The Groundwater Replenishment (GWR) System, the largest water purification project of its kind and joint project of Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD), received the 2005 Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in the category of Ecosystem and Watershed Management.
The award was presented to Denis Bilodeau, OCWD board member, Jose Solorio, OCWD board member, Virginia Grebbien, OCWD general manager, Michael Duvall, OCSD board member, James Ferryman, OCSD board member, Carolyn Cavecche, OCSD board member and Robert Ghirelli, acting OCSD general manager, at a formal recognition ceremony held at the California Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters in Sacramento.
The award is the state of California's highest environmental honor. The Ecosystem and Watershed Stewardship category recognizes innovative and sustainable approaches to land and water management that restore or protect natural conditions, functions and processes and provide economic, social and environmental benefits.
A committee selected the GWR System as the most deserving from a competitive pool of applications received from residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, professional and trade associations, communities, state and local governmental agencies and federal agencies operating in California.
"To be singled out as a leader in watershed management in California, a state known for its innovative watershed conservation initiatives, validates the efforts of everyone involved in planning and building the GWR System," said Phil Anthony, board president for OCWD. "While the GWR System will be a much needed new source of water for Orange County, we're extremely proud of the GWR System's additional environmental and economic benefits."
The GWR System takes highly treated sewer water that is currently released into the ocean and purifies it using the same technologies that purify baby food, fruit juices, medicines and bottled water. The GWR System will create a new supply of very clean water, totaling 70 mgd. The new water will be used to expand the already existing seawater intrusion barrier along the coast and to augment groundwater supplies for north and central Orange County. The GWR System will also help reduce the demand on the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta Watershed and reduce the amount of treated wastewater released to the ocean locally.
"Receiving the Governor's award is further proof that projects like the
GWR System are the future of water purification technology," said Steve Anderson, board chair for OCSD. "Almost since its inception 12 years ago, the project has served as a beacon for thoughtful and responsible public agency cooperation and resource management. The project has attracted visitors from arid regions all over the world."