Stephen R. Sheldon
First Vice President
Second Vice President
Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, C.E.G., C.H.
Harry Sidhu, P.E.
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
Michael R. Markus
• President’s Message: Orange County Water District Supports Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022
• Sign Up for November Webinar: Constructing the Nation’s Largest Ion Exchange PFAS Water Treatment Plant
Earlier this month the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Board of Directors voted to adopt a resolution to support the proposed Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022 (Act). This initiative dedicates two percent of the state general fund toward construction of new water supply projects. By utilizing the two percent of the state’s existing general fund, this initiative gets vital water supply projects built without bonds or raising taxes; and it expires when the work is done. Additionally, there are half a dozen projects already vetted by the California Water Commission, but they don’t have the necessary funding to move forward. This initiative provides the critical funding to get those projects funded and releases hundreds of millions of dollars from Proposition One funding for necessary environmental conservation projects.
I recently co-authored a CalMatters commentary article further emphasizing the need to support this type of legislation that will help build the necessary water infrastructure to achieve short and long-term water resiliency and streamline the regulatory process to do so. The strong bi-partisan support among state legislators is a great testament that we are united for this water supply initiative. I am personally thrilled that OCWD is the first water district in California to adopt a resolution of support for the Act and to hear local agencies like Mesa Water have done the same. I look forward to seeing many more districts follow suit.
This was also a proactive measure that we took in advance of the statewide drought declaration. As we’ve stated before, OCWD is well prepared for ongoing dry conditions and we believe robust water supply initiatives and infrastructure investments are necessary to sustain long-term water reliability for Orange County, and for all of California. Locally, OCWD has already invested in maximizing water recycling, increasing stormwater capture, implementing water quality projects that protect and increase supply, and managing one of our region’s most valuable assets – the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which provides 77% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. And there’s more to do – all options are on the table as we also explore ocean water desalination, leverage the latest science and data, and use new technologies to enhance water supply.
Many of these topics were addressed at our premier water event, the OC Water Summit (Summit), where speakers tackled water’s most complex challenges on the big stage. As co-chair of this year’s event, I was so pleased to see nearly 350 stakeholders attend and engage in these important water issues.
You can read more about the event in this month’s newsletter. If you weren’t able to attend the Summit, I encourage you to view video recordings of the sessions, which will be available in the coming weeks on the District’s website and social media channels.
Last month, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Nominating Committee unanimously chose OCWD Director Cathy Green as the Vice President candidate for ACWA’s recommended slate. Currently, more than 45 statewide organizations have expressed their support for Director Green to serve as Vice President of ACWA, the nation’s largest statewide coalition of public water agencies.
While advocating for water solutions at the local, regional, state, and federal levels, Director Green has built relationships that will help advance statewide issues and policies that ensure a safe, affordable, and reliable water supply for all Californians. The election for ACWA President and Vice President will take place at the Association’s 2021 Fall Conference on Wednesday, December 1, 2021, at 12:00 p.m. during the General Session Membership Meeting. Voting can be done in-person or virtually.
Watch this short video to learn more about her candidacy and experience or visit her website for more information.
Nearly 350 people attended the 13th annual OC Water Summit, "Water Breaking News" on October 15 where we were back in person for in-depth discussions on the latest and most critical water issues facing the region. Our speakers represented local and statewide agencies, offering their perspectives and expertise on a wide range of topics including increasing water supply, implementing Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations, managing the Santa Ana River, addressing PFAS in Orange County, and working collaboratively to achieve long-term water resiliency.
Thank you to the event sponsors whose contributions helped result in the event’s success. Beginning today, and over the next couple of weeks, OCWD will feature more information on the program and speakers and publish videos of all the sessions. We encourage continued dialogue on these issues.
In the meantime, please enjoy this video of famed weathercaster Fritz Coleman who gave his 2021 Orange County water forecast at this year’s event, and visit the following resources for more information about this year’s event:
Since the 1970s, OCWD has been a leader in pioneering recycled water for beneficial reuse. Beginning with Water Factory 21, the predecessor to the current Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), this project was the first in the world to use reverse osmosis to purify wastewater to drinking water standards. It took treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District (OC San) and recycled it, blended it with imported water, and injected it into 23 wells in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach to combat seawater intrusion.
OCWD also manages the Green Acres Project (GAP), which is celebrating 30 years of operation this month. GAP is a water reuse effort that provides recycled water for landscape irrigation at parks, schools, and golf courses; industrial uses, such as carpet dying; toilet flushing; and power generation cooling.
GAP provides an alternate source of water to the cities of Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Santa Ana. There are approximately 100 different sites currently using GAP water including: Hyundai Motor America’s headquarters, IKEA, Kaiser Permanente, South Coast Plaza, OC Performing Arts Center, Mile Square Park and Golf Courses, Costa Mesa Country Club, Mount Olive Memorial Park, Centennial Park, Big Canyon Country Club, Newport Beach Country Club, Chroma Systems, Plaza Tower, Caltrans, and Orange County Sanitation District (OC San).
Learn more about OCWD’s water reuse programs by visiting our website.
