OCWD Board of Directors

Cathy Green
First Vice President
Denis R. Bilodeau, P.E.
Second Vice President
Philip L. Anthony
Jordan Brandman
Shawn Dewane
Jan M. Flory, ESQ.
Dina L. Nguyen, ESQ.
Roman Reyna
Stephen R. Sheldon
Roger C. Yoh, P.E.
General Manager
Michael R. Markus
P.E., D.WRE.

August is National
Water Quality Month

Water sustains life. We in central and north Orange County are fortunate to have it readily available when we turn on our faucet and we don't usually give it a second thought. August is National Water Quality Month and the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) would like everyone to think about drinking water. Ask yourself, “What is my household and community doing to protect our freshwater?

Pollution from one household might not be enough to close a beach or close down a groundwater well, but multiply that by the 2.4 million consumers in the Orange County Water District and the farms and industries within it and it can become a serious problem. Thanks to stringent monitoring and testing, Orange County’s drinking water is safe, but the region’s water quality faces real threats.

In 1999 and 2000, Orange County beaches closed to swimming and/or warnings were posted due to high bacterial levels from pollutants discharged many miles inland. There are also natural contaminants like salts that threaten the drinking water supply and must be managed. In addition, one drinking water wells has been closed in the South Basin near Santa Ana, Tustin, Irvine, and four other wells in the North Basin near Fullerton, Anaheim, and Placentia due to groundwater contamination caused by decades-old manufacturing practices.

Saltwater contamination is managed in two principal ways. Santa Ana River water has a whopping 700 parts per million (ppm) of salt. The Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) removes pharmaceuticals, contaminants and salts from wastewater. OCWD's objective is for the groundwater basin to have no more than 560 ppm. By recharging the basin with GWRS water, the District is managing salt in the basin caused by drought-related evaporation, detergents, and water softeners, among others.

Additionally, the Orange County Groundwater Basin is in constant danger of seawater intrusion from the Pacific Ocean. The District injects between 30-35 million gallons of GWRS water each day into a series of barrier wells to push back saltwater while adding freshwater to the groundwater basin.

The Orange County Water District is currently seeking solutions to the aforementioned groundwater contamination in the North and South basins through a collaborative effort among potentially responsible parties, surrounding communities, necessary government agencies and the District, itself.

OCWD is also proactively and naturally removing pollutants from the Santa Ana River. The District owns approximately 2,400 acres of land in the Prado Basin. This acreage includes the 465-acre constructed Prado Wetlands, a system of 50 shallow ponds designed to remove nitrogen and other pollutants from the Santa Ana River before the water is diverted from the river in Orange County to be percolated into OCWD’s surface water recharge system. OCWD diverts approximately half of the baseflow of the Santa Ana River through the wetland ponds, which remove an estimated 15 to 40 tons of nitrates a month depending on the time of year.

We all must do our part to safeguard our water quality.

What can you do? The Clean Water Action organization lists a variety of ways individuals and families can prevent water pollution from their homes:

  • Don't use antibacterial soaps or cleaning products
  • Don't flush unwanted or out-of-date medications down the toilet or drain
  • Don't put anything but water down storm drains
  • Fix leaks that drop from cars and put liners in driveways to collect oil and other materials
  • Avoid using pesticides or chemical fertilizers
  • Choose nontoxic household products when possible
  • Pick up after pets
  • Don't pave properties

"Quality drinking water means better health and a better future," says OCWD General Manager Mike Markus. "Join us to help keep our water clean and safe."