A task force encourages collaboration among multiple agencies to tackle challenges in a cooperative manner. The Santa Ana Watershed Project Association (SAWPA) facilitates several task forces in order to take on complex matters that are more effectively handled collectively.
In 2008, SAWPA organized the Emerging Constituents Task Force in an effort to work with the Regional Water Quality Resources Control Board and help improve water quality along the Santa Ana River Watershed. The 21-agency Task Force identifies emerging constituents of concern, which can include, chemicals of emerging concern, microconstituents, micropollutants, trace organics and other elements. The voluntary testing conducted by the Task Force investigates pharmaceuticals, pesticides, food additives and chemicals that may not yet have established water quality standards. By testing for emerging constituents, the Task Force is able to evaluate water quality in the Santa Ana River, in imported water, as well as in recycled water.
Emerging Constituents Task Force Goal: Assure water quality protection resulting from imported water recharge
- Conduct regional evaluation of emerging constituents in drinking water sources
- Identify the potential regulatory issues that may arise as result of emerging constituents data
- Create an emerging constituent characterization programs as needed
- Continue to educate the public about the safety of potable drinking water
The Task Force used a two-phase approach to first investigate the potential contaminants in the water and then later identifying them. Beginning with researching potential regulatory issues associated with sampling and later investigating which constituents to monitor, the Task Force works to ensure that water that water quality is monitored. By partnering with water quality experts, SAWPA and the Task Force are able to determine the locations and constituents for testing. In February 2019, the Task Force reconvened to discuss prior testing results and determine what constituents will be monitored in the following round of tests.
Water testing can be costly, by working collaboratively, Task Force agencies cost-share the financial responsibility, as well as have access to the data needed for sampling and reporting of constituents. The Task Force was instrumental in working with the State Board’s Blue Ribbon Panel to develop statewide monitoring requirements for emerging constituents. In 2013, the State Board amended the state’s Recycled Water Policy to the adopt the recommendations made by the Emerging Constituents Task Force.
As part of the Task Force, outreach to build awareness on the safety of tap water is implemented. Through this blog and its social media channels, SAWPA and the task Force utilizes these tools to educate on the topic of water quality.
In the Santa Ana River Watershed, water distributed to customers by water purveyors undergoes regular, rigorous testing to ensure it is meeting all state and federal standards.
Up next in ensuring that water continues to meet these high standards set forth in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act is the monitoring of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and many other chemicals.
The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) – led Emerging Constituents Program Task Force, which includes the Orange County Water District and the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, along with roughly 20 other agencies in the Santa Ana River Watershed will be compiling independent data on PFAS.
The samples will be collected from all upstream wastewater treatment plant discharges into the Santa Ana River and its tributaries, as well as imported water released to the upper watershed to ensure that data is made available not solely from Orange County, but from the upper Santa Ana River Watershed. The data compiled will be shared with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Board as a sampling report of the PFAS concentrations, as well as an update on a past list of emerging constituents sampled in the watershed seven years ago.
But, what are PFAS substances and what do they have to do with our water supply?
PFAS are fluorinated organic chemicals used to make items such as carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture and paper packaging for food. Additionally, they were used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. These chemicals are resistant to heat, water, and oil and have been used for decades in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products. PFAS have been found both in the environment and in blood samples of the general U.S. population.
Although certain PFAS chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result of phase outs, they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the country in consumer goods. And, due to the prolonged use of PFOA and PFOS in many common consumer products, the chemicals have been known to enter the water cycle through conventionally treated wastewater discharges from sewage treatment facilities, landfills and locations where the substances were used outdoors.
Most people have been exposed to these chemicals through consumer products, but drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have entered water supplies. Research has shown that these chemicals don’t break down in the environment, can linger in the human body, and can lead to adverse health effects.
The EPA is working together to support states, tribes and local communities to address the environmental challenges of PFAS and identify solutions.
Orange County Water District’s Proactive Testing of PFAS.
Orange County Water District’s (OCWD) forward-thinking team of early adopters began testing for PFAS in 2012. This testing of water from OCWD’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GRWS) showed then and continues to show now that the final water produced at the GWRS is non-detect for PFOA and PFOS.
From 2013-2015, OCWD also performed testing for Orange County groundwater retail agencies for Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) 3. PFOA and PFOS were among the six PFAS compounds on the UCMR 3 Contaminant List. The UCMR data serve as a primary source of occurrence and exposure information that EPA uses to develop regulatory decisions. After the completion of UCMR3, in May 2016 the EPA issued a new Health Advisory for lifetime exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water set at a combined 70 nanograms per liter (ng/L). A nanogram is also known as a “part-per-trillion” and one nanogram per liter is the equivalent of four grains of sugar dissolved in 26 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Based on preliminary information from EPA, 63 water suppliers in the United States detected PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water supplies. Twenty-six of these water systems are located in California. Water systems in Orange County heeded the advisory and only serve water that meets that threshold.