Two noteworthy events occurred in October that highlight the value of water and essential services that water agencies provide.
Water Professionals Appreciation Week
California’s fifth annual Water Professionals Appreciation Week, celebrated October 2 – 10, highlights the important role of water industry professionals and local public water agencies in ensuring safe and reliable water and recycled water operations in California. Teams of planners, engineers, water quality specialists, technicians, and other skilled workers have built, operated, and maintained the systems to guarantee that when your tap is turned on, clean water flows freely and abundantly. Whether our work is in the office, lab, field, treatment plant, or in the wetlands, OCWD’s employees are critical to ensuring water reliability and advancing our water future.
Imagine a Day Without Water
No water to drink, bathe, or manufacture products is a challenging concept to imagine. On October 21, a national education campaign encouraged us to reflect upon how water is essential, invaluable, and in need of continued investment. Commemorating a day like this allows us to fully appreciate the water resources, infrastructure, and dedicated professionals who play a role in delivering drinking water to us all and reminds us how important this precious natural resource is to our everyday lives – one we literally cannot live without.
Sign Up for November Webinar: Constructing the Nation’s Largest Ion Exchange PFAS Water Treatment Plant
On Wednesday, November 10 at 11 a.m., OCWD will host its next webinar highlighting the nation’s largest ion exchange PFAS treatment plant, located at the Yorba Linda Water District (YLWD) headquarters. This webinar will provide an overview of the project from early collaboration through construction completion, start-up, and operation, including lessons learned and key factors that led to its success. Featured speakers include Chris Olsen, OCWD’s director of engineering, and Rosanne Weston, engineering manager for YLWD.
Registration is required. Secure your spot today! RSVP here.
The Clarke Prize is awarded annually to thought leaders in water research, science, technology, or policy and is recognized by the International Congress of Distinguished Awards as one of the most prestigious water awards in the world.
NWRI Executive Director Kevin Hardy stated, “Dr. Shane Snyder personifies the qualities that the Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Water Science and Technology was designed to recognize. His contributions to the water community exemplify a Clarke Prize laureate.”
While Dr. Snyder’s scientific, technical, and leadership accomplishments are remarkable, the Clarke Prize Executive Committee also noted that, “Dr. Snyder is known as a compassionate and personable character that always enjoys sharing his knowledge.”
For more information, visit the NWRI website.
Due to their prolonged use, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been detected in water sources throughout the United States, including the Orange County Groundwater Basin. Despite playing no role in releasing PFAS into the environment, OCWD is working swiftly to address the issue – from launching the nation’s largest pilot treatment program, designing and constructing several dozen treatment facilities, to advocating for what’s right and holding the responsible parties accountable.
Recent updates include:
- •More than 50 mayors, councilmembers, water directors and Congressional staff gathered to hear about pending federal PFAS legislation that has huge impacts on Orange County ratepayers. Review OCWD’s federal legislative priorities fact sheet.
- •The 13th annual OC Water Summit hosted a session titled, “PFAS – Where Are We Now?” Check out this session intro video for a glance into what our panelists discussed.
- •Registration opened for OCWD’s webinar, “Constructing the Nation’s Largest Ion Exchange PFAS Treatment Plant” featuring the Yorba Linda Water District PFAS treatment plant.
- •The PFAS treatment program received prestigious awards from the California Municipal Utilities Association and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.
OCWD continues to provide 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 and participate in important dialogues and research initiatives with people across the country on developing long-term solutions.
For the latest information or to sign up for our email updates, please visit OCWD’s PFAS Resources page.
OCWD 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. The District has published its October 2021 update on activities in and around the North and South Basin sites. In September, a webinar was conducted on the North Basin groundwater cleanup efforts, which can be viewed in the video below. OCWD will continue to update stakeholders on these projects that protect and maintain the high quality of our local groundwater.
To continue educating the public, and offering the convenience of a virtual format, OCWD hosts virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) through an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the world-renowned facility. Check out our tour options below.
Public Tours: Video tour of the facility led by General Manager Mike Markus, followed by live Q&A with OCWD experts. Public tours are generally held the first Friday of every month at 10:00 a.m. and last approximately one hour.
Upcoming public tours will be on November 5 and December 3. A virtual joint tour with OCWD and OC San will also take place on November 9. Advance registration is required and can be made by visiting the Book a Tour webpage.
Customized Group Tours: To request a customized tour for groups who need flexibility on dates and times, please contact Kira Erquiaga.
On-Demand Videos: These videos are a great tool to watch in the convenience of your home or to show during a meeting, event, or class lecture. View our on-demand GWRS general tour (less than 10 minutes) and on-demand GWRS technical tour (less than 30 minutes).
As part of its commitment to maintain long-term, positive, and proactive relationships with members of the local community and greater water industry, OCWD board members and staff speak regularly before groups and at events. We recently participated in the following:
- •Director Nelida Mendoza, Jason Dadakis, executive director of water quality and technical resources, and Ben Smith, principal engineer, provided presentations during a virtual community meeting with the city of Santa Ana regarding the construction of Well SA-40 PFAS Treatment Facility.
