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.
Looking 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.
But our job is far from over—we must consider all supply options, such as exploring ocean water desalination and maximizing stormwater capture, educating our community on the importance of water conservation and efficiency through our robust outreach programs, and remaining on the forefront of research and innovation by developing new tools and technologies to address emerging water issues. With water being such a precious resource, we must diversify our portfolio to achieve water reliability for our region. If we relied on any single source of water, we would always be one earthquake or one drought away from catastrophically low water supplies.
I’m looking forward to expanding on these efforts and engaging in these important discussions during my term as president. I welcome input from the community, invite you all to stay engaged in local water issues, and encourage you to keep an eye out for all the great projects and programs OCWD has coming up this year, including the Orange County Water Summit, monthly webinars which highlight important District projects, continuing our popular GWRS tour program, and the District’s first ever virtual Youth Environmental Summit.
As we prepare for another successful year of exciting activities, I invite you to follow the District on social media to stay up to date on the latest news, visit our website or attend one of our board meetings.
Stephen R. Sheldon