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).

Taking the limited water supply from Mother Nature, the District supplements that with other sources to provide 77% of the water for more than 2.5 million people in our service area. This water supply is stored in an underground reservoir, the Orange County Groundwater Basin. Historically, OCWD relied upon Santa Ana River water as its primary source to replenish the groundwater basin, but through sound planning and investment, the District built new infrastructure to create a local, drought-proof water supply for the region. A joint project with OC San, the project is called the GWRS and produces 100 million gallons of recycled water every day. GWRS water accounts for one-third of the water that is put into the basin, and in early 2023, that number will increase as we bring the final expansion of the GWRS online.

But we know our job is never done and we’re not stopping here—we will continue to explore and invest in water supply projects to ensure long-term water reliability. From looking into ocean desalination to increasing stormwater capture; it’s all on the table.

Water management is complex and can vary by region where water storage and water supply may look quite different. Here in Orange County, I can assure you that we’re maximizing our resources and making the most out of what we have. 24/7, 365 days a year—we’ll never stop working to ensure that high-quality water flows abundantly from your tap.  

I invite you to learn more about your water supply and stay engaged in local water issues. Whether it’s Orange County Water District or your local water provider, visit a website, attend an event, participate in a meeting, or take a tour. Let’s all take a part in shaping our water future. 

Stephen R. Sheldon