by (VREG) Venturans for Responsible and Efficient Government
The City Council will make a monumental decision on water July 9, 2018. They will set Ventura’s water priorities for decades to come.
They will be asked to decide between State Water and Direct Potable Reuse as the first supplement to our existing water supply. Should Ventura be first with an untested, unproven, unregulated water system with DPR or be safe with State Water? We will also learn whether they will listen to the Water Commission or ignore their recommendations.
The Ventura Water Commission rejected the Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) idea as Ventura’s primary resource. They made it clear that the city should look to State Water as a primary to supplement our existing water supply.
Two legal agreements jeopardize Ventura’s water supply. The first was a Consent Decree requiring Ventura to cease putting 100% of its treated wastewater into the Santa Clara River estuary. The Consent Decree doesn’t specify where to place treated water or how to use it. It only states it cannot go into the estuary.
One exception is if a scientific panel were to decide the environmental health of the fish and wildlife in the estuary need that water, Ventura might release 50% into the inlet. In February 2018, Stillwater Sciences issued a final report on discharging treated water into the Santa Clara River estuary. It recommended diverting 40%-60% of the wastewater, not 100% as initially presented to the City Council.
The second was a new contract between the City of Ventura and the Casitas Municipal Water District executed by the City Council in May 2017. The new contract obligates Ventura to reach Water Balance by 2020 to maintain its current water rights.
The new Casitas Water contract does not specify the amount of water Ventura’s entitled to receive. The new agreement does not allow any use for the East End of Ventura.
A major problem with Direct Potable Reuse (DPR), or Ventura WaterPure as it has been named, is that Ventura would be the first city to used recycled wastewater as drinkable. Only Windhoek, Namibia and a small town in Texas are attempting to drink their filtered toilet water. Neither place had other water options.
In Ventura’s quest to make wastewater drinkable, an August 2016 report by a state-appointed panel of experts concluded it was “technically” feasible to use DPR, but there are serious health risks. Here are some fundamental problems outlined:
1. Guidance and regulations currently do not exist for DPR
2. Of specific concern are chemicals adversely affecting the development of fetuses and children, plus any as-yet-undiscovered compounds.
3. There are no standards to guard against Cryptosporidium, and Giardia to maintain a risk of infection equal to one in 10,000.
4. Reverse osmosis is unable to detect and remove low molecular weight compounds such as halogenated solvents, formaldehyde, and 1,4-dioxane.
5. The inability to identify solvents on the Proposition 65 list that reverse osmosis membranes cannot remove.
The cost of DPR wastewater is high. According to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the wastewater and water costs will total approximately $368 million. Then it will need to be pumped north to the desalination/Reverse Osmosis plant that will cost another $170 million.
By comparison, the pipeline for State Water is estimated by the Ventura Water Department to cost $27 million. State water can be injected directly into the Ventura water system. The water is reliable and used throughout Southern California.
We only hope that the City Council has the leadership and strength to change course and not feel bound by this misguided concept of past water leaders.
Protecting public health is paramount. We don’t need to build a desalination plant/RO facility now or in the next five years.