President’s Message: Managing our Vast Groundwater Supply

I want to give a shout out to our very own Chris Olson, director of engineering, and Ben Smith, senior engineer, for their dedicated work that garnered OCWD the American Society of Civil Engineers-Orange County Branch (ASCE-OC) 2020 Outstanding Water/Wastewater Treatment Project of the Year Award. This was for the Serrano PFAS Water Treatment Plant Project. Along with Director Denis Bilodeau and Senior Engineer Ben Smith, I had the privilege to attend the virtual awards ceremony and accept the award on behalf of the District. Thank you, Chris and Ben, and everyone else who worked on the Serrano PFAS Project.

In honor of National Groundwater Awareness Week held earlier this month, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on Orange County’s most valuable water supply:  the Groundwater Basin. The OCWD Basin is one of the largest coastal basins in Southern California providing 77% of the drinking water for most of Orange County.

OCWD works diligently to manage the groundwater supply that our 19 cities and water districts rely on and ensures that the water is of the highest quality for the 2.5 million people who use it for their everyday needs.

As part of its groundwater management program, OCWD maintains one of the world’s most advanced aquifer recharge systems to replace the water that is pumped from wells belonging to local water districts, cities and other groundwater users. The District uses a variety of sources to recharge and replenish the groundwater basin including water from the Santa Ana River, natural rainwater and stormwater such as from the rains earlier this month, imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and advanced purified water created from the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).

The GWRS takes wastewater from our partners at OC San and produces 100 million gallons of high-quality water that is recharged into the groundwater basin every day. To date, the GWRS has created 340 billion gallons of pure drinking water – and we’re not stopping there. The GWRS is currently undergoing its final phase of expansion, and when it is fully built out in 2023, the GWRS Final Expansion will provide 130 million gallons of water per day; enough to serve 1 million people daily.  

We are always looking at reliable sources to continue to replenish our groundwater basin, sustainably and cost-effectively, to ensure we have a diversified water supply portfolio. Whether it is managing the groundwater basin efficiently, capturing stormwater, expanding water reuse through the GWRS, or exploring ocean water desalination, we must consider all options.

We are committed to ensuring that the community is knowledgeable and has the resources available to understand local water issues. We encourage you to learn more about your water supply by visiting our website, attending one of our monthly water webinars, or emailing us at We look forward to connecting with you.