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1. The article looks at water globally, then statewide, and finally locally. How much more water do we have on earth now than we did thousands of
Where Do We Get Our Groundwater?
The Santa Ana River, augmented by imported water when it is available, provides the
water to refill Orange County's groundwater basin each year. Simply put, the goal of the Orange
County Water District's groundwater recharge effort is to put back as much water as is taken
The process of recharging water into the groundwater basin begins behind Prado Dam.
Behind the Dam is over 500 acres of constructed wetlands that naturally filter about 60% of the
Santa Ana River flows. During the summer, most of the Santa Ana River flow consists of
purified water from upstream sewage treatment plants in Riverside and San Bernardino
Counties. Once the water moves through the wetlands, the water has been stripped of nitrates
and regains a natural chemistry before moving into Orange County and the Water District's
How does water flowing down the Santa Ana River end up hundreds of feet underground
in Orange County's groundwater basin? Orange County Water District manages a very
sophisticated system of lakes, or percolation ponds, in Orange and Anaheim that seep water
through the lake bottoms into the deep aquifers below. Most people will recognize one of our
lakes as the home of the Santa Ana Fishing Lakes concession.
It is interesting to note that only in that area of the county is the soil composition of sand
and gravel conductive to water traveling to deep aquifers. Underlying the rest of the
groundwater basin is a fairly consistent clay layer that prevents significant percolation into the
groundwater basin outside of the Anaheim and Orange areas. Each of our lakes acts like
purification funnels, delivering water into groundwater basin. The lakes are interconnected with
pipes and pumps that can be controlled by computers. Over the years, constantly improving this
recharge system has tripled the yield of the groundwater basin.
California leads the nation in the high standards required of the water delivered to your
tap. In fact, the water quality standards for your tap water are more stringent than that of bottled
water. Tap water standards are set by the California Department of Health Services and
monitored by Orange County Health and Environmental Protection Agency, while bottled water
standards are set by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Orange County Water
District each have state-certified water quality testing laboratories than continually sample and
test groundwater and imported water. The Orange County Water District lab processes over
13,000 samples, doing 300,000 analyses each year for almost twice as many contaminates as
is required by regulations to ensure our County's water meets or exceeds the high standards.
Remember, our microbiologists, chemists, engineers, and water quality scientists stand behind
their water and their families drink it too.
We now drink more bottled water than we do coffee or milk. About 30 years ago, the
average person in Southern California drank six quarts of bottled water a year. Now the average
person in Southern California drinks 29 gallons of bottled water each year. One well known
economist said that, "the success of bottled water is one of capitalism's great mysteries."
The water in at least 25% of the billions of bottles of water consumed in this country
every year comes out of the same public reservoirs that send water to every tap from public
drinking fountains to your bathroom sink. The water in
water bottles comes from the
same sources as the humble (and cheap) tap water in Fresno, Detroit, and Wichita.
which is owned by Pepsi, is the best-selling bottled water in the country.
already been busted for its tap-water pedigree from pristine locales such as Queens, New York.
, which is owned by Coca-Cola, is the nation's second-best-selling water.
Crystal Geyser water comes out of the same Owens Valley well that the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power draws from. Yosemite Water doesn't come from Yosemite
Valley. Yosemite Water comes from L.A.'s Highland Park, where there is a street named
Yosemite. Some of L.A.'s Department of Water and Power biggest water customers
are....bottled water companies.
Why Pay More?
Public water contamination in places like Milwaukee and Washington crowds out
memories of the benzene that turned up in
water bottles years ago. Remember, tap
water and bottled water often comes from the same source and tap water may actually be safer
than bottled water. Big city tap water is tested for bacteria at least 100 times a month; the FDA
requires bottlers to test just once a week. Many high-end restaurants are now pouring tap water
as is their "house brand".
You can get at least 450 gallons of L.A. tap water for the $1.35 you'd pay for 20 ounces
. Turn that around, and 20 ounces of L.A. tap water costs about one-twentieth of a
cent. Would you pay $5 for a gallon of gas in a pretty container if you could get a plain-wrap
gallon for half a penny? When it comes to water, that's pretty much what we do.
Unfortunately, there will be less water to serve a growing population, so new water
projects will be required to meet these demands. We will see more environmental regulation
that will further diminish the availability of water supplies for agriculture and urban uses. We will
probably see water transfers of conserved water from agricultural areas to urban areas. There
will be more storage of water in environmentally preferred groundwater basins instead of
reservoirs, although some existing reservoirs will get increased capacity.
As science continues to improve, we will see more expensive, higher quality water. We
will be looking at possible contaminants in water at levels of parts per trillion, which is
comparable to finding one second in 32,000 years! We will be replacing aging infrastructure in
many of Orange County's older cities, which will also increase the cost of water. There could be
a day when urban runoff and storm runoff is purified for reuse. Conservation and water reuse
will be the norm in the future, but the public should be prepared for a gradual increase in their
monthly water bill.