District poised to capture more stormwater thanks to Army Corps of Engineers

Historically the Orange County Water District (OCWD) has had to rely on Mother Nature for water. Although, due to climate change, that is no longer a realistic water strategy for OCWD. The agency has instead made significant investments in cutting-edge technology, such as water reuse, to help the region weather droughts.

However, not taking advantage when large rain events take place is not something OCWD wants to miss out on and has found a way to capture more stormwater without having to spend tens of millions of dollars in new infrastructure. OCWD announced last week that through collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) they will conserve a larger pool of water behind Prado Dam in Riverside County.

Since 2006, OCWD and the Corps have had an agreement to capture stormwater behind the dam up to 498 feet during the flood season, and up to 505 the rest of the year.

The Corps recently approved allowing OCWD to conserve water up to 505 feet year-round for the next five years and that could result in an additional 10,000 acre-feet of water, per storm event, that OCWD would put back into the Orange County Groundwater Basin.

“The Orange County Water District (OCWD) has been involved with capturing and recharging stormwater into the groundwater basin since 1936 and has collaborated with the USACE for 77 years, since the construction of Prado Dam in 1941,” stated Denis Bilodeau, P.E., OCWD President. “We are extremely grateful to the Corps for working with us to provide an economical and effective solution to the region’s water challenges without compromising the safety of the dam. If there are multiple storms in a given year, this deviation will help OCWD bank a significant amount of water to help us get through future droughts.”

OCWD and the Corps are also currently working on a long-term plan called the Prado Basin Feasibility Study that, if successful, will lead to permanently changing the conservation level to 505 year-round. The plan would also include additional restoration of ecosystems behind the dam.

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