Susan Rungren provides update on plans for pipeline

In May 2018, Susan Rungren became Ventura Water’s Assistant General Manager.

by Jennifer Tipton

Susan Rungren began her career with the City of Ventura in 1999 as the Utilities Engineer for the City’s Water and Wastewater Divisions and has served as the Water Resource Manager for the last seven years. Mrs. Rungren obtained her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University and is a licensed Professional Engineer. She has professional affiliations including the Association of California Water Agencies of Ventura County.

In May 2018, she became Ventura Water’s Assistant General Manager. In this position, Rungren shepherds key future water projects such as the State Water Interconnection Project and the VenturaWaterPure project that will maximize the reuse of recycled water. She works closely with Ventura Water, the Community Development Department, Public Works Department, as well as stakeholders and community organizations to meet long term water supply demands.

I asked if it’s true the City of Ventura has been paying the state $1M/year since 1971 for the rights to state water.

“The City has been paying for our rights to the 10,000 acre-feet since 1971. All State Water Project (SWP) contractors pay an annual fee, regardless of the amount of SWP water received, to help pay for the system and ongoing maintenance costs. The annual fee varies, but the cost to the City has recently been about $1M/year. The City has taken advantage of the opportunity, when available over the years, to recoup a portion of these costs by transferring our annual allocation to other SWP contractors.”

Is there consideration of dropping the pipeline?

“Although this has been discussed over the years, the City considers State Water as an important supply source to improve system reliability. The City currently depends fully on local water supplies consisting of surface water from the Ventura River and Lake Casitas, groundwater from three local groundwater basins, and recycled water from the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility. These supplies have been sufficient to meet demands to date, but continued drought conditions, heightened environmental requirements, compounded by continued population growth are threatening the City’s ability to meet water demands and will require supplemental supplies.”

Where will the state water come from once the pipeline is built?

“The State Water Project is a water storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants that starts in Northern California and extends south more than 700 miles – 2/3 the length of California. The nearest SWP wholesaler to the City of Ventura is Calleguas Municipal Water District. Calleguas imports and distributes water from Metropolitan Water District, water that arrives via the SWP. The proposed connection point to Calleguas system is near their Springville Reservoir facility, located in the southwest portion of the City of Camarillo.”

Have we started to build the pipeline?

“We have begun the studies at this time. The City of Ventura in conjunction with Calleguas, the United Water Conservation District and Casitas Municipal Water District recently completed a Pipeline Alignment Study. We are now preparing an Environmental Impact Report for the preferred alignment. Upon completion of the environmental documents, the next steps before construction can commence will be completion of agency agreements, right of way agreements, permits and project design.”

Will the pipeline increase Ventura’s water supply?

“Although the City’s entitlement is 10,000 acre-feet per year, this allocation is subject to availability as established by the Department of Water Resources. Based on historical allocations, the range of available SWP water has been 5% to 100% over the last 25 years. The water projected to be delivered by the SWP is not being considered as a reliable means of increasing water supply volume for the City on an annual basis but will give the City flexibility to utilize SWP when it is available in lieu of water from Lake Casitas, groundwater or Ventura River water. Additional benefits to the City include improving water quality and providing an emergency/backup supply for Ventura Water’s proposed reuse project, VenturaWaterPure.”

Would water delivery fees from the state cost extra once the pipeline is completed?

“Yes, additional payments are made by each SWP based on the amount of SWP water delivered to their agency”.

Lastly, once the pipeline is completed, will our water bills go down?

“Ventura Water is owned by the City of Ventura and its water and wastewater customers. The water and wastewater functions are enterprise business entities that do not make a profit and their expenses and revenues are accounted for in proprietary funds, separate from the City’s General Fund. Customer rates must generate sufficient revenues to sustain operations, maintenance, debt payments and capitol improvement projects as well as the costs of oversight and administrative functions performed by the City. Every dollar paid is invested locally to ensure that our community continues to have reliable, quality water services today and into the future. The rate increases are needed to keep pace with inflationary expenses, renew our aging pipelines, facilities and growing regulatory and environmental compliance requirements”.

Anticipated completion for the pipeline is 2022 – 2023.

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