The California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) sent monitoring orders in March 2019 to over 200 public water systems across the state to test for PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS; 12 systems in the Orange County Water District service area received such orders. Earlier this year, OCWD’s Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory became the first public agency laboratory in California to achieve state certification to analyze for these compounds in drinking water. The first round of testing is expected to be completed in June and required notifications will be made to local government officials by July. Additional testing will be conducted on a quarterly basis. Wells were selected based on proximity to either landfills, municipal airports, or past detections of PFAS in wells during the UCMR 3 round of testing. The data provided by this testing will help DDW determine state standards for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
In July 2018, DDW established interim Notification Levels and Response Levels for PFOA and PFOS. Results above these levels requires agencies to notify the governing body for the areas where the water has been served within 30 days of receiving the verifying test results. State Notification Levels are set at 14 ng/L for PFOA and 13 ng/L for PFOS. If the level of both PFOA and PFOS combined is 70 ng/L or above, DDW recommends the agency stop using the well. This is known as the Response Level.
“We continue to proactively monitor and protect our groundwater supply and look for ways to assist our regional water producers with opportunities to provide some of the cleanest drinking water in the world,” said OCWD’s Executive Director of Water Quality & Technical Resources, Jason Dadakis. “The information available about PFAS and the technology for testing continues to improve. OCWD is committed to staying current with changing technology for both detection and treatment.”
Next Steps for OCWD
Groundwater monitoring and public health are top priorities for OCWD, and the district continues to monitor and protect the groundwater supply through:
- Assisting producers to comply with requirements from the Department of Drinking Water and EPA
- Supporting water producers with notifications, testing and coordination as needed
- Continuing to work with the Regional Water Quality Board and independent labs to further test to identify potential sources
- Coordinating to monitor to define the extent of compounds in the groundwater basin and recharge water supplies
- Pilot testing of remediation options
- Communicating transparently and regularly with stakeholders
For more information about PFOA/PFOS or water quality testing, visit www.ocwd.com or contact your local water provider for information specific to your community. Information is also available at www.epa.gov/pfas and www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/PFOA_PFOS.
This month commemorates the 50th anniversary of a momentous water rights and management agreement between four water agencies in the Santa Ana River Watershed, which was made possible thanks to two 1969 court judgements for the water rights of the Santa Ana River.
“These two judgements have had a positive and lasting effect for all residents in the Santa Ana River Watershed,” said SAWPA’s General Manager Richard Haller. “Communities in the watershed enjoy a reliable water supply while ensuring both upstream and downstream water interests and rights are protected.”
Five decades ago, the Santa Ana River had been facing years of substantial legal disputes over surface and groundwater rights that included more than 4,000 litigants, which led to two major lawsuits filed by Western Municipal Water District and Orange County Water District.
In order to bring the lawsuits to an end on April 17, 1969, it was legally decided that rights to the Santa Ana River would be managed by four representative parties, which include Western Municipal Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency (formerly known as Chino Basin Municipal Water District), San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and Orange County Water District.
A look at the two judgements known as the 1969 settlement:
- The Orange County Judgement provides water users in the lower basin rights to receive minimum and average water flows that are measured at several locations throughout the region. San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, Western Municipal Water District and Inland Empire Utilities Agency are required to maintain minimum base flow requirements. Through this judgement the Santa Ana River Watermaster Committee was formed.
- The Western-San Bernardino Judgement divided water resources in the San Bernardino Basin Area, Colton Basin and Riverside Basin in San Bernardino and Riverside counties and led to the formation of the Western-San Bernardino Watermaster Committee.
Both the Santa Ana River Water Master and Western-San Bernardino Watermaster committees are required to demonstrate compliance with the judgements through submitting an annual report to the court.
Another important outcome of the judgement, was the development of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, which was established to resolve any future water conflicts in the watershed and implemented project and programs to protect the water resources for future generations.
The ongoing partnership of the Watermaster committees ensures a more reliable, affordable and higher-quality water supply for regional customers; improvement of ecosystems as well as development of an endangered species recovery program; and improved water infrastructure and planning. Additionally, the forward-thinking settlement allows for future changes in hydrology, agency actions and governance.
The largest watershed in Southern California is the Santa Ana River Watershed. Boasting an area covering roughly 2,840 square miles and more than 6 million people, the watershed includes portions of the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. The largest coastal stream in Southern California is the Santa Ana River. The river starts high in the San Bernardino Mountains and eventually ends 96 miles downstream in the Pacific Ocean. It meanders through diverse terrain, including alpine forest, arid desert, chaparral environments and flat coastal plains.
