January 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 - A Glance Into 2021 and Ahead

•  OCWD Welcomes Directors Nelida Mendoza and Bruce Whitaker

•  Presenters Sought for Youth Environmental Summit

•  January Webinar Highlights Reverse Osmosis

•  Out in the Community

•  Tours

•  Producers' Corner: David Youngblood Named General Manager of East Orange County Water District 

•  Wild Secrets - 2020 Natural Resource Reflections

•  PFAS Update

•  North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup Quarterly Update

•  OCWD in the News

•  OCWD Employees

•  OC Groundwater Basin


President’s Message - A Glance Into 2021 and Ahead

It’s been an honor to be on the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Board of Directors since 2005 and I look forward to serving as its board president for the 2021-2022 term. OCWD remains committed to providing a reliable, high quality water supply to the 2.5 million people in our service area. Through long-term planning, sound financial management and appropriate water infrastructure investment, I look forward to supporting that commitment through a robust water portfolio.

2020 was a challenging year, but the District was steadfast in fulfilling its mission. Last year, we completed six construction projects to improve water supply and reliability, continued construction to expand the world’s largest water recycling project, began construction and design of PFAS treatment systems, launched a virtual outreach program, and put into motion many other water supply projects. I’m proud of the great work our board and staff have accomplished together and I invite you to learn more by viewing our 2020 Year in Review video. Over the years, and by working hand in hand with our member agencies, partners, regulators, and legislators, the District has established itself as a leader in groundwater management, water quality and water recycling. 

Groundwater Replenishment SystemLooking ahead to 2021, we will continue to perform our due diligence of operating and exploring critical water supply and water quality projects that best serve the residents and businesses of north and central Orange County. During my term, I’m especially eager to complete the Final Expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), our world-renowned water recycling project, which takes highly treated wastewater and purifies it to drinking water standards. This local source of drought-proof water is then recharged into the aquifer to become part of the region’s drinking water supply. When completed, the GWRS will produce 130 million gallons of water a day; enough to serve the daily needs of 1 million people.

Read More…

Stephen R. Sheldon


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OCWD Welcomes New Directors Nelida Mendoza and Bruce Whitaker

The Orange County Water District welcomed two new directors to its board this month. Nelida Mendoza was recently appointed to the OCWD Board of Directors by the Santa Ana City Council to represent Division 8, the city of Santa Ana. Bruce Whitaker was recently re-appointed to the OCWD Board of Directors by the Fullerton City Council to represent Division 10, the city of Fullerton. Whitaker previously served on the OCWD Board from August 2012 to January 2014 and February 2017 to February 2019.  



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Presenters Sought for Youth Environmental Summit

Calling all water and environmental organizations! You can play a part in educating today’s youth during the Orange County Youth Environmental Summit (YES), held online April 19-23, 2021. Known previously as the Children’s Water Education Festival, YES is back for 2021 with a new name and a new virtual format.

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

Presenters are needed to bring this engaging content to life by creating a prerecorded video lesson that will be made available on-demand to registered teachers and their students. Have a predeveloped video or program that fits the parameters? That’s great! Content does not need to be original. Additional information, including presenter guidelines and an application are available at www.ocyouthsummit.com.

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January Webinar Highlights Reverse Osmosis

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

Approximately 230 attendees joined us for our January webinar, “Reverse Osmosis: Getting the Credit it Deserves,” on January 27 with speakers OCWD Principal Scientist Jana Safarik and Trussell Technologies Senior Engineer Rodrigo Tackaert. Jana and Rodrigo presented an overview of the use of naturally occurring surrogates for monitoring RO integrity in treatment facilities for potable reuse.

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

Additional information on OCWD's webinar series, including recordings of past webinars, may be found at https://www.ocwd.com/news-events/events/water-webinars/.

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Out in the Community 

As part of its standard 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: 

  • • Planning and watershed staff provided a presentation and discussion of the District’s ongoing projects and planning activities to SAWPA staff and four member agencies of SAWPA (Eastern MWD, Western MWD, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District).  Staff also participated in a discussion of potential activities that SAWPA staff is considering.

  • • Directors Jordan Brandman and Nelida Mendoza, and General Manager Mike Markus participated in a Let’s Talk Water forum focused on water and Orange County’s disadvantaged communities. An update on the North Basin and PFAS was provided. Former OCWD Directors Vicente Sarmiento and Ahmad Zahra also spoke at the event.

