The Santa Ana River travels from the top of the San Bernardino Mountains, through Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, cuts into the northern Santa Ana Mountains, and eventually drains into the Pacific Ocean. At over 96 miles long, the Santa Ana River is the largest coastal stream system in Southern California. The drainage area surrounding the river creates the Santa Ana River Watershed.
Although the entire Santa Ana River Watershed covers 2,650 square miles, the tributary drainage area to the Middle Santa Ana River Watershed is 480 square miles. The Middle Santa Ana River Watershed is a unique area of land that includes open space, commercial, residential and agricultural use.
The state of California has nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards that oversee water quality and compliance for their own region. The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) oversees the Santa Ana River Watershed, including the Middle Santa Ana River Watershed (MSAR). According to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, the Regional Board is required to identify surface waters that fail to meet water quality standards. Once a body of water has been added to the 303(d) list as impaired, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) must be established for the waterbody as well as for the given pollutant.
Due to high densities of bacterial indicators, several bodies of water in the Middle Santa Ana River (MSAR) Watershed have been included on the 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies. To address the concerns of fecal coliform bacterial indicators, the RWQCB included the formation of the Middle Santa Ana River TMDL Task Force. Overseen by the Santa Ana Watershed Projects Authority (SAWPA), this task force includes 18 stakeholders working together with the RWQCB to improve the water quality of the MSAR.
Since beginning in 2006, the MSAR Watershed TMDL Task Force continues to address water quality issues by conducting on-going source investigation to identify bacterial indicators and understand how to solve them. In addition to monitoring, TMDL tasks include preparing progress reports, implementing an Urban Source Evaluation Plan, revising a Comprehensive Bacteria Reduction Plan (CBRP) and a Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP) for both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The TMDL Task Force has conducted over 20 water quality monitoring projects
Due to the success of the Task Force, some waterbodies throughout the MSAR have had such high levels of bacteria load reductions that they are no longer considered impaired. The Comprehensive Bacteria Reduction Plan (CBRP) that was introduced in 2012 has shown a 66% reduction in fecal bacteria loads. The MSAR Bacterial Indicator TMDL set limits on waste for urban Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) and confined animal feeding operation dischargers, load allocations for agricultural and natural sources.
The significant improvements being made to the Middle Santa Ana River are a collaborative effort between the RWQB, the Santa Ana Watershed Projects Authority, as well as the several agencies involved. With the TMDL in place, impaired waterbodies are monitored until water quality is fully restored. To find out more about the MSAR TMDL Task Force, visit https://sawpa.org/task-forces/middle-santa-ana-river-watershed-tmdl-task-force/#backgroundb8a6-4b67.
It may be cool outside, but drinking water is just as important during winter months as it is during the summer. Our bodies are made up of 70% water and hydration is critical year-round to maintain healthy bodily function. The air is drier during colder weather and we do not receive as much moisture. Indoor heating is also drying, which leads to cracked lips, dry skin, and other health impairments. Our body uses more fluids to exhale when we breathe in cold weather. We do not tend to feel as thirsty during winter months as we do in summer months, which makes us more susceptible to dehydration.
When choosing winter beverages, it is important to reach for those that are hydrating, nothing can replace water alone, but there are delicious drink options that you can create at home with the water that comes from the faucet or your refrigerator. On cold winter days, these tap water drinks will keep you warm and hydrated. Southern California tap water is highly regulated and safe to consume. Tap water drinks are delicious all year long!
Honey and Lemon Water
With winter seasonal threats in the air, honey and lemon are the perfect combination to soothe sore throats and ease congestion. Note: Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.
-Fresh cold tap water
-1 tablespoon of lemon juice
-2 tablespoons of honey
1. Pour tap water into tea kettle and bring to a boil.
2. Put honey and lemon juice in a teacup or mug.
3. Add hot water to cup and stir gently.
4. Add lemon juice or honey to taste.
Classic Hot Cocoa
With a simple list of ingredients, hot cocoa is the perfect beverage the whole family can enjoy on a cool winter day.
-1/3 cup of sugar
-¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/3 cup of hot tap water
-Dash of salt
-4 cups of milk
-3/4 tsp vanilla extract
-Choice of garnish (optional): mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, peppermint sticks
1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and tap water. Bring to a rolling boil.
