Susan Rungren Ventura Water General Manager.
by Susan Rungren
Did you know Ventura is one of the largest cities in Southern California to rely solely on local water supplies? Rainfall feeds the Ventura River, Lake Casitas, and local groundwater basins to meet all the water needs of our community.
Water is at the core of our identity and the future of its security is in jeopardy. Although our community’s conservation efforts have reduced water use by 20 percent, Ventura’s rain-dependent water supplies remain vulnerable to future droughts.
Additionally, results of ongoing litigation will likely limit or reduce the amount of water the City can withdraw from the Ventura River, which currently accounts for roughly 20 percent of Ventura’s water supply.
Groundwater—which supplies more than half of Ventura’s water— is expected to continue to decline due to recent regulations.
To maintain essential services and protect our water resources, Ventura must continually invest in our water and wastewater systems. Investments will allow us to improve water quality, replace old pipelines and aging infrastructure, meet regulatory requirements, and secure water supply for the future.
The City has a two-pronged approach to address our critical water supply challenges: recycle the water we already have, and access additional water supplies through the State Water Project.
The VenturaWaterPure Project will help us keep the water we already have. Currently, 8 to 9 million gallons of treated wastewater from the Ventura’s Water Reclamation Facility is discharged into the Santa Clara River Estuary each day. This is water that could be better used for our community.
This initiative will divert treated wastewater to an advanced purification facility where it will be purified to drinking water standards and injected into local groundwater basins. This approach will provide a new, drought-resistant water supply, offering up to an additional 3,600 acre-feet of water per year, representing approximately 23 percent of the City’s existing supply.
VenturaWaterPure will use an advanced water purification process to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. This purification technology is currently used throughout California, in other states, and internationally. VenturaWaterPure will address Ventura’s water needs by provide a reliable, sustainable water supply.
The City currently holds an entitlement from the State Water Project but cannot currently take direct delivery due to a lack of infrastructure to deliver that water. The State Water Interconnection Project will enable Ventura to access the water we have had rights to since the 1970s. A new 7-mile pipeline will allow Ventura to tap into its State Water entitlement, addressing anticipated cutbacks in existing local supply sources. Additionally, the pipeline will enable deliveries between regional agencies during emergencies.
These critical investments, while costly, will offer lasting water security for our community. Currently, the City is undergoing a Water and Wastewater Rate Study to ensure sufficient revenue is available to operate and maintain our existing systems and to invest in these forward-looking projects. Rates must be continually reviewed and adjusted to repair and replace aging infrastructure, meet regulatory needs, improve water quality, and secure water supply.
In Ventura, water and wastewater rates have remained low compared to neighboring communities. It has been nearly three years since Ventura Water has increased rates. Results of the recent rate study has shown that an annual rate increase of 7 percent for water service and 6 percent for wastewater service is needed over the next five years. For the average homeowner, this adjustment will amount to an average annual increase of $7.76 to a monthly bill, for the next five years.
Rate increases are rarely convenient, but now is the time for us to invest in our water and wastewater systems. Deferring project costs, improvements, and upgrades comes at a high price. Safe, clean, and affordable water is vital to life, the local economy, and our community. We hope that our ratepayers, businesses, and policymakers will continue to partner with us to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for our community.
More information on the Water and Wastewater Study is available online at www.VenturaWaterRates.net.