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Renee Purdy Named as Executive Officer for Los Angeles Regional Water Board
Environmental scientist and regional planner Renee Purdy has been named Executive Officer (EO) for the Los Angeles Regional Water Board in a recent vote by the Regional Board following seven months as the board’s acting EO. Purdy succeeds Deborah Smith, who retired last year after a 30-year career.
Purdy brings a unique combination of expertise in both surface and groundwater to her new position. Her early water career began as a hydrogeologist with Westinghouse Environmental and Geotechnical Services, Inc., in Richmond, VA. She subsequently worked for four years with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Protection. She began her California water career in 1997 as an environmental scientist with the Santa Monica Bay/National Estuary Project. She left the Estuary Project two years later to begin her career with the Los Angeles Water Board.
Los Angeles Water Board Chair Irma Muñoz praised Purdy’s tenure as acting EO saying, “Renee handled the transition with finesse and ease. She stepped into the job as if she had always been there. We feel very fortunate to have someone who is highly regarded for her skill, talent and knowledge of water – locally, regionally and statewide. She has credibility on all levels and is delightful to work with, which never hurts.”
In one of her early accomplishments with the LA Regional Water Board, Purdy oversaw development of the state’s first pollutant control plan (known as TMDL or total maximum daily load) to address bacteria water quality impairments using an innovative approach known as the reference system approach – a concept that has since been used throughout the region and in other parts of the state. More recently Purdy has overseen efforts advancing the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permitting program by introducing provisions that enable cities to work together on a regional watershed basis to improve water quality, while enhancing the local supply.
Purdy, who now oversees a staff of nearly 170 engineers, scientists and geologists, acknowledges that one outcome of the state’s most recent drought has given rise to ideas and the implementation of new sources of usable water. “The long drought the state just experienced reinforced the need to treat stormwater as a resource,” she said.
Purdy cites her leadership on the MS4 permit – helping to foster a countywide initiative to increase the capture of stormwater – as her most significant accomplishment. “Most of the cities in the Los Angeles region are collaborating on watershed management programs,” Purdy added, “and the State Water Board has committed to a statewide strategy (Strategy to Optimize Resource Management of Storm Water) STORMS to support management of stormwater as a valuable resource. That is very gratifying.”
A native of Chicago, Purdy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA) and a Masters’ degree in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC). Purdy’s fascination with water and water issues traces back to family vacations spent camping and waterskiing, and later, going on whale watching cruises along the Massachusetts and Maine coasts. These days, her favorite pastime is driving up the Pacific Coast Highway for a weekend of camping and whale watching around the Channel Islands.