What grade did your water get?

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By James Vanderbilt, Orange County Water District Director

Can you imagine looking for and finding one drop of anything in a body of water the size of 26 Olympic swimming pools? The Orange County Water District (OCWD) has a water quality department and a laboratory whose combined efforts can do that. Once the water quality department takes samples, OCWD’s Advanced Water Quality Assurance Laboratory can monitor contaminants in our groundwater basin down to one part per trillion.

OCWD’s commitment to exceptional water quality requires comprehensive knowledge of groundwater quality and a thorough understanding of the quality of water produced by the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), which supplies 30 percent of the water put back in the basin—about 100 million gallons of “new” water every day.

How do you know your drinking water is safe? About 75 percent of the water that you use to drink, shower and brush your teeth comes from the Orange County Groundwater Basin. Your city’s water agency buys an additional 25 percent or so of imported water. Our basin groundwater is typically high-quality. Recharge basins—those”lakes” you see in Anaheim and Orange—and the Santa Ana River improve groundwater quality through natural percolation. Purifying recycled water to near-distilled water quality by OCWD’s celebrated GWRS not only increases the water supply quantity, it enhances the quality of the water in the groundwater basin.

You want proof that your water is safe? OCWD “water detectives” test for more than 500 compounds, many, many more than required by state and federal laws and regulations. They do not test from one source, but from about 1,500 locations throughout the basin. They analyze more than 20,000 samples each year and report more than 400,000 results. Your annual water quality report that you can find on your city’s website, contains the gathered groundwater information that is relevant to your area, and information about the 25 percent of imported water, which is also stringently tested.

The Orange County Water District was formed to manage and protect the groundwater basin so that you have reliable, high-quality drinking water, and staff takes its job very seriously. The District staff is comprised of knowledgeable experts, and you benefit. They work with local, state and national regulators to protect Orange County groundwater.

OCWD’s Lab is one of only three public agency laboratories in the nation to provide full chemical analyses for Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule 4 program, which is certified by the EPA for seven EPA methods, which includes 28 trace contaminants and constituents of emerging concern. That means that OCWD monitors and provides the EPA with data and the EPA uses this information to help develop regulatory decisions for contaminants in the public drinking water supply—keeping us all safe.

Besides extensive monitoring, OCWD has also taken measures to ensure high-quality and safe drinking water by participating in studies, forming work groups and collaborating with agencies around the world to address and study water quality issues further.

If you would like to tour the Advanced Water Quality Assurance Laboratory at OCWD, please visit https://www.ocwd.com/contact-us/book-a-tour/ to fill out and submit a tour form.

James Vanderbilt is a council member of the City of Anaheim and represents Division 9 of the Orange County Water District. For more information about the District, visit www.ocwd.com. Contact Director Vanderbilt at jvanderbilt@anaheim.net.

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