President’s Message: Water Infrastructure Projects Help Ensure Water Supply Reliability for Orange County

You may have heard about the California drought in recent news and headlines. Most recently on May 11, Governor Newsom expanded on the April 21 drought emergency proclamation which includes 41 total counties under the drought state of emergency. While this number may seem high, keep in mind this represents only 30% of the state’s population.

A statewide drought has not yet been declared and, so far, Southern California counties are not under the drought state of emergency.  Recurring drought is a feature of California’s climate and rest assured that OCWD and its 19 retail water agencies plan and prepare for an occasion such as this.

For decades, OCWD’s professional staff and Board have carefully planned and invested in long-term solutions to ensure that Orange County residents and businesses have enough water for their everyday needs – drought or no drought. I’m humbled and proud to highlight a few of those water supply projects:

Enhanced Stormwater Capture at Prado Dam: Following approvals by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for the Prado Basin Ecosystem Restoration and Water Conservation Feasibility Study (Study), OCWD is planning for increased water storage behind Prado Dam.

This historic project announcement highlights the importance of water supply reliability and will add an additional 6,000 to 12,000 acre-feet of water annually into the Orange County Groundwater Basin (Basin) —creating a new water supply for approximately 60,000 people per year. Stormwater captured at Prado Dam is recharged into the Basin, which provides 77% of the drinking water that our 19 member agencies rely upon.

Without key partners like the Corps, water supply projects like this would not be possible. I want to thank the Corps for their longstanding partnership to collaborate with OCWD on innovative solutions. Whether it is public agencies working together or public-private partnerships, we need these strong alliances working together to make good investments that ensure water supply reliability for the region.

Explore Ocean Water Desalination: Last month, I shared with you another historic decision regarding the proposed desalination project in Huntington Beach. An approval granted to Poseidon Water by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board puts Orange County another step closer to negotiating and considering a water purchase contract with Poseidon that could improve our water reliability. I am eager to keep moving in this direction and to implement projects that benefit our region.

Expand Water Recycling: The District has a long history of successful water supply projects. Take the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) for example. Since 2008, the GWRS has taken wastewater from our neighbors at OC San, another example of a great public partnership, and treated it to highly purified drinking water where it then gets stored in the Basin for potable reuse. While the GWRS has been operational for 13 years, it’s important to highlight that our two agencies have worked together for more than 40 years, leading the way in water recycling.

The GWRS recently achieved an incredible milestone – 1 million acre-feet, or more than 350 billion gallons of water have been produced at this facility. Currently, we’re producing about 100 million gallons of high-quality water every day. This world-renowned project continues to grow and is undergoing an expansion that, when complete in 2023, will create 130 million gallons of water a day, enough water for nearly 1 million people.

As I emphasized in my recent The Epoch Times interview, we need to invest in infrastructure to ensure water reliability, not just during times of drought, but to secure our broader water future. As Board President, I assure you that my colleagues and I will do all that we can to increase Orange County’s waters supply and protect our local water reliability in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.