September 2021

OCWD Board Members


Stephen R. Sheldon

First Vice President

Cathy Green

Second Vice President

Tri Ta

Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Nelida Mendoza
Dina L. Nguyen, Esq.
Kelly E. Rowe, C.E.G., C.H.
Harry Sidhu, P.E.
Bruce Whitaker
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.

General Manager

Michael R. Markus

In This Issue:

•  President’s Message: Advancing Water Issues Through Leadership and Collaboration

•  Director Cathy Green Receives Unanimous Support from ACWA to Serve as its VP

•  Anaheim Appoints Mayor Harry Sidhu to OCWD Board

•  Registration Still Open for the OC Water Summit 

•  OCWD Partners on Historic Regional Water Storage Program

•  PFAS Treatment Program Receives Prestigious Awards from CMUA and AAEES

•  WateReuse California Recognizes OCWD Staff for Advancing Water Reuse

•  Annual NWRI GWRS Independent Advisory Panel Meeting

•  Webinar: Tackling Groundwater Contamination in the Northern Part of the Basin 

•  Producer’s Corner: Featuring News from City of Westminster and Mesa Water

•  Virtual GWRS Tours Continue

•  Out in the Community

•  Wild Secrets: Prado’s Little Pond

•  OCWD in the News 

•  OC Groundwater Basin


President’s Message: Advancing Water Issues Through Leadership and Collaboration

The Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) continues to take a leadership role in addressing important water challenges. Whether we’re developing new water supply projects, advocating for policy change to protect ratepayers, or facilitating discussions with our stakeholders and the community at large, we’re committed to tackling water issues that would best serve the 2.5 million people in OCWD’s service area. Here are a few updates I’d like to share with you this month.

Cathy Green Secures Vice President Nomination from ACWA

Congratulations to Director Green for receiving ACWA’s unanimous recommendation for the Office of Vice President. The Nominating Committee’s decision to put Cathy on the slate reinforces what we already know. Cathy’s knowledge of complex water issues, her character, and her experience in collaborating with a broad range of stakeholders is unmatched. OCWD unanimously supports Cathy for this position, and I encourage you to join us in supporting Cathy Green for ACWA Vice President. The election takes place at the ACWA 2021 Fall Conference on December 1, 2021.  

PFAS Federal Legislative Briefing – Ratepayers at Risk

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. OCWD is doing all that we can to proactively bring solutions to this potential legislative problem. To ensure our ratepayers are protected, we urge our Congressional Delegation to:

  • Preserve the polluter pays principal and vote no on bills like the PFAS Action Act of 2021 (H.R. 2467) that impose liability on water agencies unless amended to exclude public water and wastewater agencies from PFAS liability.
  • Vote to ensure that any changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act will respect and maintain the existing cost-benefit analysis in the development of drinking water standards.
  • Provide direct grant funding for PFAS remediation to water and wastewater agencies as noted in the Senate-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684).

Join Us, In Person, for the OC Water Summit

Orange County’s premier water event is just around the corner. We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone back to our annual event, packed with informative panel discussions on the latest water issues and a new, extended networking lunch. I’m especially excited about our water supply panel that will provide an in-depth look into our best defense to ongoing drought conditions – and that’s locally-controlled water supply projects. At OCWD, we see every day the benefits of these significant local projects, such as the Groundwater Replenishment System, but why hasn’t the state invested in large-scale water infrastructure projects? What challenges stand in the way? Our panel of statewide experts will lay it all on the table as they debate California's best course of action to sustainably increase its water supply.

I hope to see you all at the upcoming Summit. In the meantime, we continue to offer monthly webinars and virtual GWRS tours to keep you connected with what’s happening at OCWD.


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Director Cathy Green Receives Unanimous Support from ACWA to Serve as its VP

The Association of California Water Agencies’ (ACWA) Nominating Committee has unanimously chosen Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) Director Cathy Green as the Vice President candidate for ACWA’s recommended slate. With this latest announcement, nearly 40 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.

“I am honored that ACWA recommends me for the Office of Vice President for the Association’s upcoming election, and I congratulate ACWA’s current Vice President Pam Tobin for earning ACWA’s nomination to serve in the Office of President,” said OCWD Director Cathy Green. “Working in partnership with Pam, I pledge to ensure ACWA advocates for policies that are important to all of its member agencies.”