2. Stir and cook for two minutes.
3. Reduce heat and stir in the milk to desired temperature. Do not boil.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in vanilla.
6. Add desired garnish. (optional)
7. Serve immediately and enjoy.
With an endless possibility of flavors and styles, it is no surprise that tea is enjoyed around the world. Whether as a morning warm-up or a relaxing cup before bed, there is something for everyone.
-Caffeine-free tea bag
-Fresh cold tap water
-Choice of sweetener (optional): honey, sugar, stevia
1. Choose a desired flavor of tea bag.
2. Fill tea pot with cold, fresh tap water. Bring to a boil.
3. After it reaches boiling, turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes.
4. Put tea bag in mug or cup and fill.
5. Steep tea bag in water for amount of time shown on package. Each tea variety requires different steep times.
6. Remove tea bag.
7. Add honey or sugar to taste. (optional)
French Press Coffee
The French Press was invented in 1929 and has been used to make a full-bodied cup of coffee ever since.
-Fresh, cold tap water
-Medium ground decaffeinated coffee
1. Pour tap water into tea kettle and bring to a boil. Once boiled turn off heat and let sit for 1 minute.
2. Remove plunger from press.
3. Add a tablespoon of coffee to the pot per 6.7 ounces of water.
4. Fill press halfway with hot water, making sure that all grounds are saturated.
5. Stir gently and wait 1 minute.
6. Carefully insert the plunger and let it stand for 3 minutes without plunging.
7. Press plunger down slowly using steady pressure.
8. Serve coffee immediately. Pour coffee not immediately used into a carafe.
When you hear fats, oils and grease (FOG), your sewer probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In reality, these substances do to your pipes what they do to arteries. Over time, pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain coats your home pipes, the sewer lines and it builds up. As FOG hardens, it prevents the sewage stream from passing through and eventually raw sewage can back up into your home. Not only is this a hazard, but it is also costly. Sewer pipes within the home are the responsibility of homeowners. Sewage backups can also cause overflows into city streets. These blockages can surface in homes, lawns and storm drains, eventually impacting our watersheds, which can contaminate local waters, including drinking water.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are 23,000-75,000 sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) each year, with grease build-up being one of the reasons. Avoid this costly and dangerous problem by making proper FOG disposal a habit. Never pour these substances down your drain. This includes using hot water to clean a greasy pan.
Steps to safely dispose of FOG:
- Allow it to cool.
- Pour FOG into an aluminum or glass container when you are ready to dispose. Use a paper towel to wipe any excess out of the pan or cooking receptacle.
- Mix with an absorbent material such as coffee grounds, cat litter or shredded newspaper.
- Seal the container.
- Dispose of it in the trash.
If a small amount of FOG gets into the drain, flush it immediately with cold water. Even a small amount builds up over time. Pouring hot water and detergent down the drain only breaks up FOG temporarily. Any build up is then moved further down the sewer lines and can cause problems in other areas.
Fats, oils and grease are in a variety of foods that you may otherwise not think of. Examples include cooking oils, butter, milk, meats and sauces. Even small amounts of leftover food particles put down the garbage disposal can catch on to sticky film left by FOG and cause the debris to build up.
FOG is a year round problem, but holiday cooking is a good reminder to be mindful of what goes down the drain.
The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District) provides roughly 25% of the region’s water needs from Yucaipa to Fontana. Businesses and residential customers alike depend on them for water. With a limited water supply, unknown annual precipitation amounts and a growing population, water districts in Southern California need to plan to ensure water reliability and security. To meet the future demand, improvements to infrastructure, new pipelines and groundwater recharge systems are being built to gain water independence.
The Enhanced Stormwater Capture and Recharge Project (Recharge Project) on the Santa Ana River is the first stage of improvements made by Valley District and Western Municipal Water District to capture beneficial stormwater that are located downstream of the Seven Oaks Dam. Rather than losing water to evaporation and runoff, with only a portion of it benefiting local groundwater basins, the Recharge Project uses Santa Ana River water to replenish basins that seep into groundwater basins that are later pumped and conveyed to local agencies.
