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Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) broke ground this week on their new $487 million Groundwater Replenishment (GWR) System water purification project.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held on the OCWD water campus in Fountain Valley. The event attracted more than 150 elected officials, community leaders and industry leaders from around the state and country.
In attendance from Orange County's Congressional Delegation were Ken Calvert, 44th District; Dana Rohrabacher, 46th District; Ed Royce, 40th District; and Loretta Sanchez, 47th District. Also in attendance were Lester Snow, director, Department of Water Resources; Assemblyman John Campbell; Lisa Kalustian, chief deputy director; and Governor Schwarzenegger.
Members of the OCWD and OCSD boards of directors, joined by the Congressional Delegation, unveiled the bronze cornerstone and an artist rendering for the GWR System's water purification facilities.
The GWR System, a state-of-the-art water purification project, 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 system will create a new supply of extremely high-quality water for use in an expanded seawater intrusion barrier and to augment groundwater supplies for north and central Orange County residents.
When the project's Advanced Water Purification Facility is complete in 2007, it will produce 70 million gallons of purified water per day, enough water to provide for 144,000 families annually.
"Today marks the official start of the construction of the Groundwater Replenishment System's advance water purification facility, which will serve as a model for water management professionals throughout the world," said Denis Bilodeau, president of OCWD. "The GWR System is the first water purification system of its kind in the world and will be emulated by water suppliers in regions across the globe facing similar water supply, population and climate challenges as California."
Phase One of the GWR System is currently online and sending five million gallons a day of purified water to the county's seawater intrusion barrier that keeps the ocean out of the underground aquifer. The ceremony marks the beginning of construction of the larger, 70 million gallons per day facility.
"Knowing that our unique public agency partnership with OCWD will result in a project that addresses several water resource problems in an environmentally beneficial way makes this an important day in the county's water history," said Steve Anderson, OCSD chair.
"It's environmentally beneficial because it improves water quality and drought mitigation, saves energy over importing water from Northern California, delays the need for an additional ocean outfall, reduces the amount of wastewater to the ocean, and because it reduces the need for imported water from Northern California, it lessens the strain on the ecosystem of the San Francisco-San Joaquin Bay Delta."
The GWR System replaces Water Factory 21, which was built by OCWD in partnership with OCSD in the early 1970's and has been an international model for innovative water purification projects for decades.
"In a way, the Groundwater Replenishment System is the continuation of a legacy started nearly 30 years ago with Water Factory 21," said Phil Anthony, second vice president of the Orange County Water District. "Both OCWD and OCSD are confident we have successfully partnered on another major water project that will set the world standard for water purification for another 25 years."
The project will represent a major contribution to satisfying the demands on OCWD's water resources, expected to grow from the current 505,000 acre-feet per year to 605,000 acre-feet per year by 2020. More than half of the area's water supply for 23 northern and central Orange County communities is drawn from groundwater aquifers, with the remainder imported from the Colorado River and California's State Water Project.
As a new water supply for Orange County, the GWR System is part of a long-range plan developed by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the water import agency for the region, to maintain and improve Southern California's reliable water supplies.
The Orange County Sanitation District is responsible for safely collecting, treating, and disposing wastewater. It is a special district, separate from the County of Orange or any city government, established under the State Health and Safety Code, to provide sewerage service to a specific geographic area.