Ventura’s water mess
The 2016 city of Ventura’s “Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report” is not titled “Half-truths and Outright Misrepresentations,” but it should be.
Without major, immediate changes, Ventura’s water shortages will be at a scary level within five years. It will force all growth to stop, and current residents won’t have adequate water to live normal lives.
The report identifies Ventura as the county’s largest city relying 100 percent on local water resources. It fails to add that this is due to the City Council’s and the water department’s poor planning for many years.
The report doesn’t mention that Ventura taxpayers have not received one drop of water for the millions of dollars spent for four decades to maintain Ventura’s right to a water allotment from the State Water Project. The City Council has refused to install a simple, 6-mile pipeline that would connect Ventura to this reliable source of top-quality water.
Also unmentioned in the report is why a desalination plant, voter-approved in a 1992 referendum and able to supply 50 percent of Ventura’s water, has never been built. If the council decided to build the plant today, it would take up to 13 years before it could be operational, due to the lengthy application process.
“Ventura’s drinking water meets all (safety) standards,” the report states — except when it doesn’t, like during the six months in 2015, when tap water in several neighborhoods was deemed hazardous by the state.
The water department claims to be “always producing … high-quality drinking water.” The amount of dissolved minerals and organic matter in Ventura water ranges up to 140 percent above recommended state levels and 300 percent higher than State Water Project water.
The report states the water department’s commitment “to investing in the improvement of its infrastructure.” That’s not believable when you consider what it has not done for the past three decades.
About that long ago, the city hired an engineering firm to write a report about Ventura’s water situation and what needed to be done to prepare for the future. The report detailed the city’s need to connect to state water, build a desalination plant and build another treatment plant for brackish water. Funds were set aside. None of the report’s recommendations were followed, and the funds disappeared.
Around 2000, a new water department report surfaced. It ignored the recommendations of the previous report, but the council adopted it anyway. Since then, Ventura has lurched from one self-created water crisis to another.
A few years ago, to meet the needs of its west side, the city committed to a high-volume/long-term water purchase from Lake Casitas. This proved to be much more water than was needed. The water department decided to pump excess water to the east side, and thus “bank” its normal allotment from east-side wells. Due to poor administrative oversight, the banked water credit was lost.
The 2016 water report confidently states Ventura receives 25 percent of its water from Lake Casitas. It fails to mention that next year, that delivery may be reduced by 45 percent, and four years from now, Casitas could be dry.
The report claims Ventura has “always invested in its water sources and systems.” The fact is the water department has never claimed all of its Ventura River water rights, nor built the structures necessary to catch and store its flow. As a result, the city accesses only a fraction of the available water.
Continued poor planning has led to the water department having to over-pump its allotment for east-side wells, thus paying a higher rate for water and passing it on to residents. Water quality has greatly decreased.
The department’s poor handling of Ventura’s water has created an avoidable “perfect storm.” The loss of Lake Casitas water will force it to adapt cross-town pipelines and start pumping east-side water to the west side to meet demand. Continued implementation of the horribly timed housing boom on the east side will further exacerbate water shortages and leave residents with high-priced/low-quality water and not enough of it.
Meanwhile, the city is frantically trying to dig replacement wells rather than moving ahead with new ones, and consumers’ water bills will go even higher to offset that cost.
Finally, instead of state or desalinated water, the city is investing in creating more toilet-to-tap reclaimed sewage water for Venturans to drink.
What does the water department have to say about this most serious problem? It has refused to respond to over 50 public information requests and seldom answers its phone.
Ventura is teetering on the brink regarding its water future. Residents need to demand new, qualified leadership in all areas immediately.
Note: Dan Cormode has written several other articles published in CitizensJournal.us
Joe Richardson has been a water professional since 1985. Daniel Cormode has dedicated his life to researching Ventura water issues. Paul D. White is a founding member of QOL-Ventura.org, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving Ventura’s quality of life. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.