Our celebrated Groundwater Replenishment System steals Poseidon’s lunch money.

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In real life it’s more likely that Poseidon will steal all of our breakfast, lunch and dinner money, with the connivance of our politicians and unions and OCWD.  But I’m speaking in the Platonic realm of truth and justice – that in terms of creating WAY more fresh drinking water for MUCH lower financial and environmental costs, our world-renowned Groundwater Replenishment System, as I’ll demonstrate, does indeed steal Poseidon’s lunch money.

So, if you’ve got the misconception that the OC Water District is, or has always been, nothing more than an insular little den of cheap and bumbling sellouts, think again – this same body (with at least SOME of the same cast of characters) created and is busy DOUBLING a replenishment system which the entire world drops by to admire and emulate.  About twenty of us took their monthly tour recently (the first Friday of each month) – five members of my HB Facebook forum, one member of the Poseidon Citizens Advisory Committee, young students, engineers, tea partiers, and folks speaking various foreign languages.

And MY main takeaway (as a Poseidon opponent) was that the additional water that the planned GWRS expansion will provide is so much more plentiful, and so much less expensive to produce, than what Poseidon wants us to sign on for from them, that it really blows them out of the “water.”  AND steals their lunch money.  As Carl Sagan, and now Neil DeGrasse Tyson, would say, “Come with me…”


This is the Santa Ana Aquifer that North Orange County is blessed with; starting up in Anaheim and coming down to HB. The OCWD’s job is to care for it and keep it filled, which it does in several ways – pumping some water all the way up to the recharge area in Anaheim and pushing some of it down wells at various spots. Much of the water they use for that is reclaimed wastewater.

“Groundwater Replenishment” – what a nice euphemism, I have to say! It is recycled wastewater, from the OC Sewage District next door, but purified in so many ways that it literally ends up TOO PURE, as you’ll see. LOOK AT THE RED SLICE OF PIE – for a long time now, one quarter of our water has been from this process. When the two planned expansions are completed, that red slice will be DOUBLED.

Here are the figures, with which I challenge any Poseidon boosters. GWRS. Volume. Right now, 70 million gallons a day; when the current expansion is completed, 100 million gallons a day; after the final expansion in 2020, 130 million gallons a day. (OC’s biggest city, Anaheim, uses 54 million gallons a day.) PRICE. Now, our reclaimed water costs us $478 an acre/foot (AF, the way water price is measured – the amount of water that would fill a one-foot pool an acre wide.) The first expansion will raise the price to $520/AF, and the final one maybe to $700.

POSEIDON. VOLUME. 50 million gallons a day, in comparison to GWRS’s 130. PRICE. Ha – impossible to say, BUT under the term sheet OCWD is strongly considering, it will be MORE THAN 20% over imported MET water which is $923/AF + 20% = $1107. MORE THAN THAT, because as we discovered March 18, this does NOT include distribution costs which haven’t even been estimated. AND since imported water will always be getting more expensive, Poseidon’s water will also be always getting more expensive.

So it’s pretty safe to say that this Poseidon water will cost AT LEAST TWICE our reclaimed water, and maybe eventually much more than that. Not a good investment at all, especially when you add in the possibilities of expanded stormwater capture, increased conservation, and eventually building OUR OWN desal plant with the technology of the future and profiteers out of the loop! I mean, look at the pictures below for what we’re capable of!


Speaking of our reclaimed I mean recycled I mean REPLENISHED water – someone asked “Why the hell don’t LA and San Diego do this?” HAHA, we are smarter. Both our huge thirsty neighboring counties fell prey to the “ick” factor when demagogues started bitching about “toilet to tap.” But our reclaimed water is literally PURER than theirs, with all the processes it goes through.

Peer Swan tells us that LA County has actually been drilling wells right by our aquifer and poaching, our water.  Hey – Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait for exactly that sort of slant drilling.  Do we have the firepower to take on LA?  Also I remember “There Will Be Blood” and Bandy’s Tract.  “DRRRRAINAGE, you child!  I drink your milkshake!  SLLLURRRP – I drink it up!”  Are we gonna stand for this?


