California storms boosting OC's water supply past capacity to capture all that rain

The more rain that is captured locally, the less Orange County has to rely on importing more expensive water

Jessica De Nova Image
Thursday, January 12, 2023
California storms boosting Orange County water supply past capacity
The more rain that is captured locally, the less Orange County has to rely on importing more expensive water from outside the region.

CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- California's recent storms have provided a big boost to Orange County's water supply, with so much rain falling that it's exceeding the county's ability to capture all of it.

With a forecast of more rain coming this weekend, some of the captured water will actually have to be released briefly into the Pacific Ocean, county officials say.

The storms are keeping the Orange County Water District busy, as the agency collects rain water to help supply northern and central OC.

Most of the rain that has made its way into the Santa Ana River since this past November will be put to use, according to Greg Woodside, executive director of planning and natural resources at the OCWD.

"Between the water we have captured here at Prado Dam with the Army Corps of Engineers and the water we've already put into our recharge basin, we have 9 billion gallons of water that become part of our water supply," Woodside said.

Woodside said that's enough water to supply 220,000 people for a year.

The journey starts at the Prado Dam in Corona where engineers release water at a rate that can be captured downstream in Anaheim.

Then the Imperial Inflatable Dam stops the water again to be diverted to two dozen infiltration ponds where gravity does its job.

"Our infiltration ponds allow us to infiltrate or essentially put that water underground in the aquifer and then as it infiltrates into the aquifer, our cities and the water districts that retail water to the public can pump it out and the pumping wells provide water to the public," Woodside said.

Rain water is only one of several sources of household water supplies in Orange County.

Storm water from the aquifer makes up 14% of the supply in northern and central OC.

As of Tuesday, the OCWD was able to capture all the water that has made it to this point, helping to protect other natural resources.

"It's a local water supply here in our own watershed, so it reduces the amount of water we have to import from the Colorado River and Northern California," Woodside said.

Woodside predicted at some point this week, engineers at the Prado Dam will have to release water at a rate higher than it can be captured, so that means it'll briefly go into the Pacific Ocean.

That would be the first time this cycle that storm water would have to pass across the Imperial Inflatable Dam at a rate too fast to capture.