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Recycling Water in Orange County

Why They Are Doing It

Recycling Water in Orange County

During California’s record-breaking drought, a rare bright spot is the water recycling innovations initiated by the Orange Country Water District (OCWD). According to OCWD Board President Shawn Dewane, speaking on December 1 on the Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water broadcast at, OCWD is taking millions of gallons of used sewage that would have been dumped into the ocean and, through a variety of methods, is converting it to irrigation or drinking water.

On the broadcast, Dewane primarily discussed OCWD’s groundwater replenishment program. Through a process called reverse osmosis, the OCWD treatment facility removes all impurities from used sewage wastewater, including the water’s mineral content. This yields basically distilled water not suitable for drinking or irrigation. The treated water is then introduced back into the ground water aquifer, according to Dewane, where the mineral content is naturally replaced. The water can then be fully processed to become drinking water or partially processed to become irrigation water.

Prior to ground water replenishment, used sewage was simply dumped into the ocean and replaced by imported water or by groundwater mining. Because of the ongoing drought, lowering water tables, and the county’s burgeoning urban and agricultural freshwater needs, imported water and groundwater mining are becoming less and less feasible.

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