Orange County Water District chosen by state to participate in Santa Ana River watershed study

The Orange County Water District will join 10 watersheds to participate in a program called the Joint Task Force for California Watershed Management.

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Aug. 30, 2001 — The Orange County Water District (OCWD) recently learned it will join 10 watersheds to participate in a program called the Joint Task Force for California Watershed Management funded through last year's Assembly Bill 2117 (the Wayne Watershed Bill).

OCWD is a member agency in the Santa Ana River Watershed, which was chosen to participate in a study that will help improve the management of California's watersheds. A watershed is an area of land drained by a river. Orange County is part of the Santa Ana River watershed that also includes San Bernardino, Riverside and parts of Los Angeles. Working with the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Resources Agency, the program aims to streamline collaborative watershed planning and implement voluntary management programs.

The Santa Ana River Watershed was selected to demonstrate its successful "lessons learned" from being part of a cooperative watershed program. Orange County Water District is one of five agencies that share the Santa Ana River and are members of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA). SAWPA was formed to plan and build facilities to protect water quality in the Santa Ana River watershed.

Through studying the Santa Ana River Watershed and others in the state, the State Water Resources Control Board will be able to make recommendations to the State Legislature regarding state support for future watershed efforts.

"We are both proud and encouraged that the state has chosen to highlight the work of SAWPA and its member agencies through the AB 2117 process," said Jerry A. King, chair of the SAWPA board. "We have learned a great deal through our efforts to coordinate the sanitation, water supply and environmental needs of the Santa Ana Watershed. I have no doubt that our successes and lessons will continue to provide vision and guidance for watershed cooperation throughout California."

In administering the Santa Ana River Watershed Program, OCWD has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Resource Conservation Districts (RCD), California Department of Fish and Game, and numerous other agencies and private interests to redevelop the Santa Ana River to its original habitat. The Watershed Program has expended more than $1 million annually for the past three years removing non-native species from the river and helping native animals, while greatly benefiting endangered birds. The principal action agents are OCWD and five RCDs on the river through the Santa Ana Watershed Association of RCDs.

Programs selected as pilot projects in the Santa Ana Watershed are Orange County Water District and the Santa Ana Water Association Habitat Management Effort and the Santa Ana River Watershed Group, a planning and collaboration effort for the watershed administered by SAWPA. The projects include funding for Arundo removal funded through the State Water Bond, which was passed by voters on the March 2000 ballot. Arundo is a bamboo-like member of the grass family that grows an average of three inches per day. It is a threat to water use, environmental protection and natural riparian habitat. Arundo sucks up water supplies, chokes native vegetation and is the greatest threat to natural riparian habitat.

As a part of the Joint Task Force for California Watersheds, SAWPA member agencies will be asked to complete questionnaires related to watershed management in Riverside and Orange County areas. In addition, formal interviews will take place with each agency to discuss the working relationships among all five agencies through SAWPA. These interviews will begin taking place in the summer of 2001.

Orange County Water District is a special agency that was created by the California State Legislature in 1933 to maintain and manage the groundwater basin under northern and central Orange County. OCWD's groundwater basin supplies 75% of the water needs in Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington and Newport Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, and Yorba Linda.

SAWPA is a joint powers agency composed of five major water districts including the Eastern Municipal Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Orange County Water District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District. Its total area, 2,650 square miles in all, brings in much of Orange County, the major population centers of western Riverside and southwestern San Bernardino counties, and a sliver of Los Angeles County.

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