California Drought: It's Serious.

California is in the midst of its fourth consecutive year of a very serious drought. 2014 was the hottest and 2013 was the driest year on record in the state, and as dry conditions continue, some regions throughout the state are being severely impacted. On April 1, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water use restrictions for the first time in California’s history. The Governor directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory 25 percent reductions in potable urban water use from amounts used in 2013. This regulation will be used at the discretion of local water retailers. While there is no immediate danger of water supply interruptions here in Orange County, we must use our water supplies as efficiently as possible because we don't know how long the drought will last. We’re asking for everyone’s help reducing their daily water use to help get us through this extended drought.


What is the Orange County Water District Doing?

Sound Planning. Appropriate Investment. Ensuring a Highly Reliable Water Supply.

North and central Orange County have a valuable asset, a local groundwater basin managed by the Orange County Water District (OCWD; the District) that provides nearly two-thirds of the water supply for 2.4 million people. Knowing the likely occurrence of droughts in California, OCWD saves reserve funds to prepare for and respond to drought conditions.

The District has spent $79.3 million over the past three years purchasing imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The water was recharged into the groundwater basin which helped to partially refill the basin and somewhat offset the impacts of the recent drought. Although groundwater levels have fallen, they are still within normal historic operating range.

In addition to saving for a not-so rainy day, continuous planning, designing, building and operations of cost-effective water infrastructure projects have been core functions of OCWD since 1933.


OCWD recently invested $142 million to expand the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), an award-winning water purification system that takes treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District and purifies it to meet or exceed drinking water standards. The expansion, which will be completed in early 2015, will produce an additional 30 million gallons a day (MGD), taking the GWRS total production to 100 MGD. This is enough water to meet the combined water demands of the cities of Anaheim and Huntington Beach.


In addition to being reliable during drought, GWRS water is about half the cost of imported supplies and is controlled locally, saving cities in OCWD's service area millions of dollars annually. OCWD will continue to invest in water infrastructure and explore alternative water sources to ensure long-term water reliability.


What Can Residents Do?

Thank you Orange County residents. Over the years you have been working hard to implement water use efficiency and have supported investments in local water reliability, like water recycling and water use efficiency programs that are now sustaining the region. Orange County water providers have a variety of resources, rebates, and water use efficiency tips to help residents and businesses do even more. We must make lifelong commitments to practice water use efficiency.

Stormwater Capture: Opportunities to Increase Water Supplies in Southern California



The availability of imported water supplies from the Colorado River and northern California has become uncertain due to regulatory issues, climate change, statewide shortages, and challenges resolving and implementing improvements in the Bay-Delta system.


Finding new sources of drinking water must include local supplies developed within the coastal plain of Southern California, including theincreased use of stormwater. This is a departure from historical practices which relied primarily on augmenting supplies with imported water.


Moving away from simply conveying stormflows off-site for flood control to increasing capture and infiltration has promise for increasing water supplies.


In recognition of these challenges, as well as the continuing need to protect and improve surface water quality, policy and planning frameworks are shifting toward more integrated management of these water resources. The regulation of stormwater on the local level through municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits offers one of the most promising opportunities for realizing the goal of improving surface water quality while at the same time developing new water supplies through an increase in capture and infiltration of stormwater.


In January 2011, the Southern California Water Committee formed the Regional Stormwater Task Force. The purpose of the Task Force is to develop regional consensus-based strategies and recommendations for utilizing stormwater effectively as a new local water supply and to reduce water pollution from urban runoff within the region.



One of several unifying themes in recently adopted state water policies and plans is the emphasis on the utility of stormwater and the multiple benefits that potentially can be realized through innovative urban runoff management that is interlinked with other resource management strategies.


Existing state water policies and plans establish ambitious goals with specific deadlines to achieve significant, measurable increases in local water supply and use of stormwater above a specific baseline. They also share in common a basic understanding that the road to integrated water management will require collaboration, thinking outside of the box, “developing innovative incentives, streamlining permits, and applying little used regulatory authorities.”

Water Conservation Tips

With future Orange County population increases, likely cut backs in water supplies from outside sources, and the threat of seawater and industrial contamination to groundwater, it is important that everyone in Orange County make a conscientious effort to use our water as efficiently as possible. The following water conservation tips should be incorporated into positive, water-use lifestyle changes. We owe it to our children to show them how to conserve so that, as the demand for water continues to increase, they will be able to enjoy future water supplies.


Water Conserving Hardware
Install aerators in your faucets, and use high pressure showers and ultra low flush toilets throughout your home. Aerators are available at your local hardware store. On October 1, 1999, all Orange County residents became eligible to participate in Municipal Water District of Orange County's (MWDOC) Regional Ultra Low-Flush Toilet (ULFT) Program. With hardware improvements, your family can save 70,000 gallons of water every year, which translates to a savings of about $200 a year on your water bill. For more information, call MWDOC at (714) 963-3058.


Smart Irrigation and Landscaping Strategies

  • Water your lawns early in the morning before sunrise or in the evenings after sunset. This  will maximize water absorption into the soil and minimize loss due to evaporation.

  • Water your lawn only when needed. Most plants do not need to be watered every day and excess watering not only wastes water, but can harm plants.

  • Make sure your sprinklers are leak-proof and not aimed on sidewalks, streets or driveways. For technical information on proper irrigation and landscaping, call toll free to (877) 728-2282.

  • Landscape your yard and garden with Mediterranean-climate or California Friendly® plants from your local nursery as they do not require much water.

  • Set mower blades 2" to 3" and keep them sharp.

  • Use a trigger or automatic shut-off nozzle on your garden hose.

  • Use mulch around trees and plants.

  • Shut off your sprinklers after a rain.

  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to water trees, shrubs, and flower beds. Save the slow delivery sprinklers for the lawn.

  • Integrate rocks, bricks, gravel and decks into your landscaping.


In the Bathroom

  • Take five-minute or less showers, and draw less water for baths.

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.

  • Check for and fix "silent" leaks in toilets or plumbing fixtures. 


In the Kitchen or Laundry

  • Only wash laundry with full loads.

  • Use a bowl or fill up the sink to clean vegetables.

  • Use your garbage disposal sparingly.

  • Don’t thaw food with hot water; instead use a microwave.

  • If you pre-clean dishes, fill the sink up instead of running the water.

  • Keep a gallon of cold water in the refrigerator rather than running the tap for cold water.

  • Consider installing an instant water heater on your sinks far from the main water heater.

  • Insulate your pipes to save heating costs.



  • Wash the car with a bucket instead of the hose.

  • Use a broom instead of water to clean your sidewalks and driveways.

  • Cover your spa or swimming pool.



  • Support local businesses that practice conservation. For example, commercial car washes that recycle their water; businesses that use recycled water in fountains; restaurants that serve water only on request and hotels that give you the option of using your linens for a second night’s stay.

  • Ask your teachers or school administrators if they teach water conservation.

  • Watch for and report broken, poorly timed or misaligned sprinklers around the city or along the highway.




Information on this page are reprinted from the Water Districts and Agencies that serve Orange County. We thank them for their continued efforts to educates the public!