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Boots on the Groundwater

Juicy news from Orange County



A final expansion to the world’s largest water recycling facility, the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) is complete, producing 130 million gallons of water a day – enough water to serve nearly one million people in Orange County. The GWRS now recycles 100 percent of local reclaimable wastewater flows. This expansion maximizes water recycling efforts and increases drinking water supplies for the region.


This historic milestone was achieved by project partners Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OC San). Both OCWD and OC San are longtime leading members of the WateReuse Association (WateReuse). Together with local partners including OCWD and OC San, WateReuse advances laws, policies, funding, and public acceptance of water recycling to improve the resilience, health, and prosperity of communities across the United States.


“WateReuse congratulates OCWD and OC San for proving that regional partnership can reap great rewards for the community,” said WateReuse Association Executive Director Patricia Sinicropi.


Craig W. Lichty P.E., WateReuse Association President, and Vice President with Black & Veatch, attended today’s celebration for the completed project. “The Groundwater Replenishment System is a remarkable project. It will benefit the people and environment of Orange County for generations,” he said.


The GWRS first made history when it came online in 2008, bringing water reliability to Orange County. It started producing 70 million gallons of water per day (MGD) in January 2008, increased production to 100 MGD after an initial expansion was completed in May 2015, and since inception has produced more than 400 billion gallons of water and counting. In 2023, the GWRS celebrated its 15th “crystal” anniversary.


The facility takes highly treated wastewater from the OC San 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. The result is crystal-clear, high-quality water that meets all state and federal drinking water standards.


GWRS water is pumped to recharge basins in Anaheim where it naturally percolates into the Orange County Groundwater Basin, managed by OCWD, and becomes part of the drinking water supply for 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. GWRS water is also sent to injection wells located along Orange County’s coast to create a seawater intrusion barrier that protects groundwater supplies. It creates a new, drought-proof water supply, decreases the region’s dependence on imported water, and reduces the amount of treated wastewater sent to the ocean. For more information about the GWRS, visit www.ocwd.com/gwrs.

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