As an active member of ACWA for the past nine years, Director Green has served on various ACWA Boards and Committees since 2012. Presently, she is a member of ACWA’s Executive Committee (since 2019) and Board of Directors (since 2012), and she is serving her second term as Vice Chair of the ACWA Region 10 Board of Directors. Director Green also serves on ACWA’s Water Quality Committee (since 2012), and its Energy Committee (since 2020). Previously, she served two terms (2014-15 and 2018-19) as Region 10 Chair, and she served two terms on ACWA’s State Legislative Committee (2012-2015).

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.

To learn more about Director Green’s background, qualifications, and vision for ACWA, visit her webpage.

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Anaheim Appoints Mayor Harry Sidhu to OCWD Board

The Anaheim City Council appointed Mayor Harry Sidhu, P.E. to the OCWD Board of Directors to represent Division 9, the city of Anaheim. Sidhu previously served on OCWD’s Board from 2012-2015 and replaces former Director Jordan Brandman. 

“Water is the lifeblood of our city,” Director Sidhu said. “Our partnership with OCWD is critical to meeting one of life’s daily needs for residents and providing a vital resource for our city’s growth and prosperity. I’m honored to join the OCWD Board and to work together on behalf of those we serve.”

Director Sidhu was elected mayor of Anaheim in November 2018, representing the city at large. He previously served on Anaheim’s City Council from 2004-2012, including as mayor pro tem from 2009-2011 and in 2012. From 2013-2015, Director Sidhu also served as a Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority alternate commissioner.

A licensed Professional Engineer – a Registered Mechanical Engineer in the State of California – Director Sidhu received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Philadelphia’s Drexel University. He is also a licensed California Real Estate Broker, and a licensed general aviation and helicopter pilot.

Learn more about his appointment and the OCWD Board of Directors.

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Registration Still Open for the OC Water Summit

Tickets are still available for the 2021 OC Water Summit – which is just a few weeks away! This year’s event, "Water Breaking News," will be held on Friday, October 15 at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa and will include extended networking, interactive discussions and in-depth presentations featuring the latest and most critical water issues facing the region.

Famed weather forecaster Fritz Coleman returns as the event’s master of ceremonies. Presentation topics include:

  • Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations – Collaboration Yields Increased Supplies
  • The Best Defense to Drought is Water Supply
  • PFAS – Where Are We Now?
  • The Santa Ana River – What’s Coming Downstream?
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California General Manager Adel Hagekhalil – 19 Million People, 26 Agencies – Will the Plan Serve All?

Please visit our website for more information on this year’s program and speakers and be sure to register today.

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OCWD Partners on Historic Regional Water Storage Program

OCWD and regional water agencies worked together with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) to reach a historic agreement, the Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program (SARCCUP), to better prepare the region for future droughts and promote water use efficiency in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties—an area serving millions of customers.

“This is another win for Orange County ratepayers as we increase our water supply, enhance the environment and provide storage to assist with future droughts,” said OCWD Board President Steve Sheldon. “OCWD continues to be the national leader in groundwater management through this additional 36,000 acre-feet of storage along with grant funding for five new groundwater production wells that will increase the ability to extract stored water during drought periods.”

The $150-million-SARCCUP program will provide a collaborative, watershed-scale approach toward groundwater basin management, replenishment, and water transfers. Under the agreement, SARCCUP will use up to 137,000 acre-feet of storage in six groundwater basins. The regional water agencies will collectively plan for droughts while also conducting habitat restoration and assisting with the development of regional water use efficiency programs. Removal of 640 acres of Arundo donax, a non-native plant that uses 3.75 additional acre-feet of water per year compared to native habitat plants, will be completed within five years, creating annual water savings of approximately 2,400 acre-feet of water—enough to serve more than 5,000 households annually.

Learn more about this first-of-its-kind regional groundwater banking program in the press release.

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PFAS Treatment Program Receives Prestigious Awards from CMUA and AAEES

OCWD continues to be recognized for its proactive and swift per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) research initiatives, launching the nation’s PFAS pilot program, and testing treatment techniques to remove PFAS from local groundwater supplies. This month, OCWD was honored with two awards reflecting these efforts:

  • California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) 2021 Resource Efficiency & Community Service Award winner, receiving first place in the small-size utility water program category for launching the nation’s largest PFAS pilot testing program.
  • American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) 2021 award winner in its annual Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science competition, where OCWD received an Honors Award in the research category for advancing state-of-the-art environmental engineering or science practices.

