by Venturans for Responsible & Efficient Gov’t (VREG)-Part 1 of 2
Eight years ago, Ventura Water, faced with a City Council decision to settle a federal lawsuit seeking to halt putting wastewater into the Santa Clara River estuary, started a pilot project to use our wastewater for drinking. The project was called VenturaWaterPure—the purest and safest quality water. They continue to pursue this course today in the face of data that demonstrates it’s not in the best interest of citizens cost-wise or health-wise.
How Things Began To Go Wrong
Ventura Water based its decision on a faulty premise that Ventura needed additional water. The Wishtoyo Consent Decree provided an opportunity for Ventura Water to select Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) as an integral part of VenturaWaterPure. Costs were not even a factor in the original thinking – Ventura Water would just increase the water bill rates.
Ventura Water will do anything to pursue this goal, even when confronted with facts to the contrary. In June 2018, a group of concerned citizens went to each Councilmember to show them a state expert panel report to the state legislature that DPR was not safe. The Council and Ventura water then changed course and announced that Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) was the new method to treat the wastewater. They did not change the name VenturaWaterPure or challenge their assumptions.
More recently, when Ventura Water presented to the Water Commission, they asserted that State Water was unreliable, and they can only count on water 33% of the time. Commissioners pointed out 40 years of historical data that showed State Water was reliable 50%-75% of the time. Ventura Water backtracked again and said they’d upgrade their data, but they never questioned their assumptions.
What These Decisions Cost You
A September 12, 2019 report titled Ventura Water Supply Projects and Alternatives, commissioned by Ventura Water, shows estimated project costs of another $320 million plus the annual operating expenses of $29 million for VenturaWaterPure. The added expense could saddle Ventura’s citizens with another $260 per month in water rates unless Ventura Water takes an alternative direction.
Spreading $320 million over ten years, divided equally among the 32,000 water ratepayers in Ventura, will cost about $83 more per month on your water bill. An extra 20-27 employees are required to operate the new facility, adding to the Ventura Water’s payroll, benefits and pensions. If Ventura Water adds the minimum number of new employees, using an average annual cost of $100,000 per person, plus benefits, will add $29.1 million annually. Dividing $29.1 million by 32,000 water ratepayers adds another $76 per month to each water bill.
Assume the average monthly water bill in Ventura is $100 per month ($200 every two months) when adding another $83 for building and $76 for operations and maintenance, the new average total is $260 per month. The amount could be even higher if Ventura Water hires more than 20 new employees.
Known as the Carollo Report, this September 12, 2019 report looks at the high price of the VenturaWaterPure project. It also attempts to provide alternatives that would be much more cost-effective and allow Ventura to meet its three primary water goals. Ventura Water has rejected all lesser cost alternatives.
Ventura’s goals remain: 1) remove tertiary treated wastewater from the Santa Clara Estuary, 2) increase the water supply and 3) improve the water quality in the east end of Ventura.
The Driving Force Behind VenturaWaterPure
Ventura Water has already spent eight years to meet the demands of a Federal Consent Decree. Ventura must fully comply with removing tertiary treated wastewater from the Santa Clara Estuary by 2025. The questions asked then were, “What will we do with it, and how will we pay for it?” Their answer was, “We will just have to drink it and raise the rates.” Thus VenturaWaterPure was set in motion.
In 2012, there was no idea what the costs of VenturaWaterPure would be or whether it was safe. The ideation sounded good – make the recycled water drinkable and justify it on the basis that we have a dwindling water supply. The idea of ‘toilet to tap’ originated on the premise that ‘if the astronauts can drink it, we can too.’
Call or email your City Councilmember to tell them you want to save $270 million and not have your water rates nearly triple.