AMWA Presents 2019 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance to Orange County WD

By on November 4, 2019

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies’ (AMWA) recently presented its 2019 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance to the Orange County Water District (OCWD) at the association’s Executive Management Conference in Newport, RI. The honor was bestowed by a distinguished panel of peer judges for OCWD’s significant contribution to the drinking water industry.

The award recognizes large public drinking water systems that exhibit the AMWA’s ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities which were identified in 2007 by a blue ribbon panel of water and wastewater utility executives and commissioned by the EPA, AMWA and other water sector associations. The attributes were updated in 2016.

The ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities recognize the large public drinking water systems that exhibit high levels of performance in the areas of product quality, customer satisfaction, employee and leadership development, operational optimization, financial viability, community sustainability, enterprise resiliency, infrastructure strategy and performance, stakeholder understanding and support, and water resource sustainability. Additionally, AMWA’s Gold Award winners also show achievement in the areas of continual improvement management, knowledge management, leadership, measurement, and strategic business planning.

“This award is recognition by your colleagues that your agency has made remarkable efforts to compete in a highly challenging and constantly changing environment. Congratulations on this high achievement,” said Diane VanDe Hei, AMWA chief executive officer.

Founded in 1933 as a California Special District to protect the local rights to Santa Ana River water and to manage the vast Orange County Groundwater Basin, the OCWD is now an international leader in water reuse and groundwater management. The district is also home to the Groundwater Replenishment System—the world’s largest advanced water purification project for potable reuse. The district now serves 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County.

The water district’s Philip L. Anthony Water Quality Laboratory is one of four public agency labs in the nation to have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) 4 program for five EPA methods. It is also the first laboratory in California to receive certification for polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detection, now commonly as the “forever chemicals.”

OCWD created the largest constructed wetlands in the West to help purify Santa Ana River waters and for greater water yield while protecting endangered species. The Orange County Groundwater Basin, which OCWD manages, is non-adjudicated, and yet, because of a unique method of assessments and incentives, its 19-member groundwater producers can pump 77 percent of their drinking water (while the basin remains reliable. OCWD was also the first to use reverse osmosis to purify wastewater to drinking water quality and district staff were called as consultants as California developed its Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014.

“Acknowledgement by our industry peers for our strong record of effective utility management is a true honor,” said OCWD President Vicente Sarmiento. “This prestigious award spotlights our efforts towards community sustainability and pays special tribute to our employees and executive leadership.”