- •General Manager Mike Markus presented on the panel, “Navigating Unknown Waters: Emerging Contaminants, Regulatory Compliance, and Treatment Technologies” at the Association of Municipal Water Agencies (AMWA) 2021 Executive Management Conference.
- •OCWD staff presented at the Orange County WateReuse meeting about a GAP disinfection study.
- •Executive Director of Planning and Natural Resources Greg Woodside provided two presentations on Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) at Prado Dam to the Riverside County Water Task Force and during a Scripps webinar.
- •Senior Planner Kevin O’Toole presented the results of dry and wet weather sampling of the Chantilly storm drain in Anaheim at the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) Annual Conference. Following the presentation, Kevin also participated in a panel discussion titled “PFAS: A Barrier to Maximizing Urban Stormwater Capture”.
Visit the OCWD Speakers Bureau webpage for more information or to request a speaker for your next meeting or event.
By Dick Zembal, Natural Resources Director
In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Natural Resources Director Dick Zembal shares his spooky stories about the creatures that emerge at Prado and around Orange County, timed perfectly for the Halloween season.
The days are getting shorter, and nights are chilled despite the midday heat – Autumn has arrived. Minds wander on a blustery fall day, ghostly silhouettes move among the shadows, animated by the evening breeze. All Hallows Eve is near and in a young mind the anticipation intensifies with the growing darkness.
As a kid, Halloween was my favorite celebration of the year. We seldom got sweets and here was a night dedicated to candy for the asking, spookiness, and running wildly about the neighborhood, semi-untethered with buddies. Tough to design a better time, although the frequency needed work, once a year, come on! Older now and forced to act it, the past resurges each autumn, the haunted maze my son and I would build, the spookiness of the old tales and traditions. These musings are renewed by the changing season and colors, leaf drop in the Prado woods, where icons of this annual celebration dwell and the night-roamers get more than equal time now. Creatures of tale, legend, and folklore include bats, crows and ravens, owls, rats, spiders, toads, and more. They are storied attractors of the spirits, familiars of witches, and messengers of the underworld… muwhahaha!
Bats pursue flying insects in the diminishing light while the weather holds, still supporting nightly insect flights; some may even break winter hibernation for a week or two during hot spells although they may not eat. They flutter after elusive quarry, dark colored, mousey appearing but winged; not a rodent, with prominent, some misshapen ears, vanishing and reappearing repeatedly like magic in the night sky. Scary tales link bats with Halloween, the most compelling involve vampire bats shapeshifting from bat to humanoid and back. Vampire bats do exist in the new world but largely south of the United States. They are too small to present much of a danger to humans and seem to prefer other animals. Our own neighborhood bats are insect-eaters and known for their fantastic ability to navigate in total darkness, even echo-locating tiny objects like flies and moths. They are the only mammal capable of true unassisted flight. There are 16 different species of bats in Orange County.
The three most common are Yuma Myotis, Mexican Free-Tailed and Big Brown Bats. A Myotis lightly roils the surface of a pool as it snatches yet another emerging insect; Free-Tails are colonial rosters under major bridges over the river with thousands of bats in the larger groups, whereas the Big Brown is one of the most widespread and abundant bats in North America. The Western Mastiff is a cauliflower-eared giant, sporting a 22-inch wingspan, the largest bat in California. Bats are not blind, do not get tangled in human hair, nor do they attack humans draining them of their vital fluids, but they are ecologically essential for insect control.
OCWD continues to be recognized for its leadership in the water industry. Below are the District’s recent media highlights and industry publications that feature OCWD and the GWRS:
- •California Water News Daily: Southern California Agencies Partner to Bank Water for Future Droughts
- •CalMatters: Here is A Plan to Create More Water for California
- •Civil Engineering Magazine: California Water District Moves Ahead with PFAS Treatment Systems
- •NBC4: Newsom Declares Drought Emergency
- •OC Register: New Ballot Measures Target the Right Problems
- •Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Water Environment & Technology Magazine: Holistic Thinking Catalyzes System Resilience
- •Water Finance & Management: OCWD Supports Initiative to Increase California’s Water Supply
Additionally, OCWD Director of Research Dr. Megan Plumlee was featured in Water Research Foundation’s (WRF) new video highlighting the importance of water reuse research and our collaboration with WRF.
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 one new staff member.
Employee of the 3rd Quarter
OCWD is pleased to announce that Ritchie Valdez, Maintenance Technician II, is the 2021 Employee of the Third Quarter! Over the last several years, Ritchie has taken ownership of the Microfiltration area of GWRS in many ways, particularly when it comes to monitoring membrane integrity by thoroughly investigating daily Pressure Decay Test (PDT) values and following up on valve issues that affect those results. Demonstrating daily proper membrane integrity is a key component to the GWRS operating permit requirements. As the plant ages and parts begin to wear, membranes foul quicker. His knowledge of this process and positive attitude have made it easy for him to work with others and pass on what he has learned to other employees. This makes him a valuable asset to the District, and worthy of Employee of the Quarter. Congratulations, Ritchie!
View the infographic below to see the groundwater basin’s storage, recharge, and pumping levels, through end of September 2021.