The Recharge project aims to divert up to 500 cubic feet of water per second and recharge up to 80,000 acre-feet of water per year. This amount reflects 3740 gallons of water diverted per second, and over 26 billion gallons recharged in a single year. These valuable gallons of recharged water will replenish groundwater supplies by ensuring it goes back into aquifers. In addition to costing less to store, recharge water also has smaller amounts of evaporation being that it is underground.
The groundwater that is being stored underground is called an aquifer. Aquifers are made up of layers of sand, rock, soil, or gravel where water is saturated and stored. It permeates through the spaces and gaps between the sediment. This water can be accessed when needed through drilling wells and pumping. Water that is stored underground is vital to the region’s overall water portfolio and after being pumped reflects about 72% of the available water supplies to meet growing demands.
The Recharge Project plays an important role in keeping groundwater supplies recharged. As water is pulled from the aquifers to be used, more needs to be added in order to keep a balance. If too much water is used without being recharged, the aquifer will become dry. The water in aquifers is vital to our survival by providing drinking water, irrigation supplies, freshwater needs, and to serve as an emergency supply. The Recharge Project supports water districts in the San Bernardino Basin and Southern California to help reduce reliance on more expensive imported water sources. By utilizing stormwater that is captured locally, districts are able to provide commercial and residential customers with their water supply
In addition to capturing the Santa Ana River stormwater at Seven Oaks Dam, the Recharge Project includes a debris removal system component, a sedimentation basin, canal, pipeline, and recharge basin. Each of these improvements increases the availability of local water supplies and creates less dependence on outside water sources.
With the population of the area growing and unknown annual precipitation, water districts across Southern California continue to research, develop and implement innovative ways to provide customers with reliable tap water as made available through the Recharge Project.
Did you know that your water agency tests and treats water thousands of time per year to ensure it meets some of the highest water-quality standards in the world before it reaches your tap?
In fact, the quality of your water is governed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires all public water systems to notify customers annually regarding the quality of the water they receive. In addition, California has stringent standards for water that each water agency must adhere to.
From time to time, we may hear about contaminants in water that are affecting local, national and worldwide water quality, including recent news stories on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals – also known as PFAS. But what are these chemicals and how did they get into our water?
What are PFAS?
PFAS are prevalent in thousands of products we use every day, including non-stick cookware, firefighting foams, dental floss and stain resistant household coatings on carpets and upholstery. It’s also found in our water; however, water agencies don’t put these chemicals into our water, but over time they have entered our waterways through manufacturing, landfills and wastewater discharge.
Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS are very hard to breakdown and treat (clean) in our water supply. While some PFAS have been linked to adverse health effects and scientific study is still ongoing, there are some preliminary state and federal regulations for these contaminants.
How Do We Monitor PFAS?
In California, the State Division of Drinking Water (DDW) has a “notification level” and a “response level” for water agencies. The notification and response levels are known as Public Health Goals set by the state and established based on extensive testing – even studying the impacts on people who have been exposed to certain contaminants. While these goals are instrumental in guiding drinking water laws and protecting human health, it is important to note that the EPA has yet to set a national regulatory limit for PFAS.
The Notification Level (NL) requires a water agency to notify government officials when PFAS in the water exceeds the set NL. In California, the NL for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is 5.1 part per trillion (ppt); the NL for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is 6.5 ppt. The Response Level (RL) requires agencies to take action for readings above 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 40 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS.
The guidelines are part of DDW’s statewide effort to assess the scope of water supply contamination by PFOS and PFOA.
The response level guidelines will be compared to a quarterly running annual average of sample results.
The CA DDW recommends that the water agency remove the well from service or provide treatment if it exceeds that amount. In the coming months, California may even tighten restrictions on RLs for PFOA and PFOS. For context, a ppt is a microscopic amount and is akin to one drop of water in the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
PFAS notification and response levels in CA are some of the most rigorous in the US; each state is in charge of setting its own levels.
National regulatory limits are set by the EPA and known as “maximum contaminant levels” (MCL) for drinking water. When contaminants in water exceed the MCL, this information must be reported to customers and the state. It is also noted in each agency’s annual Water Quality Report.
