Groundwater management

Orange County Water District is responsible for managing the vast groundwater basin that provides most of northern and central Orange County’s drinking water. As part of its groundwater management, 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 agencies, cities and other groundwater users.

OCWD works to manage and protect groundwater in three main ways:

1) Recharge

OCWD captures surface water from several sources. Water is collected and contained, then added to the groundwater basin to recharge it. Recharging is a natural hydrological process. Water moves down from the surface into the groundwater basin to replenish the aquifer. OCWD helps nature move the water along with a system of pumps, pipelines, levees, and filters.

  • Recharge facilities: Percolation basins slowly put water back into the groundwater basin while naturally filtering and purifying it
  • Diversion facilities: Inflatable rubber dams, levees and valves direct the water to recharge facilities
  • Barrier wells: These wells allow water to be pumped into the groundwater basin to keep seawater from contaminating the basin

2) Monitor

OCWD monitors and protects water quality and quantity—always maintaining sustainable water levels in the basin. To keep the groundwater from being contaminated, it manages seawater intrusion. In addition, OCWD checks for harmful chemicals, investigates groundwater contamination and tests the water that is in, and going into, the basin. OCWD also monitors the quality of drinking water wells.

  • Monitoring wells: These wells allow for measuring water elevations and taking water samples
  • Production wells: Groundwater is pumped out of these wells
  • Advanced Water Quality Assurance Laboratory: the Lab tests water quality

3) Purify

OCWD percolates and injects water into the basin. Some of it is recycled water.

  • Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS): The GWRS reuses treated wastewater and purifies it to supplement drinking water supplies
  • Wetlands: Shallow ponds with vegetation are used to purify water naturally


Click on the images below to view full screen.