Liquid News

Treating Water Nature’s Way

Do Your Part ~ Prevent Runoff

Irvine Ranch Water District is committed to protecting the environment. One element of this focus is treating urban runoff. In 1997, the District implemented a treatment program, partnering with nature by creating wetlands that use organisms, plants and soil to naturally remove bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus from water.

 “Building on our tradition of using water efficiently, IRWD is committed to protecting water resources,” said Fiona Sanchez, Natural Treatment System Program Manager. “Our innovative NTS program has set a new standard for taking environmental stewardship to the next level.”

The wetlands at the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine use this natural treatment process to handle urban runoff from San Diego Creek. Plants and soils in the manmade ponds take about seven to 10 days to remove nitrates and other pollutants and deliver cleaner water back into the creek before it makes its way through Upper Newport Bay to the ocean.

This cost-effective and environmentally sound way of treating urban runoff is well respected by water treatment experts and other water districts, and has grown into the IRWD Natural Treatment System program.

Over watering your lawn or a broken sprinkler on your property contributes to ocean pollution.This excess water that carries pollutants into storm drains, and then to the ocean is called urban runoff, and is an environmental problem for any communities. You can help by being mindful of your water use so this wasted water doesn’t flow to the curb and take trash, fertilizers, pet waste and other pollutants into storm drains and into San Diego Creek, eventually ending up in ecologically sensitive Upper Newport Bay and the ocean. Making simple changes, like using “smart” timers to water your lawn, adjusting your watering schedule, installing high quality sprinkler heads or planting water smart landscapes can really make a big difference.

For more than ten years, the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary continues to demonstrate that nature can successfully clean urban runoff. IRWD has used this smart concept to create the Natural Treatment System (NTS), which is a series of smaller wetlands that are being constructed throughout the San Diego Creek Watershed in Orange County. IRWD is working with local partners to develop wetlands so that runoff will travel through one or more basins for incremental cleaning before reaching the San Joaquin Marsh for final polishing.

The NTS works much like the San Joaquin Marsh, only using smaller man-made wetlands placed strategically throughout the watershed. Low-flow natural and urban runoff, as well as smaller storm flows, will be diverted into man-made wetlands. These naturally treat and remove pollutants, helping to prevent them from reaching the Upper Newport Bay.

Now that you know what urban runoff is, you can make good use of these helpful resources:

Visit IRWD’s “Community Programs” web pages for event, education and workshop information. Download a map and explore the IRWD San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Learn more about the Sea & Sage Audubon Society.
Become the neighborhood expert on urban runoff.

IRWD is committed to preventing urban runoff. Our numerous community programs, including landscape workshops, resident tours, community education events and programs for children demonstrate IRWD’s desire to educate customers on the need to improve landscape irrigation efficiency.

For more information, please visit our website.

Contact: Shannon Reed, Public Affairs Manager, (949) 453-5500


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