I like the names OCWD gave to the different levels of aquifer we are blessed with – Talbert, Alpha, Beta, Lambda, Main… but even better I enjoyed the word “AQUATARD” – the felicitous effect of seismic activity which prevents most of our aquifer from getting flooded with unusable OCEAN WATER. AQUATARDS – lets’ start a band!


Benefits – here you have it. What of this is true for the wasteful Poseidon?  At least three of those points are not.


You could almost say there are THREE PLANTS that purify our water at the Groundwater Replenishment System – the first one being the “Microfiltration” plant, which uses machinery devised by Siemens.


The beginning stages of the microfiltration process. Interesting fact – this water, fresh from the OC Sewage District, doesn’t smell bad at all – that’s because OCSD has already treated it TWICE before sending it over. Still I wouldn’t drink it just yet…


One thing you DO smell in the microfiltration area is BLEACH – that’s to prevent ALGAE from accumulating in the tanks.


The microfiltration process removes all “suspended solids” from the water but NOT “dissolved solids.” No, suspended solids does NOT mean dingleberries and pus balls. It means BACTERIA.


Our charming tour guide, the “low-level” civil engineer Ben Smith, loves his big pumps!


Off to the second plant/process – the “Reverse Osmosis” center devised by Hydronautics!


Wow, there are thousands of these little reverse osmosis devices.


One of our fellow tourists (there were about 20 of us that day) reads the Hydronautics info.


Now YOU can read it, saving me work.


The last stage of the purification process is “Ultraviolet Light with Hydrogen Peroxide.” Gets out EVERY LAST GERM AND CHEMICAL, leaving us with absurdly pure water.


Ben shows us one of the ultraviolet light bulbs. Each of these hot little mothers has to be in its own plastic case or the cool water will shatter it.


Ben shows us which of the three sinks NOT to drink from. The right one has only been through the Microfiltration process. The middle one has been through that AND reverse osmosis, while the one on the left has been through the whole shebang.


The author drinks the final product, which tastes great but is literally TOO PURE TO BE HEALTHY. Water should have MINERALS in it, or else it’ll suck ’em out of your body. So into the ground we shall pump it, for perfection.

Anyone who thinks drinking reclaimed water seems gross, and would rather have desalinated ocean water, should first think of all the whales and surfers who shit and piss in the sea. But also, that every drop of water you will ever drink has been around for BILLIONS of years and been through every experience you can imagine. I’m reminded of this poem by Ted Hughes, one of his “Two Eskimo Songs” from CROW (I set this poem to music back in ’85, but I don’t have any youtubes of it yet, I should take care of that…)

How Water Began to Play (Eskimo Song #2 by Ted Hughes)

Water wanted to live
it went to the sun . . . . . . . it came weeping back
. . . . . . .
Water wanted to live
it went to the trees . . . . . . . they burned . . . . . . . it came weeping back
they rotted . . . . . . . it came weeping back
. . . . . . .
Water wanted to live
It went to the flowers . . . . . . . they crumpled . . . . . . . it came weeping back
. . . . . . .
It wanted to live
It went to the womb
It met blood . . . . . . . it came weeping back
It met knife . . . . . . . it came weeping back
It met maggot and rottenness it came weeping back it wanted to die
. . . . . . .
It went to time . . . . . . . it went through the stone door . . . . . . . it came weeping back
. . . . . . .
It went searching through all space for nothingness
. . . . . . .
It came weeping back it wanted to die
. . . . . . .
Till it had no weeping left
. . . . . . .
It lay at the bottom of all things
Utterly worn out
Utterly clear.


A final shot of the huge tanks reminds us of what we can achieve when we all work together for the common good, not the interests of a few out-of-state profiteers. If we decide we need desalination, let’s build it ourselves – we know we can do it BETTER and CHEAPER than Poseidon! Vern out.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.