The Orange County Grand Jury released a report praising the Orange County Water District (OCWD) for its "foresight, expertise and dedication in managing the County's precious groundwater resources and planning for the decades ahead," specifically related to OCWD's Groundwater Replenishment System (GWR System)--an innovative water purification project to provide enough water for 140,000 families.
The Orange County Grand Jury has been reviewing the GWR System since August 2003 to assess potential benefits and identify challenges of the project. The study sought four objectives in its review of the project:
Determine if the continuous delivery of 42,000 acre-feet* per year of purified wastewater to Kraemer Basin would hinder OCWD's ability to capture and recharge Santa Ana River floodwater.
Evaluate whether the GWR System and the enhanced Talbert Gap seawater-intrusion barrier would alleviate depressed groundwater levels near the coast and retard the advance of seawater.
Determine if the GWR System would enable an increase in groundwater withdrawals to help satisfy future water needs.
Explore state requirements regarding the utilization of wastewater to replenish aquifers to determine if better uses might be made of the purified wastewater.
* One acre-foot of water is enough water for two families of four for one year.
The report also finds that the Groundwater Replenishment System "is only one of many innovative programs implemented by Orange County Water District to enhance groundwater production for current users while preserving the resources for future generations."
The GWR System will purify treated sewer water that is currently released into the ocean to a water quality similar to bottled water through microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide advanced water purification technologies. The purified water will become part of a seawater barrier and also be pumped through a pipeline to ponds in Anaheim where it will seep into deep aquifers and blend with Orange County's other sources of groundwater, following the same natural filtering path rainwater takes through the ground.
"We're very pleased the Grand Jury took the time to review our water management plans for the future, especially their focus on the Groundwater Replenishment System," said Denis Bilodeau, president of the Orange County Water District Board of Directors. "Their study confirms that this project is necessary and will provide an added benefit to the future of this great county. We thank the Grand Jury for their thorough exploration of the project."
The GWR System provides future water supplies to more than 140,000 families in central and north Orange County; produces a water quality that is so pure, it will help soften the water in the groundwater basin by reducing the mineral content of Orange County's groundwater supplies; prevents ocean water from contaminating the large groundwater basin; and provides water during droughts, a reoccurring event in Southern California.
Orange County's current water supply is made up of about 50 percent groundwater and 50 percent imported water from the Colorado River and Northern California.
The GWR System is a joint project of OCWD and Orange County Sanitation District. More information on the Groundwater Replenishment System is available at http://www.gwrsystem.com.