How Do We Treat For PFAS?
Thanks to improvements in technology, water agencies can detect and treat for substances, such as PFAS, at a faster rate. The ways that PFAS in our water supply can be removed or treated include granulated activated carbon, reverse osmosis or ion exchange; removing affected water sources from service; or blending affected water with unaffected water supplies.
DDW has indicated it will issue a new compliance sampling order in the near future. In addition, many water agencies are studying long-term treatment options for this contaminant.
For more information on PFAS, visit:
When you pour some cool tap water into a glass on a warm fall afternoon, enjoy a shower after a long day of work or throw a load of clothes in your washing machine, chances are that you are not thinking about the quality of your water. And that’s the goal. Teams of highly skilled water quality experts at your local water agency regularly test your water thousands of times per year to ensure that it is meeting some of the highest water quality standards in the world before it comes to your home.
Whether you live in New York or right here in California, the quality of your water is governed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires all public water systems to notify customers annually regarding the quality of the water they receive. In addition, each state has stringent standards for water that each water agency must adhere to.
Here are four more reasons why tap water quality can be trusted
Reason #1: Tap water beats out bottled water when it comes to safety
In fact, tap water that comes to our home undergoes many more tests than bottled water. That is because of the national Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires water agencies to conduct extensive water quality testing by certified laboratories. Our drinking water is not only regulated by the national Safe Drinking Water Act but also is regulated by the State Water Resources Control Board – Division of Drinking Water (DDW). Conversely, bottled water does not need to meet these same rigorous standards, is often tested less frequently than tap water and the leaching of the plastic bottle the water comes in is not tested.
Reason #2: Water quality is transparently communicated
Each year before the water reaches your tap, it is tested and treated thousands of times to ensure that it meets or surpasses rigorous state and nationwide water-quality standards. These results are legally required to be shared annually with customers by mail or online. The reports for the prior year are available after July 1 and provide customers with detailed information on the quality of their drinking water, including how much lead and copper is in the water, special health concerns, public health goals and maximum contaminant levels.
Reason #3: Investments in water technology and treatment
Water agencies are constantly adopting the latest technology and treatment options to monitor the quality of your water. For instance, when it comes to groundwater Orange County Water District (OCWD) has become the first public agency laboratory to achieve state certification to analyze per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
As technology for testing continues to improve, it allows water agencies to detect and treat for substances, such as PFAS, at a faster rate. “We continue to proactively monitor and protect our groundwater supply and look for ways to assist our regional 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.
Reason #4: Water has Set Maximum Contaminant Levels and Public Health Goals
The EPA sets maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for drinking water to keep water safe. When contaminants in water exceed the MCL, this information must be reported to customers and the state. It is also noted in the annual Water Quality Report.
Public Health Goals, on the other hand, are set by the state and established based on extensive testing – even studying the impacts on people who have been exposed to certain contaminants. While these goals are instrumental in guiding drinking water laws and protecting human health, it is important to note they are not legal limits. A whole team of experts works together to determine Public Health Goals, including toxicologists, epidemiologists, physicians, biostatisticians and research scientists.
There are numerous tests our water goes through to ensure it meets in-depth water quality testing before making its way to our homes. For questions about your water agency’s water quality report, visit their website or contact them to receive a copy.
When it comes to water news in Southern California, the drought dominated headlines for several years. But having enough water for everyone who lives and works here isn’t the only water concern we face. Our water needs to be clean, too. We expect that when we turn on our kitchen sinks, the water that flows out is consistently clean and safe for cooking, cleaning and drinking.
The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) Basin Monitoring Program Task Force works collectively to share resources and monitor surface and groundwater quality in the Santa Ana River Watershed. As home to approximately 6 million people, residents and businesses throughout the region rely in part on groundwater from the Santa Ana River Watershed (the natural ecological system including the river and its tributaries) and the five water agencies that comprise SAWPA. These five water agencies – Eastern Municipal Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Orange County Water District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District – collaborate on water projects and programs affecting the watershed to bring clean water to businesses and homes.
