Pure Water Project Will Boost Regional Supply

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By David W. Pedersen, P.E.

Few areas can equal the Conejo-Las Virgenes region for its quality of life. Residents and business enjoy a great climate, clean, well-run and safe communities, excellent schools and many more attributes. Unfortunately, a local supply of water is not among them. All the drinking water in the region is imported from hundreds of miles away, as there is no usable ground water or constantly flowing stream that can sustain local drinking water needs.

 

Responding to Shortages

During the state’s recent five-year drought, area businesses and residents did their part to curtail water use; at one point, demand was down over 37 percent when compared to past use. For decades, local water agencies have encouraged conservation with education and rebate incentives, and the community has responded. Water suppliers have also made extensive use of recycled water to irrigate parks, golf courses, roadway landscapes, grounds of commercial developments and common areas of residential areas. Twenty percent of all the water delivered by Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has been recycled, which reduces the demand for imported water.

Sustainability Challenge

The Las Virgenes - Triunfo Joint Powers Authority (JPA) is comprised of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District and Triunfo Sanitation District. Together, the JPA treats and recycles the wastewater generated by some 100,000 people in eastern Ventura and western Los Angeles Counties. In response to the drought and ever more stringent regulations pertaining to the discharge of excess recycled water to Malibu Creek, the JPA closely examined ways to address those concerns. In early 2015, the JPA convened a study group, made up of board members, subject matter experts, non-government entities and representatives from city, state and federal agencies.

A New Path Forward

After more than a year of exploring options, the study group recommended a "Pure Water Project" that will use surplus recycled water, further process it through an Advanced Water Treatment (AWT) facility and then store it with water in Las Virgenes Reservoir for future use. Prior to use, the purified water would again be filtered and treated before being distributed to customers through the drinking water system. Using this approach, called "potable reuse", the region’s water supply portfolio increases at a cost that would be competitive with imported sources, while nearly eliminating all discharges to Malibu Creek.

Proven Technology

Is potable reuse safe? Definitely. Several Advanced Water Treatment facilities are already online in California and throughout the U.S., with more being proposed. From Monterey to Orange County, to San Diego and across the southern states to Florida, Pure Water Projects use multiple techniques to clean water far beyond state and federal drinking water standards. Using membrane filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light and advanced oxidation, AWT facilities produce water of exceptional quality that is safe to consume. Drinking water is among the most highly tested and regulated substances in the U.S.

All Water is Recycled

From the beginning of time, our planet has had a fixed supply of water that has been used, cleansed by nature and used again; in short, there is no “new” water. For centuries, upstream cities have sent their “used” water downstream. Think of all the cities along the Mississippi River, or closer to home, the populations that live upstream along the Sacramento and Colorado Rivers. By the time water from these sources reaches downstream residents, much of it has already been used several times. And far above us, the International Space Station safely recycles its water for the crews spending their time aloft. Modern water treatment technologies are proven and effective.

The Journey Begins

It will take time to design, build and activate a local AWT facility. While elements like the recycled water system and Las Virgenes Reservoir are already in place, the AWT facility needs a suitable location, brine disposal pipeline and additional funding to supplement amounts already in place for this purpose. In order to proceed, the JPA is seeking state and federal grants and loans, with the objective of minimizing impacts to customers. The JPA has already been awarded $450,000 by the federal Bureau of Reclamation for design and work on an AWT demonstration facility that will be used for system development, staff training, and public education.

 

A More Secure Water Future

Cycle of SystemGovernor Brown has implemented an initiative called “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.” The message is simple – in the face of climate change and a growing population, water agencies and their customers must become more efficient. The days of wasting water or releasing it to the ocean are over. When addressing the region’s future water needs, there is no single “magic bullet” solution. Planners and engineers know a more diverse supply portfolio that includes potable reuse will provide greater reliability, environmental stewardship for the Malibu Creek watershed and build on the Conejo-Las Virgenes community’s reputation for supporting local solutions that sustain and enhance the quality of life we all enjoy.

David W. Pedersen has been the General Manager and Administering Agent for the Las Virgenes – Triunfo Joint Powers Authority since2013. He is a Southern California native and a registered Professional Engineer.

Service clubs, HOAs, PFAs, fraternal organizations or other groups that would like a free presentation on the Pure Water Project should call (818) 251-2200 during business hours and request the Speaker’s Bureau.