Orange County captures 8.3 billion gallons of stormwater in February

Feb. 23, 2024
The Orange County Water District in California captured 25,500 acre-feet of stormwater during February so far.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) successfully captured 25,500 acre-feet of water during February storms so far, equivalent to 8.3 billion gallons — enough water for 204,000 people for a year.

The achievement comes in the wake of a powerful series of storms that brought 7.28 inches of rain to the region, totaling 13.54 inches of rain since July 1, 2023, the beginning of the water year.

OCWD said that its ability to capture this water stems from meticulous planning, substantial investments in water infrastructure, a robust partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the dedication of its staff, who worked tirelessly through inclement weather to ensure the maximum capture of stormwater.

"We operate one of the most advanced aquifer recharge systems globally," stated OCWD President Cathy Green. "Our network of percolation basins, pumps, and inflatable dams effectively recharge the Orange County Groundwater Basin which serves as a major drinking water source supplying 85% of the water to 2.5 million people."

Stormwater capture has been integral to the district’s diverse water supply portfolio for decades. Stormwater capture accounts for 17% of water recharged annually into the basin — enough water for 453,000 people. Given the amount of rain received to date, OCWD expects to recharge even more stormwater this water year.

To further enhance its capture capabilities, the district is testing Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) at Prado Dam in Riverside County. FIRO aims to boost water storage levels behind the dam by leveraging improved weather forecasting to allow for more precise dam operations. Through its partnership with the USACE, water behind Prado Dam is strategically pooled and released to be captured downstream by OCWD.

“OCWD's proactive water management ensures a reliable water supply and serves as a model to the industry,” added President Green. “We will continue to do everything we can to enhance stormwater capture and explore all options to increase our local water supply.”