SAWPA administers task forces like the Basin Monitoring Program Task Force, a 20-agency task force formed 15 years ago, to monitor nitrogen and total dissolved solids (TDS) for water quality compliance in the Santa Ana River Watershed. Excessive nitrogen and TDS can impact drinking water. Too much nitrogen can stimulate growth of algae in water. TDS are the concentrations of solids in water. Both nitrogen and TDSs need to be monitored in order to ensure that Orange County water resources downstream are protected.
The Task Force brings together key cities and water agencies as well as the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, this region’s local water quality regulatory agency, to work together on the complex job of monitoring and improving water quality. Task Force members include the cities of Banning, Beaumont, Corona, Redlands, Rialto, Riverside and the Jurupa Community Services District, plus the following water agencies:
- Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District
- Chino Basin Watermaster
- Colton/San Bernardino Regional Tertiary Treatment and Wastewater Reclamation
- Eastern Municipal Water District
- Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District
- Inland Empire Utilities Agency
- Irvine Ranch Water District
- Temescal Valley Water District
- Orange County Water District
- San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District
- San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency
- Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board
- West Riverside County Regional Wastewater Authority
- Yucaipa Valley Water District
The Task Force compiles and collects monitoring data to evaluate water quality annually and the groundwater basins throughout the watershed every three years; provides guidance on wastewater treatment plant discharge permits; and conducts additional water quality studies to monitor and evaluate salt and nitrate trends.
By bringing so many cities and water agencies together every month for meetings over the past 15 years, this Task Force has built relationships and greatly improved efficiencies in water and wastewater operations through joint studies on dealing with salt in the water. The Task Force also saves its members millions of dollars due to collaboration and economies of scale.
The Basin Monitoring Program Task Force is a success because the members understand that we have only one Santa Ana River Watershed to share and the water in it belongs to everyone, now and in the future.
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Earthquakes are a reality for over 39 million residents living in California. While the state is known for its beautiful beaches, glamorous Hollywood scene and nature, it’s difficult to think about California and not make the connection with earthquakes. With the recent quakes, many Californians are reminded of this eminent reality, but are they prepared?
The Southern Earthquake Center developed the Community Fault Model database and has documented over 140 faults considered capable of producing moderate to large earthquakes in the state. In fact, Southern California’s recent string of earthquakes has kickstarted conversations surrounding preparedness for the next “big one.”
In the case of an earthquake, your water agency will provide you with the necessary information regarding the safety of the water that you receive at your home. It’s important to heed warnings from them and follow safety information provided. During an earthquake, infrastructure can be damaged, which can create a disruption in service or possible contamination.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are three main phases to prepare for a disaster such as a moderate or large earthquake which include:
Step One: Protecting yourself before an earthquake
Step Two: Protecting yourself during an earthquake
Step Three: Protecting yourself after an earthquake
FEMA elaborates on what it takes to protect yourself before an earthquake. Although no one wants to imagine a scenario where an earthquake causes a disaster scenario, it is best to be prepared for yourself, your family and pets. Assembling an emergency kit is crucial for earthquake preparedness and should first and foremost include water. FEMA states that you should “Ensure you have at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days. (Store a longer than 3-day supply of water, if possible). An average person needs to drink about 3/4 of a gallon of fluid daily. Individual needs vary depending on age, gender, health, level of activity, food choices, and climate. You may also need stored water for food preparation.” Essentially, make sure you have enough stored water readily accessible and saved only for emergencies that is sufficient to cover your household’s most basic needs.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control established guidelines to follow regarding best practices for safe tap water usage after a natural disaster, such as a large earthquake. Under Things you should do, the CDC lists the following after an earthquake:
- Listen for announcements from local officials to find out what to do. They will tell you if there are bacteria and/or chemicals in the water.
- Boil water, if instructed. Boil it for at least 1 minute (start counting when the water comes to a constant boil). Let the water cool sufficiently before drinking. Boiling kills germs in the water.
- Use bottled water, if instructed. Sometimes after a disaster, there may be chemicals in the water that boiling cannot remove.
Public utility agencies understand the threat that earthquakes pose to water supplies and work diligently to have emergency plans in place. Be sure to have a personal plan in place for your household too, and make sure that water is a top priority.
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.