Orange County Water District wins award for its Arundo removal efforts

Orange County Water District was awarded the 2003 Ruth Anderson Wilson Award by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority for its collaborative efforts in a program that removes arundo donax from the Santa Ana River watershed.


FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., July 2, 2003 -- Orange County Water District (OCWD) was awarded the 2003 Ruth Anderson Wilson Award by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) for its collaborative efforts in a program that removes arundo donax from the Santa Ana River watershed.

The arundo removal program improves the environment in the watershed, while providing more water to Orange County's groundwater basin. Arundo donax is a non-native, abundant bamboo-like grass that can grow to be 25 feet tall and grows up to 10 inches per day, shutting out native vegetation and consuming enormous amounts of water.

The Santa Ana River watershed, stretching from San Bernardino to Orange County, has 8,000 to 10,000 acres of arundo in need of removal. To date, about 1,500 acres have been removed, starting at the top of the watershed. Arundo creates a severe fire hazard and can cause bridge damage during flood events.

By removing arundo, the natural habitat can be restored that supports local fauna and saves water. Eight thousand acres of arundo uses 20,000 to 30,000 acre-feet (about 10 billion gallons) of water, which is enough water for 100,000 people per year.

"OCWD recognizes the importance of its natural resources and that plants, people and animals depend on the Santa Ana River," said Denis R. Bilodeau, OCWD board president. "Our mission is to provide groundwater for 2.3 million people at the lowest reasonable cost, and in an environmentally responsible manner."

Arundo must be removed by starting at the top of the watershed because of its ability to break off and transplant itself downstream. Arundo has no value to native wildlife, in fact, it has a negative impact on endangered and other desired species.

OCWD partners with several other agencies to remove the arundo including: Riverside-Corona, East Valley, San Jacinto Basin and Inland Empire West, Resource Conservation Districts; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the California Department of Fish and Game; and area counties, cities, as well as private land owners abutting the Santa Ana River and its tributaries. OCWD also manages the Santa Ana River Conservation Trust fund that provides funding for the removal of arundo.

The Ruth Anderson Wilson Award is named after the woman who helped establish the Tri-County Conservation League. This environmental conservation group's goal is to keep a soft bottom to the river for recreational use when it is not in flood conditions, let natural effects of flooding be accommodated so new soil and seeds can create young forage for wildlife, and to keep the water in the Santa Ana River to refill the local underground water reservoirs.

SAWPA is a group of water agencies that formed a joint agency to protect and improve the environment and water in the land drained by the Santa Ana River. The Authority includes the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Eastern Municipal Water District, Orange County Water District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and Western Municipal Water District.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) manages and protects the huge groundwater basin underlying north and central Orange County. OCWD is a special district, separate from the County of Orange or any city government. The California Legislature created it in 1933 to oversee Orange County's groundwater basin. The groundwater basin supplies more than half of the water needs for 2.3 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 log on to www.ocwd.com.

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