*Photos courtesy of Orange County Water District and Western Municipal Water District.
Imagine waking up in the morning and having no way to brush your teeth, take a shower, or use the bathroom. You go into the kitchen and you have no water to cook with, wash dishes, or even to drink. Over two billion people in the world live without access to a safely managed drinking water service, free from contamination.
For the past 26 years the United Nations (UN) has designated March 22 as World Water Day. On this day, UN-Water recognizing its efforts of working together with governments and partners has taken action to end the water crisis. This year’s World Water Day theme is “Leaving No One Behind.” The United Nations recognizes a human right to clean water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.
The idea of water for all is built upon the UN-Water Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) that by 2030 there will be availability and sustainable management of water for all. Out of the billions of people living without safe water in their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories, there are marginalized groups that face discrimination when trying to access necessary safe water. The 2019 World Water Day puts the focus on those populations that are overlooked, and the attention needed to ensure water for all, regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, age, disability, and economic status.
To ensure water for all, the UN-Water recommends including marginalized groups in the decision-making processes of water services. In addition, funding needs to be targeted towards those most in need. UN-Water encourages people to talk to others about the limited access to clean water to build awareness and seek solutions. To create an event in your area or join an existing event visit: http://www.worldwaterday.org/events/ For more information on World Water Day visit http://www.worldwaterday.org/
Here at YourSoCalTapWater, we clearly love tap water, but we want you to love it too. Tap water can sometimes get a bad wrap. If you are thinking it, we have probably heard it. Why does tap water smells different? Is fluoride in tap water harmful? Isn’t bottled water safer to drink than tap water? Water quality concerns from other areas in the country give us a false perception about the safety of our local tap water. We want to share why we love tap water and how these claims may be misleading. Our local tap water is tested everyday by certified internal water agency laboratories, as well as external laboratories. There are many reasons why we love tap water, but here are our top four.
- Tap Water Testing Exceeds Testing of Bottled Water
The reliable tap water that gets delivered to your home 365 days, is more tested and regulated than bottled water. Fancy bottled waters claim to be safer with claims of added electrolytes and other benefits. The truth is that bottled water testing is less frequent and less consistent than the municipal public tap water that you get at home. Tap water from your water district is under the jurisdiction of the US EPA, which requires extensive daily, certified lab testing; the same stringent testing is not required by corporate bottled water companies. Furthermore, claims of alkaline bottled waters can be misleading, as tap water can also be alkaline and can also contain naturally occurring minerals, which can be beneficial to your health. To research and find out if your tap water is alkaline download your water quality report from your local water agency. We have some tips on how to understand your water quality report here. Bottled water can also have toxic chemicals that leach into the water and are then consumed.
- Fluoride Improves Oral Health
Added fluoride in tap water has been proven to strengthen the enamel of the tooth and reduce tooth decay. Fluoride is a natural mineral organically existing in water. According to the American Dental Association, since adding fluoride to public water systems there has been a decrease in tooth decay by at least 25%. Recently, a public study conducted by KTOO Public Media, found that the removal of fluoride from public water systems in Juneau, Alaska twelve years ago has proven harmful. According to the study, for children under six,
when the water was fluoridated, on average they had about one-and-a-half cavity-related procedures per year. After fluoride was removed from tap water, that went up to about two-and-a-half procedures a year. There was an increase for older kids, too, but it was less dramatic. Fluoride has been proven as a safe and effective way to minimize dental decay.
- Filtering, Refrigeration or Fruit Improves Taste
Extensive water treatment (cleaning), can sometimes cause tap water to have a slight noticeable scent, different from bottled water, but don’t be fooled this is not a sign that something is wrong. The extensive treatment process can leave water with a noticeable scent, this is due to the cleaning process and can be minimized by using a home filter, refrigeration or adding fruit. Tap water treatment is needed to remove pathogens and harmful bacteria that would otherwise make you sick and could be harmful to your health. Fill up a pitcher of tap water and place it in the refrigerator for a few hours and the scent should go away. Try adding fresh berries, lemon or cucumbers to your glass of tap water for a refreshing treat.
- Water is Life
Water truly is life, especially for the human body. Water helps maximize human performance, keeps you hydrated, can help treat headaches and even aid in weight loss. With over 70 percent of the human body composed of water so it’s no wonder why water truly is life. We need it to survive and we live in a country where tap water is easily available and the safest in the world. We don’t take tap water for granted. Each day thousands of water quality experts nationwide work to ensure the safety of this natural resource that gets delivered to our homes. What’s not to love about that?
There you have it, why we love tap water! We hope that as you learn the facts you fall in love with tap water as well.