An opinion by Venturans for Responsible and Efficient Government (VREG)
Let’s dispel a myth. The City of Ventura has plenty of water. We have almost ten times the water we need annually in reserves. So, the City of Ventura’s insistence to conserve drinking water because we don’t have enough is untrue. There are many good reasons to save, but not having enough drinking water is not one of them.
Between Foster and Mound Basins alone, there are 141,600 to 184,600 AF of water. Assuming zero replenishing and not counting on Casitas, Santa Paula, Oxnard Basin or State Water (a combined amount of 12,072 AF more per year)—Ventura has almost ten times the water it needs annually in reserves.
For over 30 years, Ventura has averaged 21,000 acre-feet of drinkable water annually. With conservation, Venturan’s have reduced water usage to 15,000 acre-feet per year. So, regardless of doom and gloom declarations by the State of California, or whatever Ventura Water tells us, Ventura has enough water.
Ventura’s real problem is a legal Consent Decree, agreed to by the Ventura City Council in 2012. That Consent Decree mandates Ventura stop dumping treated sewage into the Santa Clara River. One panel of experts says Ventura must divert as much as 90% (about 4,685 AF per year) from the estuary.
To comply with the Consent Decree, Ventura Water conceived that Ventura would inject treated sewage directly into our water system and call it VenturaWaterPure. For six years, City leaders allowed Ventura Water to move ahead making sewage water drinkable. Using “because we need the water” as a primary reason for Direct Potable Reuse (DPR), citizens never knew about the 2012 Consent Decree. With that false justification of needing more drinkable water, the City committed to spending over $500,000,000 for DPR to abide by the Consent Decree.
Costing over $500,000,000 is not the only issue. The more significant issue is that the City Council assumed DPR water was safe to drink. It is not safe. The State Water Resources Control Board determined that DPR is feasible. They reported that except for two remote areas on the earth (Namibia and in Big Springs, Texas), DPR water is not suitable for human consumption.
There are no regulations in place anywhere in the United States, or the State of California, permitting or governing that use. It is highly improbable that this will occur by the December 31, 2025 Consent Decree deadline.
In June 2018, the City Council directed Ventura Water to make State Water the top priority. While that pipeline project is in motion, Ventura Water plans to work on DPR as they work on the State Water pipeline.
While Ventura must abide by the Consent Decree, the compliance deadline of December 31, 2025 may be unattainable.
However, the Consent Decree says the court can extend the time limit in the event of construction constraints, financing problems, or an emergency. It requires Ventura to petition the court requesting an extension, or an agreement with the plaintiff and their lawyers. That has not happened.
It seems clear that Ventura should petition to the US District Court for a 5-year extension. There’s only one thing standing in the way of requesting that extension — our lawyers.
Our City Attorney is taking a huge risk with our $500 million. It is clear that he doesn’t intend to pursue an extension with his “keeping it in his back pocket” explanation.
In the meantime, we spend millions in the next six years.