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    Are You Really Content To Drink Sewage, Ventura?

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    If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em. It’s an old political trick.

    —Harry Truman

    Before discussing water issues in Ventura, we must first dispel a myth. The City of Ventura has plenty of water. We have almost ten times the water we need annually in reserves. So, the City of Ventura’s insistence to conserve drinking water because we don’t have enough is untrue. There are many good reasons to save, but not having enough drinking water is not one of them.

    Between Foster and Mound Basins alone, there are 141,600 to 184,600 AF of water. Assuming there is zero replenishing of groundwater—and not counting on our other water resources from Casitas, Santa Paula, Oxnard Basin or State Water (a combined amount of 12,072 AF more per year)—Ventura has almost ten times the water it needs annually in reserves.

    Historically, Ventura has used an average of 21,000 acre-feet of drinkable water per year. This figure has been steady over the past 30 years. With conservation and reduced consumption, Venturan’s have managed to reduce our water usage to 15,000 acre-feet per year. So, regardless of doom and gloom declarations issued by the State of California, or what Ventura Water tells us, Ventura has enough water. (See Notes On Water Availability below for additional information).

    Ventura’s real problem is a legal Consent Decree, agreed to by the Ventura City Council in 2012.  That Consent Decree mandates that Ventura must stop dumping treated sewage* into the Santa Clara River.  The amount of sewage to be diverted will be as high as 90% (about 4,685 AF per year) according to one panel of experts, leaving the remaining 10% to be treated and left in the estuary for fish and wildlife.
    *Ventura Water calls sewage wastewater, effluent, or tertiary treated flows among other names.


    To comply with the Consent Decree, Ventura Water conceived that Ventura would inject this treated sewage directly into our water system, thus began VenturaWaterPure.  For six years City leaders led citizens to believe Ventura has no choice but to move full speed ahead and accept the use of sewage using Direct Potable Reuse (DPR), but a primary reason for DPR was “because we need the water.” Few citizens knew about the underlying problem to comply with the 2012 Consent Decree. With that false justification of needing more drinkable water, the City committed to spending over $500,000,000 for DPR to abide by the Consent Decree.

    Costing over $500,000,000 is not the only issue.  The more significant issue is that the City Council assumed DPR water was safe to drink.  It is not safe.  An expert panel, appointed by the State Water Resources Control Board, determined that DPR is feasible. Yet, using such water would be harmful to public health and safety with the current technology. They reported that except for two remote areas on the earth (Namibia and a city in northern Texas), which have no other drinking water options; such water is not suitable for human consumption.
    There are no regulations in place anywhere in the United States, or the State of California, permitting or governing that use.  Nobody knows if, or even when, the state will publish such regulations.  It is highly improbable that this will occur by the December 31, 2025 Consent Decree deadline.


    Ventura Water has ignored the majority of citizens desire to tie into the State Water Project because it knows the State Water Project does nothing toward complying with the Consent Decree. In June 2018, the City Council directed Ventura Water to make importing State Water the top priority. While that pipeline project is in motion, Ventura Water plans to work on DPR while they work on the State Water pipeline.

    While Ventura must abide by the Consent Decree, the compliance deadline of December 31, 2025, may be unattainable. At this point, the Consent Decree remains the driving force behind all Ventura’s water decisions. With the land acquisition, planning, construction, EIRs and financing required, the 2025 deadline is not feasible.
     However, the Consent Decree says the court can extend the time limit in the event of construction constraints, financing problems, or an emergency. It requires Ventura to petition the court requesting an extension, or an agreement with the plaintiff and their lawyers. That has not happened.
    The most devastating natural disaster in Ventura’s history occurred in December 2017. The Thomas Fire wiped out over 500 homes and destroyed water systems throughout the city. The Fire further delayed Ventura Water in the planning, design, and construction of projects to meet the requirements of the Consent Decree. It seems clear that Ventura should petition to the US District Court for a 5-year extension. There’s only one thing standing in the way of requesting that extension — our lawyers.

    On February 4, 2019, Council Member Jim Friedman asked our City Attorney, Gregory Diaz about extending the deadline.
    Mr. Diaz’s advice is that we should not at this time.  He wants to keep this option “in his back pocket.” 

    • He said petitioning the Federal Court would be laborious for the lawyers with no guarantees.
    • He wants to maintain good relations with various Environmental Groups.
    • He was concerned an extension would cause the regulatory agencies to divert their attention away from Ventura.
    • We need water.
    • The State Water Resource Control Board and State Regulators may require a different timeline for our current temporary sewage permit than the Federal court if we petition to extend the deadline.

    The Water Commission asked the outside attorney representing the City of Ventura about an extension.  She answered that Environmental Groups are very cooperative and would likely be favorable to an extension because of the positive relationship.
    Mr. Diaz says that using the Thomas Fire sounds like an “excuse.” He’s concerned it might give the impression Ventura is looking for a reason to not act. If the most significant human disaster in Ventura’s history is not a strong reason, then nothing is.


