The Orange County Water District (OCWD) and the Santa Ana Watershed Association (SAWA) recently received a prestigious national environmental award for their partnership to protect and enhance the Santa Ana watershed, which provides water to millions of Southern Californians.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presented the annual National Wetlands Conservation Award to OCWD for its significant contributions to the restoration, enhancement and protection of wetlands in the United States.

“We are honored to receive this award,” says OCWD board president Denis Bilodeau. “The prestige of this recognition exemplifies the district's commitment to water quality while preserving and improving our local environment.”

The Santa Ana watershed is the largest coastal river system in Southern California and provides water to millions of Southern California citizens and includes portions of San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties. OCWD and SAWA have worked for many years to successfully protect and enhance wetlands that are valuable to plants, fish and animals, all the while conserving water supplies in the Santa Ana River.

Clint Riley, special assistant to the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington D.C., and Steve Thompson, manager of the California/Nevada Operations Office of the service, presented the award to OCWD and the Santa Ana Watershed Association. “The Orange County Water District and Santa Ana Watershed Association have demonstrated a strong commitment to conserving wetlands and promoting the recovery of endangered species,” Thompson said. “They have been outstanding partners.”

The Santa Ana Watershed is composed of four Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) - Riverside-Corona RCD, East Valley RCD, San Jacinto Basin RCD and Inland Empire West RCD. The purpose of the Santa Ana Watershed Association is to develop, coordinate and implement natural resource programs that support a sustainable ecosystem and social benefits from the San Bernardino Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.