Ventura Approves $200 Million Wastewater Treatment Plant

Oct. 16, 2019

Ventura City Council approved a $200 million plan to increase drinking water resources and reduce the treated wastewater released into the Santa Clara River estuary.

A new plant in Ventura City will use indirect potable reuse to take and treat wastewater that once went into the estuary. 

Through indirect potable reuse, the new plant will add about 4,000 acre-ft of water per year to the city’s groundwater supplies, reported VC Star. Ventura’s plan calls for potentially adding direct potable use after 2030. 

When the new treatment plant is up and running in 2025, about 1.9 million gal per day (gpd) of treated water will be released, compared to the 7.9 million gal per day currently released, according to VC Star. The city plans to reduce its estuary discharge to less than 500,000 gpd by 2030.

The council voted unanimously to green-light the project, but will need a variety of permits, a site and other approvals before construction can begin. This decision is part of a settlement to end a lawsuit brought by the environmental groups Heal The Bay and the Wishtoyo Foundation.

These groups sued the city in 2010, citing the damage treated wastewater was doing to the estuary at the mouth of the Santa Clara River. According to the environmental impact report on the project, the added treated freshwater lowers the salinity of the estuary water and creates an inhospitable environment for native plants and animals.

The new treatment plant will cost $190 million to $206 million to build. This includes the cost of additional wetlands protection and a pipeline to carry brine into the ocean, but not the price of the land, according to VC Star. Operating the plant will cost an additional $5.6 million per year from 2025 through 2029.

The city is pursuing federal grants to cover costs, but the rest will come from water bills or other city funds.

“This is a huge project,” said Councilman Jim Friedman. “It’s momentous from a cost standpoint. We need to prepare the ratepayers for what we’re looking at...The cost of water is definitely an issue, and if it’s an issue now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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Cristina Tuser