    Our City Attorney is taking a huge risk with our $500 million.  It is clear that he doesn’t intend to pursue an extension with his “keeping it in his back pocket” explanation.  Mr. Diaz continues with the myth that water is a problem for Ventura and that treated sewage is the solution Hopefully the City Council will remember that we must “keep our experts on tap and not on top.”   
    If he waits 4-5 years from now, the Federal Court may ask, “Where were you 4-5 years ago?” If he plays his “back pocket” card in the 11th hour and the court denies it, what then?  What seems clear, the further away from the Thomas Fire disaster, the less persuasive the argument for an extension. In the meantime, we spend millions that we may not have needed to pay in the next six years.
    Would it be more prudent to send a letter proposing the extension?  The worst the Plaintiff or the Court can do is say, “No.”  If that is the case, then Mr. Diaz’s good faith argument disappears. Then, the Court’s ruling becomes ‘exhibit A’ in support of a motion in the Federal Court. The city could then use the argument, “What’s a poor mother to do? We asked. We thought they were nice and cooperative folks, but they proved to be something else.”
    Notes On Water Availability

    The California Groundwater Bulletin 118, published by the Department of Water Resources, reports that the Ventura River- Foster Park Basin has reserves of 31,600 acre-feet (AF) of water. It recharges 3,500 AF of water each year by underflow. In 2018, Ventura Water Department only pumped 2,384 AF from Foster Park.
    The California Groundwater Bulletin 118 also reports that the Mound Water Basin, which is on the east side of the city, has 153,000 AF of storage capacity. During dry periods, Mound Basin is likely 72% full, for a total of 110,000 AF.


    Below you’ll find the photos of our current City Council. Click on any Councilmember’s photo and you’ll open your email program ready to write directly to that Councilmember.

    Let then know what you’re thinking. Not participating in government makes us worse because our city government isn’t working for all of us.

    Councilmembers Councilmembers
    Councilmembers Councilmembers
    Councilmembers Councilmembers


    R. Alviani          K. Corse          T. Cook      Bob Berry
    R. McCord       S. Doll              B. Frank



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    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    3 years ago

    Now, if we eliminate glyphosate in this argument, maybe there is a conversation worth talking about.

    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    3 years ago

    Since when is glyphosate, the active ingredient in the commonly known herbicide Round-Up, a major contaminant in our environment. not to mention any form of water? The thought of it is ludicrous when you consider that glyphosate breaks down in plant material in a matter of hours after application.

    And no, I’m not a representative of Monsanto or Bayer; just a long time user of Round-Up.

    Edo McGowan
    Edo McGowan
    3 years ago

    Since Title 22 recycled water as currently produced carries large numbers of pathogens and thus antibiotic resistant microbes and their antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs), a DEIR without a thorough discussion of this aspect, the necessary functional mitigators, the potential impacts on the public health and environment, is fatally flawed.

    This fact that recycled water as currently produced is full of pathogens is hardly new information. The US-EPA did a major study on this topic back in 1981, citing studies on the topic going back into the 1950s. I find it hard to imagine how a competent staff could come up with a DEIR that does not discuss this issue. Thus, the whole of the matter smacks of either a high level of incompetence or a deliberate effort at an attempt to deceive. It is especially troubling with the high level of potential adverse human health impact. That such a high degree of recognized potential adverse human impact exists is seen in the state’s own expert panel. That panel admonished those contemplating the use of recycled for direct potable use to have an established (not a perhaps or maybe) parallel cadre of coordinated public health and epidemiological programs running. Where is this parallel system discussed and how is its staffing and funding established as a potential mitigation?

    The situation of run-away antibiotic resistance has passed the critical state as noted by the CDC and WHO, both indicating that we are now facing superbugs with no viable antibiotics and no new antibiotics coming on line. Thus, many elective surgeries such as hips and knees, reconstructive procedures and other invasive procedures will be very problematic because of unstoppable infections.
    Again, I find it difficult to comprehend that those governmental systems professing to have the trust of the citizens doing such a shabby job with an DEIR, especially for a topic so universal and critical as the water resources of the community.

    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    3 years ago
    Reply to  Edo McGowan

    I have no background with The CDC or WHO; nor am I a Dr. of Water quality but I do know logic.

    How does glyphosate get into waste water? Is it flushed down our toilets or poured down our sinks?

    When I saw this illogical portion of Mr. McGowans lengthy statement, I just had to question the whole statement after I saw this flaw.

    Maybe Monsanto or Bayer should be questioned on this as Monsanto was the original producer of Round-Up and Bayer is the current producer.

    Citizen Reporter
    3 years ago
    Reply to  William Hicks

    AG wastes eventually get into the water table. I have no idea how long it takes for pesticides like Roundup to break down and into what form. Check out McGowan’s credentials and background.

    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    3 years ago

    NOT if they are they are returned to thier natural elements through the process of degradation.

    Citizen Reporter
    3 years ago
    Reply to  William Hicks

    Forwarded by Sherlyn H-

    Update: Glyphosate has now been found in a range of popular U.S. food products by Anresco Laboratories and also urine of people across America by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), using validated LC-MS/MS methods.

    Citizen Reporter
    3 years ago

    Comments on the City of Ventura’s proposal for converting recycled wastewater into drinking water

    In addition to the carriage of pathogens within the bulk of Title 22 recycled water, the water carries a variety of xenobiotics. These and their metabolites (break-down products) will need to be removed. The problem facing us is the lack of standards for these xenobiotics. Because we have a variety of potential standardless contaminants, the finished water may contain these, although that water can be considered as “legal”. Although “legal”—–it may be hardly safe. This is the risk of attempting to spin straw into gold as the base stock is highly variable and potentially unstable.

    The DEIR will need to address this aspect. As an example, recycled water may carry Pseudomonas aeruginosa which can break down glyphosate into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Where are the standard water quality tests for this event, and if they don’t exist, then what? How is that eventuality addressed? By definition, a carcinogen has no lower impact limit. Thus, the entire treatment train warrants critical evaluation within the DEIR, including analysis of mitigators. Where is this? This is just an example of issues with this DEIR. You need to go back to the drawing-board.

    Dr Edo McGowan, Former Water Quality Planner for County of Ventura

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