  • • Sandy Scott-Roberts provided an update on the GWRS Final Expansion during a webinar hosted by the Orange County Water Association.

Have a request for a speaker for your upcoming virtual event? Visit https://www.ocwd.com/contact-us/book-a-speaker/ for more information! 

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In an effort to continue its popular tour program during the novel coronavirus pandemic, while safeguarding the health and safety of its employees and the community, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) is offering virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) in webinar format.

The 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.

More than 290 guests attended three virtual tours during the month of December including guests from the California Special Districts Association, a joint tour with OC Sanitation and members of the general public who attended the monthly public tour.

Generally, virtual tours are held the first Friday of every month and are open to the general public. Upcoming public tours include: 

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

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

Tours for schools and community organizations can be scheduled to accommodate group schedules. Should you have any questions or wish to obtain more information about scheduling a tour, please contact Kira Erquiaga.

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Producers’ Corner: David Youngblood Named General Manager of East Orange County Water District

The Board of Directors of the East Orange County Water District (EOCWD) has appointed David Youngblood as General Manager, replacing retired General Manager Lisa Ohlund who served from 2009 until December 2021.

With more than 25 years of experience, Youngblood most recently served as manager of engineering and operations at the Laguna Beach County Water District. Prior to that, Youngblood worked at both the South Coast Water District and Orange County Water District. Previously he worked with several Orange County engineering firms. He is a member and past president of the Orange County Water Association.

OCWD congratulates and supports David Youngblood and wishes him great success as he leads EOCWD.

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Wild Secrets – 2020 Natural Resource Reflections

In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Natural Resources Director Richard Zembal reflects upon the memorable moments of 2020 and looks ahead to what 2021 may bring to OCWD’s natural resources department. Read his story below.

2020 was only an average water year (total rainfall of 14 inches) but the timing of the rains was very beneficial, resulting in a banner year for the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo and other riparian birds. At least one vireo hung out on District property into the winter. OCWD is partnering with grant funding from Proposition 84 on another 640 acres of Arundo removal from the Santa Ana River Watershed. A renowned raptor biologist favorably compared the health of our Prado raptor populations to those on Camp Pendleton and in the Santa Monica Mountains at a time when SoCal populations of birds of prey are otherwise disappearing. The Sediment Demonstration Project was completed in the Prado Basin, but another major fire burned 1,000+ acres.

Prado Basin wildlife populations fare as well as the productivity and health of the habitat growing there allows. The big 2020 bird populations happened with the support of abundant and timely rainfall. In 2019, the water conservation pool stayed above 498 feet from mid-January through mid-April, and up to 505 feet intermittingly from mid-February through March; piggyback that in 2020 with the pool staying above 505 feet in April and above 498 feet until the end of May. Two successive years of abundant rainfall and conserved water produced lush plant growth and a lot of food for wildlife.



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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.

Click here to view our January 2021 PFAS Update.

For additional information, please visit OCWD’s PFOS/PFOA Resources page. 

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North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup Quarterly Update

The Orange County Water District manages and protects the Orange County Groundwater Basin that underlies north and central Orange County, from which 19 cities and water agencies draw their water supply. OCWD implements a proactive groundwater and surface water monitoring program to protect the quality of the Orange County Groundwater Basin and ensure the water it provides meets or exceeds state and federal drinking water standards.

Industrial chemicals have impacted areas in the northern and southern parts of the groundwater basin; North Basin (near Fullerton, Anaheim and Placentia) and South Basin (near Santa Ana, Tustin and Irvine). OCWD is proactively seeking ways to clean up the pollution in a united effort with local and national regulatory agencies.

Click here to view our North and South Basin Groundwater Cleanup Quarterly Update.

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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

2020 Employees of the 4th Quarter

The Orange County Water District is pleased to announce warehouse technicians Tony Arocho and Miguel Chavez as the 2020 Employees of the Fourth Quarter.

This nomination is unique because it is deserving of two teammates who have been working hard to service 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 Tony and Miguel develop their knowledge base of 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.


Thank you to our two retirees for your many years of service. We wish you the very best in your new endeavors and adventures in life!

2020 Service Awards

Additionally, the Orange County Water District recently honored 46 employees for a collective 670 years of service during its annual Service Awards event.

At five, 10, 15, 20 and subsequent intervals of 5, OCWD distinguishes its workers with pins to mark their hard work.

Click here to view this year's honorees.

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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 December 2020.

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