Orange County Water District adopts resolution to lower groundwater use in April 2003

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) board of directors in December adopted a Resolution of Intent to decrease groundwater production in 2003.

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Jan. 6, 2003 -- The Orange County Water District (OCWD) board of directors in December adopted a Resolution of Intent to decrease groundwater production in 2003.

The resolution does not set the amount of groundwater that will be available for next year -- the amount will be decided in April -- but it gives the cities, water districts and water companies that rely on groundwater the message that the plan is to reduce their groundwater usage by approximately 10 percent in the future.

Local groundwater is much cheaper than imported water supplies from the Colorado River and Northern California. Although the impact will be different for every city, water agency or water company, a hypothetical impact on a customer's water bill could be an increase of five to 14 percent, or an additional $1.50 to $3 per month.

"We need to take short-term actions to protect a very valuable natural resource for future generations. We are also hoping for heavy rainfall this winter so our basin can begin recovering naturally," said Virginia Grebbien, general manager of the Orange County Water District. "I am available to visit any city or water agency who would like further explanation of why we need to reduce groundwater usage now and why local water users' bills may increase next year."

The need to reduce the use of local groundwater is caused by many factors. For the past several years, groundwater production has continued to increase, stressing the ability of current recharge facilities to refill the groundwater basin.

Additionally, Southern California has experienced drought conditions of below average rainfall for the past four years, which significantly reduced the amount of Santa Ana River flows that were diverted and recharged into the groundwater basin.

Other factors include the uncertain future of water supply conditions for Southern California, based upon the possible cutbacks of the Colorado River supplies for California; a basin overdraft of approximately 400,000 acre-feet (equal to 130 billion gallons, about 65 billion gallons less than the desired target, -200,000 acre-feet, to maintain production) due to high groundwater use and low rainfall; implementation of a new "bottom-up" or "supply-side" basin management plan that sets groundwater pumping based on dependable water supplies available to fill the basin; possibility that the drought may continue; and an inadequate seawater intrusion barrier that needs repair in order to keep the Pacific Ocean from slowly migrating inland toward fresh water in the groundwater basin.

The actual amount of groundwater usage will be set in April 2003 and the reduction could be less if there is increased rainfall between now and April. In addition, if surplus water is available from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for replenishing the groundwater basin, the reduction of groundwater pumping could be less.

The Orange County Water District is a special water agency created by the California Legislature in 1933 to maintain and manage the huge groundwater basin under northern Orange County. The groundwater basin managed by OCWD supplies 75% of the water needs to more than 2 million residents in the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster and Yorba Linda. To learn more about water, visit

More in Drinking Water