Oxnard Milestone is GREAT – First delivery of Non-Potable Landscape Water

By Sheryl Hamlin

GREAT is the acronym for the city of Oxnard’s ambitious, buy multi-phased water project: Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment.


GREAT Phase I, a brackish water desalter to supply treated recycled water into the potable water supply, was projected for 2007. It was described in this LA Times Article of 2002, The desalter came on-line in 2008 but corrosion forced it off-line in 2011 for several years. It was recently brought back on-line but with a reduced capacity. A previous article in Citizens Journal reported on the progress.

GREAT Phase II, a tertiary water treatment plant, was to supply recycled, treated, non-potable water for landscaping, industry and eventually agriculture. Called the AWPF (Advanced Water Purification Facility), this new plant was designed to take secondary treated waste water from the Oxnard Waste Water Treatment Plant to a new treatment center. The tertiary treatment involves microfiltration (MF) and reverse osmosis (RO) and ultra-violet light exposure, called Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP).  After this treatment, the water would be certified for non-potable external uses.

The new plant was constructed and testing began several years ago on the water produced. It was important to determine the effects of the treated water on plants. Demonstration wetlands were created for study. In this presentation by CH2M Hill dated 2009, the studies and results are shown, as well as pictures of the simulated wetlands. In addition to water reuse, the AWPF will reduce waste water sent to the ocean. Because of these studies, adjustments were made in the process.

On April 16, 2015 a significant GREAT milestone occurred: the delivery of water to its first non-potable customer, the River Ridge Golf Course in Oxnard. This city owned golf facility includes two 18-hole courses and miles of water features, now filled with groundwater. To support the GREAT Phase II project, a new network of pipes was required to carry the tertiary treated water to the golf course. Called “purple pipes” in the trade, the color is readily recognizable in the field. Shown here is the first delivery to the older of the two golf courses after the valve was opened at 10:00 am PST through the “purple pipes”. The initial water flow is between 1200 and 1400 gallons per minute with a maximum capacity of 4300 gallons per minute.

The smiling faces in the picture showed many of the contributors to this success, including Daniel Rydberg, Interim Utilities Director, Thien Ng, Senior Engineer, Kevin Watson, Water Services Manager, Ken Hume CEO of KEH , Daniel Sanchez and more. Mr. Rydberg was sporting a purple pipe colored tie for the occasion. The official city press release is here.


Tertiary purple pipe for recycled water

Tertiary purple pipe for recycled water


Opening the Value


The next phase of the golf course, the second 18-hole course, will come on-line within six months. Also during this period will be the delivery of water to the Riverpark.

Asked if the city benefitted from one of the four mandates of the Governor’s recent Executive Order, improved permitting, Mr. Rydberg said that they were all extremely helpful.

Tours are available of the GREAT Phase II AWTF. Colleges and school aged students have been coming to the learning center. The Advanced Water Treatment Facility is destined to put Oxnard on the education map, particularly as students take an interest in water as a career. Interestingly enough, Mr. Watson started his career in water in 1973 at a water treatment plant in Missouri.

The city of Oxnard has approved a contract with an engineering firm to design the rest of the delivery piping system for the AWTF. This was reported in Citizens Journal previously.

Oxnard’s water milestone of April 16, 2015 took over a decade and millions of dollars of planning, engineering, legal and construction costs, a journey for which many California cities are unprepared.

To Pipe or Not to Pipe

As reported in a previous article, Governor Brown’s Executive Order specifically references the use of potable versus non-potable water as follows:

Item 6 states that no potable water is to be used on public street median. Item 5 states that existing commercial, industrial and institutional property such as cemeteries and universities will meet targets stated in the order. Item 7 is particularly important for new development. Item 7 prohibits the use of landscaping in new developments with potable water unless it is delivered by a drip or micro-spray system.

Recently the Santa Paula City Council allowed Limoneira to eliminate the purple pipes from its proposed East Area I project in the residential areas and allowed Limoneira to use potable water for external uses until the city’s facility can provide such water. This Development Agreement was made prior to the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the Governor’s Executive Order. Shown below is the section from the Development Agreement about non-potable water. Realizing that the Santa Paula waste water treatment plant does not provide water in the acceptable form such as now provided by Oxnard’s AWTF, nor are there plans on the near horizon to do so, this section of the Development Agreement should be revisited.



Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

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Edo McGowan
Edo McGowan
1 year ago

It is not clear that Limoneira may or may not run recycled water, when available, through non-marked pipes, i.e., non-purple pipes. If this is likely, then the whole rationale for purple pipes (not easily confusing water sources thus reducing chance of cross connection), hence avoiding serious bacterial and pathogen contamination of users as well as the system. The latter, contamination of the system would easily occur from the establish of biofilms lining the pipes.That biofilms containing and protecting pathogens are a common occurrence is well documented. Once the system is biofilm-contaminated, it is very difficult to decontaminate.

People who have consumed recycled water have become very sick with instances of serious damage to health and organs.

A town in Canada had its pipes contaminated and the town’s water system had to be ripped out and replaced. The illness destroyed kidneys. Years later, the population was reexamined. Kidney damage that had not been apparent during the original blow-out was now showing up in significant numbers of those who originally were through to have missed the primary impact.

The expert panel of the state that looked at recycled water admonished those developing systems to have a very tight coordination with the public health arm. This is to alert public health and water agencies if there is a problem. Someone should ask if Ventura county has such a program, how it is funded, what equipment and facilities it has, and is it adequately staffed?

Asking this of Santa Barbara County, there was a who-hum response where the county was basically disinterested, stating this was outside of their jurisdiction. The state has been studying this for several years, gone through several panels of experts and finally came up with recommendations. Is there some idea that this effort by the state was just a joke?

Dr Edo McGowan