitude as they attend to their responsibilities and emergency responses with agility, diligence and efficiency.

Congratulations Tony and Miguel!

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 two 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 January 2021.

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