In December 2019, OCWD accelerated efforts to address PFAS and test 14 different types of treatment media, including granular activated carbon, ion exchange, and novel alternative adsorbents, with the goal of identifying reliable and cost-effective solutions to remove PFAS from groundwater. Now in its second phase, the project is testing additional adsorbents just emerging into the marketplace.

To learn more about how OCWD is addressing PFAS in Orange County, please visit the District’s PFAS webpage.

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WateReuse California Recognizes OCWD Staff for Advancing Water Reuse

WateReuse California recognized two OCWD staff with awards that reflect exceptional leadership in advancing water recycling in California. General Manager Michael (Mike) R. Markus, P.E., D.WRE, BCEE, F.ASCE received the President’s Award and Principal Engineer Benjamin (Ben) Smith, P.E. received the Recycled Water Staff Person of the Year Award.

During his 33-year career at the District, Mike has been responsible for managing the implementation of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) program, which first began operating in 2008. It is undergoing its final expansion which will be able to treat 100% of the region’s wastewater, produce 130 million gallons a day of pure drinking water, and serve one million people daily when it is complete in 2023.

Under Mike’s leadership, OCWD also manages the Green Acres Project (GAP), which became the nation’s first landscape irrigation wastewater treatment plant when it became operational in 1991. GAP is a water reuse program 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 – much of which is overseen by OCWD Principal Engineer Ben Smith, who supports the GAP program from operations, service and repairs, end-users, rules and regulations, accounting, and more.

Projects like GWRS and GAP ensure a local, reliable water supply for the 2.5 million people the District serves. Congratulations to Mike and Ben for their well-deserved recognition! Learn more about the WateReuse awards in our press release.

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Annual NWRI GWRS Independent Advisory Panel Meeting

The annual meeting of the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) Independent Advisory Panel meeting was held virtually on September 16-17. The Panel’s periodic review of GWRS operations, water quality, and related issues is a requirement of the project’s Regional Board Permit. Topics this year included multiple OCWD proposals for revised pathogen log removal credits and multiple groundwater modeling assessments for additionally proposed areas for GWRS recharge in the basin, both of which are currently under review by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW). The meeting was attended by staff from OCWD, the Orange County Sanitation District, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the DDW. The panel’s findings and recommendations will be documented in a forthcoming written report and will inform the GWRS Final Expansion permitting efforts underway with both the DDW and the Regional Board.

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Webinar: Tackling Groundwater Contamination in the Northern Part of the Basin

OCWD’s September webinar tackled the issue of groundwater contamination in the northern part of the Orange County Groundwater Basin. Industrial chemicals have impacted the basin near the cities of Fullerton, Anaheim, and Placentia, and resulted in the shutdown of five production wells. The contamination is spreading and threatens to impact the other parts of the basin. During this webinar, Dave Mark, P.G., C.HG., OCWD principal hydrogeologist, shared how the District is working on ways to clean up the pollution in a collaborative effort with state and federal regulatory agencies. Dave was joined by Maile Gee, P.G., engineering geologist with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (SARWQCB) who discussed the role of the SARWQCB and how they work with local agencies in their groundwater cleanup efforts.

Learn more about OCWD’s monthly water webinars by visiting our website and view the September webinar recording below.

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Producer’s Corner: Featuring News from City of Westminster and Mesa Water

City of Westminster and OCWD’s Art Contest

The City of Westminster and OCWD are excited to present the Fall 2021 Water Conservation Art Contest. Eligible participants must be enrolled in middle or high schools within the City of Westminster’s boundaries, which include: Johnson, McGarvin, Stacey, and Warner middle schools; and La Quinta and Westminster high schools. The theme needs to contain a drought message and submissions must be original artwork. Art will be accepted through October 25, 2021. Interested schools or individuals can learn more about the art contest by visiting the City of Westminster’s webpage.

Mesa Water Launches Mesa Water Notify

A new customized customer notification system that provides timely information about water service is now available to Mesa Water customers. Mesa Water Notify allows Mesa Water to inform customers about water-related events such as planned maintenance or unforeseen situations. Quick notifications keep affected customers updated on the timing to restore service.  

