Rattlesnake Reservoir is one of four IRWD recycled water reservoirs.

IRWD builds resilience by going local


The “go local” movement is in vogue. Just look at a grocery store. Crafty signs often tout fruits and vegetables as “locally grown” – a nod to the importance and sustainability of local products.

In Irvine, the “go local” movement extends beyond food – it’s the foundation of a resilient and sustainable water supply, as well.

“Local sources of water are important elements for ensuring a safe and reliable supply of water to our customers,” says Irvine Ranch Water District General Manager Paul Cook. “We have a long history of investing in new and drought-proof sources of water. Combining these investments with our customers doing a great job using water wisely, IRWD is able to fully meet the water needs of our community.”

Since 1990, IRWD has reduced its dependence on imported (or non-local) water from 66% to 18%. In that same period, the district doubled recycled water production and added an entirely new source of local water – treated groundwater – that now makes up about 20% of its total supply.

Now, more than 80% of IRWD’s supply is sourced in and around Irvine. And the benefit for local residents is immense.

An imported supply is inherently at risk. Earthquakes threaten supply lines, while persistent drought reduces the amount of imported water available. Imported supplies also require more energy to move throughout California, so they typically come with a larger carbon footprint.

Facing those realities, IRWD has spent years planning and building a local, resilient and sustainable supply.

“We were pioneers in recycled water way back in the 1960s,” Cook says. “That changed the game in regard to increasing our local reliability and keeping communities green – even during drought.”

In addition to recycled water, which makes up 28% of all the water used in the district, IRWD has developed treated groundwater systems that, when combined with clear groundwater, now form about half of the district’s water supply.

“It’s all about developing a resilient, local supply of water for our customers,” Cook says. “That helps ensure that we’ll be secure – now, and in the future.”

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