August is water quality month in Orange County

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OCWD testing

August is Water Quality Month, a perfect time to educate ourselves about how and why we can rely on clean water each time we turn on the tap. Groundwater from your local Orange County groundwater basin makes up about 77% of the total water needed for consumers. Your city or water agency buys about 23% of imported water from Northern California or the Colorado River to make up the difference.

The heart of the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD; the District) 87-year mission is to provide high-quality groundwater supplies for the 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County.

The District does this by continuing to protect groundwater supplies and increase reliability, despite the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Fullerton-Placentia-Anaheim (north basin) and Santa Ana-Tustin-Irvine (south basin), OCWD is dealing with groundwater contamination in shallow aquifers from industrial dumping in the 1950s and 1960s. The District is proactively seeking ways to clean up the pollution in a united effort with local and national regulatory agencies. Initial cleanup endeavors involve cutting off and preventing the spread of contamination before it travels further into the main aquifer.

New contamination threats, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have been found in air, earth, food and water across the nation and locally. These “forever chemicals” were once commonly used in many consumer products and industrial applications and are part of a larger group referred to as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). OCWD is at the forefront of this issue that includes testing, monitoring and discovering the most viable ways to deal with it locally.

OCWD’s Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory was the first public agency laboratory in California to achieve state certification to analyze for PFAS in drinking water. The District also recently launched the nation’s largest pilot program to test treatment techniques to remove PFAS in groundwater. A planning study will help determine how new treatment facilities could be rapidly implemented.

We encourage you to visit the OCWD.com website to learn more about what the District is doing to ensure your water meets state and federal drinking water standards.
Contamination encumbers portions of the groundwater basin and can eventually threaten the amount OCWD member water retailers may be able to pump. In addition to finding resolutions such as bringing PFAS treatment plants online within one to two years, the District is readying to supplement its current water supply.

OCWD has started the final expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System that will bring an additional 30 million gallons per day (MGD) of drinking water for a total of 130 MGD—enough to meet the water needs of 1 million people—by 2023.

The system takes highly treated wastewater that would have previously been discharged into the Pacific Ocean and purifies it using a three-step advanced treatment process consisting of microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide.
OCWD is also evaluating other sources of high-quality water that include desalinated ocean water. This summer and fall, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Coastal Commission will determine if the desalination project in Huntington Beach will move forward. If permits are obtained from these two agencies, the OCWD Board of Directors will resolve whether desalinated water will be part of its future water portfolio.

Thanks to the District’s successful groundwater management and commitment to fulfilling its mission, it has been able to sustain the basin and more than double its annual yield. All of these new efforts and commitments continue to yield a bright high-quality water future for local homes and businesses.

This Orange County Water District article is provided by Jordan Brandman, a council member of the city of Anaheim who represents Division 9 of OCWD (www.ocwd.com). Contact Director Brandman at jbrandman@anaheim.net.