Benefits of the user-friendly service include timely service updates at the customer’s fingertips, the ability to receive information about Mesa Water news, events, rebates and water-wise workshops, and the option to customize preferences at any time. All Mesa Water customers will be automatically signed up to receive notifications via text, email or voice message. Mesa Water customers can opt-out of receiving messages at any time, adjust their preferences directly from the email notification, and learn more at Mesa

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Virtual GWRS Tours Continue

To continue educating the public, and offering the convenience of a virtual format, OCWD is continuing to host virtual tours of the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) through an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the world-renowned facility. All virtual tours showcase a 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 October 1 and November 5. Advance registration is required and can be made by visiting the book-a-tour webpage.

Customized tours are also available and perfect for school and community groups who need flexibility on dates and times. To request a custom group tour, please contact Kira Erquiaga.

For those unable to attend a scheduled virtual tour, OCWD continues to offer on-demand tour videos through the following links: on-demand GWRS general tour or on-demand GWRS technical tour.

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­­Out in the Community

As part of its commitment to forge and 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 Cathy Green presented at the Fountain Valley Woman’s Club regarding OCWD and water conservation.

  • Several OCWD staff presented at the 2021 WateReuse Californian Annual Conference:
    • Director of Public Affairs Gina Ayala gave a virtual, pre-recorded presentation on OCWD’s communications efforts during a panel titled, “Water Reuse Communications in 2021 and Beyond: Developments and Best Practices.”
    • Principal Scientist Jana Safarik gave a virtual, pre-recorded presentation on her Bureau of Reclamation-funded work entitled “Evaluation of Peracetic Acid for Biofouling Control of UF Membranes as an Alternative to Chlorine.”
    • Executive Director of Operations Mehul Patel participated on a panel titled “Transforming Utilities, Sustaining our Assets-How Advanced Analytics Can Guide Better O&M of Water Recycling Systems.”
    • Executive Director of Water Quality and Technical Resources Jason Dadakis moderated a panel titled, “Artificial Intelligence & Real-Time Monitoring.”

  • Senior Scientist Meeta Pannu presented on PFAS during the Western Groundwater Congress presented by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Visit the OCWD Speakers Bureau webpage for more information or to request a speaker for your next meeting or event.

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Wild Secrets: Prado’s Little Pond

By Dick Zembal, Natural Resources Director   

In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Natural Resources Director Dick Zembal shares his stories about the creatures found in Prado’s little pond, found right outside of the OCWD Prado Dam office.

The shaded pool with its bubbling cascade on the Prado office veranda is a place for tranquil reflection; well, unless it is 110 degrees out with Santa Ana winds blowing over 50 miles per hour. The pond is small compared to the wetland ponds, but large enough to carry ripples from the falls to a quiet pool that reflects the sky beyond, readily whisking one away to adventures on other waters.

For me, those are memories of mountain trout streams and lakes, explorations, wild traverses, and prize fishes. Here and now, there are welcoming benches, picnic tables, a tribute etched in stone commemorating two champions, Loren Roy Hays and Dharm Vireo Pellegrini of OCWD’s nationally acclaimed endangered vireo monitoring program, a few native plants, and aquatic life including fish.

Arroyo Chubs

Arroyo chubs are native minnows that thrive in the Prado yard stream, along with many other creatures. The chub were transplanted from the river to explore the efficacy of our small, native fishes for mosquito control in lieu of the non-native mosquito fish. Arroyo chubs (Gila orcutti) are small, chunky fish; gray-olive green backed with white underside; large eyed, small mouthed; exceptionally five inches long, typically three – three-and-a-half inches; consumers of algae, small insects, and other invertebrates harbored on aquatic plants or pool bottom; and spawning in spring to early summer, sometimes repeating later in the year. Chubs survive low oxygen, fluctuating stream levels and temperatures, well adapted to ephemeral Southern California stream conditions. In the past, we have found chubs in the river below River Road, near the diversion to the Prado Wetlands. Arroyo chubs will scatter when you approach the pool, darting for bottom cover. If you remain still, observant, they quickly reemerge to go about their fishy business. They are curious enough to be easily captured in a pole net patiently deployed. Placing the net on the bottom scatters them but they soon are out exploring this new object; quick, adept retrieval brings in those fish that ventured into the net’s inner folds.

Read More…

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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 and industry publications that feature OCWD and the GWRS:

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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 August 2021.

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